BA and Virgin celebrate US reopening with dual Heathrow take-off

Transatlantic rivals British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have joined forces today to celebrate the reopening of the United States to fully vaccinated UK nationals.

In a show of unity, the pair took to the skies in a synchronised parallel departure from London/Heathrow.

Flight BA001 – the former moniker reserved for Concorde – and Virgin flight VS3, both operating Airbus A350-1000s, left the London hub at 8.50am this morning bound for New York/JFK.

VS3
Virgin Atlantic holds a fleet of seven A350-1000s compared to BA's eight-strong contingent. Aviation Image Network/Simon Gregory

The return of transatlantic travel comes more than 600 days since the US travel ban was introduced. Both companies campaigned fiercely for the safe return of transatlantic travel to ignite economic recovery.

Sean Doyle, British Airways chairman and CEO, said: “[Today] is our moment to celebrate the UK-US reopening… 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, added: “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.”

Grant Shapps, the UK Government’s secretary of state for transport, commented: “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."

VS3 – using G-VJAM (c/n 336) – departed runway 27L at the facility, while BA001, G-XWBG (c/n 432), took off from the parallel 27R.

The flag carrier’s jet then turned right shortly after take-off and took up a northerly routing which saw it fly over the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, Alpha Mike departed straight out and assumed a more westerly track which took it over South Wales and the Republic of Ireland.

The pair are scheduled to land at JFK exactly one hour apart from each other. However, flight tracking app Flightradar24 suggests they will arrive in the Big Apple just one minute apart.