Heathrow Gets First Orlando Link

London Heathrow will get its first scheduled link to Orlando, Florida from 2021.

Following Virgin Atlantic withdrawing from Gatwick last week, it has announced which routes will move to Heathrow for the summer 2021 season.

With the airline also announcing that they have retired their Boeing 747 fleet with immediate affect, this could well see the Airbus A350 being used on the route if demand dictates.

Although I highly suspect that the routes moved over from Gatwick will be served by the Airbus A330 fleet as in previous years.

As the Covid-19 crisis stabilises and demand gradually returns, we are looking forward to welcoming our customers back and flying them safely to their favourite destinations. We have taken the opportunity to pause, reflect and reshape our 2021 flying programme looking at efficiencies in our fleet and connectivity across our network, to ensure it is fit for the future, flying to the destinations we know our customers love to fly.

We’re delighted that our popular Tel Aviv service, which launched in September 2019, will now increase to double daily, whilst regional flying from Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast will continue to play an important part in offering choice to customers and connecting UK travellers to Orlando, Barbados, New York and Los Angeles.

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer, Virgin Atlantic

For the summer 2021 season, Virgin Atlantic will operated the following from London Heathrow:

  • Antigua 
  • Cape Town
  • Hong Kong 
  • Los Angeles
  • New York JFK 
  • Shanghai
  • Atlanta 
  • Delhi 
  • Johannesburg 
  • Miami 
  • Orlando
  • Tobago
  • Barbados
  • Grenada 
  • Lagos
  • Montego Bay
  • San Francisco
  • Tel Aviv
  • Boston
  • Havana
  • Las Vegas
  • Mumbai
  • Seattle
  • Washington

As previously announced, the planned São Paulo route will no longer be taking place.

Why Is This The First Time Heathrow Has Been Linked to Orlando?

Prior to 2008, all airlines were forbidden from flying between London Heathrow and Orlando. This was due to the Bermuda II agreement.

The agreement stated that only Baltimore, Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New York JFK, Newark, Anchorage, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington-Dulles could be served from London Heathrow. Anywhere else had to be served from the other London airports.

In addition, only four airlines could fly between London Heathrow and the USA. Two from the UK and two from the US. Initially these airlines were British Airways, PanAm and TWA. Fifth freedom flights operated by ElAl, Air India, Kuwait Airways, Iran Air and Air New Zealand were exempt.

By 1991, following the bankruptcy of PanAm, the airlines permitted to fly between London Heathrow and the USA were British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and United Airlines.

In 2008, the Bermuda II agreement was scrapped. This saw American Airlines, Continental Airlines, US Airways and Delta Airlines all leave London Gatwick for Heathrow.

Whilst this meant that any of these airlines (as well as British Airways) could start a Heathrow – Orlando service if they wished, none of them did. Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic retained their Orlando services at London Gatwick. The only other airline to serve the London – Orlando route is Norwegian, which has their London hub at Gatwick anyway.

Virgin Atlantic flights from Manchester, Belfast and Glasgow are unaffected by the changes further South.


Header Photo: © Orlando Airport / @MCO

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