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British Airways flies record-breaking sub-5-hour flight from New York to London

Feb. 09, 2020
4 min read
British Airways flies record-breaking sub-5-hour flight from New York to London
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with additional information. It was originally published on February 7, 2020.

On Friday we told you about the 200-mile-per-hour jet stream over the Atlantic Ocean that was set to propel a strong storm toward Ireland and the United Kingdom over the weekend, according to Weather.com. The system, named Storm Ciara, bought strong winds -- up to 80 mph -- and rain to the region late Saturday night into Sunday. It will make its way to other parts of Europe on Monday. Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as the northern regions of France, Germany and Denmark, could be hit the hardest.

Related: What to do if your flight is delayed or canceled

But the storm was actually a boon for travelers headed from the U.S. east coast to the U.K. The jet stream helped push aircraft to some of the fastest speeds we've seen.

In fact, British Airways' flight 112 from New York-JFK to London-LHR on Saturday, February 8, achieved the fastest subsonic flight duration ever. The route clocked in at just 4 hours and 56 minutes according to the data collected by FlightRadar24. The average flight time for that route is usually 6 hours and 13 minutes. During the flight, the Boeing 747-436 aircraft reached speeds of 800 mph.

Image courtesy of FlightRadar24
Image courtesy of FlightRadar24

The wind also shaved 51 minutes off the average flight time of BA238 on February 8, a Boeing 777-236ER flying from Boston to LHR with onward service to Dublin.

Image courtesy of FlightRadar24
Image courtesy of FlightRadar24

The World Meteorology Organization defines a jet stream as, A strong, narrow current ... characterized by strong vertical and lateral wind shears ...." Jet streams flow from west to east, which is why flights from Europe to North America take longer than those heading in the opposite direction. Pilots can take advantage of jet streams by flying as close to the center of the stream as possible.

Remember that Virgin Atlantic flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to London (LHR) that flew over 800 mph back in 2019? Thank the jet stream for that.

This weekend, pilots took advantage of a similar phenomenon. Here's what happens: Most commercial aircraft fly at jet stream level. Most planes fly approximately 550 mph (without wind), so the jet stream helps eastbound flights fly faster — occasionally shaving an hour off your flight. This time around, though, the rare 200 mph tail wind will speed them up even more so.

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That's why the New York City to London flight took just shy of five hours. Who needs supersonic flights when you have wind?

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No such luck for travelers flying in the opposite direction, though. Those flights fought headwinds and were up to two and a half-hours longer than normal.

Featured image by Getty Images

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If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

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Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
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  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more