El Al debuts Platinum Class on all transatlantic routes

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NEW YORK -- El Al's Platinum Class debuted this month on all transatlantic aircraft as an overhaul of the airline's former business class.

The Platinum Class has 25% fewer seats than the business class it replaces, according to Michael Mayer, the airline's general manager, North America, and is intended to surpass the standards of Continental's BusinessFirst class.

"We get many new passengers coming to us because of the security," Mayer said, "but we want them to stay because of the service."

Prices have not increased from the former business class rates, Mayer said.

"What we want is to keep the premium passengers flying with us, and we will invest in them," he said.

El Al Platinum travelers check in at a separate counter at the airport, where they are entitled to three pieces of luggage, one more than in coach, and use of a departure lounge.

Seats were upgraded to provide greater recline and increased pitch for legroom. All are equipped with a power outlet for laptop computers.

Meals in the renovated Platinum are served in courses, rather than on a single tray, with new cutlery and a wine menu.

Each El Al 777 aircraft has 40 Platinum Class seats; the 747-400s have 52.

In conjunction with the Platinum Class, El Al is offering a $250 roundtrip Platinum ticket to Israel to anyone traveling with a full-fare Platinum passenger. The companion fare is available until Dec. 31, with no blackout dates.

Each week through June 22, El Al's flight schedule includes 11 nonstop flights to Israel from New York (Kennedy) and six from Newark. From June 23 through Sept. 7, service from Kennedy will run at 16 nonstop flights each week.

At least three weekly departures are made from Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago through Sept. 7.

The airline has maintained around an 80% load factor since Sept. 11 without cutting its flight schedule, a spokeswoman said, by flying lower-capacity 777s on the U.S.-Tel Aviv route in place of the 747-400s.

For travel through June 20, El Al also introduced air-land packages including a choice of five nights' hotel accommodation at Prima, Dan Panorama or Crowne Plaza hotels, priced from $999, or seven days' car rental with unlimited mileage, priced from $899.

Commission is 10% on air-land packages. On air alone, El Al's base commission is 5% and will remain uncapped at least until March 31, 2003.

For more information, contact El Al Israel Airlines at (800) 223-6700 or (212) 768-9200 or visit the Web at www.elal.com.

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