Welcome to our updated guide to British Airways’ plans to refurbish and renew its short and long-haul fleet for 2020.
The main theme for 2020 is the delivery of new Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing 777-300 and 787-10 aircraft, as well as the refurbishment of Boeing 777-200 aircraft at London Heathrow.
As BA now has clear plans to replace all of its Boeing 747 and much of its Boeing 777-200 fleet, no wide body aircraft orders are expected this year.
BA’s fleet plans are under constant review. In the short term, they are subject to aircraft manufacturers meeting delivery deadlines. In the medium term, they will also be influenced by economic and geopolitical events.
Update May 2020: This article was first published in January 2020.
Following COVID-19, BA has changed its fleet plans. It is accelerating the retirement of Boeing 747 aircraft and is temporarily converting some Boeing 777 to freight use. BA is also reviewing the premium / non-premium seating configuration of aircraft, which will also influence which aircraft are selected for retirement.
Its parent company IAG plans to defer the delivery of 68 aircraft between now and 2022. This includes 11 long-haul aircraft and 57 short-haul aircraft. This does not affect IAG’s Letter of Intent to acquire the Boeing 737 MAX.
IAG will also return 20 leased in aircraft in 2020 and has the flexibility to return up to 96 leased aircraft in 2021 and 2022. This could include some leased Boeing 777 aircraft at BA.
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. As at 1 January 2020, four aircraft are in service.
The first Airbus A350s are in a three class configuration, with no First Class. There are 56 Club World “Club Suite” seats, 56 World Traveller Plus seats, and 219 World Traveller seats.
The first long-haul routes are London Heathrow – Toronto (BA93 / BA92), London Heathrow – Dubai (BA107 / BA106), London Heathrow – Tel Aviv (BA163 / BA162) and London Heathrow – Bengaluru (BA119 / BA118).
BA will take delivery of a further 5 aircraft in 2020, with all expected to be delivered by 2022. The airline also has options for 36 more aircraft.
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.
BA had options to acquire a further 7 A380s. However, these have now lapsed. With Airbus suspending production of the A380 in 2021 it is now a given that BA will not be acquiring any more aircraft.
There was talk some time ago of BA’s leasing second-hand Airbus A380s but this has not come to anything due to the cost of reconfiguring aircraft.
BA will also begin retrofitting its new “Club Suite” to A380 aircraft from 2023.
BA has, at 31 December 2019, 32 Boeing 747s in service at London Heathrow.
BA 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 25 aircraft will be in service by the end of 2020. 20 aircraft will be in service by the end of 2021, and 12 aircraft will be in service by the end of 2022.
17 aircraft operate with 86 Club World seats. These were all fully refurbished in 2015 and regularly operate on routes such as Boston, Chicago, Lagos, New York JFK, and Philadelphia.
The remaining 15 747s operate with 52 Club World seats. They regularly operate on routes such as Accra, Cape Town, Denver, Las Vegas, Miami, San Diego, and Vancouver.
In 2018, BA began refurbishing these aircraft. Some have received a substantial refurbishment with new interiors and in-flight entertainment systems. Others have received a light interior refresh, whilst retaining their existing in-flight entertainment systems. Other 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.
In 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, 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.
BA will also begin retrofitting its new Club Suite business class cabin to aircraft from 2020/2021, with 3 aircraft expected to be refurbished by the end of 2020.
BA has 46 Boeing 777-200s in service at Gatwick and Heathrow.
BA has refurbished its Gatwick based Boeing 777-200s, 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.
BA has also started a full refurbishment of its Boeing 777-200 aircraft 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. 16 aircraft are expected to be refurbished by the end of 2020.
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 airline also plans to retire 3 Boeing 777-200 aircraft at London Heathrow. These are known as the “odd-ball” aircraft with registrations G-ZZZA, G-ZZZB, and G-ZZZC and 17 First Class seats which typically operate to the Middle East and US East Coast.
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, Charleston, Chennai, Durban, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Montreal, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Osaka, Seoul and from 1 June 2020, Portland.
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 787-10s on order.
The first Boeing 787-10 aircraft will be delivered in March 2020 and 6 aircraft will arrive in 2020. All aircraft should be delivered by 2023.
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.
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.
Whilst the route still well liked by passengers there is no demand from corporate customers to support any expansion. Also, BA’s parent company has said it will now take into account environmental concerns when planning routes. With this all in mind, it is unlikely that the route has a long term future.
Airbus A319, A320, A321
BA has 39, 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 many London Heathrow Airbus A320s has been increased from 168 to 180 seats. The number of seats on London Heathrow Airbus A321s has been increased from 205 to 218 seats.
BA has started to retire some Airbus A319s and this is expected to continue.
There are also 4 Airbus A321 in a “mid-haul” configuration at Heathrow, with a dedicated Club World cabin. These regularly operate to Amman, Beirut, Moscow Domodedovo and Moscow Sheremetyevo.
Airbus A320neo and A321neo
BA is now taking delivery of the Airbus A320neo and Airbus A321neo.
There are currently ten Airbus A320 Neo and six Airbus 321 Neo in service at Heathrow. BA’s Airbus order was adjusted in 2019 with Airbus A320neo aircraft reduced from 25 to 22 and Airbus A321neo aircraft increased from 10 to 13. These should all be 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 LR & XLR Aircraft
BA’s fellow IAG subsidiary Aer Lingus has ordered 8 Airbus A321 LR and 6 Airbus A321 XLR aircraft. Iberia has also ordered 6 Airbus A321 XLR aircraft.
It is noteworthy that BA has not yet placed any orders for either aircraft. It may be that it is seen as too small for long-haul routes at London Heathrow. But it could serve the airline well in opening / reinstating routes to Africa and the Middle East.
Boeing 737 MAX 8 / 10
In June 2019 IAG has signed a Letter Of Intent to order 200 Boeing 737 MAX 8 / 10 aircraft.
This was in part driven by a perceived need to introduce competition between Airbus and Boeing for short-haul aircraft at IAG.
If ordered, these will be delivered from 2023 and will be used by BA at London Gatwick as well as fellow IAG airline Vueling. As of January 2020, this has not been converted into a firm order. Given the well documented problems Boeing has experienced bringing the Boeing 737 MAX back into service, IAG will need to make a decision shortly as to whether to order alternative aircraft from Airbus.
Embraer E-170 and E-190
BA now has 6 Embraer E-170 and 18 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. IAG’s current fleet plans for the group show that the number of Embraer E-170/E-190 aircraft will increase to 25 and 30 by 2020 and 2021 respectively.