LONDON – On Friday, Bloomberg reported that British Airways (BA) is “considering” deploying wide-body aircraft on short-haul flights. However, the article offers no details, but speculation.
In this article, we detail the possible routes and equipment. We base our info on statistics, data and history. However, we cannot guarantee that BA will actually fly the the flights detailed in the article.
British Airways Wide-bodies: Past and Present
Before retiring the Boeing 767s in 2018, the airline flew the aircraft type to a good number of destinations in Europe. The Boeing 767s operated flights to Frankfurt (FRA), Zürich (ZRH), Athens (ATH), Edinburgh (EDI), Larnaca (LCA), Stockholm (ARN) among other airports. However, as the A321(neo)s came, the 767s retired. Since then, narrowbodies serve these routes.
British Airways also operates wide-bodies on short-haul flights for cargo. It operates one daily 777 service to Madrid (MAD) due to the Iberia (IB) hub there. (Now that service is replaced with two daily IB A350s.) Since February, the airline operated flights to Stuttgart (STR) with wide-bodies without passengers. ZRH, FRA, and Istanbul (IST) also see no-passenger 787 services.
In regards to scheduled passenger flights, BA operates twice-weekly 787 flights to LCA and ATH.
What Will the Summer Bring?
As the above article mentions, BA is “considering” deploying widebodies on short-haul routes, specifically mentioning popular summer routes. Well, that’s no surprise: BA has done it previously and is currently flying to LCA, ATH. What could these other routes be?
While we could take a look at TUI’s planned wide-body deployment, I’d suggest a better measure: British outbound travel statistics. From these data, we can start guessing but must be mindful of the operating factors.
Operating Factors: Are These Flights Worth It?
British Airlines will have dozens of available A321(and neo) aircraft which seat 218-220 passengers in an Economy configuration. As BA has “Eurobusiness” (Business Class is a blocked middle seat), it can reassign seats before each flight depending on demand. As holiday passengers predominantly book Economy on short-haul routes, BA would want more Economy capacity.
On the other hand, the widebodies have a significant number of premium seats. For example, the B788 has 154 Economy seats, the 789 has 127. Some of the Boeing 777s and the A350s have 200-250 seats. Another factor to look at is turnaround time. While the A320s need no more than an hour, wide-bodies need at least 1:30h.
To sum up, we can say that it’s advantageous to use the bigger planes on medium-haul routes with medium demand (only one-two flights a day) with some premium demand.
I find the LCA route the most likely to see wide-bodies. It is far away, with a significant amount of premium travelers, and is currently served with a Boeing 787. While smaller Greek islands should expect narrowbodies, Crete may get a Boeing 777 service. I’m unsure about the Canary Islands, but Alicante (ALC) and Málaga (AGP) are possible destinations.
All in all, I’m not confident we should expect as many widebody destinations as those from TUI. BA is not a charter airline and has different fleet composition. Therefore, its wide-bodies do not give the carrier as much advantage (due to the premium seats) as that for TUI. BA can also benefit from adding several narrow-body flights to one destination.
Featured image: British Airways Boeing 787-10, G-ZBLB in London Heathrow Airport (LHR). Credit: Ervin Eslami/Airways Magazine