Virgin report site crashes as Brits scramble to book flights to US

Demand for flights from the US to the UK are set to surge (PA Archive)

Virgin Atlantic’s website temporarily crashed as Brits scrambled to book flights to visit the US for the first time in over a year.

On Monday, it was announced fully vaccinated UK travellers will be able to visit the US from November.

The White House has plans to lift the 18-month blanket ban on foreign travellers from entering the country. The ban was introduced by former president Donald Trump at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Virgin Atlantic reported its site briefly crashed at about 4pm as Brits tried to book flights to popular locations including New York, Washington and Las Vegas.

It said bookings soared 91 per cent in the hour after the announcement.

Travel site Skyscanner saw an immediate reaction to the news. It reported a 54 per cent increase to site traffic following the announcement compared to the same time last week.

The US is currently the seventh most searched destination globally on Skyscanner. The most popular dates searched by UK travellers on or around Thanksgiving on 25 November.

Martin Nolan, Traveller Rights Expert at Skyscanner, said: “Following on from last week’s travel update, this is really welcome news for all those travellers who have been waiting to visit the US for over a year and a half. Searches for key US destinations like New York and Orlando have remained high throughout the pandemic, despite restrictions preventing bookings as people have been dreaming about seeing family and friends or visiting some of the most popular destinations in the United States.

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle (PA)

“Travel between the UK and US accounts for a significant proportion of tourism for both countries, particularly between London and New York. While travellers have continued to search in large numbers for flights between the UK and US throughout the pandemic, the majority of fares booked have been primarily short-term essential travel.

“With the option for transatlantic travel now open we expect a large portion of these searches to convert to bookings very quickly, as friends and families make plans to be reunited and holidaymakers head to their favourite spots.”

The news was praised by airlines and travel experts.

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic said: “The US Government’s announcement that fully vaccinated UK visitors will be able to enter the US from November is a major milestone to the reopening of travel at scale, allowing consumers and businesses to book travel to the US with confidence.

“As the UK forges its recovery from the pandemic, the reopening of the transatlantic corridor and the lifting of Presidential Order 212F acknowledges the great progress both nations have made in rolling out successful vaccine programmes. The UK will now be able to strengthen ties with our most important economic partner, the US, boosting trade and tourism as well as reuniting friends, families and business colleagues. We are thankful to the UK Government, the Biden administration and our industry partners for their collaboration.

“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. After 18 months of uncertainty, we cannot wait to welcome our customers back onboard, flying them safely to their favourite US destination.”

​Sean Doyle, British Airways CEO and Chairman said: “Today’s news, which will see our two nations reunited after more than 18 months apart, marks an historic moment and one which will provide a huge boost to Global Britain as it emerges from this pandemic.

“We are immensely grateful to the Prime Minister and his Government for all the hard work that’s gone into securing this deal with the US, and which builds upon last Friday’s announcement on the lifting of many travel restrictions. Our customers should now feel that the world is re-opening to them and they can book their trips with confidence.”

The news will no doubt be welcomed by airports such as Heathrow.

Earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “delighted” that US President Joe Biden is “reinstating transatlantic travel”.

He added: “It’s a fantastic boost for business and trade, and great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can be reunited

Around 3.8 million British nationals visited the US every year prior to the pandemic, according to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

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