Virgin Atlantic reports 600% surge in flight bookings to the US

Virgin Atlantic has reported a 600% surge in flight bookings to the US and British Airways reported a jump in searches after the US said it would lift restrictions to allow fully vaccinated passengers from the UK and most European Union countries to travel to the country from early November.

Related: US to lift Covid travel ban for vaccinated passengers from UK and most of EU

Bookings jumped overnight, compared with the same time last week, after the US government announced on Monday the end of the 18-month travel ban first imposed by Donald Trump in the early stages of the pandemic.

Virgin Atlantic said most bookings were to New York, while typical leisure destinations were also popular with holidaymakers. Orlando flights were up eleven-fold, Miami bookings rose nine-fold and demand for Las Vegas was up eight-fold.

Juha Järvinen, the airline’s chief commercial officer, said: “Following the gradual relaxation of travel restrictions, we’ve seen demand increase to many of our global destinations, but the USA has always been our heartland. We are simply not Virgin without the Atlantic and I’m thrilled we’re finally able to return to the country that’s so important to us.”

British Airways, the other major UK carrier flying to the US, has also started taking cross-Atlantic bookings again. It has a flash sale on flights until midnight on Tuesday, with return deals to New York starting at £320 for travel from January, and Los Angeles from £349 from November.

For the days before Christmas, BA reported an increase of about 900% in searches for flights and package holidays to key US destinations compared with the same time last week. Searches for flights and holidays for thanksgiving were up even more, by almost 2,000%. Popular destinations included New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.

The price comparison website MoneySuperMarket reported a 174% surge in the number of inquiries for travel insurance policies for trips to the US compared with last week.

Virgin Atlantic said, following a year of restrictions, many more travellers were treating themselves to cabin upgrades and additional legroom seats. Its premium class was the most booked cabin on its aircraft, which comes with pre-departure drinks and a more spacious 90cm (38in) seat pitch.

UK travel rules have also been relaxed in recent days, including the scrapping of expensive PCR tests for the fully vaccinated, which has resulted in a general surge in demand for flights and travel.

Virgin Atlantic said flights to the Caribbean had risen 50% from last week, with its newest route to St Vincent and the Grenadines, scheduled to launch on 13 October, becoming the most booked Caribbean flight. Barbados was closely behind, boosted by bookings for October half-term and Christmas. Bookings to both Jamaica and St Lucia have also doubled.

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