Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis ensured 200 children's holiday of a lifetime got off to a magic start as the annual Dreamflight jet embarked on a sunshine break in Florida.

The actor, who played Hogwarts regular Neville Longbottom in the long-running fantasy franchise, was joined by television presenter Konnie Huq as the excited passengers boarded the specially chartered British Airways charity flight to the sunshine state.

The young passengers have been hand-picked to join the ten-day holiday by doctors and medical experts, having battled with serious illness, disability and trauma.

They will visit a host of attractions, including SeaWorld, Disney World and Universal Studios.

Lewis, 26, said: "I read about what Dreamflight was and how amazing it was going to be for these kids that I jumped at the chance to be here. It's been the most amazing day, it's been a pleasure.

"All these kids have been looking forward to this for a really long time. It just takes me back to when I was a kid and went over to Orlando and saw some amazing things.

"Some of these kids are so buzzing, and it just warms your heart so much to see their faces."

More than 5,000 children from across the country have been involved in Dreamflight holidays since the first voyage in 1987. For many, it has been their first time abroad and also gives them a chance to have a holiday without their family.

The young passengers are accompanied by nearly 100 doctors, nurses and physiotherapists throughout the trip.

Ten-year-old Jack Wrath, from Sheffield, said: "I was very, very, very excited when I was told I was going on Dreamflight. I'm looking forward to the whole thing.

"I've already told my friends at school. I was telling them every second."

Fellow Dreamflight passenger Emily Gray, 11, from Leith in Edinburgh, said: "I didn't think this was real. I didn't think this would happen.

"I am most looking forward to Harry Potter World, I've read all the books and seen all the movies.

"I really like Neville Longbottom. I've seen him here today and he looks so much different."

Mother-of-two Huq, said: "Dreamflight is a great cause and this trip will make a huge difference to the children's lives. As a mother, I know how enthusiastic children get about the prospect of going on holiday, and Disney World will top any other adventure."

British Airways captain Andrew Bean said: "I feel honoured to be flying the Dreamflight group of children to Florida. The children are such an inspiration to us all and it's wonderful to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime, special trip".

For more information on Dreamflight, visit dreamflight.org. To find out more about British Airways and its charity work, go to britishairways.com.