'I can’t say how excited we are': Scots businesswomen among passengers on landmark resumed flights to USA from UK
Rival airlines British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are operating a synchronised departure from Heathrow to celebrate the end of the travel ban, taking off from parallel runways at 8.30am and heading to JFK.
Among those fastening their seatbelts on the BA flight are Anna White and Emily Redman of tartan specialist ScotlandShop who are crossing the Atlantic to open the firm’s forthcoming shop in Albany, New York state, its first US base and complementing its sites in the Borders and Edinburgh.
Ms White, the owner and founder of the business said the flight marks a “real milestone” for it after 18 months of preparation and investment: “I can’t say how excited we are to be heading out to the US once again... finally we can be on the ground in our new location and make things happen.
"We set our opening date back in January 2021 assuming we would be in the US in a matter of weeks, so it has been a long and stressful wait. This week we will resume our pop-up measuring service in New York and meet new and old customers, then we head north to see our new store in Albany in real life and make the final preparations ready to open in January 2022.
"If we hadn’t been able to travel this week that opening date would have to have been delayed, and having kept our heads held high through all the difficulties of trading during lockdown, it would have been heart-breaking to have to postpone the dream.”
The duo will interview potential local staff, and Ms Redman is planning to move over to set up the base, with Ms White travelling over regularly to help build the business. “It has felt a bit like a dream... so getting our feet on the ground is really exciting as it starts to become reality,” Ms White adds.
The flights resuming, for fully vaccinated travellers, comes after the pandemic prompted then-President Donald Trump as of March 14 2020 to ban visitors to the US from dozens of countries including the UK.
Some 3,688 UK-US flights are scheduled to operate this month, according to travel data firm Cirium, although that remains 49 per cent down on the level seen in November 2019. However, the US is second only to Spain in the foreign destinations UK holidaymakers say they plan to visit, according to a survey of 2,000 consumers commissioned by travel trade organisation Abta.
British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle said the reopening of the US borders was a “moment to celebrate”, adding: “We must now look forward with optimism, get trade and tourism back on track, and allow friends and families to connect once again.”
His counterpart at Virgin Atlantic, Shai Weiss, said: “The US has been our heartland for more than 37 years and we are simply not Virgin without the Atlantic… we can’t wait to fly our customers safely to their favourite US cities to reconnect with loved ones and colleagues.”
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the “vitally important” UK-US flight routes boost the economy, helping create jobs.
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