Forum Buzz: Under $650 Roundtrip to Israel

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Chicago to Tel Aviv for under $650

According to this thread in the Mileage Run Forum of FlyerTalk, Delta Airlines is offering fares under $650 for roundtrip flights from Chicago to Tel Aviv, connecting at New York-JFK.

It’s important to note that these low fares require a connection in JFK. Trying to book only the JFK <-> Tel Aviv roundtrip would be about $280 more expensive!

I’m seeing good availability in January and February. It appears that 3-8 night itineraries are where people are finding the low ~$641 fares.

What’s the best way to hunt for eligible dates?

The ITA Matrix is the way to go. It’s one of the most useful tools to check for available dates and airlines.

First go to matrix.itasoftware.com. Google, ITA’s owner, seems to want to hide the Matrix, so go directly to its URL. Type in “ORD”  as your home airport and “TLV” as your destination.

I prefer to search certain length trips one month at a time for the lowest fares, so use that section of the form by selecting “See calendar of lowest fares.” I’ve asked it to search for 3-8 night itineraries leaving in the month of February.

After you click “Search”, you should be taken to a calendar listing the cheapest flights departing on each date. When I searched, I was able to find a bunch of $640 fares.

Clicking on a particular date will bring up all available flight options on the next page. To see some sample itineraries, check out the screenshot below.

Keep in mind the ITA Matrix is only for finding airfares. You don’t have the ability to book through this site. Write down the dates, flight numbers, and prices that work for you and book directly at Delta.com.

I don’t live in Chicago. Why is this of value to me?

You certainly don’t have to live in the origin airport city to turn this into a vacation. There are many ways to connect you to both Chicago airports. If your schedule permits, you could even spend some vacation time in both Chicago and Tel Aviv.

If you need to fly to Chicago, you should leave several hours (or even more) between your flight to/from Chicago and the Chicago <-> Tel Aviv roundtrip. If there is bad weather or a mechanical issue with your flight to Chicago, Delta isn’t obligated to accommodate you.

There are tons of domestic options to get you to the Windy City. Both American Airlines and United Airlines offer frequent nonstop flights to O’Hare airport from around the country. Even Southwest Airlines has a large presence at Midway, the city’s southern airport.

If you have some Rapid Rewards points to spare, check out Scott’s post on booking a Southwest Award, Anatomy of an Award: How to Book an Award on Southwest.

If you are planning on turning in frequent flyer miles to get to Chicago, don’t forget British Airways Avios. Avios are redeemable on American Airlines, their oneworld partner, and the award chart is distance based. Flights to Chicago that are under 650 miles are only 4,500 Avios. For more information on booking American Airlines flights with Avios, see out Scott’s post, Free First Class Next Month: Using BA.com for oneworld Awards.

Will this deal last into next week? I need to do some travel planning first!

This appears to be one of those lightning deals that could disappear at any time. This isn’t known by most casual travelers, but Delta (and most domestic carriers) have a 24-hour cancellation policy. My strong advice is to book now to lock in the great fare. If you wait around, the $640 fares will most likely be gone.

Last year, Delta advertised some low fares to Hawaii from Washington D.C. for $400. That price was ridiculously low, so I immediately booked for a time when I could burn some vacation days. When I went home to search for more convenient options, the fares rose to over $1,100! Booking the heavily discounted price quickly was critical.

If you book tonight and find out the dates don’t work, simply call Delta or cancel online tomorrow. Just make sure you do so before the 24-hour cancellation window passes. Otherwise, you will have to pay cancellation or change fees.

Why is this deal in the Mileage Run Forum? What exactly is that?

Mileage runs are airline tickets purchased with the sole goal of earning frequent flyer miles. Many FlyerTalkers are able to maintain their elite status by purchasing heavily discounted tickets (such as the fare above). The goal is to requalify for elite status for the least amount of money out of pocket. Elite status with an airline usually brings perks like priority boarding, free checked bags, complimentary upgrades to first class, and a whole host of other benefits. For more info, check out Scott’s post, Free First Class Next Month: Using FlyerTalk’s Mileage Run Forum.

Does it make sense for someone to purchase this ticket simply to earn miles?

No for several reasons. The first is that this low fare is unlocked when spending 3-8 nights in Israel. No one I know has that much free time handy! This deal makes sense as a “regular” vacation.

In the mileage running community, everyone has a different valuation of what makes a good mileage run “deal.” Some schools of thought say the airfare should earn miles at 4 cents or less. Most of the flights I found on the ITA Matrix were between 4.3 and 4.9 cents per mile. That’s great for a vacation, but poor for just a mileage run.  Those valuations also don’t even factor in how much you value your free time!

Recap

Low fares like this don’t come around often, especially to Israel from the United States. When they are published, the fares  don’t last more than a day or two (if that). Remember to lock this is now before the $641 tickets disappear.

If you don’t live in Chicago but still want to participate, book the Chicago <-> Tel Aviv portion of your trip first and worry about getting to/from Chicago after. Buying a cheap ticket or using frequent flyer miles to get to Chicago can easily be planned once you snag the Chicago <-> Tel Aviv. This fare could be pulled at anytime.


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