First London-New York flight after US travel ban lifts is selling for £1,740 – in economy

The Independent
The Independent

Normally November is the lowest of seasons for economy class travel across the North Atlantic, with no UK school holidays and only the US Thanksgiving celebration to stimulate demand.

But following the announcement that travel from the UK to the US will reopen on Monday 8 November, air fares are soaring – with desperate travellers prepared to pay two or three times the normal rates to see loved ones, or return to properties left empty for 20 months.

The first departures from the UK to the US after the border opens on 8 November will be on British Airways and, almost simultaneously, Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow to New York JFK.

Economy class seats on the Virgin Atlantic flight are currently selling at £1,740 one way – or £2,144 with a return flight a week later.

British Airways is £10 cheaper for the one-way flight, with a cut-price option of £995 if a return flight a week later is included.

The £1,730 fare on BA is exactly the same on all eight British Airways departures to New York that day.

Much of the demand is driven by British travellers desperate to see loved ones. Travel from the UK to the US has been banned since March 2020 by a series of presidential proclamations.

The spike in fares subsides quickly on most routes.

Travelling out from Heathrow to New York a week later, for a one-week stay, the Virgin Atlantic fare falls to £352 return, with BA even cheaper at £337 return.

The 8 November reopening is proving extremely popular on other routes.

Virgin Atlantic’s Manchester to Orlando link is completely sold out westbound from Monday 8 to Thursday 11 November. Travelling out on 15 November for a week the fare is still high, at £981 return – without checked baggage.

Between Heathrow and Miami on American Airlines or British Airways, there are no seats available – in any class – on 8 November. The option offered by AA is a one-stop trip via Chicago for £1,639 one-way, with prospective travellers warned only one seat remains at this fare.

In comparison, United Airlines’ fare of £960 return for basic economy between London Heathrow and San Francisco looks a relative bargain.

Bargain hunters can find plenty of deals later in November. Between Heathrow and Miami, departing on 15 November for a week, British Airways has seats available at £395 return – offering a much cheaper option for people prepared to travel further at either end of the journey rather than pay the Virgin Atlantic fare from Manchester to Orlando.

For the first week of December, Virgin has an economy fare of £372 return between Heathrow and Los Angeles.

But there are also buyers of Upper Class on Sir Richard Branson ’s airline, at a fare of £9,341 return.

Also on 8 November, British Airways will return its Airbus A380 “SuperJumbo” to service – initially on short hops to Frankfurt and Madrid.

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