International Airlines Group, the parent company of BA, is holding its annual Capital Markets Day today, Friday 2 November 2018.
This is one event where we learn of BA’s plans for the next 12 months. Here are the major BA headlines from the day so far. Please see here for a more broader update from IAG.
New Club World Seat
As has been widely been expected, BA will introduce a new Club World set with the Airbus A350-1000.
The first Airbus A350-1000 aircraft will arrive in July 2019. There will be four Airbus A350-1000 in service by the end of 2019. The new seat will also be retrofitted to two Boeing 777 aircraft by the end of 2019. The retrofitting of the new seat will continue from 2020. It will be fitted to over 100 long-haul aircraft and the retrofit will be completed in 2023.
BA promises an entirely new seat with direct aisle access to all and improved personal storage and privacy. There will also to be gate-to-gate in-flight entertainment for the first time, meaning that the monitor will be set in position, unlike at present.
The first Airbus A350-1000 routes should be confirmed by the end of the year. It is intended to replace the 52 Club World seat Boeing 747 which is heavily deployed on North American routes such as Las Vegas, Miami and Phoenix. There will be no First Class on the Airbus A350-1000. However, there will be more Club World seats and significantly more World Traveller Plus seats on the Airbus A350-1000 compared to the 52 Club World seat Boeing 747. BA has not given an exact breakdown by cabin, but there will be 331 seats on the aircraft. By comparison, an Iberia A350-900 has 348 seats.
BA has been trialling new First Class catering internally this year. It will introduce new First Class bedding, catering and amenities from May 2019.
As mentioned above, there will be no First Class on the Airbus A350-1000 aircraft which means that First is likely to be removed from a number of routes. BA will reduce the size of the First Class cabin from 14 to 8 seats on some Heathrow Boeing 777 aircraft as part of a full refurbishment of these aircraft.
World Traveller Plus
New World Traveller Plus catering and amenities will be introduced from early 2019. At the moment World Traveller Plus catering is a sort of hybrid with a World Traveller meal tray and a main course from the Club World menu.
As part of the Boeing 777 refurbishment programme at Gatwick and, from next year, at Heathrow, BA will continue to introduce a new seat and enlarge these cabins.
BA has said there will be “improvements” to EuroTraveller. No details have been given. However, it is highly unlikely that Buy-On-Board catering will be withdrawn.
The roll out of WiFi will be complete on short-haul aircraft by the second quarter of 2019. 80% of long-haul aircraft will have WiFi by the end of 2019.
BA will finish its refurbishment of the Club lounge in New York JFK in 2019. Lounges in Geneva, Johannesburg and San Francisco will be refurbished in 2019. Catering will also be improved at major BA operated lounges on the network. No timescale has been given for the refurbishment of the BA lounges at Heathrow Terminals 3 and 5. Lounges in Chicago, Manchester and Miami have also been previously earmarked refurbishment, but no dates have been given.
Heathrow Ground Services
As was announced recently, all Heathrow customer facing staff are to be equipped with iPads to enable customer service issues such as lost baggage to be resolved on first point-of-contact.
This should increase capacity to rebook passengers during disruption, where passengers have historically had to queue at ticketing desks, five fold. The training programme for this should be complete by 2019.
Fleet and Network Growth
Interestingly, there have been no major changes to BA’s fleet plan.
The refurbishment of Gatwick based Boeing 777-200 aircraft will continue in 2019. BA cites positive customer feedback, particularly with regard to aircraft interiors and in-flight entertainment.
Gatwick short-haul flights will be exclusively operated with Airbus A320 aircraft by 2021, with no Airbus A319 aircraft.
There are no announced plans for new long-haul routes at Gatwick yet. However, the focus will continue to be leisure based. Complementing existing Heathrow routes, such as serving Miami from Heathrow and Fort Lauderdale from Gatwick, seems to work well.
BA is targeting a higher rate of capacity growth of 3-4% in the coming years, with the largest percentage growth focused on long-haul markets outside of North America. BA has said that growth in Asia is likely to include increased capacity to existing airports in China when slots become available and possibly a new destination.
Based on the fleet plan published by IAG, there is a significant gap between the number of short and long-haul aircraft that IAG plans to have in service by 2023 and the number of aircraft in order. It is known that IAG has been in discussions with Airbus and Boeing on an aircraft order and an announcement is likely in the next few months.
BA does appear to be slowing down the planned retirement of its Boeing 747s. Last year, the plan was to have 22 aircraft in service by the end of 2020. The most recent plan published yesterday shows that 27 aircraft will be in service by the end of 2020. The retirement schedule will continue to accelerate after 2021.