EL AL Airlines was established in 1948 as the national carrier of the State of Israel. Since then, it has grown into a global airline with destinations in Europe, North America, Far East and South Africa. Its loyalty program, Matmid Club, was launched in 1985 and in recent years has been favorably rated by its members during the annual Freddie Awards voting.
EL AL offers points according to flight destination and fare class and the system is rather complicated. EL AL destinations are divided into seven flight zones for flights out of Israel. The more distant the destination, or when flying premium class, the more points you can accumulate. Flights within Zone A (Athens) earns between 15 and 135 points, depending on class. Zone B (Bucharest, Sofia) earns between 20 and 200 points. Zone C (Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, Frankfurt, Munich, Brussels, Geneva, Zurich, London, Marseille, Milan, Venice, Rome, Paris, Moscow, Vienna, St. Petersburg, Warsaw) earns between 25 and 250 points. Zone D (Johannesburg, Mumbai) earns between 40 and 350 points. Zone E (New York, Toronto) earns between 50 and 500 points. Zone F (Los Angeles) earns between 65 and 550 points. And Zone G (Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong) earns between 50 and 500 points. You can quickly see that a flight ranging from 50 points or 500 points demonstrates that flights in first class can earn 10 times as much as that same flight in economy.
And if you travel with a pet, Israel residents can earn 20 points per roundtrip flight to any destination where pets are allowed to fly. In the U.S., pets flying three trips in three years will receive a fourth trip free.
Matmid Club members can also earn points for flights on partner airlines, hotel stays, car rentals, credit cards and various other partners.
Matmid Club awards are restricted to free flights, flight upgrades and being able to pay part of award flight fuel surcharges with points; and do not include awards for car rentals, hotel stays or others.
Awards are divided by zones from A to G. Roundtrip coach flights begin at 500 points for flights from Tel Aviv to Athens, Prague or Larnaca (Zone A). Essentially, this means a member flying in the cheapest seats possible will need about 17 short-haul roundtrip flights (34 segments at 15 points each) or five discount roundtrips from New York City to Tel Aviv to earn a free short-haul ticket. Roundtrip flights between Tel Aviv and New York City or Toronto are 1,400 points in economy, 3,000 points in business and 5,000 points in first class and roundtrip award flights between Tel Aviv and Los Angeles are 1,800 in economy, 4,000 in business and 5,400 in first. One-way flight awards are offered at half the amount of a roundtrip.
You can pay for upgrades on EL AL flights in points or in a combination of money and points, providing the ticket you hold is eligible for an upgrade. You can supplement up to half of the number of points needed for an upgrade voucher with money. Generally, upgrades run from 100 to 750 points, depending on zone. You can help pay fuel surcharges on award flights with points from $30 for 60 points to $75 of the cost covered for 150 points for one-way tickets, depending on award zone and is the same for any travel class.
Elite-level members are eligible for “last-minute” upgrades at discounted rates. Discounted upgrades start at 25 points for a one-way upgrade from coach to business class within Zone 1.
EL AL Matmid Club partners with American Airlines, Aeromexico, Qantas and South African Airways to provide global reach for members. Flying on American Airlines will net Matmid Club members 20 to 40 points for flights up to 500 miles, 30 to 60 points for flights between 501-1,500 miles, and at various levels up to 140-280 points for flights of 6,501 miles and above. A roundtrip award flight on American Airlines within the U.S. is 1,300 points in economy, 2,600 points in business class and 3,600 points in first class. If you’re coming from Israel to North America with a combined EL AL-American flight, the amounts are 2,200 points in economy, 4,000 points in business class and 5,600 points in first class. Other destinations on American Airlines range from 1,700 points (between North America and Hawaii or Central America) in economy to 5,400 points in first class (between North America and Japan).
EL AL also has codeshare agreements with Iberia, SWISS, S7 Airlines, Vietnam Airlines and Ethiopian where members can earn points on codeshare flights that are operated with EL AL’s airline code.
Hotel partners include Hilton (7-14 points per stay), InterContinental Hotels Group (one point per $20 spent; 10 points for InterContinental stays), Starwood (12 points per stay), Radisson (20 points per stay), Dan Hotels (5-10 points per night), Inbal Hotel Jerusalem (five points per night), Golden Tulip (8 or 16 points per stay), Carlton (five points per night), Pantages Suites Hotel and Spa Toronto (seven points per night) and Tamares (five points per night). In addition, IHG Rewards Club points can be converted into Matmid points (10,000 IHG points = 40 Matmid Club points). EL AL Matmid and Dan Hotels members have a combined Club, the EL AL-DAN Club, that offers members special benefits for hotel stays.
Car rental partners include Avis (10 points per car rental, 15 points if Gold or Platinum), Budget (10 point per rental), Hertz (10 points per rental), Sixt (12 points per rental), Ofran (12 points per rental, minimum seven days) and Europcar (12 points per rental). None of the car rental partners allow members to earn points for rentals in Israel. Hertz Shekels can be converted to Matmid Club points starting at 70 Hertz Shekels for 20 EL AL points.
Retail and miscellaneous partners include EL AL Fly and Buy, Sonol, Rikushet, Tal Limousine, Optika Halperin and Carmel Limousine.
Members may also opt to donate points to one of EL AL’s charity partners: Hayim Layeled, ZAKA, Friends of the IDF, Etgarim, Ezer Mizion, Chai Lifeline, Larger Than Life, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Ezra Lemarpeh and Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization.
EL AL does not offer its own co-branded credit card, but a number of other credit card loyalty program currencies can be converted into Matmid Club points. American Express Membership Rewards Points, for example, can be converted at a rate between five and 29 Membership Rewards points to one Matmid point, depending on card type. Other credit card partners include Isracard, Leumi Card, Diners and Cal.
Matmid Club is one of the few programs in the world that offers benefits to its base-level members. Once enrolled, a new member can take advantage of priority seat selection and special deals for members only.
The four-tiered elite-level program includes Silver, Gold, Platinum and Top Platinum Circle. Silver membership is attained by accumulating 1,000 base points from EL AL flights during 12 consecutive months. Only points earned from flying on EL AL will count toward elite status qualification. Membership is renewed for 800 points during that period. Silver benefits include a 10-percent earning bonus for EL AL flights, guaranteed seating in economy class up to 72 hours before a flight for tickets in Y class and reduced price last-minute upgrades 48 hours before a flight.
Gold status is achieved after earning 2,000 points in a year, and renewed for 1,800 points. Benefits include all those of Silver, plus complimentary membership in the King David Club, including preferential check-in at the King David Club counters and entry to EL AL’s lounges, an additional 25 percent on all points accumulated on EL AL flights, guaranteed seating in economy class Y up to 48 hours beforehand, additional luggage allowance, additional award seat availability spending 1.5 the number of points for economy class and an assured-in-advance upgrade from economy class for double the points.
Platinum membership, 5,000 points in a year and 4,500 points to renew, includes an additional 50 percent flight bonus points, guaranteed seating in economy class Y up to 24 hours before a flight, a 50-percent discount on the price of last-minute upgrades from business to first class and Platinum concierge services.
Top Platinum status is given to members who earn 10,000 points in a year or who fly 65 flight segments and earn at least 9,000 points in a year. Top Platinum members receive all of the benefits of the lower tiers, plus personalized service by a Personal File Manager who will assist you with your account and reservations. Top Platinum members also receive two free upgrades to business class, EL AL Platinum concierge services, guaranteed seating in business class C up to 24 hours before a flight, member and accompanying passenger get preferred seating, can upgrade to first class from D class when space is available for points, family members can get a free second piece of luggage, five percent discount on EL AL Duty Free, welcome gift, special gatherings and free ground transportation to the airport when flying on a first class award ticket. Top Platinum members also receive special gifts throughout the year.
EL AL Matmid Club offers a lifetime elite membership of Gold status if they are 65 years and older and have been Gold or higher status for the past 10 years. Matmid Club also features the King David Club offering lounge access and more when purchasing a membership or earning as an elite member. As of July 1, 2014, new members are no longer being accepted. Those who are current King David Club members will continue to enjoy the service as long as their membership is valid.
Past flights within two months to the date you join Matmid Club can earn points and missing flight points can be claimed up to a year. Matmid Club points earned from flying EL AL expire in three years. Points earned from all partner activity do not have an expiration date.
You can purchase points for $1 per point. Points can also be purchased and given as a gift at the same price. Points cannot be transferred or combined.
Anyone aged two and up can join the program. When you join the EL AL Matmid Club, you may also join the GlobaLY progam. Through this program, EL AL donates five percent of the points earned by overseas Matmid Club members to organizations that work towards strengthening ties with Israel. The organizations can use the points for bringing young Jews to Israel, flying lone soldiers abroad to visit their families and helping fulfill the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses.
Matmid Club members can contact the service center via phone, fax, email or regular mail. Platinum and Gold members have access to the call center 24 hours a day and everyone else can call Sunday through Thursday, 8am to 7pm and Friday and holidays, 8am to 1pm.
In general, Matmid Club members report they are happy with the customer service the program provides.
EL AL’s site offers many functions you would expect of a major program, including online enrollment, award charts, program information and news. Flight award vouchers and flight reservations for EL AL flights can be made online but awards on partner airlines must be made over the phone.
Members may manage their accounts online on the e-club page and they can elect to receive online information regarding the Club, including Club messages and a point balance report. Missing point requests for EL AL flights can be made online.
Even non-elite members receive extra benefits from participating in Matmid Club and the number of points required to requalify for elite levels is lower than the initial requirement. Offering one-way awards for half the cost of roundtrip awards is a plus.
El Al’s partner list is adequate, but members could benefit from a more robust partnership roster. The three-year point expiration policy makes it difficult for members flying in the cheapest seats to ever accumulate enough points for an award flight. Members cannot earn points through car rentals in Israel.
Report Card from Readers
Rating: D- / B-
I am a long time Matmid member. For a member with anything but the highest tier status (that means anything but a Top Platinum) Matmid should get a D- because:
– Confusing and illogical point system.
– Outdated hard products all around.
– Horrific non-top-tier customer service.
– Extremely difficult to find availability for awards and when available, outrageous co-pays ( “fuel surcharge”)
– Points expire after three years no matter what you do.
– Website is a national embarrassment.
The major pluses are:
– El Al will always fly, notwithstanding the FAA’s political machinations.
– Security. Period.
– Very friendly and professional in-flight service in business and first and sometimes in coach (only inflight–major disparity in the professionalism and cooperative attitude found among the flight attendants as opposed to the ground staff).
Notwithstanding the negatives above, El Al Matmid is a completely different experience for those who have top-tier status. For a Top Platinum member (which is ridiculously hard to get) I would give Matmid a B- because:
– The airline is small enough that when you are a part of the “club” you know enough employees personally that you get preferential treatment in every possible realm–for example, even checking-in extraordinarily late for a flight–something a larger airline simply cannot match.
– A personal “concierge” whose basic purpose is to literally “run interference.”
– Upgrades. Whereas PL’s and GL’s rarely get upgrades on the major routes, TP’s get them more often than not. And relative to the competition, the price is pretty good. THIS IS EL AL’S MAJOR EDGE.
Overall Score 7.5
Earning Ability 7.0
Award Choices 7.5
Elite Level .7.5
Rules & Conditions 7.5
Service Support 8.0
Online Services 8.0
EL AL Israel Airlines, Ltd.
Matmid Club, PO Box 41
Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel 70100
In New York:
100 Wall Street
New York, NY 10005