Virgin Atlantic

How to keep it kosher

March 25, 2020

Virgin Atlantic used its new Heathrow-Tel Aviv service as the excuse to bring a taste of Israel onboard in a way that could shape its future catering, says Steve Hartridge

The new Tel Aviv service gave Virgin Atlantic a ‘blank canvas’ to match its onboard offering to the destination’s culture and food – and for the first time, its customer experience team was involved from the start.

“By bringing menu options inspired by our newest destination onboard we provide a taste of home to our Israeli customers and inspire others to visit the destination,” said Darren Sherlock, Virgin Atlantic’s customer experience manager.

Virgin wanted to team up with a purveyor of authentic Jewish food, and got lucky when one of its product managers (himself a trained chef), had a contact at The Good Egg, a popular London restaurant known for its authentic Tel Aviv street food. The restaurant’s menus inspired dishes in the Clubhouse lounge, Upper Class and Premium cabins. Gate Gourmet was tasked with replicating the dishes which celebrate Tel Aviv’s thriving foodie scene, and to offer an authentic culinary experience.

Virgin sent cabin crews to Golders Green, one of London’s most prominent Jewish communities. Accompanied by Orthodox Jewish consultant Arieh Wagner they visited restaurants, hotels, street markets, shops and synagogues.

The Clubhouse features dishes such as shakshuka (The Good Egg’s signature dish of eggs baked with tomatoes, sweet peppers and spices). Once onboard, Premium customers can tuck into cod in Charaimeh sauce, with green chilli relish, and spiced couscous; while those in Upper Class are offered slow-cooked lamb shawarna with Mujadarra rice, and babka pudding served with honey labneh, date syrup and pistachio brittle.

The experience is being considered as a blueprint for future routes. The airline is now looking for ways it can bring a taste of India to its Mumbai services, and Sherlock said: “We’d love to work with partners in the UK and overseas to bring authentic local cuisine to our customers.”