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I’ve just completed an amazing trip around the world which involved places like Nice, San Francisco, Seattle, Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hong Kong, and London. Needless to say, I was able to once again experience First and Business Class on top carriers such as SWISS, Etihad Airways, and Cathay Pacific. To make sure I had extra fun, I invited a friend along (who’s never flown First or Business Class), and we won’t be forgetting this trip anytime soon!
We spent one night in Tel Aviv and were really optimistic about the airport experience upon departure.. oh, man, was I wrong.. and to think, I used my U.S. passport which doesn’t contain any stamps from the UAE or Qatar.. imagine what the experience would have been like if I used my Polish passport which has pages of stamps from many countries in the Middle East. The reason why we were in Tel Aviv is because we had booked an American Airlines AAdvantage award ticket from Tel Aviv to Brisbane via Amman, Abu Dhabi, and Sydney for 100k miles + $80 USD in First Class… which is an incredible deal.
While all of the flights were amazing on this single ticket (Royal Jordanian Business Class, Etihad Airways Business and First Class, and Qantas Business Class), the airport experience in Tel Aviv was downright unpleasant. Furthermore, we hated Tel Aviv… it is incredibly overpriced, there’s nothing to do, and everything is disappointing… I don’t get why so many people love to go there. Anyway, we got to the airport plenty early for our 08:30 flight to Amman (and paid $60 USD for a 20 minute taxi ride… never going back, I swear).
Our first step was the “interview” before being allowed to check in. My friend and I told the staff we were together, but they insisted we speak separately to different people. While my friend wasn’t questioned much, I was practically interrogated as to what I was doing in Tel Aviv for just one night and why I didn’t stay longer and why I had separate tickets and etc, etc. I remained calm, however it really started to get to me when the person interviewing me began to ask me the same questions over and over… and then asked me what my name was? Really?
After that, we checked in with Royal Jordanian, which was totally normal and we weren’t asked anything else. Our boarding passes to Amman were issued, but obviously not the Etihad boarding passes to Abu Dhabi and Sydney. Then came security… I’ve complained about the TSA in the United States many times and how terrible they are… but after this experience I can officially say that I LOVE THE TSA and whatever security theatre they have in mind, I’m now perfectly fine with. Security at Tel Aviv was a total $#!t show.
The normal queue for security was long as F so we went to the priority queue since we were in Business Class. At first, the agent didn’t let us go through as she didn’t believe we were in Business Class. I wasn’t having any of it so I repeatedly said we were and she could call a manager if she wanted to as she clearly didn’t understand that “U” class on a Royal Jordanian boarding pass means Business Class (an award redemption). She let us through… We waited about 2 minutes before a different member of the security staff approached us and told us to follow him. He brought us to the random selection queue. Of course. Great.
There were only 10 people in front of us in the random selection queue, but each person took 15 minutes to get through. Every centimetre of each person’s belongings was swabbed and tested for explosives, then our jackets and shoes were swabbed, and then we were swabbed. All of my items had to be removed from my bag and placed on the dirty counter, where people put shoes and other items. Our electronics had to be powered on and ALL cables and devices had to be placed in a separate bin. Since I travel with lots of electronics, I literally had 7 bins all to myself that were going through the X-ray machine. Not only was this process ridiculous, the staff were absolutely rude and provided no explanation what they were doing or why they were doing it. One person complained to them and the response they got? “Then don’t come to Israel again.” Really? Instead of encouraging tourism? ….
We arrived at the airport around 3 hours before departure and made it just in time for boarding. The security and check-in process literally took over two hours and most of that time, it was worse security theatre than exists in the USA. I think I’m not alone when I say after this experience, the TSA seems wonderful.
What irritated me the most wasn’t the actual process (as I get that), however the rudeness of the staff and the repetitive questions they kept asking over and over as if they were interrogating you (which I’m almost sure that’s what they’re doing). They know travellers are stressed out about this insane process they have in place, so perhaps they could be a little bit nicer and engage in conversation with passengers? Questions such as “How did you enjoy Tel Aviv?” are much better than repeatedly asking you why you came to Tel Aviv in the first place.
After one, expensive, day in Tel Aviv… and the unpleasant security airport experience, I don’t think I’ll ever be back. I didn’t find the city of Tel Aviv nice at all (and we explored various areas outside of the city too), but most places were super disappointing and made us wonder why everyone loves Tel Aviv so much. Once we landed in Amman, we were warmly welcomed by the people of Jordan and felt much safer than we did in Israel, to be quite honest…
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