Nashville International Airport will offer direct flights to London on British Airways starting in May 2018, Gov. Bill Haslam announced at a press conference Tuesday morning.
Haslam was joined at the press conference by Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and Simon Brooks, British Airways senior vice president for North America.
It will be the first time the city has offered nonstop flights to London since American Airlines scaled back its operations more than 20 years ago.
Tuesday’s announcement followed years of effort on the part of community and business leaders.
“This is an exciting day in Nashville, an exciting day for the state of Tennessee,” Haslam said. “It’s a day that many of us have worked long and hard to see happen.”
Haslam said that when he was traveling overseas about a month ago, “no matter where we went throughout Europe, there was a great deal of excitement about this flight.” The flights will help facilitate business travel between various European cities as well as various cities in Tennessee, not just Nashville, said Haslam, who expects travel to outperform projections.
“This is truly a game changer for the city, and the region and the state,” he said.
Brooks of British Airways said flights will run five days a week on a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. There will be 214 seats – 154 economy, 25 premium economy and 35 business class. There will be complimentary personal inflight entertainment and free food and drinks served “with a sophisticated British smile,” Brooks said. Round-trip tickets can be purchased for under $1,000 and are now on sale at ba.com.
Flight BA222 will depart Nashville at 8:20 p.m., arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport at 10:30 a.m. the next day. BA223 will depart from London at 3:45 p.m. local time and arrive in Nashville at 6:50 p.m. Central Time.
Said Mayor Barry, “We believe that we have a very strong market and that that will show when this starts.”
The Nashville airport is the fastest growing in the country and has set passenger records for the past four years, Barry said.
State and local officials have also been pursuing direct flights to Tokyo.
Last year, the Metro Nashville Airport Authority announced plans for a $1.2 billion airport expansion project that will include a new international arrivals building. No local tax dollars will be used for the project, which will be funded with bonds, federal and state aviation grants, passenger facility charges and other airport funds.
Mayor Barry has reportedly considered privatizing the airport to help pay for a tentative $6 billion regional mass transit plan, but the Airport Authority board chairman says that is unlikely to happen.