British Airways is to continue to operate an extremely limited schedule until July 2020 at the earliest.
BA’s parent company International Airlines Group has confirmed today, Thursday 2 April 2020, that its airlines will reduce capacity by 90% in April and May compared to 2019.
BA does not plan a “meaningful” to return to flights until July 2020. This will depend on countries lifting travel restrictions and the removal of lockdowns. Schedules will remain significantly reduced throughout 2020. The airline is also consulting on staff redundancies.
All passengers due to travel up to 31 July 2020 have the flexibility to change their bookings free of charge or exchange the value of their booking for a voucher. This can be used as payment towards a new booking for travel up to and including 30 April 2022. More details of this policy are available here.
If your flight is cancelled you are entitled to a full refund. However, you will need to call BA to obtain a refund as this cannot be done on the website.
Here are the main changes to date. These are all subject to change at very short notice. Realistically, it’s not possible to have any firm visibility more than two weeks’ ahead:
All flights at London City airport are suspended.
This is due to the closure of the airport. Schedules currently indicate that some BA short-haul flights will resume from Wednesday 1 July 2020.
BA has also suspended London City – New York JFK until 1 September 2020.
All BA flights at London Gatwick are suspended.
Schedules currently indicate that some short-haul and long-haul flights will resume from Wednesday 1 July 2020.
Runway operations for scheduled flights for all airlines are also limited to eight hours a day, between 14:00 and 22:00. The North Terminal is also currently closed.
At London Heathrow, all flights are operating from Terminal 5.
Long-haul routes still operating, but with significantly reduced frequencies, include Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, New York JFK and Washington Dulles.
Flights are being operated with Airbus A350-1000, Boeing 787, Boeing 777-200 and Boeing 777-300 aircraft. Boeing 747-400 and Airbus A380 aircraft are not operating scheduled passenger flights.
Short-haul flights are limited to a very small number of flights to major UK & European cities.
Note this does not include any cargo only flights (some of which operate under their regular passenger flight numbers or unique flight numbers) or flights chartered by the UK Government to bring Britons back home.
BA has permanently suspended flights to Beirut, Leeds Bradford and Moscow Sheremetyevo. It has also suspended its summer seasonal routes to Calgary and Charleston until 2021. The launch of Portland has also been postponed until Wednesday 2 September 2020 at the earliest.
At Heathrow airport, check-in opens at the later time of 05:30. Fast Track security is closed. All BA lounges at London Heathrow are closed. All restaurant and retail outlets, apart from Boots and WH Smith, are closed.
Due to the planned temporary closure of Terminals 3 and 4, BA’s Oneworld alliance and partner airlines have relocated to Terminal 2.
Passengers can check the status of their bookings using the Manage My Booking tool on ba.com
BA’s franchise partner Comair which operates flights within Africa has suspended all flights.
It does not expect to resume flights until the autumn. The airline is in a business rescue process which may have long term implications for its status as a BA franchise.
Other Airport Changes
At Manchester, flights are operating at Terminal 1 due to the consolidation of flights at the airport.
All BA lounges worldwide are closed.
Alliance & Codeshare Partners
BA’s main alliance and codeshare partners continue to operate skeleton schedules at London Heathrow.
American Airlines is currently flying once a day from London Heathrow to Dallas / Fort Worth and Miami. It plans to resume flights as follows:
Chicago O’Hare – Thursday 4 June 2020 (initially five times weekly)
New York JFK – Sunday 7 June 2020 (initially twice weekly)
Charlotte – Tuesday 7 July 2020
Los Angeles – Tuesday 7 July 2020
Philadelphia – Tuesday 7 July 2020
Raleigh-Durham – Tuesday 7 July 2020
Phoenix – Wednesday 7 October 2020
Boston – Sunday 25 October 2020
Finnair is flying from London Heathrow to Helsinki twice daily.
Iberia continues to fly from London Heathrow and Madrid.
Japan Airlines continues to fly from London Heathrow and Tokyo Haneda.
Qatar Airways continues to fly from London Heathrow to Doha.
“Furlough” Of Staff
One consequence of the outbreak of COVID-19 is that the American term “furlough” has entered the UK’s lexicon.
BA has reached an agreement with its three trade unions, BALPA, GMB and Unite on salary reductions for “furloughed” employees.
It has been agreed with BALPA that BA pilots will take four weeks’ unpaid leave in April and May.
BA also agreed with GMB and Unite that up to 30,000 cabin crew and ground based staff will be furloughed during April and May.
BA is participating in the UK Government’s employment protection programme and affected employees will be paid up to 80% of their base pay and certain allowances. However, unlike the Government’s employment protection scheme, there will be no cap on salary payments, with the difference presumably funded by BA. There will also be no compulsory redundancies, which is always a “red line” for BA’s trade unions. This is subject to ratification by union members.
How Will BA Recover From Coronavirus?
There is no doubt the outbreak of Coronavirus is the biggest crisis BA has faced in its history.
A return to near-normal schedules is likely to be very gradual. BA has the ability to cancel flights up to the end of October 2020, without risk of forfeiting airport slots.
The recovery of schedules is dependent on a number of factors. This includes countries lifting travel restrictions, businesses allowing employees to travel again, large scale events returning, the impact of Coronavirus in BA’s biggest markets (notably India and North America) and on household incomes and discretionary spending.
It does also depend on how the fall in demand for travel is compensated by the withdrawal of competitors from the market. Norwegian, should it clear many hurdles to secure a financial restructuring, does not plan to restart long-haul flights at Gatwick until summer 2021.
At BA, it is inevitable that the retirement of the Boeing 747 fleet will be accelerated. There are also questions over the future of the Airbus A380 fleet. Capital expenditure, particularly on new aircraft, will also be cut in the coming years.
Should Coronavirus ultimately prove to create a permanent fall in demand for travel, then nothing should be ruled out.
When the time is right expect a considerable effort on the part of airlines to encourage passengers to fly again.
The next major update from BA’s parent company is expected at its first quarter results announcement on Thursday 7 May.