British Airways is to temporarily withdraw its First Class cabin from its daily flight from London Heathrow to Vancouver from Thursday 21 January to Monday 29 February 2016.
The airline will continue to operate the route with a Boeing 747. However, the First Class cabin will be closed.
The reason for this is that the route is being operated with a Boeing 747 that is not fitted with the latest First Class cabin
This is not the first time BA has done this. Readers may recall BA temporarily withdrew First Class from a number of routes including Cape Town, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Vancouver last year.
Affected passengers can either accept a downgrade to Club World business class or an alternative indirect routing to Vancouver via Seattle (with onward travel to Vancouver at the passenger’s expense) or another BA or American Airlines gateway in America (such as Dallas Fort Worth) with an onward connection on American Airlines.
We receive a lot of search enquiries regarding which British Airways routes operate with or without a first class cabin.
Whilst BA’s first class product is far from a market leading product in the air or on the ground, the network it covers is very broad.
It’s also a popular choice for members of the BA Executive Club to use their Avios and holders of BA branded American Express credit cards to use 2-4-1 flight vouchers. Many Silver & Gold members of the Executive Club can also find themselves upgraded from Club World on oversold flights.
The general trend in recent years has been for first class to be removed from routes. However, it has in recent times been restored to routes such as Denver and San Diego.
So we thought it would be helpful to compile a list of BA first class destinations. We have also compiled a separate list for London Gatwick.
The reason for this was that even though the flights continue to operate with a four class Boeing 747 aircraft, these routes would be operated with aircraft that have not been fitted with the latest version of BA’s first class cabin.
Instead, BA would operate the old first class cabin as an extension of Club World business class.
Update December 2014: BA has announced that First Class will return to Vancouver from Sunday 29 March 2015 and Cape Town, Las Vegas and Phoenix from Sunday 25 October 2015. More details here
Many readers will know that, over the past five years, British Airways has been progressively updating its four class Boeing 777 and 747 aircraft with a new first class product.
The roll out on Boeing 777 aircraft has long been complete. Out of BA’s fleet of nearly fifty Boeing 747 aircraft, less than ten do not have the latest first class product. These aircraft are left with the Kelly Hoppen designed interior from the year 2000.
It is no exaggeration to say these cabins are showing their age and, in response, BA has by default offered 50,000 Avios to members of the Executive Club frequent flyer programme as compensation.
With number of 747s in BA’s fleet expected to fall to approximately thirty by 2018 and the last 747 due to retire after 2020, many of those aircraft that do not have the new first class cabin are likely to be retired over the coming year.
BA has now decided to stop selling first class on these aircraft and will instead offer a three class service, with business class passengers seated in the first class cabin (who will receive the standard “Club World” service) if there is the demand.
Many airlines have long offered passengers in first and business class the opportunity to pre-order their meals in advance of boarding their flight. Singapore Airlines has its “Book The Cook” facility. Qantas offers the same facility under the guise of “Q Eat”.
The passenger benefits in securing their preferred choice of meal and the airline benefits in reducing wastage – catering being one of a very few areas where airlines can actually control costs.
One notable exception in offering this service is British Airways, in spite of it carrying very large volumes of first and business class passengers (some 84 on most Boeing 747s) and having one of the highest proportions of revenue attributable to first and business class traffic.
From an as yet unspecified date in the second quarter of next year (so possibly some six months away), BA is to trial the pre-ordering of meals in business class (“Club World”) and First class on the London – New York JFK route. From what is known so far, passengers will only be able to choose from the existing menu and will not have additional menu choices (and opting out of “Afternoon Tea” does not seem to be an option!). No doubt this is being driven by the desire to reduce wastage, but it would be good to see the proceeds in any savings reinvested in the improving catering.