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British Airways breaks the New York to London subsonic flight record

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

British Airways just set a new record for subsonic flight -- with some help from nature. The airline has confirmed Flightradar24 data showing that one of its Boeing 747s completed a New York to London flight in just 4 hours and 56 minutes, handily beating the previous best of 5 hours and 13 minutes set by Norwegian in 2018. A typical version of this flight takes 6 hours and 13 minutes, Flightradar24 said. The aircraft was helped by a stronger-than-usual (200MPH-plus) jet stream that took the 747 up to 825MPH -- technically faster than the speed of sound, but not supersonic as the winds would have prevented the aircraft from breaking the sound barrier.

This wasn't even the only potential record-setter. Virgin Atlantic had two flights that came close, one arriving just a minute later while another was three minutes behind. The airline even took potshots at British Airways on Twitter, claiming that it came close with half as many engines (on an Airbus A350-1000) and half the fuel.

This won't come close to beating the absolute speed record. That honor still goes to a British Airways Concorde that completed the flight to London in just under 2 hours and 53 minutes, reaching speeds as high as 1,350MPH on its 1996 journey. The 747's trip is still an achievement, though, and this might be one of the quickest passenger flights you see until (and unless) supersonic airliners return to the skies.