If aircraft fleets were families, what would the Boeing 767 be!?
That distant, somewhat eccentric and, at times, unloved relative?
This year, BA is expected to finally retire some of the oldest aircraft in its fleet as its last five remaining Boeing 767-300 aircraft are due to leave the airline.
BA originally ordered 28 aircraft in stages from the late 1980s onward. The first aircraft entered service from early 1990 and operated short-haul flights, predominantly to Paris Charles de Gaulle. They were soon joined later that year by long-haul configured aircraft, replacing TriStar aircraft to Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Riyadh, Doha, Jeddah and Khartoum.
The last aircraft were delivered in 1998 with fleet then operating from Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester. Whilst the Boeing 767 fulfilled its initial promise of offering flexibility across short and long-haul operations, it soon fell out of favour.
At the turn of the century, BA put its whole network under review with the aim of cutting capacity and radically simplifying operations.
BA drastically downsized operations at Gatwick by reducing the number of different types of aircraft, leaving long-haul flights operated exclusively with the Boeing 777-200 – an aircraft that was also very much liked at Heathrow for its combination of capacity and efficiency.
A combination of the Eurostar winning traffic from airlines and BA downsizing its short-haul operations at Heathrow meant that the much smaller capacity Airbus A320 series was preferred over the Boeing 757 and 767. 7 Boeing 767s were dispatched to Qantas, leaving 21 in the fleet.
The precise ratio of short and long-haul aircraft has oscillated over time. However, before BA began progressively retiring the aircraft five years ago, 14 were in a long-haul configuration and 7 in a short-haul configuration.
They aircraft have also been unloved in many ways. The long-haul aircraft did originally operate with First Class but this was removed at around 2000. When BA first introduced fully flat beds in Club World, the 767s were the very last aircraft to have the new seat fitted. They were only completed not long before BA was about to introduce a new version of the Club World flat bed in 2006, which was never fitted to the 767.
It’s an aircraft that never captured the imagination of passengers like the Boeing 747 or Airbus A380. It has also never been loved by airlines for its efficiency like the Boeing 777.
In its later years it operated Manchester – New York JFK until its suspension in 2008, Paris Orly – Newark, and London Heathrow to Baltimore, Calgary, Dar es Salaam, Entebbe, Freetown-Monrovia, Grand Cayman Islands, Nassau, Providenciales and selected flights to Chicago, Dubai, Montreal, Newark, Philadelphia, Tel Aviv and Toronto.
It is noteworthy that some former Boeing 767 routes such as Dar es Salaam and Entebbe have been suspended, along with a seasonal winter suspension to Calgary. This suggests that the larger Boeing 787 is not the right replacement for the 767 on many routes – a role which could eventually be fulfilled by the Airbus A321 Long Range.
Whilst the short-haul aircraft have been spared the “densification” that has befallen their Airbus counterparts, they are notorious for the state of their internal condition.
There are now just five aircraft in the fleet, operating select short-haul flights to destinations such as Amsterdam, Athens, Frankfurt, Larnaca, Madrid, Rome and Stockholm.
The latest Boeing 767s to be retired have sent to the Ministry Of Defence in St Athan.
BA has not yet revealed any plans to mark the retirement of the aircraft. When BA retired the Boeing 757 in 2010 it did produce a special livery. However, the retirement of the Boeing 737 in 2015 was much more muted.
Timetables currently indicate that the last scheduled passenger flight from Heathrow will be BA662 from London Heathrow to Larnaca on Sunday 25 November 2018. However, this may be subject to change.