Plane spotters in London Stansted were in for a rare sight last Friday as an unusual aircraft arrived at the airport. The facility, used to seeing the 737s and A320s of Europe’s low-cost carriers, welcomed a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350. The airport was the plane’s intended destination rather than a point of diversion.
As the UK’s fourth busiest airport in regular times, London Stansted Airport typically plays a crucial role in London’s low-cost air capacity. However, in recent years the airport has seen some diversification with the arrival of Air India, Emirates, and El Al. Now a Virgin Atlantic jet has touched down at the Essex airport.
An unusual arrival
On Friday morning, a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350 touched down at London Stansted Airport. This may well have been the first time an Airbus A350 had visited the facility at all, let alone intentionally. The aircraft in question was G-VTEA, the youngest A350 in the Virgin Atlantic fleet.
The aircraft departed from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) at 21:03 on Thursday, according to data from RadarBox.com. Onboard was a group of special guests. Virgin was flying the New York Jets football team out to the United Kingdom ahead of their NFL game against the Atlanta Falcons in London. The plane flew for six hours and 12 minutes, touching down at London’s tertiary airport at 08:15 on Friday morning. Instead of using the terminal via the jetway, the Jets disembarked via stairs in typical Stansted style.
— London Stansted Airport (@STN_Airport) October 8, 2021
Having dropped the Jets off at Stansted, the A350 didn’t hang around. At 09:47, it was back in the skies for a short positioning flight to its London Heathrow home, where it landed 13 minutes later at 10:00 after an almost direct flight across London. The aircraft was then put back into service, flying to New York and then Hong Kong.
Virgin Atlantic also took the team back following their 27-20 defeat against the Falcons. G-VDOT positioned across to Stansted, landing after a 12-minute flight at 18:02, to escort the group back across the pond. It departed again at 22:00.
Not the only unusual US flight at Stansted
The Virgin Atlantic A350 isn’t the only unusual flight we’ve seen at London Stansted connected to the United States. While Stansted is a scheduled destination for Emirates during standard times, it only welcomes the smaller Boeing 777, as most of the airport cannot handle the giant Airbus A380.
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Earlier this year, the Dubai-based giant flew an A380 out to Stansted to fly Arsenal to the Florida Cup football tournament. After the giant had positioned to Stansted to pick the team up, it was revealed that the team wouldn’t travel to the US due to COVID-19 cases picked up in pre-departure tests. Virgin Atlantic flew Everton from Manchester on an A350 for that tournament.
London Stansted is typically the preferred airport to handle Air Force One when the US president visits the British capital city. However, on his first visit to the UK as president, Biden instead flew to London Heathrow for a short stop to see The Queen between the G20 summit and his trip back to the United States.
What’s the strangest airplane you’ve seen at London Stansted Airport? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!