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Bits: United launches London-Boston, Virgin improves flexibility on new bookings

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News in brief:

United Airlines to launch Heathrow to Boston

United Airlines is launching a new non-stop service between London Heathrow and Boston Logan International Airport. This is a bit of a surprise, because I assumed United already operated on the route!

It is also, of course, one of the routes that JetBlue intends to launch this year, albeit not to Heathrow. United may simply be doing its best to spoil JetBlue’s launch.

United intends to operate the premium heavy Boeing 767-300ER on the route. This has 46 Polaris business class seats and 22 premium economy seats.

Whilst we have yet to try out Polaris on a real flight (Covid-19 saw to that!) we did get a preview during a grounded press event in 2019.

The flight times are currently scheduled as:

  • Departing Heathrow at 5pm and arriving in Boston at 7.30pm
  • Departing Boston at 10pm and arriving in Heathrow at 9.35am the next day.

The Heathrow departure is unusually late for a transatlantic flight – most leave in the morning for a mid afternoon arrival in the United States.

Tickets will go on sale in the coming weeks. The exact launch date is still to be confirmed.

United Airlines launches London Heathrow to Boston

Virgin Atlantic improves its ticket flexibility

Virgin Atlantic has made some additional changes to ticket flexibility. This is presumably an attempt to give passengers the confidence to book in the face of continued Government attempts to put people off.

The key points are:

  • New bookings from 6th February will be allowed UNLIMITED free date, origin and/or destination changes, albeit you will need to pay any fare difference
  • In addition, you will be allowed to make one free name change
  • You will be allowed to push out your flight as far out as 30th April 2023, giving you full confidence that you will be able to take any rescheduled flight
  • If you have a booking for the next three months, you can change your travel date to any day up to 31st May 2021 with nothing extra to pay, irrespective of the price being charged to new bookers

The full policy can be found on Virgin Atlantic’s covid page here.

Remember that all Virgin Atlantic tickets for travel by 30th April 2021 continue to come with free coronavirus travel insurance, which kicks in if your main travel insurance policy refuses to cover Covid-19 issues.

Comments (49)

  • ChrisC says:

    5pm isn’t “unusually late” for a TATL departure especially to the east coast.

    Both VS and BA have much later to flights to BOS and JFK for example.

    Brief look on google flights shows that around a third of LHR- JFK flights depart 5pm or later.

    A random date in July actually has more VS/DL/BA/AA flights to BOS after 5pm that before (4 out of 7)

    • Nick says:

      It’s also not unusual when you give at least a second’s thought to how it’s being operated. United has no base in Boston, so it’s being crewed from London in a W-pattern. This therefore means it needs to be timed as a European carrier would. You don’t want a departure too early from Boston as the flight is short, so to avoid the aircraft sitting on the ground there for too long and clogging up gates, it needs a late afternoon departure from LHR. All of this is something Rhys should really know… or if not, be able to work out pretty easily.

  • Doug M says:

    I’m put off by the 767. I’m a little surprised that more people don’t concern themselves with the obviously better experience on B787/A350 as compared to older aircraft. Much angst about seat, little about aircraft type. In my experience 767 are noisy too.

    • Nick says:

      In most cases, yes absolutely. But United Polaris makes up for all of that. It’s seriously good.

      • Doug M says:

        I want to try Polaris, Delta One too. I had a Delta One booked for last November, which of course didn’t happen. One day……..

      • John says:

        Yeah I’ve been very impressed by Polaris, especially in comparison to the old BusinessFirst cabin (not saying a lot there, I know).

        I do think United get a bad rap generally though. If you set aside that incident where they threw that bloke off a domestic flight, I’ve always had excellent service both on board and in airports. Their lounge in T2 is solid and the SFO Polaris lounge is pretty spectacular since they renovated it. (Admittedly before that it was highly average.)

        They also served me the very best meal I’ve had in the sky: grilled cheese and tomato soup mid-Atlantic in their old First Class. It wasn’t fine dining, but it was exactly what I needed, when I needed it. And it counted for a lot that the crew noticed and offered it.

    • RussellH says:

      More worrying is the amount of pollution a 767 creates, compared with a 787 or A350

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        Most worrying is the number of physical steel cables moving bits of the plane around, feels very ancient!

      • babyg says:

        really? the amount of pollution jet plane-A vs jet plane-B produces is a thing for you? you should probably take a sailboat for your next transatlantic.

  • GaryC says:

    Boston is (was!) one of my most frequent business routes. Outbound timing at 5pm I think works pretty well, morning at office, lunch and head to airport. Land, quick New England IPA and bed. The return is later than ideal though, prefer 7-8pm.

    • ChrisW says:

      It will be interesting to see fares on this route in say, a year’s time. With six different carriers on the route there will be, what, 10 flights per day? Assuming business travel hasn’t recovered much by then that’s hundreds of premium seats to somehow fill up each day. Hopefully some decent pricing to convince leisure travellers to buy premium seats.

    • Sussex bantam says:

      I used to prefer the later flight myself. Land around 10pm local. In the airport hotel by midnight. Wake the following morning ready to go.

  • AndyGWP says:

    “ You will be allowed to push out your flight as far out as 30th April 2023, giving you full confidence that you will be able to take any rescheduled flight”

    I assume the article is really focused on revenue tickets? My understanding is that there are the usual restrictions on points tickets requiring availability on the new travel dates 😕 understandable if you are trying to move to an “elusive date”, but frustrating if you’ve already secured one! 😔

    • Andrew MS says:

      Yes , there have to be rewards seats available for your new date . I booked my original ticket as a return so have been told i need to book my new outbound and inbound dates at the same time.
      Forgot to say earlier that my companion voucher is valid for 2 years from dropping into my FC account, in my case, one day after i took the open ticket

  • Tony says:

    Indeed the wife and I flew BOS-LHR on Jan 1st 2002. Back in the day when budgets were tighter but I had an Aeroplan gold card and we were bumped up to business for what I recall was an insanely short flight home.

    Noticed yesterday that Lufthansa was offering some fairly good premium economy fares on United metal. From the reviews I’ve read, it seems to cut the mustard and is 2-2-2 on the 767

    • Bobajob says:

      United Premium Economy is good. I travelled LHR-EWR in the first week of formal rollout in September 2019 (I think) and remember being very impressed with the seat and space compared to equivalent BA offering. The food and service needed work however – drinks arriving way after the food service which was odd. Hopefully ironed out now.

      I able to return in Polaris EWR-DUB later the same week and was very impressed with the seat and offering. United Polaris lounge in EWR was excellent as well.

  • Matt says:

    United revenge response to JetBlue’s recently announced expansion at Newark. I will inflict pain by flooding capacity and making your new flagship international route highly unprofitable until you exit my fortress.

  • David says:

    Late evening departure from BOS also carries perishable last-minute cargo on one of the last US-Europe flights of the day.

    VS12 has apparently been profitable even with 35% pax load.

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