British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will put decades of hatred behind them tomorrow morning when they join forces to celebrate President Biden’s long-overdue travel ban with an extraordinarily uncommon dual takeoff and landing.
On Monday morning at 8:20 a.m., two Airbus A350s, one from British Airways and the other from Virgin Atlantic, will line up on Heathrow’s two parallel runways and take off at the same time. The two planes will then compete for first place in a race over the Atlantic to New York.
However, in order to avoid further rivalry, the two airlines have agreed to land at the same time with a coordinated parallel landing at JFK Airport in New York. For the occasion, Virgin Atlantic will fly its VS3 service, while British Airways will reintroduce its historic BA1 callsign for one day only to commemorate the reopening.
In September, President Biden agreed to relax the Trump-era travel ban, but the limitations would not be lifted until November 8. The prohibition was lifted with the condition that only fully vaccinated foreigners who have also tested negative for COVID-19 be permitted to enter the United States.
Despite the entrance criteria, flights from the UK and Europe to the US are expected to be fully booked for the majority of the week, with passengers told to expect significant delays upon arrival as officials deal with the surge in demand.
The London-New York City route has traditionally been BA’s main route, and the airline controlled the route prior to the epidemic. With its flights between London and New York City, British Airways became the first airline in the world to operate a billion-dollar route between April 2017 and April 2018.
To emphasize the importance of the route during the Concorde era, British Airways assigned its flagship BA1 callsign to the 10:30 a.m. Concorde departure from Heathrow to JFK. Concorde and the callsign were both discontinued in 2003.
For numerous years, the callsign remained inactive until British Airways established an all-business Class trip from London City Airport to JFK on a tiny Airbus A318 aircraft in 2009. The service, which had only 32 totally flat seats, was popular with high-end business travelers, but the epidemic caused BA to reconsider, and the airline announced last summer that it would be permanently stopping the service.
Although there is no long-term plan for the BA1 callsign, on November 8, the airline will operate an extra trip on its flagship long-haul aircraft, the Airbus A350-1000, between London Heathrow and New York JFK.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will operate special flights that will leave at 8:30 a.m. and arrive in New York around 11:15 a.m. On Monday morning, the event will be broadcast on British television.