At 0830 this morning (November 8) British Airways and Virgin Atlantic celebrated the easing of US travel restrictions with a parallel take-off from Heathrow.
The two carriers performed a dual take-off of their flights to New York JFK. Business Traveller’s Tom Otley is on a joint press trip organised by the two airlines.
It’s an historic moment for several reasons – the reopening of the transatlantic corridor for the first time in over 600 days, and the first dual take-off for such fierce rivals at Heathrow.
British Airways is bringing back its BA001 flight designation (originally reserved for Concorde, before being resurrected for the airline’s now defunct A318 all business flights from London City to New York). Virgin’s service will operate as VS3.
Commenting on the news Sean Doyle, British Airways chairman and CEO said that the two carriers were “setting aside rivalry” for the dual take-off.
“Transatlantic connectivity is vital for the UK’s economic recovery, which is why we’ve been calling for the safe reopening of the UK-US travel corridor for such a long time,” said Doyle.
“We must now look forward with optimism, get trade and tourism back on track and allow friends and families to connect once again.”
Meanwhile Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic CEO, commented:
“Today is a time for celebration, not rivalry. Together with British Airways we are delighted to mark today’s important milestone, which finally allows consumers and businesses to book travel with confidence.
“The US has been our heartland for more than 37 years and we are simply not Virgin without the Atlantic. We’ve been steadily ramping up flying to destinations including Boston, New York, Orlando, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and we can’t wait to fly our customers safely to their favourite US cities to reconnect with loved ones and colleagues.
“As the UK forges its recovery from the pandemic, the reopening of the transatlantic corridor and the lifting of Presidential Order 212F acknowledges the great progress both nations have made in rolling out successful vaccine programmes. The UK will now be able to strengthen ties with our most important economic partner, the US, through boosting trade and tourism.
“We are thankful to Prime Minister Johnson and the UK Government, the Biden administration and our industry partners for their support in removing these barriers and allowing free travel between our countries to resume.”
And Secretary of State Grant Shapps said:
“This historic event marks a significant moment for the aviation sector. Transatlantic travel has long been at the heart of UK aviation and I’m delighted to see flights return in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“Thanks to the work of industry and the US-UK Experts Working Group, these vitally important flight routes will help boost the economy, protect and create British jobs and through the work of the Jet Zero Council help to build back greener.”