Virgin Atlantic is urging the reopening of UK and US borders to enable vital transatlantic flights to resume.

The call came exactly a year since the US closed its borders to UK and Irish citizens and the week that the airline secured £160 million in additional funding in the face of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

North Atlantic routes represented around 70% of the airline’s pre-pandemic network with 4.2 million passengers flown between the two countries in 2019.

The UK accounted for more than half of all transatlantic bookings in 2019 and the US point about a quarter with further demand made up from Europe and rest of world, supported by connectivity from South Africa, Nigeria, Tel Aviv and India.

The top three US destinations were New York, Orlando and Los Angeles with the carrier averaging 23 transtalantic passenger flights a day.

Virgin Atlantic and rival British Airways accounted for 54% of all transatlantic capacity.

However, only seven Virgin Atlantic flights a day now operate to the US, five of which are cargo only, after all passenger flying was paused at the peak of the pandemic between April 19 and July 20 last year.

Virgin Atlantic chief commercial officer Juha Jarvinen said: “Safely reopening borders between the UK and the US is essential for the economic recovery and future success of Global Britain, boosting trade and tourism with our most important economic partner.

“One year on since US restrictions came into effect, the rapid roll-out of vaccinations in both countries is bolstering future bookings, further illustrating the pent-up demand for transatlantic travel.”

He reported an uptick in US bookings in recent weeks, as customers look to reunite with family and friends, reconnect with colleagues or consider holidays in the sun.

“Favourite destinations like Florida and iconic cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are performing well, particularly in the latter part of the year and into 2022,” Jarvinen added.

“Having served the US for over 36 years, we’re looking forward to flying our customers from Heathrow and Manchester as soon as soon as we’re able to, with one of the youngest fleets in the skies and an extensive network with our partners, Delta.

“Public health must always come first and we recognise the importance of protecting both the UK and USA from new strains of Covid-19.

“Therefore we’re working together across industry and government to develop a risk-based framework, based on science and data, to allow the safe restart of international travel at scale, providing customers with the confidence to book ahead and plan for the summer and beyond.”