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United Airlines to launch London Heathrow to Boston

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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 launching London to Boston

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.

Comments (49)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Track says:

    Makes one think how stuck the industry is in legacy terms.

    Why would a ticket has 1 year validity. Completely arbitrary.

    • Dubious says:

      I assume the airline only receives the money from the issuing agent once they have flown the flight.

      This could mean a travel agent or partner airline holding onto the cash for 2 years before the operating airline receives anything.

      I believe the settlement process was to take one part of the paper ticket (taken at check in) and the boarding pass stub (taken at the gate) and use these to match up the ticket number and send the invoice to the relevant agent.

      I suppose to create unique ticket numbers over a 2 year period means they need to adjust the digits within the ticket numbers to create either longer ticket numbers or more characters.

      I agree that in the world of digital tickets this should be technologically possible but I suspect the coordination across all the IATA members (airlines and travel agents) to upgrade their IT to do this means it’s a long drawn out process.

      • Nick says:

        @Dubious, sorry, couldn’t be more wrong.

        Airlines receive money from agents following their BSP payment cycle – normally fortnightly. Or immediately if it’s a credit card pass-through. Airlines do pay each other only after travel, true, but not travel agents.

        There is no recycling of ticket numbers. PNRs yes, but tickets are unique.

        The reason for the rule is IATA ticketing rules that insist on it. The reason is legacy GDS operating standards, which haven’t really changed since the 1960s. This means reservations are only possible at most a year in advance, which itself means tickets can be limited to one year. The way IATA works means there are several hundred airlines who have to agree before any resolution can be agreed… so it’s essentially politics that stops the ticketing rule changing. When you consider that changing the GDSs is almost impossible (at least not without significant £££ and IT complexity), there’s therefore little need to seek consensus on changing ticketing rules.

        • BuildBackBetter says:

          What’s the politics stopping the change?

        • Track says:

          Large operators such as Expedia process airline bookings as credit card passthrough, the transaction posts to card statement from the airline as Merchant.

    • John says:

      Is it something to do with tickets not showing the year so the year has to be assumed to be the first possible year based on the date?

      • Bagoly says:

        It does pretty much eliminate the possibility of passengers or agents booking the wrong year by mistake.

  • B P says:

    Travel agents don’t hold the funds until travel. If the ticket is issued on VS ticket stock, Virgin receives the funds within a few days via the BSP clearing system. If the ticket is issued on the ticket stock of another carrier (codeshare with Delta for example), then VS would not receive the funds until after the flight is flown. As far as I know, the 1 year ticket validity rule is, and always has been, arbitrary.

  • David says:

    United discontinued their BOS – LHR route years ago when they decided to concentrate on EWR. I flew the route many times when it existed, arrival into BOS early afternoon meant a quick immigration check and in stark contrast to NYC. Returning to LHR early evening and being in the first bank of arrivals made for a quick flight and usually swift entry into the UK. I’ll be trying this one out when I get the chance!

    • lumma says:

      As someone who uses the tube to get to East London from Heathrow, I hate the early morning arrivals. It usually means I’m just hitting rush hour when I have to swap to the district line.

      There was talk of a new rail service that would’ve solved this but it hasn’t opened yet

      • Andrew says:

        Yes it’s called Crossrail or more latterly the Elizabeth Line. Like all construction projects, it’s heavily delayed, but will eventually provide your Heathrow to east London service.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Now slated to start opening early next year … only 2.5 years and counting

  • Paul says:

    Free changes but you pay the fare difference.

    When will airlines realise that it is this restriction that is stopping people booking!?

    For the first time in perhaps 30 years, I have no flights booked! I haven’t flown since August and while desperate to travel again I am less desperate to provide free loans to airlines.

    • Stu p says:

      Interested to know what happens if you want to change it to late 22/early 23 as fares won’t be available? Potential to move to a peak date at no price rise?

    • Dutchy says:

      I assume as it’s open to exploration otherwise. One could just book a ticket on a cheap travel date with the intention of changing to a more expensive travel date. In effect if you did not pay the fare difference all fares would be ‘available’ at the lowest price

  • Andrew MS says:

    When i called Virgin to keep my ticket open , as an incentive i was offered a one cabin upgrade, or a complimentary entry to a clubhouse or a companion voucher . As i am booked in UC, i chose the companion voucher so i just need to find two reward seats on the Jo’burg route 🤔 and someone to accompany me !

  • Hanif says:

    Is there any talk Virgin rethinking about launching the Sao Paulo Route?

  • roberto says:

    Are Virgin actually flying planes currently? When was the last time anyone on here stepped on a virgin flight?

    • bafan says:

      November 2019 – LHR-LAX. I went on a spur of the moment to watch the filming of a sitcom at Warner Bros in Hollywood. If only I’d known what was coming…probably would have made it a longer trip.

    • Nick says:

      I see VS aircraft in the sky over my house several times a day, so they must be going somewhere.

      Indeed there’s a super photo of a Virgin 787 in the northern Norwegian snow last week, collecting fish for onward distribution around the globe.

    • Binks says:

      My nephew flew London to Lahore with Virgin on Thursday!

  • @mkcol says:

    I’m guessing United are operating a W pattern for Boston.

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