British Airways’ inaugural LHR-CHS flight arrived in Charleston Thursday night. Airport officials and elected leaders greeted passengers to celebrate the state’s first trans-Atlantic service before the inaugural CHS-LHR flight took off a few hours later, arriving in London Friday morning.
The new flight operates Thursdays and Sundays on a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. Outbound flights depart from Charleston at 10:50 p.m. and arrive in London the next morning at 11:50 a.m. Return flights leave London at 5:20 p.m. and arrive in Charleston at 9:20 p.m.
The flights costs around $600 for a traveler going from Thursday to Thursday, or around $1,200 for a traveler going from Thursday to Sunday, according to today’s flight prices.
Talks with British Airways have been ongoing for several years, but efforts to pursue a trans-Atlantic flight began in the 1980s, Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Helen Hill said during the flight announcement in October.
Airport executives and numerous elected leaders lauded the flight as momentous for the Lowcountry and the state, saying it will boost business connections and tourism between South Carolina and Europe.
Simon Brooks, British Airways’ senior vice president of North America, has said the Charleston region’s internationally acclaimed charm, history, golf and beaches were a big part of the airline’s decision to include Charleston in its North American expansion plans.
The airline has expanded into new U.S. markets by offering seasonal flights, such as the five-days-a-week flights between Nashville, Tenn., and London it launched last year.
The seasonal service at the Charleston airport will run through October, at which point the airline will evaluate whether to continue, increase or halt the service, depending on the flight’s popularity.
Charleston County Aviation Authority spent $9 million to expand airport kitchen, customs and tarmac operations for the new flight.
The new 15,000-square-foot kitchen recently opened at 5551 Porsche Blvd., which sits about a mile from the airport. The $8 million renovation of a former warehouse began in December; work was under a tight timeline to be completed before the flight launched.
State Sen. Paul Campbell, CEO of the Charleston County Aviation Authority, said the kitchen operations were needed for the new London service, as well as any other international flights the airport lands. British Airways will be the first airline to use the new facility.
The state Commerce Department also allocated $1.3 million toward costs associated with the airline’s launch in Charleston.