Welcome to our updated guide to British Airways’ plans to refurbish and renew its short and long-haul fleet for 2019.
Note: An updated version of this post for 2020 has been posted here.
The information below is based on plans published by BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group at its Capital Markets Day in 2018.
BA’s fleet plans are under constant review and can, in the medium term, be influenced by economic and geopolitical events.
BA’s parent company International Airlines Group is also expected to place a new aircraft order with Airbus and/or Boeing in the coming months. BA doesn’t currently have enough long-haul aircraft on order to meet its retirement plans, let alone its growth ambitions, so an announcement should be imminent.
Here’s a run through of recent and forthcoming deliveries and refurbishments by aircraft type:
BA has started to take delivery of the Airbus A350-1000, of which there are 18 on order.
The first Airbus A350s will be in a three class configuration, with no First Class. There will be 56 Club World seats, 56 World Traveller Plus seats, and 219 World Traveller seats.
The first confirmed long-haul routes are London Heathrow – Toronto (BA93 / BA92) from 1 October 2019, London Heathrow – Dubai (BA107 & BA106) from 8 October 2019, London Heathrow – Tel Aviv (B163 / BA162) from 1 December 2019 and London Heathrow – Bengaluru (BA119 / BA118) from 1 January 2020.
BA has 12 Airbus A380s in service.
It currently operates on selected flights to destinations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, Boston (summer seasonal), Chicago (summer seasonal), San Francisco, Vancouver (summer seasonal) and Washington Dulles. It will also operate briefly to Dubai from 16 April to 4 May 2019 due to the closure of the Southern runway.
Please see here for a detailed guide as to where the A380 will fly in 2019.
BA has options to acquire a further 7 A380s, which it has not exercised. Whilst the A380 clearly serves BA well on major gateways, IAG CEO Willie Walsh insists that the purchase price for new aircraft is too high.
There was talk some ago of BA’s leasing second-hand Airbus A380s but this has not come to anything, most likely due to the cost of reconfiguring aircraft.
BA will also begin retrofitting its new “Club Suite” long-haul business cabin to A380 aircraft from 2023.
BA has, at 31 December 2018, 35 Boeing 747s in service at London Heathrow.
BA now expects to retire its last Boeing 747 in February 2024. The exact pace of the retirement is under constant review. The most recent plan shows that 27 aircraft will be in service by the end of 2020. The retirement schedule will continue to accelerate after 2021.
18 aircraft operate with 86 Club World seats. These were all refurbished in 2015 and are likely to be the last to be retired. The majority of these also have WiFi installed. These regularly operate on routes such as Chicago, Lagos, Kuwait, New York JFK, Philadelphia and San Diego.
The remaining 17 747s operate with 52 Club World seats. They regularly operate on routes such as Accra, Cape Town, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Vancouver.
In 2018, BA began refurbishing these aircraft. So far, 2 have received a substantial refurbishment with new interiors and in-flight entertainment systems. 4 have received a light interior refresh, whilst retaining their existing in-flight entertainment systems. It is expected that a further 6 aircraft will receive a full refurbishment and and 3 will receive a light refresh. The remaining 2 aircraft won’t be refurbished due to imminent retirement.
It is quite common for 52 / 86 Club World Boeing 747 routes to swap on certain dates depending on commercial demand and aircraft availability.
On 28 February 2019, IAG announced it has ordered 18 Boeing 777-9 aircraft for BA, with options for 24 further aircraft.
These are planned to replace 14 Boeing 747 and 4 Boeing 777-200 aircraft. These will operate in a four class configuration with 325 seats. 15 aircraft will be delivered by 2023.
BA has 12 Boeing 777-300s in service at London Heathrow.
All operate in a four class configuration. It operates routes such as Austin, Hong Kong, San Diego, Sao Paulo, Singapore-Sydney, and Tokyo Haneda. It seems to work well paired with the A380 as it is on Hong Kong and Singapore.
BA is expected to lease 4 new Boeing 777-300 aircraft from 2020 which will replace 3 of its oldest Boeing 777-200 aircraft at Heathrow.
It will also begin retrofitting its new Club Suite business class cabin to aircraft from 2021.
BA has 46 Boeing 777-200s in service at Gatwick and Heathrow.
The Boeing 777 is the mainstay of BA’s long-haul operation. BA plans to keep the 777s in operation for 30 years, meaning some will still be in service beyond 2030.
In 2018, BA began refurbishing its Gatwick based Boeing 777s, principally to increase seating in World Traveller from 9 to 10 abreast, but also to reduce the size of Club World and increase the size of World Traveller Plus. Please see here for images of the refurbished aircraft. Whilst there were reservations about this move, it has been considered a financial and operational success.
As at November 2019, ten three class Gatwick Boeing 777-200 aircraft (registrations G-VIIO, G-VIIP, G-VIIR, G-VIIT, G-VIIU, G-VIIX, G-YMMB, G-YMMC, G-YMMD and G-YMMF) have been refurbished as have three four class aircraft (G-VIIV, G-VIIW, G-VIIY). BA is expected to complete the Gatwick refurbishment this year.
Please see here for details of the routes on which refurbished aircraft operate on.
BA does have ambitions to increase the number of 777s at Gatwick, which is likely to come from aircraft cascaded from Heathrow.
BA has also started a full refurbishment of its Boeing 777s at Heathrow. This includes a reduction in First Class seats on four class aircraft from 14 to 8, the installation of the Club Suite and 10 abreast seating in World Traveller. In the medium term, it is also possible that some four 4 class aircraft will be converted to 3 class. The refurbishment project is expected to be completed in 2021.
BA has 12 Boeing 787-800 in service.
These all operate in a three class configuration, with no First Class. They operate on routes such as Baltimore, Calgary, Chennai, Durban, Hyderabad, Montreal, Nashville, New Orleans, Seoul and, from later this year, Charleston, Islamabad, Osaka, and Pittsburgh.
The 787-8 is not an aircraft that has won the hearts of passengers, mostly due to the tightness of seating in World Traveller. It has clearly served the airline well in opening up many new routes, both East and West of Heathrow. BA also has options to acquire a further 12 Boeing 787-800 aircraft.
BA will begin retrofitting its Club Suite to Boeing 787-8 aircraft from 2021.
BA has 18 787-900 aircraft in service
These aircraft all operate in a four class configuration, with an 8 seat First Class cabin. It operates on routes such as Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur, Mexico City, Muscat, San Jose, Santiago and The Seychelles. It can also operate on a number of Boeing 787-800 routes above on selected days. BA has options for a further 6 aircraft.
BA will begin retrofitting its Club Suite to Boeing 787-9 aircraft from 2022.
BA has 12 Boeing 787-1000s on order.
These are due to be delivered from 2020 to 2023. The first Boeing 787-10 aircraft will be delivered in January 2020 and 6 aircraft will arrive in 2020. The aircraft will be configured in four classes with 8 seats in First, 48 seats in Club World, 35 seats in World Traveller Plus and 156 seats in World Traveller. The First seat will be the same as on the Boeing 787-9 aircraft. The first Boeing 787-10 route will be Heathrow – Atlanta from February 2020.
In total, BA is expected to ultimately have a fleet of approximately 42 787 family aircraft.
BA has just one Airbus A318 in service, operating London City – New York JFK.
The route will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. Whilst it has been well received by passengers there is clearly limited support from corporate customers to support any expansion.
Airbus A319, A320, A321
BA has 42, 67 & 18 Airbus A319, A320, A321 aircraft at Heathrow and Gatwick.
Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft have been subject to “densification”. The number of seats on London Heathrow Airbus A320s is being increased from 168 to 180 seats. The number of seats on London Heathrow Airbus A321s has been increased from 205 to 218 seats.
This is driven partly by a desire by BA to be cost competitive against easyJet, but also because BA has compete against other IAG airlines to receive investment in its short-haul fleet.
The number of Airbus A319s is due to progressively reduce from 44 to 22 by 2022. BA also plans to operate the Airbus A320 exclusively on short-haul flights at Gatwick from 2020.
There are 4 Airbus A321 in a “mid-haul” configuration at Heathrow, with a dedicated Club World cabin. These were acquired after BA merged with bmi in 2012. Some of these aircraft have been converted to a short-haul configuration, but these 4 are expected to remain in a mid-haul configuration.
Airbus A320neo and A321neo
BA is now taking delivery of the Airbus A320 Neo and Airbus A321 Neo.
There are currently seven Airbus A320 Neo and one Airbus 321 Neo in service at Heathrow. There should be 25 Airbus A320 Neo and 10 Airbus A321 Neo in service by 2022.
The Airbus A320 and A321 Neo aircraft have a different layout to BA’s existing fleet. This reason for this is the specification was done not by BA’s parent company IAG. It adopted a “zero base” approach to have as much commonality as possible with its subsidiaries. This is so IAG can take advantage of economies of scale and move aircraft between airlines should economic demand or conditions dictate.
Airbus A321 Long Range
This is one to watch.
BA’s fellow IAG subsidiary Aer Lingus has ordered 8 aircraft. It will start flying this aircraft from Dublin to Montreal from August of this year. BA could order this aircraft to launch new services to Africa and the Middle East from London or possibly reinstate transatlantic routes from UK regional airports.
Update 18 June 2019: IAG has also ordered 14 Airbus A321 XLR aircraft for Aer Lingus and Iberia. More details here.
Boeing 737 MAX 8 / 10
Update 18 June 2019: IAG has signed a Letter Of Intent to order 200 Boeing 737 MAX 8 / 10 aircraft.
If ordered, these will be delivered from 2023 and will be used by BA at London Gatwick as well as fellow IAG airlines LEVEL and Vueling. More details here.
Embraer E-170 and E-190
BA now has 6 Embraer E-170 and 16 Embraer E-190 aircraft in service.
These are operated by its subsidiary BA CityFlyer at London City. At weekends, it also flies leisure routes from London Stansted and Manchester.
BA CityFlyer is to acquire an additional four Embraer E-190 aircraft in 2019. It is presumed that these aircraft will either be leased or acquired second hand as BA had allowed options for new aircraft from Embraer to expire.
In 2018, BA also entered into a wet lease agreement with Stobart Air to provide additional Embraer capacity at London.
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