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First UK-Orlando flight touches down after 20 months: ‘We’re delighted to see them back’

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The primary aircraft from the UK to Orlando in Florida for over 600 days touched down half-an-hour early – with each seat occupied.

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Arrivals had been applauded by airport employees, who handed out drinks, cookies and gold paper crowns that passengers had been urged to put on as they proceeded by the terminal.

The travellers aboard Virgin Atlantic flight 75 from Manchester had been a mixture of property homeowners, individuals with kinfolk in Florida and holidaymakers reminiscent of Jo and Ian Kennedy from Hartlepool in County Durham.

“We’ve been right here many, many instances, and this has been the longest hole that we’ve ever been away,” mentioned Ms Kennedy.

The couple, each sporting their gold crowns, arrived for a two-week keep that may embody fishing, golf and tennis. They’re staying in a villa that has its personal pool, a commodity in robust demand within the coronavirus period.

A consultant of a pharmacy held a big signal providing “Free Covid-19 Vaccinations”. However to adjust to the situations below which transatlantic journey is as soon as once more permitted, all British guests aged 18 and over should already be totally jabbed – and take a take a look at earlier than departure to the US.

Because the virus unfold world wide, President Donald Trump banned all European guests to the US in mid-March 2020. The prohibition was prolonged by his successor, Joe Biden, till this week.

Phil Brown, chief govt of the Better Orlando Aviation Authority mentioned: “We’ve been wanting ahead to today for a very long time. We’ve labored exhausting to persuade the federal authorities that they should open up.

“You’ve got quite a lot of people from Nice Britain they’ve houses right here. They’ve not been capable of see their houses.”

Joe and Sue Mann from Manchester usually spend winter of their property within the Orlando space. Having left Florida in April 2020, they travelled again to the state on the primary flight and are planning to remain for six months.

“We’ve had 18 months away and a lockdown away,” mentioned Mr Mann. “We’re actually wanting ahead to wintering out right here now.”

Ms Mann mentioned the arrival formalities had been simple: “The whole lot was very easy really. We thought we’d be held up. There was no queue. We simply went straight by customs. Fantastic.”

Another British property homeowners are already in Florida. A lot of them spent two weeks within the Caribbean or Mexico to “launder” their UK standing.

Additionally within the Orlando airport welcoming social gathering had been Simon and Susan Veness, authors of the Brit Information to Orlando.

Ms Veness mentioned: “We all know how a lot Brits love Florida. We all know they’re excited to be again. We all know there was enormous pent-up demand to get right here.

“That was one fixed we had been certain of.”

Danielle Hollander, chief advertising officer for Go to Orlando mentioned: “That is actually a momentous day to welcome again our UK guests. To finish the tourism image, we want the worldwide customer again.

“Having the planes flying and touching down will give all people the boldness that it’s really occurring, and to guide and to get on these planes.”

Initially there are far fewer airline seats out there than in pre-pandemic instances, with single each day departures on Virgin Atlantic from Manchester and London Heathrow to Orlando. None are at present provided from what was beforehand the primary UK departure level to town, London Gatwick.

Financial system fares this weekend from Manchester to Orlando are at present promoting for over £1,000 return – no less than twice the same old worth for mid-November.

However from 27 November the Irish airline Aer Lingus will go head-to-head in opposition to Virgin Atlantic on the Manchester-Orlando hyperlink.

Airport boss Phil Brown instructed The Unbiased: “When the phrase will get again that there’s an expertise available in Orlando, you’ll see that folks begin to guide.

“I believe it’s actually going to be the summer season earlier than we actually get again to these [2019] ranges.”

Amid some tearful reunions between members of the family who had been separated by the coronavirus pandemic, Orlando guidebook author Simon Veness mentioned: “We’ve been disadvantaged of Brits for 20 months and we’re delighted to see them again.

“Florida will come again sooner than quite a lot of markets and I believe the Brits will assist to do it.”

A number of new sights have opened in the course of the US journey ban, together with the “VelociCoaster” at Common, which the corporate describes as “the apex predator of rollercoasters”.

Rival attraction, Walt Disney World Resort, marked its fiftieth birthday on 1 October this yr. Celebrations are anticipated to proceed for 18 months till early 2023.

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