Here is our guide to British Airways’ short haul fleet across London airports.
Unlike BA’s long haul fleet, the airline’s short haul fleet has been relatively unscathed from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, BA’s short haul fleet decreased by just 2 to 166 aircraft. The airline continues to retire Airbus A319 aircraft. It has also withdrawn the Embraer E170 at London City, leaving all flights operated with Embraer E190 aircraft.
Whilst a large number of aircraft are in storage, BA has described 80% of its short haul fleet as “operationally ready” to operate flights as demand allows.
BA continues to take delivery of new short haul aircraft. At 31 December 2020, BA had 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.
In 2021, BA’s parent company IAG expects to take delivery of just 5 short haul and aircraft. Deliveries are expected to continue to be reduced in 2022.
Here’s a breakdown of the different types of aircraft in BA’s short haul fleet:
Airbus A319, A320, A321
At 31 December 2020, BA had 35, 67 & 18 Airbus A319, A320, A321 aircraft in its fleet at Heathrow and Gatwick.
BA retired 4 Airbus A319 aircraft in 2020. This has continued in 2021. Three aircraft, G-EUPH, G-DBCE, G-EUPF and G-EUPA have been sent from Heathrow to St Athan this year for retirement.
Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft have been subject to “densification”. The number of seats on 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.
One Airbus A319 aircraft, G-EUPJ, bears a retrospective livery of BA’s predecessor airline British European Airways.
All Airbus short haul aircraft operate in a flexible configuration with 3-3 seating in Euro Traveller economy, which can be converted to a 2-2 configuration for Club Europe business class passengers at the front of the aircraft.
The exceptions are 4 Airbus A321 in a “mid-haul” configuration at Heathrow, with a dedicated 23 seat Club World cabin. These carry the registration numbers G-MEDF, G-MEDG, G-MEDJ and G-MEDU.
These used to operate flights to Amman and Moscow Domodedovo and are currently grounded. BA has since switched these routes to short-haul configured aircraft, which suggests these aircraft may be withdrawn or converted to short-haul use.
Airbus A320neo and A321neo
BA is now taking delivery of Airbus A320neo and Airbus A321neo aircraft.
There are currently 14 Airbus A320neo and 10 Airbus 321neo aircraft in BA’s fleet at Heathrow.
As at 31 December 2020, BA planned to take delivery of a further 8 Airbus A320neo aircraft, with options for 10 more. BA also plans to take delivery of a further 3 A321neo aircraft.
The Airbus A320 and A321neo aircraft have a different layout to BA’s existing fleet. They have 180 and 220 seats respectively.
This reason for this is the specification was done by 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 conditions dictate.
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.
It was originally planned that these would be used by BA at London Gatwick as well as fellow IAG airline Vueling. This has not been converted into a firm order although IAG is adamant it still has a place in its fleet.
BA is expected to restart short haul flights at Gatwick in late March 2022 after a two year absence, using a new subsidiary. This will have a smaller fleet of around 17 Airbus A320 aircraft and is expected to grow modestly in future years. In these circumstances, it seems unlikely BA will take any new short haul aircraft at Gatwick.
At 31 December 2020, BA had 1 Embraer E-170 and 22 Embraer E-190 aircraft in its fleet. The last remaining E-170 aircraft was retired in 2021.
These are operated by BA CityFlyer at London City Airport. Prior to COVID-19, it was planned that the number of Embraer aircraft would increase to 30 this year. Now only a further 2 Embraer E-190 aircraft are expected.
In the medium term, given the profile of relatively high business traffic at London City which is slow to recover, it is reasonable to expect BA’s presence at London City to remain limited in the medium term.
BA CityFlyer also uses the Embraer E-190 to operate weekend leisure flights from Southampton and other UK regional airports such as Edinburgh.