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BA and Virgin Atlantic’s joint take-off as US opens

Virgin Atlantic set aside old rivalries with British Airways for joint take-off to mark reopening of US to UK passengers after more than 600 days

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic will set aside old rivalries with British Airways tomorrow for a joint take-off to mark the reopening of the US to UK passengers after more than 600 days. 

Virgin and BA will synchronise their flights from Heathrow to New York’s JFK airport at 8.30am, taxiing down the north and south runways side by side to take off simultaneously. 

American dream: After 600 days, Britons can fly to the United States again

The dual take-off is a rare display of unity by the rivals. In 2012, Branson and then BA boss Willie Walsh famously struck a £1million bet over whether Virgin Atlantic would still be in business under Branson’s control in five years’ time. 

The pandemic left Virgin Atlantic fighting for survival and BA’s owner IAG last week said it will make a €3 billion loss this year. But the airlines are banking on the trans-Atlantic routes, closed to UK nationals since March last year, returning them to profit by next summer. 

Sources said BA’s flight BA001 – Concorde’s former New York flight number – would be ‘celebratory’, carrying customers and crew who haven’t seen their families for almost two years.

Virgin Atlantic’s 12 flights to the US from Heathrow and Manchester tomorrow are fully booked. Chief executive Shai Weiss said: ‘The US has been our heartland for more than 37 years since our first flight to New York City in 1984. We are simply not Virgin without the Atlantic.’ Luis Gallego, chief executive of BA owner IAG, said it would be a ‘pivotal moment’.