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City airport set to launch first NY flight

BRITISH AIRWAYS (BA) is launching its business class only London to New York service tomorrow, despite the massive slump in business and first class travel that has resulted from the downturn.<br /><br />The service, which will run from London City airport, will cost those wanting a return trip, in a fully-flat bed, on one of two A318 aircraft, from &pound;1,901.10. <br />The inaugural flight is at 12.50pm tomorrow.<br /><br />The airline has dismissed criticism that the era of premium travel is over, and expects demand to be high. <br /><br />&ldquo;In the harshest trading environment airlines have experienced, we believe it is more important than ever to embrace the future and innovate. That is what this historic new route is all about,&rdquo; chief executive Willie Walsh has said.<br /><br />One pull for City commuters is the flight&rsquo;s stopover at Shannon airport, which allows passengers to clear US immigration in advance. <br /><br />Passengers on the flight, which is London City&rsquo;s first venture into long haul, will be able to use a self-service check-in at the airport.<br /><br />BA passengers will also be able to use the health spa facilities at the nearby Marriott hotel after their flight by presenting their tickets at the Canary Wharf branch.<br /><br />Customers will be able to arrive at the airport up to 15 minutes before departure. <br /><br />The so-called &ldquo;son-of-Concorde&rdquo; service also allows passengers to use the internet and Blackberries while flying.<br /><br />The flight&rsquo;s launch comes after a summer of discontent at the airline. Strike threats have loomed heavy over the heads of BA executives, while the carrier seeks desperately to cut costs.<br /><br />It reported record losses of &pound;401m for the year to 31 March, and a report on its widening pension deficit is expected next month.