a large airplane on a runway

Of all the things you might hear on a flight, a “we’re expected to land about an hour early” isn’t generally one of them. Another might be flying from New York to London in under five hours. Due to extreme conditions in the UK, a British Airways Boeing 747 and Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350 went head to head last night, both flying the route in under 5 hours, compared to the standard flying time of 6.5 hours and up. That’s wild.

In case you’re ever in a pub quiz, despite being one of the older commercial airplanes still in service, the Boeing 747 also remains the fastest commercial aircraft. Last night, the “Queen of The Skies” proved that yet again, as British Airways 22 year old G-CIVP registered aircraft completed New York to London in 4 hours 56 minutes, setting a new subsonic speed record.

a screenshot of a phoneThe flight BA 112, scheduled to depart New York at 6:30 PM with an arrival time of 6:25 AM into London left 17 minutes late, but managed to land at 4:43 AM anyway. The plane reached an outstanding top speed of over 800 mph, which is quite a jump from the standard 570 mph cruising speed. Maverick would be proud.

In direct competition, Virgin Atlantic’s brand new Airbus A350-1000 “G-VPOP”, which is less than a year old, managed a flight time of 4 hours 57 minutes, just missing out on the title. To be fair to the silver medal holder, the A350 has half the engines, and did the journey burning roughly half the fuel.

a large airplane on a runwayJust to reiterate, this is a route which takes a minimum of 7 hours from London to New York, and rarely under 5 hours and 45 minutes from New York to London. The flight is budgeted at 6:30 minutes, which makes this time genuinely staggering. The flight took advantage of absolutely wild jet stream conditions across the Atlantic due to Storm Ciara – no relation to the pop star –  which made this new record possible.


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Fastest subsonic New York to London Atlantic Crossing. It normally takes between 6 to 6:30 to fly across the Atlantic from JFK to LHR, last night we did it in less than 5 hrs. Our @virginatlantic Flight Planning department and Operations Teams found us the shortest and fastest route following a long high altitude (FL370) Jetstream wind of up to 230 knots. With this strong wind behind us we managed a Top speed of 724 knots (833mph/1340 kph) (GS = groundspeed) and an Average speed JFK to LHR speed of 625 knots (718mph/1158kph) When in contact with London ATC and Heathrow Tower, we were given an expeditious arrival and approach. Plus I got to apply my crosswind landing technique, (see my last post) in some pretty wild weather. Unfortunately we were beaten by a BA 747, by a mere couple of minutes, although they had twice the engines and burnt twice the fuel than our 21st Century Airbus A350-1000. #livefromvirgin #subsonic #virgin #atlantic #record #airbus #a350 #bestjobintheworldjustgotbetter

A post shared by ✈️Captain Chris👨🏼‍✈️ (@chrisjpohl) on

No doubt this was super news to those hoping to jump start their time in the UK, but those headed from London to the US overnight or today will find themselves perhaps setting new records on the other end of the spectrum. Flights from London to New York are set to exceed 8 hours today, which makes them nearly as long as a flight to Asia.

Yep, even though flights from New York to London are roughly 1,000 miles longer than flights between New York and Los Angeles, they’re flying faster, and flights from London to New York are taking longer than flights from London to Bangalore, which are roughly 1,500 miles further. Hey, blame it on the weather.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. There isn’t a curfew per-se; they are limited to the number of flights and noise. The BA32 from HKG or the 58 from Cape Town are usually the first in around 0445. This morning the 58 arrived at 0424…

  2. A 1 minute difference isn’t exactly a huge difference to say the 747 is that much faster than the other aircraft. That 1 minute could have easily been vectors for spacing in the terminal environment. That’s an operational difference and not a performance difference. It was the jet stream that got them there that quickly, not the aircrafts native ability to fly that fast.

    1. The one minute is just novelty, but the 747 has a higher max speed than any other passenger jet, which is the thing of note. Yes, I agree, it could have easily been the 350 that won, but I think very fair points are made here.

  3. If you’re going to write a puff piece article about how windy it was, at least do the math correctly, and maybe even mention the difference between airspeed and ground speed. A ground speed of 724 knots as shown in the picture isn’t 800 mph, it’s 833, and an airspeed of 506 knots is 582 MPH.

  4. I bet those onboard were happy to get away from BAs appaling idea of service, catering and cabin maintenance sooner than otherwise

  5. I was lucky to be coming back from Miami last night with Virgin on an a330.
    We reached indicated ground speed of around 780mph+ as we raced back to beat the Storm Ciara cutoff. We managed the journey in approx 6.5 hours. From Miami.

    The captain mentioned the “impressive” jet stream speeds. So impressed i took screenshots of the skymap information.

    I haven’t flow faster.

    You had to be there man.. 🙂

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