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May 07, 2009

El Al, the Pope's Airline

Elal777_dt
Photo: phinalanji on Flickr using Creative Commons

by Barbara S. Peterson

The upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel, only the third visit ever to the country by a pontiff, is already stirring the expected controversies over his itinerary.

It could be a publicity windfall for Israel's tourism industry, which has been battered by recent violence in Gaza. El Al Airlines, which on May 15 will fly the pope back to Rome from Tel Aviv on a 777 emblazoned with the Vatican insignia, is hoping that travelogue-y footage of a sightseeing pontiff will reassure jittery travelers that it's okay to visit Israel. Of course, security is always an issue in a country that has basically been at war for most of its history.

But other travelers are staying home because of the economy. So for those who want to follow in the pope's footsteps, El Al is offering round-trips that are 30 to 40 percent cheaper than last year's summer fares. If you book on or before May 23, you can grab a $699 round-trip between New York and Tel Aviv; after May 23, the price jumps to $803, and from June 20 through August 19, it's $1,199. And, through May 25, you can get airfare and a five-night stay at Jerusalem's five-star Inbal Hotel for $1,249 per person (based on double occupancy). The airline also has family discounts of 10 percent off for the first child, 50 percent off for the second, and 25 percent off for every child thereafter. And it is discounting business-class tickets up to 40 percent this summer with a round-trip fare of $2,400. (Note: These prices do not include taxes.) Read more about fares and discounts on El Al's Web site.

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