British Airways 2018 “Half-Time” Report

A look at the major route network, fleet, airport and in-flight serice changes at BA so far in 2018 and what to expect for the rest of the year and in 2019.

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British Airways In 2018

Just under six months ago, we took a look what to expect from BA in 2018.

Now we are half way through the year, it’s a good time as any to look back at what has happened so far, what to expect, what may have to wait until 2019, and a good measure of speculation and guesswork.

Here we take a look at the route network, fleet, in-flight service and airport facilities.

New Long-Haul Routes

Long-haul routes that have launched, or are due to, include:

London Gatwick to Las Vegas launched three times weekly on Tuesday 27 March 2018.

London Gatwick to Toronto launched three times weekly on Tuesday 1 May 2018 until Friday 19 October 2018.

London Heathrow to Durban three times weekly from Monday 29 October 2018.

London Heathrow to Nashville, Tennessee launched five times weekly on Friday 4 May 2018.

London Heathrow to The Seychelles launched twice weekly on Saturday 24 March 2018.

New Short-Haul Routes

Short-haul routes that have launched, or are due to, include:

London Gatwick to Gibraltar until Sunday 30 September 2018.

London Gatwick to Mahon until Saturday 29 September 2018.

London Gatwick to Palma from Friday 25 May 2018.

London Heathrow to Almeria twice weekly until Saturday 27 October 2018.

London Heathrow to Corsica once a week until Sunday 7 October 2018.

London Heathrow to Kefalonia twice weekly until Saturday 6 October 2018.

London Heathrow to Marrakech four times weekly from Sunday 28 October 2018 until Saturday 30 March 2019.

London Heathrow to Moscow Sheremetyevo daily from Sunday 28 October 2018, replacing one flight to Moscow Domodedovo International.

At Gatwick, BA has also increased frequencies on a number of routes with the benefit of additional slots from Monarch. These include Alicante, Faro, Funchal, Lanzarote, Malaga, Nice, Seville, Tenerife, Tirana and Turin.

It has been a relatively quiet year at London City, with very little by way of announcements.

Route Suspensions

London Gatwick to Fuerteventura is suspended from Sunday 24 November 2018.

London Gatwick to Oakland is suspended from Monday 22 October 2018.

London Heathrow to Calgary is suspended from Sunday 28 October 2018 until Sunday 31 March 2019. Full details of rebooking arrangements here.

London Heathrow to Luanda was suspended from Thursday 7 June 2018.

London Heathrow to Palermo is suspended from Friday 26 October 2018 until Sunday 31 March 2019.

London Heathrow to Turin will not resume for the winter.

Boeing 777-200 Refurbishment

BA is progressively introducing its “densified” Boeing 777-200 on many three class long-haul routes at Gatwick.

At present, three aircraft have been refurbished and they are principally operating on routes to Cancun, Kingston and Punta Cana, as well as selected flights to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa. Each refurbishment takes around 4-6 weeks.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Groundings

The big story this year has of course been the grounding of Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft due to additional engine checks.

The situation seems to have abated at little, at least for now. However, there are still five Boeing 787 aircraft grounded. BA is leasing in aircraft from Qatar Airways to cover selected flights to Dehli, Kuwait and Muscat up to late August at the earliest.

Other Long-Haul Fleet Changes

BA’s fleet plan was to increase its long-haul fleet by 3 aircraft this year.

2 Boeing 747s are due to be retired and 3 out of 5 Boeing 787s have been delivered to date.

BA is expected to refurbish more of its Boeing 747s. These are aircraft that have 52 Club World seats with World Traveller Plus positioned between First Class and Club World. They operate on routes such as Accra, Cape Town, Nairobi, and Phoenix.

BA’s parent company is in discussions with Airbus and Boeing on future aircraft orders. An order should be placed within the next 12 months. This should finally settle the question of whether BA will ever add more Airbus A380s. IAG had expressed an interest in leasing second hand A380 aircraft, but it’s a safe assumption this is now off the table. IAG CEO Willie Walsh has described talks with Boeing as “particularly constructive” which you could infer is a clear message to Airbus to sharpen their pencils.

Short-Haul Fleet

BA has so far taken delivery of the first 3 of 10 Airbus A320 NEO aircraft.

These operate short-haul flights from Heathrow Terminal 3 to Barcelona, Budapest, Lisbon and Warsaw. BA is also due to take delivery of 3 Airbus A321 NEO aircraft.

The Boeing 767 will finally be given its long overdue retirement by the end of this year.

In-Flight Catering

The new Club World catering service continues to roll out across the network at Heathrow.

Cape Town, Johannesburg, Singapore and Sydney are the latest destinations to receive the new service from Sunday 1 July 2018. The “mid-haul” routes to Amman and Beirut are likely to be the last. Alas, the new service won’t roll out at Gatwick until next year. Here are two reviews to Philadelphia and from New York JFK.

BA has also introduced new Union Hand-Roasted coffee in its UK lounges and in First and Club World. Our verdict is that it is markedly better in the lounges. The difference in taste is much less noticeable in the air.

BA introduced new World Traveller catering in January, reversing many previous cuts.

The airline has said previously it is looking at improving World Traveller Plus catering but nothing seems to have been announced since.

Club Europe catering is being reviewed and changes are likely to be introduced in September.

In-Flight Connectivity

The roll-out of in-flight WiFi continues at a very steady pace.

It is available on a minority of Boeing 747, 777 and Airbus A380 aircraft. At this rate, the original plan to have 90% of the fleet equipped with WiFi in 2019 seems a little ambitious.

Departure Lounges

BA has opened new lounges in Aberdeen and Rome.

The refurbishment of New York JFK Terminal 7 is still in progress with the Galleries First lounge closed and the Elemis travel spa also closed for much of July.

More lounges are due to be refurbished including Chicago O’Hare, Johannesburg, Manchester, Rome, and San Francisco. However, these are unlikely to complete this year.

On the subject of airports, there have been a number of small measures to improve the experience of First passengers at London Heathrow. These include dedicated areas for First baggage in the baggage hall on some routes such as New York JFK with improved priority delivery and dedicated buses for aircraft arriving at remote stands. Further measures are likely but at a steady, incremental pace.

What do American Airlines & BA have planned at Heathrow Terminal 3?

The transatlanic joint-venture between AA and BA has now been running for several years.

Whilst it has undoubtedly been a success, one relative weakness is that there are many airports, notably Heathrow and New York JFK, where AA and BA do not share the same terminals. This is a competitive disadvantage where AA and BA operate flights on the same route such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York JFK.

Earlier this year BA hinted that it, along with AA, has “big plans” for London Heathrow Terminal 3. This is where AA operates all London Heathrow flights and BA operates select transatlantic routes such as Miami and Las Vegas. Not much more has been said.

However, some well-informed and longstanding AA commentators have hinted that a much bigger network reorganisation may be in the works with the possibility of some routes moving exclusively to either AA or BA. This is feasible given there is much greater consistency between the two airlines than before, with AA now operating fully flat beds in business class from Heathrow and it introducing premium economy.

Alliances & Partnerships

There has been absolutely no progress on Aer Lingus joining either Oneworld or the transatlantic joint-venture. There has also been no progress on the planned joint-venture between BA, Iberia and LATAM.

BA has announced a new codeshare relationship with Fiji Airways which is to join Oneworld under a new tier of membership known as “Oneworld Connect’.

Now that Alaska Airlines has absorbed Virgin America, it would certainly be useful if BA looked at extending its existing codeshare partnership to add some ex-Virgin America routes, such as San Francisco to Orange County and Palm Springs.

It’s now more than five years since BA and Qantas severed their long-standing joint-business between Europe and Australia. Whilst that it is never going to return, Qantas has made a few notable steps, including reinstating London – Singapore – Sydney and reinstating a codeshare with Air France. Relations between BA and Qantas were very cool, but don’t rule out some form of codesharing between London and Australia.

BA Executive Club Changes

At some point, there will be major changes to the Executive Club.

These are likely to include the introduction of a “single Avios bank” across all frequent flyer programmes that use Avios, the issue of Avios by reference to the price paid for the ticket rather than distance flown, and “dynamic pricing” of reward flights. The actual date of introduction is likely to driven by IT demands above all else.

2019 is a hugely important year for BA

It is the airline’s centenary year.

The official date of BA’s 100th anniversary is not until 25 August 2019. However, the airline seems acutely conscious that it needs to be putting its best foot forward.

The much awaited new Club World seat will enter service when BA introduces the Airbus A350-1000 in 2019. BA has promised that the new seat will be “top tier” and provide aisle access for all.

Towards the end of the year we should at least have a flavour of what is planned for 2019 and possibly even renderings of the new Club World seat.

We welcome any thoughts and comments below: