British Airways is the largest airline at London City and London Heathrow airports. It also has a substantial presence at London Gatwick.
It is a subsidiary of International Airlines Group which also owns Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling who all have a presence in London.
BA is also a member of the Oneworld alliance and many of its fellow members such as American Airlines and Cathay Pacific have a substantial presence in London. BA therefore features very heavily on this site.
British Airways has extended the use of “eVouchers” for travel up to and including 30 April 2023.
Passengers who had booked to fly with BA and did not wish to travel have been issued with “eVouchers” which can be used online to pay for future flight bookings.
Until today, 28 January 2021, eVouchers could only be used for flight bookings that had been fully completed by 30 April 2022.
In a sign that there is limited prospect of international travel returning to normal until well into 2022, this deadline has been extended to 30 April 2023. This applies to all eVouchers. Any existing eVouchers issued with a previous deadline of 30 April 2022 are automatically extended.
It should be emphasised that this is the deadline for travel to be completed, not for bookings to be made.
The deadline for the use “Future Travel Vouchers” which were issued in the early stages of the pandemic has also been extended to 30 April 2023.
This follows a decision by the airline to remove the expiry date of its “Book With Confidence” policy, whereby change fees are waived for all new flight bookings with also the option to convert the value of their ticket into an eVoucher.
Detailed guidance on the use of eVouchers is available on ba.com
British Airways has extended the transfer of most Gatwick short haul flights to London Heathrow until Sunday 23 May 2021 at the earliest.
BA temporarily transferred all Gatwick short haul routes to London Heathrow in April last year.
This will continue until 23 May 2021, with the exception of flights to Glasgow which will start at Gatwick on Sunday 28 March 2021.
Another delay is not surprising given there is very little chance of travel restrictions in Europe being relaxed in the coming months. If restrictions continue throughout the summer and a waiver is issued which allows BA to cancel flights without forfeiting slots, it is likely to be extended.
At present, BA is operating a limited number of long haul flights at Gatwick to Antigua, Bermuda, Cancun and St Lucia. BA is also due to transfer flights to Accra and Doha to Gatwick from 28 March 2021.
Passengers can check the status of their bookings using the Manage My Booking tool on ba.com and should contact BA or their travel agent.
Update February 2021
BA has delayed the start of Manchester flights at Gatwick until Sunday 31 October 2021. Flights to Islamabad will also continue to operate at London Heathrow throughout the summer season.
When British Airways introduced buy on board catering to short haul flights in 2017 then CEO Alex Cruz was convinced that it was only a matter of time before its network rivals followed suit.
Four years and a global pandemic later, events have taken an interesting turn.
Whilst Lufthansa is introducing buy on board across its airlines from March 2021, BA has pulled a minor volte face.
Since COVID-19, BA has offered a limited service in short haul economy of complimentary water and a light snack, with no buy on board to limit passenger / crew interaction.
This is now permanent. From Wednesday 20 January 2021, buy on board will be replaced with a fully pre paid service known as “Speedbird Cafe”.
BA will no longer sell M&S branded products. It will continue to offer a range of soft and alcoholic drinks, ambient snacks, as well as some sandwiches designed for the airline by Tom Kerridge. Worry not, the infamous Afternoon Tea box is still available.
These are flights, some of which are still controversial to this today, that are remembered for the wrong reasons. More BA 747 flights from happier times will be shared tomorrow.
BA9 “All Engines Fail” – June 1982
On 24 June 1982, a BA Boeing 747-236 aircraft en route from Kuala Lumpur to Perth plunged 25,000 feet.
All four engines had failed after the aircraft hit a cloud of volcanic ash from Mount Galunggung in West Java, Indonesia.
Captain Eric Moody, who at the time did not know the cause of the engine failure, told passengers: “This is your captain speaking. We have a small problem and all four engines have stopped. We are doing our damndest to get them working again. I trust you are not in too much distress.”
Captain Moody, First Officer Roger Greaves and Engineering Office Barry Townley-Freeman spent 13 minutes trying to regain power on the engines. The aircraft subsequently diverted to Jakarta, where it landed safely.
The Last Flight To Kuwait – August 1990
The circumstances surrounding flight BA149 on 1 August 1990 remain a source of controversy to this day. The flight was scheduled to depart London Heathrow at 16:15 GMT for Kuala Lumpur, via Kuwait and Chennai.
There had been news reports on the day of escalating tensions between Iraq and Kuwait. BA claims it was advised by the British embassy in Kuwait that the situation was calm and there was no reason for the flight, operated by Boeing 747-136 G-AWND, not to operate.
The aircraft was in radio contact with BA in London during the flight. At no point were the flight crew advised of an impending invasion or to divert the aircraft.
The aircraft landed in Kuwait at 04:13 local time. At around 05:00 local time the airport closed. In the next hour the runway was attacked by Iraqi forces and the aircraft was evacuated. Passengers and crew immediately went to an airport hotel.
According to BA, 310 passengers and 82 BA employees were held hostage by Iraqis. Women and children were allowed to return home in late August. The remaining hostages were dispersed to various sites and some were used as “human shields”. The last remaining passengers and BA employees were released on 9 December 1990.
The aircraft was destroyed following the liberation of Kuwait.
The controversy surrounding this flight is why it proceeded to operate when other airlines had suspended operations and who in BA and the UK Government knew what, and when.
It has been alleged that the UK Government wanted the aircraft to land in Kuwait to enable an intelligence gathering exercise to take place.
BA has always denied any knowledge of a group of intelligence operatives boarding the aircraft at Heathrow. The UK Government maintained that the aircraft landed in Kuwait before the invasion and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made a statement to that effect before Parliament.
BA has always maintained that it had no knowledge of the impending invasion of Kuwait and that it would never put its aircraft, passengers and crews at risk. No passenger list has ever been released for the flight.
A number of passengers sued BA in different jurisdictions. The airline settled cases brought in the US out of court, citing the cost of litigation. Passengers from France sued the airline and the courts found BA to be negligent and passengers were paid substantial damages. In the UK, attempts to bring the matter to court have been unsuccessful there has been no public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the flight.
Had 2020 gone to plan, around 25 BA Boeing 747 aircraft would now be despatching passengers betweenLondon Heathrow and numerous destinations around the world.
Those seeking Christmas in New York or winter sun in Cape Town, heading for the alternative reality of Las Vegas, or skiing in Colorado or Whistler via BA would have been carried on a 747.
Some may have complained about ageing interiors or antiquated inflight entertainment systems on certain aircraft. Those sat on the Upper Deck or in the nose of the 747 would have sat comfortably knowing they had at least another three years to enjoy their favourite seats in the house.
Events, as we know, took a very different course in 2020. 31 Boeing 747s met an abrupt and undignified end, save for four that will be preserved at Dunsfold Aerodrome, Kemble Airport and Bro Tathan Business Park, Glamorgan.
It’s not the first time unforeseen events have had an impact on BA’s 747 fleet.
After the events of 11 September 2001, BA’s 747-236 aircraft followed the 747-136 fleet into retirement. 747s at Gatwick were transferred to Heathrow as the airline switched routes to Africa and Central & South America to the airport.
In the early 1980s, the airline urgently needed to cut costs. Two Boeing 747-136 aircraft were sold to TWA in 1981. Four new Boeing 747-236 were placed into storage, with two ultimately sold to Malaysian Airlines.
That said, there was continued evolution in the Boeing 747 fleet from the early 1980s.
“The Widest Way To The USA”
One benefit of the Boeing 747 for passengers was that it allowed airlines to introduce new cabins beyond economy and First Class.
After introducing Executive and Club Class for full fare economy passengers, in 1981 BA introduced a dedicated “Super Club” cabin with six abreast seating, dubbed the widest seat in the air.
This would later evolve in to Club World, dubbed the “profit engine” of BA, with the Boeing 747 aircraft being the first to benefit from many innovations and new seats.
“Get Down Under 3 Hours Quicker”
Modifications to engines also enabled improvements on longer range routes, with BA claiming in 1984 the fastest journey times to Australia, a claim previously made by Qantas.
In part one we looked at the introduction of the aircraft at BOAC, primarily on transatlantic routes. As BA continued to take delivery of more Boeing 747-136 aircraft, and longer range Boeing 747-236 aircraft, it continued to reach more destinations and cut journey times.
“East, West, Our Jumbos Are Best”
In the immediate years following the merger of BEA and BOAC, the 747 was touching all corners of BA’s global network.
New 747 network additions included Boston & Philadelphia, Kingston, Bermuda & Nassau, Tokyo via Anchorage (known as the Polar route) and Auckland.
“Wide Bodies All Over USA!”
By late 1975, BA served New York, Boston & Philadephia, Washington & Detroit and Miami with daily Boeing 747 services. Anchorage was served with a Boeing 747 three times a week.
The one exception in the United States was Los Angeles which was served by a DC10 aircraft. This was leased from Air New Zealand and was operated by BA crews between London Heathrow and Los Angeles, and by Air New Zealand from Los Angeles to Auckland.
In 1976, Barbados gained a non-stop Boeing 747 service with the aircraft continuing to Port of Spain, Trinidad.
At the same time, BA trialled an enhanced economy class service for full fare passengers on flights between London Heathrow and Hong Kong.
48 seats in Zone B of the aircraft were designated as an “Executive Cabin” with a free bar service and inflight entertainment.
“All-747 Service For Australia”
By the summer of 1976, BA had 18 Boeing 747-136 aircraft in its fleet. All services to Australia – Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney – were operated with the Boeing 747.
However, multiple stops were still required en route. Only Perth had two stops en-route on some weekly flights. All other cities in Australia served by BA required at least three or four stops.
“A Touch Of Class For Executives”
After a successful trial on flights between London Heathrow and Hong Kong, the “Executive Cabin” was extended to all Boeing 747 flights in 1977, save for Chicago.
The main benefits were being first to receive the economy inflight service and early disembarkation from the aircraft. Being seated in the Executive cabin was not guaranteed – it could only be requested at the time of booking and passengers were advised to check-in early.
That was the promise of BOAC as it introduced the Boeing 747 in 1971.
It was a tacit admission the airline had been behind its competitors in introducing the aircraft into service.
It is an understatement to say the launch of the Boeing 747 at BOAC was troubled. It would, of course, become the backbone of its successor airline British Airways until its abrupt and undignified retirement in 2020.
BOAC placed its first order for six Boeing 747-136 aircraft in 1966, following government approval. This would soon to be increased to twelve aircraft.
Although BOAC took delivery of its first Boeing aircraft in May 1970, three aircraft sat idle at London Heathrow for a year due to dispute with its pilots over pay and productivity.
The delay was estimated to have cost BOAC upwards of £25,000 a day. Its transatlantic rivals Pan American World Airways and Trans World Airlines were already operating the Boeing 747 from London and were able to take advantage of rising passenger numbers between Europe and the US.
It did at least allow BOAC to learn of some of the teething troubles of Pan Am and TWA where some passengers complained of chaotic food and beverage service, malfunctioning inflight entertainment, long queues for bathrooms and extended waits for baggage on arrival.
283 passengers were on board the aircraft, which had capacity for 300 passengers in tourist class and 50 passengers in First Class with 6 galleys and 12 bathrooms. At seat inflight entertainment consisted of 4 stereo and 3 mono channels of music. In common with other airlines, the Upper Deck featured a dedicated “Monarch” lounge for First Class passengers.
The launch of flights to New York JFK was not the end of BOAC’s industrial troubles as a dispute with engineers briefly grounded the aircraft again.
BOAC was keen to emphasis distinctive features unique to its Boeing 747 aircraft, such as its humification system. Other features claimed to be unique to BOAC included adjustable headrests and artwork on bulkheads.
After New York JFK, daily services to Montreal and Toronto followed on 12 July 1971. Economic pressures did however force BOAC to cancel orders for a further 4 Boeing 747 aircraft beyond its initial order of 12.
In November 1971, BOAC launched what it claimed was the first direct Boeing 747 service to Australia via Hong Kong and Darwin.