Virgin Atlantic January 2021

Virgin Atlantic made its long-awaited return to Tel Aviv.  A 9.30 pm departure from Heathrow T2 (not the usual T4) landed just after four in the morning with a quick turnaround and out at 6.05am, local times applying travel editor Malcolm Ginsberg reports.

The schedule is in order to make connections both ways for services to Los Angles and New York and repeats out of Heathrow on a Thursday.  Travellers to Eilat will have no difficulty in a making the Arkia and Israir flights, now up to six per day.  Kosher meals are available in both classes but with Virgin having to move from its famous Clubhouse Business Class passengers do not have this facility in the Premium Plus lounge now offered.

Boss Shai Weiss was in fine form recently in a live interview with former BBC Radio stalwart Nick Cosgrove for the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA) charity.

Although perceived, and acknowledged, as an Israeli it turns out that Weiss is very British, although the transatlantic accent is a bit of a giveaway. He studied in the US and started his working life in New York.  Born in the UK in 1978, he holds a British passport, and has lived in London with his family for the last 24 years.  He is also reputed to be an Arsenal season ticket holder.  London is very much his home.

Virgin normally flies daily to Ben Gurion from Heathrow.  Put on hold for now is plans to introduce a second flight for the winter season.  “Israel has done remarkably well,” he said with an 80% load factor in the first year helped by connecting traffic from its 49% owner Delta Air Lines.  Manchester is under scrutiny “but it has to be commercially viable.  It is not at the moment”.

He described the last 12 months as “challenging” noting that all staff took a 20% pay cut and there had been a 45% cull in employees.  There was also an eight-week wages delay.  Cargo grew by 40% in 2020, but no word on the future of Gatwick.  He reminded viewers how the airline introduced Israel to the cabin staff with a pre-route group visit to London’s Golders Green and a look around some Jewish shops.

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