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British Airways makes fastest ever flight from New York to London with help of Storm Ciara

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Last weekend the UK was battered by storm Ciara, which presented itself to be the worst storm that has hit the country in seven years. Many flights were delayed and cancelled. Gusts of as strong as 90mph hit the UK’s coastline and caused flooding, damage and disruptions, not only in the aviation industry.

Storm Ciara has caused many delays and even more cancellations at airports all across Europe. Flooding, fallen debris and scary-looking landings have affected many people in the UK. However, you might be surprised that the storm also brought along something positive and impressive. This is a record that is definitely noteworthy!

How long did the flight to New York take?

Imagine having booked onto an ordinary flight from New York to London and your flight is scheduled to be 7 hours. Now, you are expecting the flight to be disrupted, so delayed or possibly even cancelled. Passengers travelling from JFK International Airport in New York to London Heathrow were probably the only passengers travelling by air who benefitted from the storm affecting their flight. The flight to the UK took exactly 4 hours and 56 minutes, which was almost 2 hours before the scheduled arrival of the aircraft. 

The aircraft actually broke a new record and set a new one for the first time that a passenger aircraft successfully crossed the ocean in less than 5 hours. The last time this happened was when the Concorde, the fastest aircraft in the world, was still flying the route between New York and London.

Why did the aircraft arrive nearly 2 hours before schedule?

Storm Ciara did not only have an effect on most of us across Europe but also nature and more specifically the jet stream between the American and the European and African continent. The Boeing 747 that operated the flight from JFK to Heathrow Airport which was crossing the Atlantic Ocean, could use the jet stream that was accelerated by the storm to its advantage, making the planned journey nearly 2 hours shorter.

AccuWeather representative Maura Kelly explained that "a strong jet stream over the northeast Atlantic Ocean helped to increase tailwinds at flight level, which helped to push the plane along on its flight." 

British Airways in race with Virgin Atlantic over quickest flight time

British Airways beats Virgin Atlantic over quickest flight from New York to London

Once again, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic went head to head. This time in a race for the quickest trans-atlantic flight from New York to London. In fact, the British flag carrier beat one Virgin Atlantic, which had two aircraft inbound for London Heathrow Airport around the same time as BA.

A Virgin Atlantic flight landed at Heathrow Airport at the same time as the British Airways’ Boeing 747 but took a single minute longer, which meant they lost the record to BA. The second Virgin flight landed just 3 minutes after the record flight. Virgin explained their loss through a statement on Twitter claiming that “ it’s true that we were narrowly beaten by a BA Boeing 747, however they had twice the amount of engines and burnt twice as much fuel as Captain Chris in our brand new, fuel efficient Airbus A350-1000”.

Can I claim compensation for my delayed or cancelled flight because of a storm?

Unfortunately, if your flight was delayed or cancelled due to Storm Ciara you are not eligible for compensation. Due to the storm being classed as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ by EU Regulation EC 261/2004, such an incident exempts the airline from paying compensation.

The following situations are considered extraordinary by the European regulation and will excuse the airline from having to compensate its passengers:

  • Bad weather, for example, thunderstorms, heavy rain, thick fog, snow and high gusts of wind
  • An air sector strike: think along the lines of the country’s air traffic control personnel going on strike; another possibility is the airport’s baggage handlers walking out
  • Political circumstances: terror attacks, political unrest or security risks can all be seen as examples of such situations
  • Natural disasters: a volcanic eruption or a hurricane would qualify as an extraordinary circumstance
  • Bird strike; when there’s a collision between the aircraft and a bird or other foreign object
  • An unruly or ill passenger
  • Other options: delays caused by the airport staff (long queues during security checks)

If you wish to know more about extraordinary circumstances, please click here.

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