I awoke at 5 am for my 5:45 limo to the train station. I caught the Acela down to Newark, and it was smack on time. A very courteous cab driver drove me over to the airport for $20.
Why this circuitous route? Because only in Newark can I get a first class, non-stop seat going to Tel Aviv.
El Al treats people carefully but not entirely graciously. Everyone talked to me in Hebrew, and they were all surprised when they found out a) I wasn’t returning home, and b) I couldn’t speak the language. The airlines shares a mediocre club with others, and my escort who was supposed to speed me through security never arrived.
Security at El Al (this is US TSA) is about the worst I’ve yet seen. They are slow, and they are rude. Agents shouted at long lines about what must be done, and one agent bellowed, “And I mean it!!” When any one person had to be checked after the machine, everything stopped. They had to clear the person before anyone else could be checked. I’ve never seen this. Agents and supervisors (dressed like rear admirals) standing and just watching one person work. When I asked if they could do two people at once, they shouted at me, “No!!”
As an American, I was embarrassed.
The plane was 50 minutes late due solely to these security procedures. I was the sole occupant of first class (12 seats) on a very old 747. The rest of the aircraft was about half-filled. The food was plentiful and good, I had two private restrooms and a private flight attendant! They couldn’t turn off all the cabin lights (something broke) but I had a separate bed from my seat, which was nice. (The last time I was alone in first class on a large jet, was flying our of Montreal to Calgary on Air Canada, and the pilots invited me up to the jump seat where I played with the radar. I am not making that up. It was late 1970s.)
There is no wifi, though there are power outlets (and I have 12 of them!). The movie selection is the worst I can imagine. But I did finish Chapter 9 of Marshall Goldsmith’s and my new book, wrote six video segments and 12 podcasts for Maverick Mob which is starting in January, and am reading two good books. I don’t remember any safety announcements and I did look for my life vest (we flew the Atlantic and Mediterranean) and figured I could make a raft out of 12 of them!
I’m supposed to he escorted from the plane through immigration by Amex Centurion, so we’ll see how that goes. More to come.
I was met at the jet way, taken to an obscure elevator, out onto the tarmac, into a waiting car, and over to another building. Inside, immigration had only about seven people in line but we went to what I thought was an empty booth. My escort’s knock on the glass brought an agent to life who quickly stamped my passport, no other paperwork required. (A sad sign of the times: You can opt for paperwork if you don’t want an Israeli stamp in your passport given some other countries’ refusal to let you in with that stamp, or they ask if you have an Israeli passport to stamp instead of the U.S. one.)
A waiting hotel limo then joined 45 minutes of rush hour traffic to the hotel, during which I checked in and was given my key!
Photos to come.
© Alan Weiss 2016