Manchester Airport has welcomed the return of services to a number of US destinations after the American government confirmed it will be opening its borders to British visitors again.
Image courtesy MAG
Before the pandemic, the UK’s third largest gateway was among the best-connected to the States in Europe, with more than three million passengers a year crossing the pond from its catchment area.
The first stateside bound flights from Manchester were Virgin Atlantic services to Orlando and New York, with Orlando being the first departure. The Orlando service departed at 10:10am, whilst the New York flight will leave at 13:10pm. Following this, routes to Atlanta and Houston will also return over the coming weeks and months.
This includes the launch of routes by Aer Lingus, with the Irish carrier opening a new base in the North for the first time, creating 153 jobs.
News of the return of transatlantic services has been hailed by business and tourism chiefs, who say the direct routes will unlock wide-ranging economic, trade and tourism opportunities.
In 2019, more than 307,000 Americans visited the North of England, spending more than £156m across the region. As well as the trade benefits of being linked to economic powerhouses like New York City, the direct connectivity also unlocks vast journey time savings, meaning businesses across the North can save thousands of manhours each year.
Furthermore, 43 universities within Manchester Airport’s two-hour catchment area will also benefit from these routes returning. The US is third on the list of most common countries of origin for international students at UK universities, with 20,000 American students enrolled at British higher education institutions in 2019/20.
Karen Smart, Managing Director of Manchester Airport, said: “After almost two years with no flights to the USA, it is great to finally re-connect the region with some of our most popular and important destinations.
“Not only are our US routes well loved by holidaymakers, but they are also vital to the Northern economy and the prosperity of the region. Whether that is through the trade and investment opportunities the direct connectivity unlocks, to the inbound tourism the routes bring in, as Americans flock to key destinations like the Lake District, North Wales and York, plus to city breaks favourites like Liverpool and Manchester.
“I look forward to working closely with our airline partners as more services come back to Manchester, plus I would encourage businesses and other organisations with links to the US to get in touch so we can help them unlock their potential through our international reach.”
Pre-pandemic Manchester Airport had more than a dozen direct US services. As the US opens and as the aviation industry recovers, these routes will start to return to the Northern hub.
Flights to economic and tourist hot spot New York returned to Manchester today, the day the US opens up to British travellers. Virgin Atlantic will be operating the route six times a week using an Airbus A330.
Following its launch of flights to Barbados and setting up its first UK transatlantic base at Manchester in October, Aer Lingus will also be offering flights to New York from 1st December. Using a new A321neo long range aircraft.
Family favourite and theme park enthusiast’s dream, Orlando in Florida also returned today with Virgin Atlantic. It will be followed up by Aer Lingus who will also start flying there from 11th December.
Virgin Atlantic will resume flights to the major US hub from 2nd December 2021.
Singapore Airlines’ popular route to Houston will return to Manchester Airport from 1st December. The route was launched several years ago and connects with the carrier’s longstanding Singapore service.
Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, said: “I’m delighted that our Orlando and New York services from Manchester Airport, our home in the North, will begin on 8th November, the same day transatlantic travel reopens, shortly followed by our Atlanta service on 2nd December. We can’t wait to fly customers to our favourite destinations in the US safely once more.
“These three routes provide an array of US holiday options, from family fun and thrills at Orlando’s theme parks, to the exhilarating and vibrant atmosphere in the Big Apple, to the best of the South in Atlanta, soaking in the history and culture. We’re confident there’s something to love for all of our customers in the North West, who are ready to begin their US adventures.”
Reid Moody, Chief Strategy and Planning Officer at Aer Lingus, said: “Aer Lingus is delighted to be re-uniting the UK and the United States via our new base in Manchester. We know there is strong demand for direct transatlantic services from the North of England to North America and we’re excited to see travellers and holidaymakers enjoying the welcoming Aer Lingus experience that we’re known for.
“This is a welcome step for our business, and it will no doubt be very meaningful to those people with connections across the US, particularly with the East Coast as our New York and Orlando routes are introduced from December."
Mohamed Rafi Mar, Singapore Airlines General Manager UK and Ireland, commented: “Before the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced 98% of our flights globally to be grounded in March 2020, Singapore Airlines had been Manchester Airport’s longest serving long-haul carrier, having operated continuously since 1986.
“We are delighted to resume our Houston flights in December and offer more travel options to our passengers from the Manchester region, after relaunching our flights to Singapore in the summer.”
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “Reopening the economic corridor between Manchester and the US will be a significant boost for the Northern economy in terms of both trade and inbound tourism, also reinforcing our ability across the Northern Powerhouse to attract foreign investment from the US.
“Manchester Airport acts as a gateway to the north for the whole world, allowing the North to build stronger economic ties with Asia including China, Africa as well as continental Europe."
Chris Fletcher, Director of Policy and Communications at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “The re-opening of transatlantic travel is a huge boost to the region and its economy. After the EU, the US is the next largest and most valuable market for exports and equally important for imports, not to mention the huge flow of traffic related to leisure and tourism.
“Pre-Covid, the level of interest in Greater Manchester as a place to do business for US firms was already significant and increasing which means that when the routes reopen, we should see a high demand for them to pick up where things left off 18 months ago. To support this there has been confirmation of new routes opening such as the decision by Aer Lingus to have Manchester as its UK base for US flights.
“With the focus very firmly on businesses to discover new markets and trading opportunities, having access to important global markets is vital, and Manchester sits at the heart of this which is a huge advantage for the region’s businesses.”
Cllr Elise Wilson, Greater Manchester Lead for the Economy, said: “The reopening of routes to the US is a great boost for Greater Manchester and the whole of the North in the recovery from Covid-19. Greater Manchester has a global reach, and re-establishing connections to the US will bring new opportunities for trade, tourism and employment that are so vital for our future.
“The US is a key strategic market for the city-region and we are committed to strengthening our links with the US, promoting two-way trade, innovation links, climate collaboration and wider people-to-people exchange. We look forward to welcoming back tourists, businesses and investors to Greater Manchester and showing what we have to offer.”
Jim Jones, Managing Director of North Wales Tourism said: “It’s excellent news that Manchester Airport will be reopening its routes to the US market.
“Manchester Airport is so important to North Wales, it is our international gateway to the world.
“We can’t wait to pick up our relationship with the airport, that helps us showcase the vast array of things for US traveller to do in North Wales.
“I know it will also be a welcome relief for families who wish to be reacquainted with their loved ones.
“We have a number of direct trains that run from the North Wales coast into Manchester Airport. We hope there will be many more direct trains as we start to get back to some form of normality.”
Gill Haigh, Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, said: “The Lake District, Cumbria is very well positioned with good connectivity from Manchester Airport, where visitors can reach Cumbria in as little as an hour by direct train. This offers a great opportunity for visitors from the US to holiday here, to come here on business or to simply reconnect with friends and relatives.
“VisitBritain’s research shows that US visitors value activities such as dining in restaurants, going to the pub, sightseeing famous buildings/monuments and soaking up rich heritage and culture. As well as having an abundance of fine dining – including 8 Michelin Stars - and characterful county pubs, the Lake District is home to Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth. We have plenty to appeal to transatlantic visitors, all set within a stunning World Heritage setting.”
Chris Brown, Director of Marketing Liverpool, said: “The reopening of travel from the US is another boost for the North West visitor economy as it looks to recover. The US was a vital market for us pre-pandemic; we ran several trade missions taking partners to New York and Los Angeles, and bringing back new travel trade business for the city region.
“The North West’s strengths mean that the region appeals to US visitors, offering both the beautiful landscapes and heritage that they associate with the UK and also the modern culture and sporting prowess of the cities. With routes into Manchester Airport opening up the whole North and a lot of high-spending travellers eager to start exploring again, it’s not surprising that our businesses see the US as a key, early-recovery market.”
Following the announcement on the 20th September that the US would be welcoming British passengers, Virgin Atlantic saw bookings surge by 600%. Plus, with the further simplification of UK travel restrictions this month, this means it is now much easier for British travellers to book an international get away with a lot less confusion and uncertainty.