What are BA’s plans to replace and refurbish its short & long-haul fleet?

The latest on BA’s plans to replace and refurbish its short-haul and long-haul fleet.

We receive a lot of enquiries regarding BA’s plans to replace and refurbish its short and long-haul fleet.

We suspect this is, in part, due to the wide variation in the condition of many of its long-haul aircraft in particular!

BA has a conservative approach to fleet expansion and refurbishment. This is unlikely to ever change. Here’s a run through of recent and forthcoming deliveries and refurbishments by aircraft type:

Airbus A380

British Airways, First Class, Airbus, A380
British Airways First Class, Airbus A380 (Source: BA Press Office)

BA has now taken delivery of all 12 of the Airbus A380s it ordered. BA has not won any acclaim for innovation here. There are no onboard showers or bars to be found on BA’s A380s, let alone a new Club World seat. However, BA seems pleased with the performance of the A380 and it is currently operated on selected flights to destinations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Boston and Washington.

BA has options to acquire a further 7 A380s direct from Airbus, which it has not exercised and is unlikely to do so.

Willie Walsh, CEO of BA’s parent company International Airlines Group, has raised the possibility of BA leasing second hand A380s to add flexible capacity. However, interest in this seems have waned, no doubt due to geopolitical uncertainty in Europe and the US.

Boeing 747-400

British Airways Club World Boeing 747 (Picture by: Stuart Bailey / British Airways)

BA has (at 31 December 2016) 37 Boeing 747s in service at London Heathrow. It is still plying routes such as New York JFK, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Kuwait, Mexico City, Accra and Nairobi. It is very rarely seen on Asia Pacific routes.

18 aircraft have been recently refurbished. These are the Boeing 747s with no less than 86 Club World seats. These aircraft look good on the inside with new carpets and seat covers. WiFi should also be added imminently. The inflight entertainment system is also the best you’ll find on BA. The bad news is that there are no firm plans to refurbish the remainder of the fleet which are showing their age.

BA expects to keep the Boeing 747 in operation until 2023, by which time it may well be one of the last 747 operators in the world.

Boeing 777

British Airways Boeing 777 at London Gatwick
British Airways Boeing 777 at London Gatwick

BA has 12 Boeing 777-300s in service at London Heathrow and 46 Boeing 777-200s in service across London Gatwick and London Heathrow.

As per the Airbus A380, IAG CEO Willie Walsh has expressed an interest in leasing second hand Boeing 777-300s but, again, interest seems to have waned.

Regarding the Boeing 777-200, the main news is that 25 Boeing 777-200s are earmarked for “densification”. This is IAG and BA lexicon for squeezing in more seats. This means that BA will move from 9 to 10 seats across in World Traveller economy. If this is considered a financial success you can be confident that it will be extended to the rest of the Boeing 777 fleet.

BA will also reduce the number of Club World business class seats on three class Gatwick Boeing 777s from 40 to 32 seats and increase the number of World Traveller Plus premium economy seats from 24 to 48 seats. Overall, the number of seats on these aircraft will increase from 280 to 332.

Slide from International Airlines Group 2016 Capital Markets Day on Boeing 777 “densification”

It is also expected that First Class will be removed from a number of London Heathrow Boeing 777-200s.

The new densified Boeing 777s will enter service in early 2018. BA has not yet indicated which London Heathrow routes are to be operated with “densified aircraft”.

Boeing 767

This has now been withdrawn from long-haul operations. There are 8 left which still soldier on a few short-haul routes. It operates on selected frequencies to routes such as Athens, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Larnaca, Madrid and Stockholm. It should be withdrawn from service in the next couple of years.

Boeing 787-800

BA has 8 of these aircraft in service. These all operate in a three class configuration, with no First Class. It is due to take delivery of a further 4 aircraft. They operate on routes such as Baltimore, Calgary, Chennai, Hyderabad, Montreal, New Orleans, Seoul and selected frequencies to Tel Aviv, Newark and Toronto.

The main comment this aircraft attracts is how tight the seating is in World Traveller economy. We’ve not actually sat in one of the seats but certainly from observing the cabin mid-flight it does indeed look tight.

Boeing 787-900

BA has 16 787-900 aircraft in service. A further two aircraft are to be delivered. These aircraft all operate in a four class configuration, with an 8 seat First Class cabin. They operate on routes such as Abu Dhabi, Austin, Dehli, Houston, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Tokyo Narita, San Jose, Santiago, and Shanghai. It can also operate on a number of Boeing 787-800 routes above on selected days.

Boeing 787-1000

BA has 12 Boeing 787-1000s on order These are due to be delivered by 2021. This will take the total number of 787 family aircraft in the BA fleet to 42 aircraft.

Airbus A350

BA is due to take delivery of the Airbus A350 aircraft from 2018. It currently has 18 aircraft on order. The arrival of the A350 will be anticipated, not least because it is expected that BA will finally unveil a new Club World seat which is expected to retain similar features to the current seat, but with direct aisle access for all.

Airbus A319 and A320

“Densification” rears its head here again. The number of seats on London Heathrow Airbus A320s is to be increased from 168 to 180 seats from late October 2017. The number of seats on London Heathrow Airbus A321s is to be increased from 205 to 218 seats from late March 2018.

The number of Airbus A319s is also due to reduce from 44 to 26 by 2021. Overall, BA seems to be moving to an exclusively Airbus operation at both London Gatwick and Heathrow short-haul.

Airbus A321 Long Range

This is potentially one to watch. The single aisle Airbus A321 LR aircraft has a range of 4,000 nautical miles which means it can reach the East Coast of the USA from the UK.

BA’s IAG sibling Aer Lingus has ordered seven of these aircraft. Norwegian has ordered no less than 30 aircraft. JetBlue has also raised the possibility of ordering this aircraft to launch new long-haul routes to Europe.

BA could order this aircraft to launch new services to Africa (it has previously suspended Dar Es Salaam, Entebbe and Lusaka) or possibly new transatlantic routes from UK regional airports.

Embraer E-170 and E-190

BA now has 6 Embraer E-170 and 14 Embraer aircraft in service, which are operated by its subsidiary BA CityFlyer at London City and UK regional airports at weekends. Given BA seems to have reach a ceiling on routes at London City airport (Madrid and Hamburg are recent suspensions) and its parent company sees London City as an expensive airport to operate from, it’s unlikely that further aircraft will be ordered.

Bombardier C-Series

There has been speculation that BA’s parent company IAG could order the Bombardier C-Series which is currently used by Swiss from London City airport. However, this has been confidently dismissed by Willie Walsh.

2 thoughts on “What are BA’s plans to replace and refurbish its short & long-haul fleet?”

  1. I traveled recently on one of the recently refurbished 747’s in Club World on the Upper Deck. It was fantastic.

  2. How quickly plans can change in the heady world of commercial aviation. Delivery of new A350 & B787 planes to BA has been pushed back and life of the many B747s has been extended until 2027. This has resulted in a few more B747 getting their cabins refurbished.

    A new Club World Seat has been announced, but sadly it won’t be installed on any B747s even though they’ll be around for another ten years.

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