Over the past couple of years there has been significant growth in routes between London and Canada, notably with the launch of flights by Canadian airline WestJet this summer from London Gatwick to a number of cities in Canada.
Although WestJet’s entry into the long-haul market was far from smooth with significant technical problems with its fleet of 2nd hand aircraft, it is pressing ahead with its long-haul operation at London Gatwick.
British Airways is to temporarily withdraw its First Class cabin from its daily flight from London Heathrow to Vancouver from Thursday 21 January to Monday 29 February 2016.
The airline will continue to operate the route with a Boeing 747. However, the First Class cabin will be closed.
The reason for this is that the route is being operated with a Boeing 747 that is not fitted with the latest First Class cabin
This is not the first time BA has done this. Readers may recall BA temporarily withdrew First Class from a number of routes including Cape Town, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Vancouver last year.
Affected passengers can either accept a downgrade to Club World business class or an alternative indirect routing to Vancouver via Seattle (with onward travel to Vancouver at the passenger’s expense) or another BA or American Airlines gateway in America (such as Dallas Fort Worth) with an onward connection on American Airlines.
Canadian airline WestJet has today confirmed it is to launch summer seasonal direct flights from London Gatwick to no less than six Canadian cities: Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, St John’s, Edmonton and Winnipeg.
Flights will operate from the week beginning Monday 4 May 2015 to the end of October 2015.
Flights to Vancouver will operate six times weekly, Edmonton will operate twice weekly, Calgary five times weekly and Winnipeg once weekly. Flights to Toronto and St. John’s will both operate once daily.
In total, this represents 28 return trips from London Gatwick total each week.
This represents a significant expansion in capacity between London and Canada, and significant competition to British Airways and Air Canada from London Heathrow and Air Canada Rouge and Air Transat from London Gatwick. This, combined with the expansion of Norwegian at London Gatwick means that the airport is carving out a niche for low cost transatlantic travel.
In the case of Winnipeg, WestJet’s service will also be the only direct route between the city and London.
All London flights, with the exception of flights to St John’s, will be operated by one of WestJet’s four Boeing 767-300ERW extended range aircraft.
Each Boeing 767 seats 262 passengers. The main economy cabin has 238 seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. Passengers in the main cabin will be offered complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic drinks and the option to purchase hot meals. The cabin does not also feature seat back in flight entertainment. Instead, the aircraft will be equipped with WestJet Connect, the airline’s inflight entertainment and wireless connectivity system which can stream entertainment to your smartphone/tablet. Passengers are also offered one complimentary checked bag. However, seat selection fees will apply.
The aircraft will include a “Plus” premium cabin with 24 seats in a 2-2-2 configuration and complimentary hot meals.
Flights are on sale now and to mark the launch, WestJet is offering special introductory fares which it claims are the lowest on the market for bookings made by Wednesday 16 September for travel between 6 May 2015 to 28 June 2015.
Vancouver is to join BA’s roster of Airbus A380 destinations from 1 May 2016 until 2 October 2016 as one of its daily flights to the Canadian city will be upgraded from a Boeing 747 to an Airbus A380:
Flight BA085 Depart London Heathrow 17:15 – Arrive Vancouver 18:40
Flight BA084 Depart Vancouver 20:50 – Arrive London Heathrow 14:00
This does mark the end of, temporarily at least, BA Boeing 747 services to Vancouver. The service will revert back to a daily Boeing 747 from 2 October 2016. There is no doubt that the Airbus A380 is a significant upgrade over the Boeing 747 in all aspects, particularly with regard to seating in World Traveller Plus, in-flight entertainment aircraft condition and overall cabin comfort.
Other BA A380 destinations include selected flights to Los Angeles, Washington, Johannesburg, Hong Kong, Singapore, San Francisco and, from 25 October 2015, Miami.
For passengers looking to book specific A380 services we should note that schedules are subject to change and aircraft can also be substituted at short notice.
Update January 2018:
The Airbus A380 is next due to operate on this route from Tuesday 1 May 2018 to Sunday 30 September 2018. The route continues to otherwise operates with a Boeing 747.
The reason for this was that even though the flights continue to operate with a four class Boeing 747 aircraft, these routes would be operated with aircraft that have not been fitted with the latest version of BA’s first class cabin.
Instead, BA would operate the old first class cabin as an extension of Club World business class.
Update December 2014: BA has announced that First Class will return to Vancouver from Sunday 29 March 2015 and Cape Town, Las Vegas and Phoenix from Sunday 25 October 2015. More details here
Many readers will know that, over the past five years, British Airways has been progressively updating its four class Boeing 777 and 747 aircraft with a new first class product.
The roll out on Boeing 777 aircraft has long been complete. Out of BA’s fleet of nearly fifty Boeing 747 aircraft, less than ten do not have the latest first class product. These aircraft are left with the Kelly Hoppen designed interior from the year 2000.
It is no exaggeration to say these cabins are showing their age and, in response, BA has by default offered 50,000 Avios to members of the Executive Club frequent flyer programme as compensation.
With number of 747s in BA’s fleet expected to fall to approximately thirty by 2018 and the last 747 due to retire after 2020, many of those aircraft that do not have the new first class cabin are likely to be retired over the coming year.
BA has now decided to stop selling first class on these aircraft and will instead offer a three class service, with business class passengers seated in the first class cabin (who will receive the standard “Club World” service) if there is the demand.