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UK/US flights resume with Virgin, BA jets in synchronised takeoff

Mon 08 November 2021 10:24 | A A A

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(Sharecast News) - The first leisure flights from London to the US since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic took off from Heathrow on Monday morning after President Joe Biden reopened American borders to travellers.

In a choreographed and synchronised moved, fierce rivals British Airways and Virgin Atlantic planes took off simultaneously from adjoining runways at the west London airport. Flight BA001 - a number previously reserved for Concorde - and Virgin flight VS3 took off for New York's JFK airport at about 08.30 GMT in the first trips to the US for 20 months.

The industry has been battered by impact of the pandemic - which brought air travel to a virtual standstill as countries shut their borders in an effort to stymie the spread of the virus - reporting massive financial losses, shrinking fleets and laying off or firing thousands of workers.

BA chief executive, Sean Doyle, said that it would take a "couple of years" for the company, part of the IAG group that also owns Aer Lingus and Iberia, to return to its pre-pandemic size, but added "that journey starts today", adding that the UK's flag carrier would be flying to 23 US cities by December with with up to 246 flights a week.

Flights to New York will increase from five to eight per day in December. There will also be double-daily services to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Dallas, Miami and Toronto, as well as daily services to Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Atlanta, Denver, Houston and Vancouver.

Vaccinated US visitors have been able to travel to Britain since the summer, when the UK lifted quarantine restrictions, boosting passenger numbers, but airlines are increasing their schedules and there are full planes this week for the first time.

The British Airways A350 flight is being 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, BA said in a statement.

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