MIAMI – Following the retirement of the Airbus A318, British Airways (BA) has grounded the aircraft and its all-business-class London-New York flights.

The BA1 and BA2 trans-Atlantic services were the only of this type the airline offered. These flights were also unique for their route and immigration process.

British Airways Airbus A 318-100 at J.F.K. International Airport. Photo: Roland Arhelger.

British Airways Fleet Decision

Prior to the pandemic, the A318 aircraft operated BA1 and BA2 London-New York flights. After suspending the service, the UK carrier expected to resume the route by September of this year.

However, the IAG Group announced today that it would retire the existing A318 fleet from all its businesses. The decision came after the group reported a loss of €1.3bn during Q2.

Thus, BA, Aer Lingus (EI), Iberia (IB), Vueling (VY), and Level (LV) will ground about 28 aircraft between 2020 and 2022. In addition, the carriers will return 20 leased jets set to expire this year.

With this move, the expected hopes for the resumption of the all-business-class service will not come to fruition.

British Airways is the first airline in the world to take delivery of the specially modified A318 with “steep approach” capability enabling it to land and take off at steeper than usual gradients, like those at London City airport. The aircraft are specially equipped to allow customers to work during the flight on email, the internet and text on their mobile phones, making British Airways the first carrier across the Atlantic of offer this service.

A Unique Service

Besides the premium transatlantic service by itself, the former route was unique for other reasons.

The BA1 and BA2 flights were operated from London City Airport (LCY) instead of London Heathrow Airport (LHR), BA’s hub. In the past, the Concorde took the BA1 and BA2 registrations.

The Airbus A318 featured amenities in just 32 business class seats. But the fuel range was not one of its pros in a nonstop flight from London to New York.

Consequently, the airline decided to make a stopover from LCY to Irish Shannon Airport (SNN). Then, it flew from SNN to New York JFK Airport (JFK).

During the refueling of the A318, the busy travelers could pre-clear US passport control and customs. Travelers would then arrive at JFK as domestic passengers with their corresponding documents already stamped.

While immigration was faster, the LCY-SNN-JFK route was about 1h and 45min longer than the nonstop LHR-JFK flight from BA.