El AL Up: The Israeli Budget Carrier That Never Took Off

Back in 2013 El Al Israel launched a low cost carrier which initially started flying from its base in Ben-Gurion International Airport to Berlin, Budapest, Prague, Kiev and the Cyrpiot city of Larnaca. They began service with fares as low as $69 to compete with other low cost carriers, Wizz, Easyjet and RyanAir. The narrow-body Boeing 737-800 jet was selected to serve the new routes with ‘Up’ borrowing five of the variant from El Al’s mainline fleet. The aircraft were configured with 144 regular economy seats and an upgraded Tourist Plus class with 36 seats. Tourist Plus travelers have more spacious seating and food and beverages at no extra charge, while passengers flying in the lowest fare class will pay extra for food and beverages.

Up by El Al at Berlin (Credit to @ber.spotter on Instagram)

Up followed the trend of other low cost carriers in forcing passengers to pay extra for checked baggage, pre-assigned seats and changes to reservations in their ‘Up Basic’ fare. Passengers also had the option of upgrading their seats on a space-available basis. The Up ‘Smart fare’ class included a range of services such as checked luggage at no charge, seating in the Tourist Plus cabin, use of El Als King David Lounge at Ben-Gurion airport and more flexible ticketing terms.

But what went wrong?

Just this month it was announced that El Al are to discontinue the Up brand. Up will cease operations by mid-October 2018 and all flights and aircraft will return to the El Al mainline fleet. El Al will, therefore, introduce a new fare structure to replace Up.

Up was designed to compete with other low cost carriers and therefore had to keep fares low. They, therefore, lost passengers to the competitors and made Up a loss-making project for El Al.

Credit to @ber.spotter on Instagram)

What now?

El Al has stated that in the next few years it plans to renovate the interiors of its European aircraft, including a gradual replacement of the tourist and business class seats on part of its mainline narrow-bodied fleet.

Instead of a dedicated low cost daughter company, El Al says that tourist class passengers will be given a choice of three types of flight package: a basic package that will allow hand luggage only plus a meal with no possibility of cancelling or changing the flight, a package with choice of seat, checked-in luggage, and the possibility of change and cancellation for a fee, and an all-inclusive package that in addition to the above will allow a second piece of hand luggage, and flexibility over changes and cancellations. All of these terms will be subject to the criteria set by the airline for each ticket and the provisions of the law. Ticket sales in the new format will start during the second quarter of 2018, for flights in the fourth quarter of the year. (globes.co.il)

Enjoyed this post? Why not read our review of the El Al 787 new business class cabin!