London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 26 April 2021

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British Airways Fleet Montage
British Airways Fleet Montage (Image Credits: British Airways / Heathrow)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 26 April 2021.

How Has BA’s Fleet Changed Post COVID-19?

BA published its annual accounts last week. We read these things so you don’t have to. This was the first time the airline has published its own updated aircraft fleet plan post COVID-19.

It is well known that COVID-19 prompted the immediate retirement of the Boeing 747 fleet, almost five years ahead of schedule. The Airbus A380 fleet also remains grounded.

Here’s a breakdown of BA’s fleet as at 31 December 2020:

Aircraft TypeTotal December 2020Total December 2019ChangeFuture DeliveriesOptions
Airbus A31801-1
Airbus A3193539-4
Airbus A32080773910
Airbus A321282713
Airbus A33001-1
Airbus A3508351036
Airbus A38012120
Boeing 747-400032-32
Boeing 777-2004346-3
Boeing 777-30016124
Boeing 777-9000001824
Boeing 787-812120
Boeing 787-918180
Boeing 787-1020210
Embraer E17016-5
Embraer E19022184
SAAB 200001-1

In summary, COVID-19 has cut the size of BA’s fleet by more than 10% with aircraft reduced from 305 to 277.

Long haul aircraft decreased by 26 from 137 to 111 aircraft. This was primarily accounted for by the retirement of 32 Boeing 747 and some older Boeing 777-200 aircraft. This was offset by new deliveries of 5 Airbus A350-1000, 4 Boeing 777-300 and 2 Boeing 787-10 aircraft.

At 31 December 2020, BA still had 10 Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing 787-10 aircraft and 18 Boeing 777-900 aircraft to be delivered. In all likelihood these will be delayed. Options to acquire a further 36 Airbus A350-100 and 24 Boeing 777-900 are unlikely to exercised. The airline has previously allowed options to acquire a further 9 Boeing 787-9 aircraft to lapse.

The movement in short haul aircraft is more modest, with the fleet decreasing by just 2 to 166 aircraft. The airline continues to retire Airbus A319 aircraft and withdraw the Embraer E170 at London City.

At 31 December 2020, BA had just 9 Airbus A320neo and 3 Airbus A321neo aircraft left to be delivered. It still has options to acquire a further 10 Airbus A320neo aircraft, having allowed around 20 other options to lapse.

There are of course huge unknowns as to how many remaining aircraft will actually be brought back into service. In its base assessment on the planned return to service capacity in the first quarter of 2022 is expected to be 17% below the first quarter of 2019. A given plausible alternative scenario is a 61% reduction in capacity.

In the medium term, there is the question of whether the airline sees the Airbus A321 LR and XLR aircraft having a role. BA’s fellow IAG subsidiary Aer Lingus had ordered 8 A321 LR and 6 A321 XLR aircraft. Iberia had also ordered 6 A321 XLR aircraft.

Back to the numbers, to give an indication of how much the airline’s financial position has changed in 12 months, cash and cash equivalents fell from £2.6 billion to £1.3 billion. Meanwhile net debt increased from £3.7 billion to £7.5 billion. This includes a loan of €1.65 billion from its parent company. $750 million raised last year through the mortgaging of aircraft was repaid in December.

Also of note this week:

The European Commission plans to recommend that fully vaccinated US citizens should be allowed to visit the EU this summer due to the progress of its vaccination programme. However, no exact timetable has been given and the EU & US are yet to agree what form of vaccination certificate should be used. (New York Times)

IATA Director General Willie Walsh gives an uncharacteristically diplomatic interview to CNN’s Richard Quest saying he is “very disappointed” at the lack of a co-ordinated response from the EU on easing border restrictions. Willie intimates that there may soon be, to use the language of a diplomat, a “frank exchange of views” on the matter.

“We are, dare I say it, on the threshold of something really good here […] Once this pandemic is over.” The musings of Sir Tim Clark and other airline CEOs at the virtual World Airline Forum. (Reuters)

Launching an airline during a pandemic. An interview with Breeze CEO David Neeleman. (Bloomberg)

Business Daily looks at how small island nations are coping with the collapse of tourism. (BBC World Service)

Late post publication updates:

[Reserved for updates throughout the day]

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