THE ISRAEL table at the British Airways ‘Cultural Roadshow Extravaganza’ at Heathrow Airport is seen earlier this month.
(photo credit: AMY SPIRO)
LONDON – Commercial pilots and flight attendants are likely the world’s most well-traveled people – landing in up to half-adozen places every week. The crew at British Airways are no exception, as the airline flies to more than 180 destinations worldwide.
Depending on the stop, staff may get a stay of up to 48 hours in each city. But how much do they really know about where they’re heading? BA operates 20 flights from London to Tel Aviv per week, sending plenty of flight crew to the sunny city for anywhere from two to seven hours at a time – or up to 24 by special request. For two days in early September, the Crew Report Center for British Airways staffers at Heathrow Airport played host to a “Cultural Roadshow Extravaganza.” Tables and stands were set up to give crew members passing by a taste of some of the many places they visit, including Japan, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Bahrain, Egypt, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina – and Israel.
At the Israel table, visitors were serenaded by the sounds of Peer Tassi, treated to snacks of Bissli, dates and chocolate coins, and offered the chance to try on a kippa.
A poster with the smiling faces of Shimon Peres, Bar Refaeli, Ilan Ramon and Gal Gadot among others reminded people that Israelis are “sassy,” “feisty,” “but nice.”
Every stand was equally cliched, with some borderline insensitive; at the Mexico table, guests were encouraged to try on a sombrero and mustache for photos, and the India stand gave out bindis for your forehead.
The Israel stand was organized in cooperation with the Israel Government Tourist Office and the Kosher Kingdom supermarket in London’s heavily Jewish Golders Green neighborhood, said British Airways employee Mark Merkel.
Merkel, a cabin service leader, manned the table along with several other Jewish flight crew. “Because we’re Jewish we come and help out,” he said. “We don’t have a base in Tel Aviv.”
Spencer Barrett, a fellow BA flight attendant, was also at the table. A member of BA’s flight crew for three years, he said there is no official organization of Jewish staff members, but they get to know each other through events like these.
“Two years ago we did a big Israeli road show with the Consulate and the Embassy,” he said, adding that while the vast majorities of visitors appreciated it, they did get some isolated complaints. “It’s only an issue if you want it to be.”
Barrett sports a tiny Israeli flag on his official BA name tag, indicating to travelers that he speaks Hebrew – something he sports with pride no matter the destination.
“My mother always said this isn’t a job for a nice Jewish boy,” he joked, adding that he still loves his high-flying work.The writer was a guest of British Airways.