CHECK-IN I arrived at London Heathrow Terminal 1 at 1355 for my 1535 flight to Tel Aviv. Check-in was in zone K. There was what looked like a long queue for economy being watched over by armed police but my initial fears of a long wait were soon dispelled as the queue moved quickly and 15 minutes later I was checked in. I was also given my return boarding pass as this was within 24 hours of my outbound flight.
The queue at check-in was for the security check which consisted of detailed questioning on the purpose of the visit, my luggage, passport etc. Once done there were plenty of desks open and no wait for check-in. Zone K has its own security area where there was a small queue which took about six minutes to get through.
BOARDING I made my way to the departure gate (32) and arrived at about 1450. There was a queue of about ten minutes for a further security check and then I was straight on the plane without delay.
Before I had stowed my bag my jacket was taken from me. There was a cushion and fleece blanket on the seat.
THE SEAT Economy and Economy Class Plus on the B747-400 is fitted in a 3-4-3 configuration over three cabins. I was in seat 21H which was the front row of the cabin, by the emergency exit. Rows 21-26 are Economy Class Plus which has an extra four inches (36 inches) of legroom and an extra 33 per cent recline.
The seat itself is an old style economy product but with the added benefit of a loose wedge padded footrest located under the seat in front and the same blankets and pillows as found in business class. It was comfortable enough and despite being old had clearly been refurbished quite recently in new blue cloth.
Economy Class Plus is available for free for elite members of the Matmid frequent flyer programme and for those people travelling on a fully flexible (Y, J & M) ticket. All others passengers can apply for a seat at a cost of US$80 or US$150 on the longer routes. Passengers are informed within 24 hours of their application whether a seat is available. Economy Class Plus is currently only available on the B747-400 but is due to be installed on the carrier’s B777 aircraft also. Electrical outlets are planned to be installed before the end of 2012.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE For a day flight 21H (aisle) & K (window) are probably the best as they have no seats in front. For a night flight a seat further back, maybe 25D or 25G, would be better as they are bulkhead seats and less likely to suffer from noise and light from the galley.
THE FLIGHT We left the gate on time but it was a further 20 minutes before we got to the front of the queue and were airborne. Shortly after takeoff a bottle of water was give out followed by an amenity kit (in a pouch containing a toothbrush, paste, mask and earplugs) and a map/guide of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for the current quarter.
A drink and pretzels were offered soon after and this was followed by a meal 75 minutes later in to the flight. The meal consisted of coleslaw, a choice of chicken and cous cous or pasta Bolognese, hummus and bread, chocolate cake and water. I enjoyed the hummus and chose the chicken, which was quite tasty.
There was no further drinks service with the meal but drinks were available on request.A tea and coffee service followed the meal. During the second half of the flight there was an offer of water and one member of the crew also offered another drink, although this did not appear to be done to all rows.
The IFE was an AVOD system but not the most modern. The screen was quite small and there was a choice of 10 movies, 10 TV channels as well as music and games. The channels were a mixture of Israeli and international with most offering English and French language as choices. The system was a bit temperamental and it was hard to choose channels on some occasions and neither I (nor my neighbour) could not get the light above the seat to work from the control panel. Fortunately there was enough light from the galley to see what I was reading.
ARRIVAL The flight was scheduled to take four hours and 40 minutes and we landed a few minutes early at 2110. Economy was held back as First and Business left first, via an airbridge. It was quite a long walk to immigration but there was no queue. I had no luggage so was soon in a taxi on the way to the city.
VERDICT It’s an old style product but service was good. The Economy Class Plus is worth the premium for the extra space.