April 18, 2024

Virgin Atlantic marks launch of Tel Aviv services

Sir Richard Branson accompanied a group of travel partners and media on a celebratory flight to Tel Aviv this week, a month on from the launch of the new service from London Heathrow.

The trip was delayed until October 23 due to heavy demand on the route from passengers heading to religious festivals in Israel.

The airline’s founder and chairman Sir Richard Branson was onboard and mingled freely with passengers throughout the near five-hour flight, Virgin’s shortest from the UK.

On arrival at Ben Gurion Airport he gave a press conference alongside the airline’s Israeli-born CEO, Shai Weiss.

In response to a question as to whether he had considered not flying to Tel Aviv due to protests and calls in the UK to boycott Israel over its policies in The West Bank and Gaza, Branson said: “There are definitely big issues that need to be sorted out in this region, and there need to be brave politicians who come forward to sort out these issues and say ‘enough is enough, let’s get it sorted’.

“But we believe we should trade in this country; as a company we are very entrepreneurial and the vast majority of Israelis are also great entrepreneurs and they are doing great things.”

Weiss said the airline had carried 14,000 passengers between London and Tel Aviv and beyond on the A330-300 since the service launched on September 25.

He added: “2019 marks the start of a new phase of growth for Virgin Atlantic as we work to achieve our ambition to become the most loved travel company.

“Israel represents a fantastic opportunity for us – the economy is booming and it’s one of the world’s leading tech hubs as well as a hub for tourists.

“We’re anticipating many business and leisure travellers flying with us between Tel Aviv and the UK as well as connecting onto the US.”

Asked how he would vote in the event of a second Brexit referendum, Branson described Britain’s departure from the European Union as the “saddest thing that has happened to our country and to Europe since the Second World War.”

Britons, he said, had been misled and he would vote to remain if there was a second referendum.

Virgin will introduce a new flight to Mumbai, India, on October 27 and a service to Sao Paulo, Brazil, early next year.