Virgin Atlantic has now been flying to Tel Aviv for over a month, bringing new flare to a market overdue for innovative competition, and prices to match. But nothing Virgin feels fully official until Sir Richard Branson puts his touch on things, or rather – his negotiating skills.
After kissing the ground upon landing, and holding a press conference which felt like a Rolling Stones tour, Sir Richard headed to the real centre of business negotiations in Tel Aviv – Jaffa Market. In one of the more amusing publicity stunts of recent times, Branson offered flights to London for a price, but like many thing in Tel Aviv, there were side deals to be bartered.
People like low fares, and with Virgin Atlantic adding thousands of seats to the London-Tel Aviv route market, those have already become a thing. While many airlines fly narrow body, short haul planes from Europe to Tel Aviv, Virgin Atlantic is flying the Airbus A330-300, with Upper Class and its famed bar, premium economy and economy.
From London, the plane goes up directly against the Boeing 777-200 from British Airways, which will soon move to an Airbus A350-1000, as well as a Boeing 787 Dreamliner from El Al in the premium, full service market. Unlike low cost competition on the route, food, drinks and entertainment are still free on Virgin Atlantic, and wifi starts at £2.99 for a messaging pass.
Locals queued up and according to reports, one man walked away with $45 round trip flights, after an initial offer from Branson of $450. Not bad, not bad at all. On the other end of the spectrum, those of little faith didn’t believe the sales stunt was real, and were left with toy planes as souvenirs, instead of actual ticket. Whoops. And finally, every one likes an upgrade, and one couple managed to negotiate Upper Class upgrades for the price of economy, so cheers to that.
As always, Sir Richard Branson is quite a globe trotter. After haggling his way through Tel Aviv, the Virgin founder was in New York today to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange ahead of an initial public offering (IPO) for Virgin Galactic. It’s presently unknown when you’ll be able to connect from Tel Aviv to the Mojave Desert to hitch a ride into space…