Flying to Israel with Continental vs. US Airways

Since 1994 I’ve traveled over 100 transatlantic flights, mostly between the USA and Israel.  I am sharing my experiences here about different airlines that travel to and from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.

In this article we’ll focus on Continental Airlines who is merging with United Airlines in 2011, with it’s hub in Newark, New Jersey, and US Airways, which flies out of its Philadelphia hub.  Both airlines are competent and match evenly on features.  Each offers daily flights and adds flights during busy seasons.

Coach Travel Flying Comparison Chart

Continental / United US Airways
Aircraft Boeing 777 Airbus A330-300
Hub in USA Newark Philadelphia
Coach Seat Configuration 3 – 3 – 3 2 – 4 – 2
Kosher food rating B

Dinner, mid flight sandwich, and light breakfast served

B

Dinner and light breakfast served

Coach Seat Features head rests, electric plug for every two seats Leather, arm rests lift up, USB power connector at every seat
Entertainment Personal Touch screen, hundreds of movies (over 200), dozens of TV shows, music, and games. Personal touch screen, dozens of movies, tv shows, games (not free), music on demand
Bathrooms / Lavatories 6 in coach 4 in coach, no standing area to wait in line, very cramped
Galley drinks, snacks, after meal service drinks after meal service, snacks in galley.
Hub Airport Newark is a big airport, security lines are long, shopping is decent Philadelphia is a medium size airport, security lines are shorter, no body scan machine yet as of Jan 2011.
Cabin Crew Plentiful, pleasant, and efficient, Hebrew speaker always on staff. Nice crew
Advantages Bigger plane, more room to stretch in the cabin on a long flight. Great entertainment system. Good connections with Continental / United to anywhere in USA from Newark. 2 seats on window vs 3 on Continental, Philly is an easier airport to navigate. Great for avoiding New York.
Disadvantages Newark Airport. 3 seats on window. Tougher to get in and out. Seat pitch is less than on 747. make sure to bring a neck pillow. Smaller plane, cabin crew takes seats near lavatories, absolutely no room to stretch. You are stuck in your seat the entire flight.
Frequent Flyer One Pass Star Alliance. Easy to book award travel online. Many seats are blocked out, though. Continental has a local office in Tel Aviv. Offers 25,000 miles if you sign up and take their credit card. Award travel easy to book online generally with similar miles needed as continental (25,000 for domestic round trip).
Price Tends to be as pricey as El Al Usually less expensive than Continental
Overall Score B+ B

Please share with us your experiences.

New Travel Restrictions – Might as well stay home…

New Airline Security RulesI am no security expert, but I am a relatively experienced international flyer.  I can tell you this, the new travel restrictions on flights to and from the USA make me very uninterested in flying.  I suppose that’s what the Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are hoping for as much as their more dastardly plans.

New travel restrictions placed on flights to the USA include:

1. First and last hour of flight, you must remain in your seat, legs open, no blanket, no PDA/ipod, no going to washroom, no opening the overhead compartment.

2. No GPS in flight map system so you can’t see on a map where the plane is on your journey.  Especially miserable for a 12+ hour flight.

3. No internet

4. For systems (like JetBlue) where the GPS is intertwined with the entertainment system, there will be no TV the entire flight.  How about that?

On a flight from Tel Aviv to New York, you can expect to sit for 12 hours with your hands on your lap, (legs open), no blanket, no tv, no in flight maps, and holding it in, lest you dare make a dash for the toilets.  I’m wondering if this is any better than the sea voyages our grandparents endured in a bygone era?

Silly question…what if the flight is from Hong Kong to New Jersey, and the last four hours of the filght are over the United States, will passengers be required to remain in their seats the entire time?  Why is TSA security so reactionary?  There has to be a better way!