Don’t ask why, don’t ask how, but I recently found myself in economy class (at least in Economy Plus with an open middle) on a 15hr flight from Tel Aviv to San Francisco on United Airlines. For my weekly Meal of the Week segment I focus on two meals served during the flight.
Last week I talked about how impressed I was by economy class food on Aegean. In sticking to the economy class theme, how would United stack up on a flight significantly longer?
I had a mini-crisis in Tel Aviv when I found that I had left my iPhone charging cable in Amman. Rather than relax in the Dan Lounge prior to the flight, I scurried around the airport until I could find a replacement cord. I found a SIM card shop near the rental cars that had generic iPhone-compatible cables. Cost? 79 NIS (~$22USD)! That put me in a bad mood, especially because the charger didn’t work well. Like most replica charging cables, it would gyrate between charging and not-charging. 30 minutes later I was still at 4% battery life, though it had not dropped. But I knew if I returned it I would have nothing and then would have to be reliant upon airport wi-fi to make Skype calls. No thanks.
Security was incredibly invasive and took much longer than I thought — I reached the boarding gate toward the end of the boarding process.
Admittedly, it had been several hours since I had eaten in the Royal Jordanian Crown Lounge in AMM so I may have just been hungry for the first meal, but I found it incredibly good.
Dinner and Breakfast
The crew provided us very detailed choices: “chicken or fish” and I knew I was rolling the dice by going with fish (after my last fish meal in economy class) but chose it.
It was baked salmon balls with peas and rice. Absoteluly delicious — not too fishy, not too “bready” and the tabbouleh topping added a great flavor. Dinner was served with a barley/olive salad and a multi-grain roll.
For dessert, there was no ice cream but the chocolate pudding with fairly strong coffee was acceptable.
I slept through the mid-flight snack, but noticed it was simply a sandwich on a submarine roll with processed turkey or chicken.
Prior to landing, FAs offered a hot breakfast. The choices were scrambled eggs or quiche. A lady sitting in the row ahead of me ordered quiche and it looked very good, so good I wish had ordered it. But my scrambled eggs with chives were also very tasty. The eggs were served with potatoes and zucchini, also good, a bagel, and plain yogurt (or some sort of soft cheese). The bagel was dreadfully horrible but the plain yogurt was appreciated: far better than sugar-filled fruity yogurt.
You can look at this in one of two ways: I was either hungry and therefore would have found anything good -or- I can spot good economy class food and this was actually above average. Doesn’t matter — if you find yourself stuck in economy class on a United flight out of Tel Aviv you now know what to expect.
I have to take exception to your remark that “security was incredibly invasive, and took much longer than I thought. I believe that you were referring to the security at Ben-Gurion Airport. It should be noted that Ben-Gurion airport, has the best security in the world. It is a known fact that if the same security which is used at Ben-Gurion had been used at Logan Airport, Newark Airport, and Dulles Airport, on Sept. 11, 2001, those despicable terrorists would never have been allowed to have boarded the hijacked planes, in the first place. I’ve flown out of Ben-Gurion Airport, and it should be noted that the authorities know who each traveler is, even before they reach the airport. Nobody can get near that airport, without being checked. After someone is in the airport, and is on line, they are profiled, and asked a number of questions. Of course, profiling will never be done in the USA, since it is not politically correct to do so. There has never been a hijacking of any plane leaving Ben-Gurion. In 1972, there were some terrorists who had the gall to hijack a Sabena Airlines plane to Ben-Gurion. However, the terrorists were all shot dead, during the rescue attempt, by commandos, who freed the hostages. One of the commandos who rescued the passengers, was Benjamin Netanyahu.
Your comment merely confirms my statement that security at Ben-Gurion is incredibly invasive (i.e. “tending to intrude on a person’s thoughts or privacy”). I didn’t praise or condemn it.
I actually find that TLV security tends to be faster and less invasive than security in the US (unless you found the questioning prior to checking bags to be invasive, which would be pathetic). It could that some of the stamps on your passport got you flagged for additional screening, similar to SSSS in the US, which is much worse.
Ben-Gurion style security would never work in any major US airport simply due to the number of passengers and flights (a much bigger obstacle than any concerns about profiling). TLV is tiny in comparison.
Ari, spare me your riduclous defnse of Israel and focus on the meals Matthew focused on!
Matthew, you must have been incredibly hungry. I fly regularly between EWR-TLV and the economy food is just swill. I will usually eat most anything put in front of me, but I barely touch those meals. The only saving grace TLV-EWR is the yogurt and fruit. Also, don’t worry, you missed nothing in the Dan Lounge.
I’m curious what you found invasive with the Ben-Gurion security. I always move through the lines fairly quickly, and I have a high degree of confidence the screeners actually know what they are looking for. The increased use of biometric machines to clear the Immigration check is a welcome initiative, and has reduced the wait times to receive the “country exit” paper.
I had a 15 minute interview and 30 minute screening including a very intense patdown and checking literally every item inside my carry-on bags. Two weeks later and I’m still waiting on my checked bag…
Maybe because they were jealous of my thick, big…passport
Or maybe because I was transiting from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Honestly, I enjoyed the food onboard though.
Wow, in eleven trips is the past few years I have never experienced that kind of scrutiny going through security. Israel and Jordan have a stable, if not always warm, relationship and reciprocal diplomatic recognition. I’m sure it is your penchant for traveling to conflict zones that caught their attention.
I doubt it’s your trip to Jordan. Like Steve, I suspect the reason for the more intense screening is your travel to more “exotic” locales like Afghanistan and Iran. You can bet Israeli intelligence knew all about that before you ever showed up at the airport. (Note that I’m not rendering a judgment on whether the scrutiny was warranted or not – just proffering a likely reason for it.)
Sounds like SSSS in the USA. Be thankful you don’t have to do this every time you go through security in the US.
A horrible bagel out of Israel? Oy vey!
Ironic, isn’t it?
I went through Ben Gurion security last month and arrived 3 hours early, as had been suggested in every article I read. Of course, being there early, my only questions were if I packed my own bag and if anyone gave me something to carry on. I then walked right through. 10 minutes start to finish. As such, I had hours to kill in the Dan Lounge. It was pretty terrible. Very basic, lousy food and filthy bathrooms. It quickly filled up and people were packed in like sardines.
Do you know the first number on the yellow barcode they placed on your bag and passport? The higher the number the greater the scrutiny. I was number 2, the best for a non Israeli citizen. 3 is low to mid risk, while 4 and 5 get you the kind of intense security screening you encountered. I suspect you were a 4 due to your travel history, especially to some Middle eastern countries.
I was 4 indeed…took the sticker off my passport already in case it is recognized in Arab nations like Lebanon that hate to see any evidence of a trip to Israel.
Yup. It was considerate of them to switch from passport stamps to stickers due to this very reason. Being caught by other nations with evidence of having visited Israel can make TLV security look like a stroll in the park.
Firstly, good job that Israeli security is so good. Unfortunately, it has to be. Airports around the world have been turning to Israeli security personnel to learn how to keep travellers safe in tge wake of numerous terror attacks on innocent people in airports. The Israelis are victims of so many terrorist attacks, it would be horrible if security wasn’t as good as it is… Israel takes security very seriously and if you have been flying to extremist, racist countries whose only goal is to destroy Israel (such as Iran etc.), then it’s a good thing they scrutinised you at security. I have been to Israel numerous times and never spent more than a minute at security…
Secondly, the salad in the first picture is not couscous, but rather looks like pearl barley or the likes. And the second picture shows some very clearly labelled cream cheese rather than yoghurt… It’s strange that you write a whole article about the food you ate on a flight and can’t even get your foods right…
It is labelled in Hebrew, so obviously you wouldn’t have known that if you don’t speak Hebrew. On the flip side, it is is neither yogurt nor cream cheese. It is called quark in English, though admittedly I’ve never heard of it in English. Only in Hebrew, and it literally translates to “white cheese.” It is less creamy/fatty than cream cheese.
Oh, that’s quark? I have quark all the time in Germany. Just had some for lunch today. Still fairly close to a thick yogurt.
It seems the dinner salad was barley, not couscous. Barley has natural appetite suppressants. The same for red pepper flakes.
The scrutiny at TLV is not considered intense unless your cell is plugged into an analyzer, laptop files accessed and a conscientious anatomical exam provided. The interrogator may have been in need of training or the last minute booking triggers a standard chat session. Was there a well-dressed and physically fit individual near you while wandering around the airport?
Not that I noticed. I need to do a separate post on this…I’m fascinated by this topic now…
TLV is fascinating in the way they try to synthesize the feeling of a modern peaceful airport with some of tightest security in the world. You can literally have a military intelligence escort in the airport with a team monitoring your every move and not notice.
That breakfast yogurt is actually a low-fat soft cheese. While found in every household in Israel I never found any in other country.
As far as security goes, I would take a guess that your arrival from Jordan have triggered the more invasive profiling session. Still, at-least you’re allowed to take liquids through security,..
Hey, Muhammad, I wasn’t defending any of Israel’s polices; rather, I was just focusing on how good the security is at Ben-Gurion Airport. Even Wesley Snipes in the movie “Passenger 57” stated that “nobody messes with Israeli security”, although he used a much stronger x rated term. Secondly, I would sincerely appreciate if you learned how to spell correctly!
Like in many airports, the shop selection is much better after security than in the arrivals area before security. You probably would’ve been ripped off no matter where you bought a cable (as airport shopping is wont to be), but you would’ve had a better likelihood of finding a decent cable after security. One of my biggest traveling frustrations is when the power or Wi-Fi onboard isn’t working.
I went through TLV for the first time a few weeks ago, and my experience was somewhat opposite. I was asked a few questions — who packed my bags, where they have been stored, etc. — but nothing too invasive (I have lots of Indonesia and Malaysia on my passport, but no Afghanistan, Iran, etc.) and I was on my way in 30 seconds. I was surprised though that the x-ray operators were not particularly professional, and all having a nice friendly chat with each other instead of focussing on their jobs. While I won’t put them in the same category as the misfits at the TSA, I expected a higher level of seriousness and professionalism than the chatty youngsters I encountered. Relatedly, while I was impressed with the biometric scanner in lieu of a human passport check, the instructions were poor and slowed down the queue quite a lot. In short though, I didn’t find the security to be more rigorous than most other places — although I’m sure my experience would have been different had I been deemed to be more of a potential threat.
Relatedly, I found Tel Aviv to be a charming city, and was most surprised at its excellence as a food destination — really world class. Hainan is opening TLV-PVG, and I imagine that I will find my way back in the near future for more makan.
Hmm… not my experience! I was on UA955 about a week ago and the food was, umm… horrific. The chicken (other option: beef that looked horrible too) was more like a radioactive meatball served with very dry couscous, and the breakfast was not as bad, but mediocre. Also, if you’re wondering, the “yogurt” you were talking about is labeled as “g’vinah l’vanah” (white cheese). I had it on my flight too, and I had to make the same translation for my friend who didn’t speak Hebrew!