Sir Richard Branson’s airline will start serving the route on 25 September 2019.
At just 2,233 miles, it will be easily Virgin Atlantic’s shortest link to and from the UK. The eastbound flight to Tel Aviv is scheduled for just over five hours, and the inbound to Heathrow for just under six.
Despite the short flight time, the new route will tie up an aircraft for a long stretch; with a night stop for the plane in Israel, the initial schedule involves nearly 22 hours between departure and arrival at Heathrow.
Virgin’s Tel Aviv service adds to the intense competition between London and Israel’s main aviation hub. It is one of relatively few routes on which “full-service” airlines, such as British Airways, and now Virgin Atlantic, offer long-haul standards against short-haul budget carriers.
Wizz Air and easyJet compete from Luton to Tel Aviv against each other and El Al, the Israeli national airline.
Arkia, a budget Israeli carrier, flies between Stansted and Tel Aviv. El Al, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will now all compete directly to the Israeli city from Heathrow. The Israeli airline flies a Boeing 787, BA has a 777 and Virgin Atlantic will deploy an Airbus A330.
The new service is partly aimed at connecting passengers from US airports served by Virgin Atlantic and the carrier which owns 49 per cent of it, Delta Airlines.
Virgin Atlantic is dropping its Heathrow-Dubai service at the end of March 2019 in the face of intense competition from Emirates and British Airways.