The chief executive of Virgin Atlantic has admitted in an interview that he is two weeks into a three-month course of chemotherapy to eradicate cancer cells that have invaded his lymph nodes after he was recently diagnosed with stage three colon cancer.
Shai Weiss, 54, has already had a large tumour removed in a successful operation in a British hospital after he sought medical advice because he was suffering extended bouts of tiredness.
The Israeli born aviation executive caught COVID-19 in March and decided to get a check-up after seemingly being unable to shake off the after-effects of the illness. Rather than ‘long COVID’, however, Weiss was diagnosed with cancer.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Weiss says he has no plans to step down from his role at Virgin Atlantic despite still trying to navigate the airline through one of the most tumultuous times in its history.
“We’ve caught in time. It’s not spread to other major organs. So this chemotherapy is to ensure there’s no recurrence of the cancer,” Weiss told The Telegraph.
“I’m still working. But there are days I’m off. When I need to go to treatment. When I’m in a bad state. Not all my days are perfect. And not all my days are great. And it’s not all smiles,” he continued.
Weiss told the helm at Virgin Atlantic in January 2019 charged with turning around the much-loved but loss-making carrier. Ultimately, Weiss saved the airline from going bankrupt at the height of the pandemic but was responsible for laying off thousands of staff in order to win shareholder support for the business.
He blasts the British government, however, for refusing to offer Virgin Atlantic a state-backed loan which could have saved “ thousands of hardworking, British people”.
The airline is now on a more stable footing but Weiss doesn’t speak the business to make a profit until 2023 at the earliest. In contrast, its majority shareholder Delta Air Lines will make a full-year profit this year, as will many of its rivals.
Speaking with Oliver Gill, he says he has “no self-pity”.
“It’s just something that I’ve got to get through. I understand all the risks, but my efforts are focused on getting well and getting back. For myself, my family, my friends and the company.”
Weiss has been with Virgin Atlantic since 2012 when he originally joined as the airline’s chief financial officer before transitioning into the chief commercial officer role in 2017.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.