When British Airways' planned flights to New York from London City airport stop in Ireland to refuel, passengers will be allowed to go through US immigration checks in advance, the company said yesterday.
The carrier first mooted the scheme for a business class-only service from central London to the Big Apple earlier this year. But it is impossible to fly the route non-stop from City airport because the runways are not long enough for take-off with enough fuel to complete the transatlantic journey. Following an agreement with the US immigration authorities, the 40-minute stop in Shannon will be used not only to refuel, but also to put passengers through immigration and customs checks.
The immigration scheme is central to BA's plans to cut travelling time, alongside allowing fliers to arrive at the airport just 15 minutes before departure.
Robert Boyle, the commercial director at British Airways, said: "Our planned business-class only service will be the most convenient way to travel between London and New York for those people based in or travelling to the heart of London. Many city workers will be able to get from desk to aircraft in as little as 30 minutes. This, combined with Shannon airport's ability to complete USA arrival checks during the planned refuelling stop, will ensure customers can make the most of their time and travel desk to desk in the quickest time possible."
If all goes according to plan, the new service will be up and running next autumn, with a twice-daily service using Airbus 318 aircraft with 32 seats, which are the largest planes that can take off and land at London City airport. BA will make no statement as to fares for the flights.
Only the westbound flights will need the Shannon stop. Eastbound services will be non-stop because they will not have the same runway constraints on the way back into Britain.
When BA's plan was first publicised it met with some scepticism, not least because the service would be competing with similar business-only offerings from Silverjet and Eos Airlines. Both carriers have since gone bankrupt.