Transatlantic Rivals Stage Synchronized Departure

The two airplanes took off from London’s Heathrow Airport at 8:30 a.m. local time. British Airways

For the first time in more than 18 months, airlines are carrying passengers from the U.K. to the U.S. And the occasion was celebrated with quite a unique event.

British Airways flight BA001—a flight number previously reserved for Concorde—and Virgin Atlantic flight VS3, both operating on A350 aircraft, departed from London’s Heathrow (EGLL) airport bound for New York’s John F. Kennedy International (KJFK) in a synchronized take-off at about 8:30 a.m. local time.

It marked the first flight to the U.S. from the U.K. since the lifting of restrictions for the majority of British travelers that went into effect in March 2020.

British Airways’ chairman and CEO Sean Doyle, who was aboard flight BA001, said, “Today is about celebrating the U.K.-U.S. reopening of the transatlantic corridor after more than 600 days of separation, and it was fantastic to be able to mark this by synchronizing the take-off of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights for the first time ever.”

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss said that while the two airlines are rivals, Monday’s historic event is a perfect reason to set that aside.

“Today is a time for celebration, not rivalry,” Weiss said. “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 U.S. 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 favorite U.S. cities to reconnect with loved ones and colleagues.”

Reopening the transatlantic travel corridor will provide a significant boost for the aviation industry. In 2019, before the pandemic, 22 million people traveled between the two countries, along with 900,000 tons of cargo.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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