Virgin Atlantic Operates Its First Regular Tel Aviv Service

Virgin’s first flight to Israel has touched down. Arriving just after 8pm today, local time, the new Heathrow to Tel Aviv service went off without a hitch. With passengers treated to a taste of Israel before their arrival, and crews suitably briefed on catering to the Jewish culture, it looks like Virgin will be a popular choice on this highly competitive route.

An A330, G-VLUV, had the honor of inaugurating the route. Photo: Mark Harkin via Wikimedia

The inaugural flight

The flight number VS 453 was operated by an A330-300 registered G-VLUV. The 8.6 year old Airbus, also known as Lady Love, arrived with Virgin Atlantic in November 2012, following a brief stint with China Airlines.

According to data from Flight Radar 24, the inaugural flight pushed back just 20 minutes behind schedule, departing at 13:53 local time. From London Heathrow, the aircraft crossed Europe in just four hours and 15 minutes, landing at 20:07, a good 20 minutes ahead of the expected time.

Virgin Tel Aviv route
Virgin’s Heathrow to Tel Aviv route today. Image: Flight Radar 24

The aircraft and crew will overnight in Israel, ready to operate the return flight which is scheduled to depart at 07:15 tomorrow morning as VS 454.

In terms of passenger comforts, Lady Love sports 31 Upper Class seats with lie flat capabilities and a 22” width. Next, there are 48 premium economy seats with 38” of legroom and a 21” width, arranged in a 2-3-2 layout. Down at the back are 185 standard economy seats with between 29 and 31” of legroom in a 2-4-2 arrangement.

A very cultured flight

Virgin has gone all out to make a solid effort to understand the cultures and needs of the Jewish population.

In preparation for the flight, crew visited the Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE) at Golders Green in London to learn more about Jewish life. The visit incorporated information on customs, kashrut, prayer and the festivals, as well as meeting rabbis Aubrey Hersh and Benjy Morgan, who explained potential scenarios from requests to stow lulavim to identifying a shtreimel box.

During the flight, Virgin tailored the inflight entertainment to include Hebrew subtitles, and made all inflight announcements in both English and Hebrew. The menu too had a makeover, as Virgin worked with London based Israeli restaurant The Good Egg to bring classic dishes such as shakshuka and shawarma to those in Upper Class and Premium Economy.

Virgin Atlantic Tel Aviv menu
The tailored menu promises a taste of Tel Aviv. Photo: Virgin

Daniel Kerzner, VP of Customer Experience, commented on this in a media release, saying,

“At Virgin Atlantic we always like to do things differently and launching this new service to Israel gave us the opportunity to really look at our onboard service and see how we can tailor it to the destination’s fascinating culture.”

Although Virgin face some stiff competition on this route from both British Airways and El Al, it’s clear they are keen to go the extra mile to give customers a great experience. Globes checked out flight pricing, and found that Virgin had successfully undercut both the other carriers for the LGW-TLV route. However, when this was used as a route to New York, BA came in just slightly cheaper.

Are you going to Tel Aviv with Virgin Atlantic? Perhaps you were on this inaugural flight? Let us know in the comments how it was!