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British Airways and Virgin Atlantic celebrate US borders reopening

08 November 2021

Transatlantic rivals British Airways and Virgin Atlantic join forces today to celebrate the reopening of the US to UK nationals.

In recognition of a long campaigned for and pivotal moment for the travel industry, for the first time ever, the airlines will come together in a unique show of unity, taking to the skies in a synchronised departure on parallel runways at Heathrow. British Airways flight BA001, a flight number previously reserved for Concorde, and Virgin Atlantic flight VS3, operating on A350 aircraft, will both leave London Heathrow for New York JFK at 8.30am on Monday November 8, 2021.

Reopening the transatlantic travel corridor more than 600 days since the US travel ban was introduced will provide a significant boost for the aviation industry, help both nations’ economic recoveries and re-establish vital business connections. The US is the UK’s largest trading partner, and aviation contributes £23m per day to the UK economy. In 2019, 22 million people travelled between the two countries, along with 900,000 tonnes of cargo.

Today’s change to US entry requirements follows the UK Government’s decision in the summer to lift quarantine restrictions for fully vaccinated US customers when travelling to Britain. With world-leading vaccination programmes in the UK and US, customers on both sides of the Atlantic will finally be able to see loved ones again and explore new and familiar destinations after more than eighteen months of travel restrictions.

Sean Doyle, British Airways Chairman and CEO said: “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 said: “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.”

Secretary of State for Transport, 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.”