US travel ban lifted - live: First London-New York flights land at JFK as hotel bookings up 63 per cent

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic stage dual take-off from Heathrow to celebrate

Simon Calder crosses US border after 18 month travel ban lifted for UK tourists

After almost 20 months, the US has finally reopened to tourists.

The unprecedented travel ban, implemented in March 2020 in response to the pandemic, saw travellers from the UK, EU and various other countries worldwide allowed into the States for only a handful of “essential reasons”.

From 8 November, entry restrictions have been lifted for all fully vaccinated arrivals.

In celebration, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic staged an historic simultaneous take-off from London Heathrow’s two runways this morning.

Virgin’s VS3 was the first to land at New York’s JFK Airport, touching down at 10.51 AM local time, while British Airways’s BA001 landed a few minutes later at 11.00 AM.

“This really feels like proper travel is back – and back to something like normality,” said Mark Jones, The Independent’s correspondent who is reporting from the very first BA flight out to the US. “Except I’m FAR more excited than I’d normally be for a business trip.”

Follow all the latest updates below.

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US number one dream holiday destination for Brits in 2022

The US came out on top as the British public’s “dream holiday” for 2022, according to new research.

The study of 2,000 British adults, commissioned by Forbes Advisor, asked Brits about their travel plans for the next 12-18 months, including their dream destinations, likely expenditure, and how they plan to fund their trip.

The survey focused on long-haul destinations, as opposed to more common European getaways, as two thirds (67 per cent) of respondents stated they considered a “once in a lifetime” holiday as a medium or long-haul journey.

The 10 top dream holiday destinations are:

  1. USA: 19.8%
  2. The Caribbean (eg Barbados): 9.2%
  3. Canada: 8.3%
  4. Dubai: 6%
  5. Maldives: 5.2%
  6. Thailand: 5%
  7. Japan: 4.7%
  8. Hong Kong: 4.2%
  9. China: 4.1%
  10. South America (eg Brazil): 3.9%

Helen Coffey8 November 2021 14:49
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Virgin Atlantic US flight currently on track to beat BA to New York

Virgin Atlantic flight VS3 - the airline’s first London-NYC flight since the travel ban lifted in the US - is on track to touch down before the equivalent British Airways service.

The two flights took off in tandem from Heathrow this morning.

VS3 is currently off the coast of Canada, having flown over Newfoundland, with a current estimated arrival time into JFK airport of 10.47am, according to FlightRadar24.

BA001 is estimated to land just six minutes later at 10.53am.

Flight VS3

Helen Coffey8 November 2021 13:53
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Delta saw 450% jump in flight bookings after US reopening announcement

Delta Air Lines has announced that it saw a 450 per cent increase in flight bookings in the six weeks after the White House announced that the US would be reopening to fully vaccinated visitors.

Today’s Delta flights are expected to operate at full capacity, with 205 transatlantic flights total scheduled for November.

The carrier is also increasing flights on European routes this winter, including London to Boston, Detroit and New York JFK; Amsterdam to Boston; Dublin to New York JFK; Frankfurt to New York JFK; and Munich-Atlanta.

“I applaud the administration’s decision to welcome foreign nationals back to the United States beginning 8 November,” said Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian of the reopening.

“International air travel is essential to global economic recovery and the United States’ tourism industry. Delta people are excited to play our part in reuniting families for the holidays and reconnecting the world after more than 19 months apart.”

A Delta plane taxis on the tarmac

Lucy Thackray8 November 2021 13:24
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Why I can’t wait for an autumn reunion with NYC

With the US now reopened to fully vaccinated tourists, I’ll be one of the first to book my return to one of my favourite cities, New York.

I usually visit NYC about once a year, often in late spring when blossom fills Central Park and unexpected heatwaves prompt al fresco dining - or in autumn, when the fall foliage makes the city even more charming and exploring on foot is still a joy.

But this time I’ll be back as soon as there’s an opening in my diary, for my first trip in over two years.

Read the full story:

Why I can’t wait for an autumn reunion with my city soulmate, New York

November is serving up Brits’ first taste of the Apple in two full years; and Lucy Thackray is beyond excited for a reunion

Lucy Thackray8 November 2021 12:58
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Onboard BA’s A350

I’ve flown to New York on a jumbo, Concorde and even a 707. But the A350 I’m on now is best of the lot.

Funny when you remember all the fuss about Dreamliners and A380s… yet this smaller, humbler workhorse is taking over the flight paths.

Mark Jones8 November 2021 12:23
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Demand for Florida holidays stronger than ever, says BA

Claire Bentley, managing director of BA Holidays, says city break bookings have suffered during Covid - people want the safety and security of resorts, and they want to get more holiday to compensate for the added hassle that comes in the form of testing and paperwork.

US fly-drives have struggled - but Florida demand is stronger than ever (all those long-promised Disney World trips…).

The exception to the cities rule is, unsurprisingly, New York. Interest has been strong even when you couldn’t go. It’s not like any other city, she reckons.

Best deal? BA is offering £479 for three nights including hotel. Claire’s fave NYC experience? The circle line (we agree that just because it’s touristy, doesn’t mean it’s not great).

Mark Jones8 November 2021 12:13
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British Airways aims to dominate US market

Onboard the first London-New York British Airways flight following the lifting of the US travel ban, Sean Doyle, BA’s CEO, is confident that the airline will dominate transatlantic travel.

He says BA will be the number one European carrier to the US before the end of 2021.

Mark Jones8 November 2021 11:47
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Brits to spend an estimated £176m on US flights

Brits are expected to spend an estimated £176m on US flights over the next three months, according to personal finance comparison site finder.com.

Jon Ostler, CEO at finder.com, said: “UK travellers will cheer on the recent end of the US travel ban after nearly two years since the US government enforced the ban internationally during the pandemic.

“With many expected to reunite with family and friends across the pond, our latest research has shown that out of the 6.3 million Brits who plan to travel in the next three months (November to January), an estimated 12 per cent are expected to spend on average £176m on flights before January.

“I’m in no doubt that we will see a rise in UK travellers booking their holidays and jetting off to the US in no time.”

Helen Coffey8 November 2021 11:15
1636368758

Passengers applaud on BA flight as it synchronises takes off with Virgin

The BA and Virgin flights coordinated their take-offs from Heathrow to New York to the accompaniment of cheers and whoops from passengers onboard.

Here’s the moment the two aircraft took off side by side from the airport’s two runways:

Applause as BA and Virgin launch rare duel takeoff for NYC
Mark Jones8 November 2021 10:52
1636368524

US hotel bookings up 63 per cent

With the US reopening borders to the UK and Europe today, Hilton has already seen a 63 per cent surge in reservations.

Simon Vincent, EVP & President, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Hilton said: “Since news broke of the planned reopening of US borders, we’ve seen a surge of interest from European and UK guests planning to visit our US hotels.

“Hilton search data reveals the extent of that demand, with a 63 per cent increase in digital reservations in the five weeks following the news of plans to ease restrictions. We’ve seen similar trends across Europe, with inbound demand from US guests growing as travel rules have lifted.

“The reopening of the US border signals the next important phase of recovery for the industry, and we look forward to welcoming a new dawn of international travel.”

According to Hilton data, the top five US cities by search and reservation are:

  1. New York
  2. LA
  3. Chicago
  4. Washington D.C.
  5. Boston
Helen Coffey8 November 2021 10:48

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