The UK-US travel corridor is officially open – and what better way to celebrate than with a synchronised take-off from two rival airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

At 8:30 on Monday morning (November 8), the two planes at London Heathrow were filled with vaccinated passengers heading to New York JFK for the first time in almost 20 months.

The ease of restrictions comes following President Biden’s first US announcement that vaccinated tourists from the UK and EU can re-enter the US starting November.

Sean Doyle, British Airways chairman and CEO, said the airlines were “setting aside rivalry” for the celebratory dual journey.

“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,” Doyle added.

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

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While Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic CEO, commented that “today is a time for celebration, not rivalry”, people were eager to know which flight landed on US ground first.

British Airways’ journey totalled 7 hr 8 min 35 sec, according to Flight Radar 24, while Virgin Atlantic ‘won the race’ with just under eight minutes to spare.

“Together with British Airways, we are delighted to mark today’s important milestone, which finally allows consumers and businesses to book travel with confidence,” Weiss said.

“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.”

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