After reading many trip reports on Airliners.net over the years I've finally decided to try my hand at one:
20 February 2006
EL AL LY105 Toronto-Los Angeles
Scheduled departure 0800
Actual departure 0800
Scheduled arrival 1030
Actual landing 1100
Actual arrival at gate 1145
Seat 33C, Economy Class
Why this flight?
As a Flight Attendant I'm always interested in how other airlines do their cabin services. A lot of people think I'm crazy but I truly enjoy flying on other airlines and observing how they do things. In the past I've planned trips around flying on different airlines and/or aircraft types. An upcoming trip to Hawaii to visit my parents was no exception. I've never been on EL AL before, so being based in BOS I decided to take my own airline, Northwest, from BOS to DTW to YYZ, spend the night there, take EL AL from YYZ to LAX, and back on NW from LAX to HNL. There have been numerous trip reports about NW's domestic service so I'll go right into the EL AL portion of my journey.
EL AL advises its passengers that check-in in three hours prior to scheduled departure. With a 0800 departure this meant being at YYZ's Terminal 3 at 0500. I got there a little after that to find that the counters were still not open. A staffer told me and the two other people waiting that they would be open in about 30 minutes. I then decided to find a place to sit and eat a muffin and fruit I brought in anticipation of this early check-in. By the time the counters were finally opened at 0545 a small queue had developed. It is well known that EL AL has the strictest security screen procedures in the world. Even before being able to proceed to the counter I had to present my ticket, passport, and NWA ID and be questioned by the security staff. They wanted to know why I was taking this flight, why I was flying EL AL, how long I was in YYZ, etc. Apparently being on a one-way staff travel standby ticket and being an airline enthusiast raised a red flag as the screener had to speak with her supervisor, which resulted in another round of questioning by another screener, another consultation with the supervisor, and finally being questioned by the supervisor himself. After that I was finally able to check in. My guess for the reason for the multiple questionings was to ensure my answers to their question were consistent. The screening staff were very professional and pleasant.
Although the flight was quite full, the check in staff was able to clear me for a seat at the counter. Normally when traveling standby on a staff ticket one has to wait until the flight is closed for check in before being allocated a seat. I was offered a choice of a window or an aisle seat. I requested an aisle and was given 33C, which was a few rows behind the overwing exits. Before proceeding to the security checkpoint I, and the others who were also subjected to increased questioning had to go to an area by the terminal's bar to surrender our hand luggage for additional screening. I was given a claim tag and was told I could pick up my bag at the gate prior to boarding. At least it beats having to drag it through security!
Boarding stated around 0730. The passengers who stated in TLV were boarded first--they were in a transit area way from the departure gate while the aircraft was cleaned and catered. Before boarding the local YYZ-LAX passengers had to once again walk through the detectors and have their cabin luggage examined. As promised, my cabin bag was delivered to me at the gate after I was screened again.
Inside, the interior of 4X-EAE appeared a little worn. Each seat had a pillow and blanket, and an electronic headset was in the seat pocket. There were no PTVs, however there were several video monitors in the first section of economy (ahead of the overwing exits) and a mainscreen in the aft section. Boarding went smoothly and we departed on time at 0800. After the safety video (a cartoon), the Captain announced that today's flight would take six hours due to the strong headwinds.
About an hour after takeoff brunch was served. There was no beverage service before the meal. Today the menu consisted of:
Cold starters.......Tomato stuffed eggplant
Main courses.......Grilled salmon with rice and green beans
Penne pasta with tomato sauce and cheese
Warm rolls and butter. Cup of still water
Dessert ..............Lemon cake
Tea and coffee
I opted for the pasta. A nice sized portion and very tasty.
Curiously, no other beverages were offered with the meal. On other airlines either a beverage cart follows the meals or there is an assortment of beverages on top of the meal cart. Coffee and tea were offered before the meal trays were picked up. Duty-free goods were sold followed by distribution of US Customs and Immigration forms.
Entertainment consisted of various Israeli and American TV programs, but no movie. One of the show was the Israeli drama "Mommy," about a third-rate actress becoming a single parent which I thought was more interesting that the American programs.
Cabin crew were efficient, and with the exception of the Purser, on the young side. One female Flight Attendant, in particular, did her duties with a sincere smile on her face which created a very positive impression.
Before landing a beverage service was offered. However I did not see any walk throughs with water between the first and second services. Apparently the cabin crew were afforded crew breaks on this flight. Half the Flight Attendants were on break while the other half were busy in the galleys helping passengers fill out their forms and getting drinks for them. They were so busy that some passengers were helping themselves to drinks and snacks!
We landed at 1100, 30 minutes behind schedule. To make things worse, we sat in a holding area on the taxiway for 45 minutes waiting for our gate to open. During this time, despite the seat belt sign still being on, many passengers were walking around the cabin socializing and retrieving their hand luggage from the overhead bins. The few announcements made by the Purser for the passengers to return to their seats and put their luggage back in the bins went unheeded and the crew did little to get them to comply.
Since this was an extension of the TLV flight, long haul amenities were still provided. A very nice flight, a reminder of the days before the LCC no-frills revoloution.