BA and Virgin celebrate US reopening

Joint take off from Heathrow

On a glorious autumn morning in west London UK aviation carried out a glorious event.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic joined together to celebrate the relaxing of entry to the USA.

The two airlines took to the skies at the same time on parallel runways using the same aircraft type.

At 0850, BA001 and VS3 left London Heathrow for New York JFK, both carriers using an Airbus A350.

BA001 is the old Concorde flight number for this route.

The BA aircraft had registration G-XWBG and the Virgin one had registration G-VJAM.

And appropriately the aircraft took off directly to the west, straight to the USA.

Today is significant to the aviation industry and many economies. It is the first day since March 16, 2020 that the vast majority of UK nationals have been able to fly to the US. That’s a wait of more than 600 days.

Sean Doyle, British Airways Chairman and CEO:

“After more than 600 days of separation, today is our moment to celebrate the UK-US reopening. We’re setting aside rivalry and for the first time ever, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic aircraft will be seen taking-off together to mark the vital importance of the transatlantic corridor.

“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. We must now look forward with optimism, get trade and tourism back on track and allow friends and families to connect once again.”

Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive:

“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.”

The travel ban to the USA because of the COVID virus has caused terrible problems for the aviation industry.

Vast amounts of money lost, tens of thousand of staff laid off, aircraft retired. Let’s hope today’s reopening of the USA reignites the industry and help restore it to its great self.

The Green Bit

The British Airways A350 flight was directly powered by a 35% blend of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) provided by bp and made from used cooking oil. It is believed to be the first commercial transatlantic flight ever to be operated with such a significant level of the fuel blended with traditional jet fuel.

Image credits: British Airways and Virgin Atlantic

Internet links

British Airways (BA)

Virgin Atlantic (VS)