LONDON – In preparation for the delivery of British Airways’ (BA) first Airbus A350-1000, the European planemaker sent one of its testbed A350-1000s to the airline’s main hub in London-Heathrow (LHR).
The primary purpose of the visit was to test compatibility with BA’s hangars at LHR; however, the aircraft was immediately parked a gate at BA’s Terminal 5.
This visit comes days after the airline’s first A350-1000, G-XWBA, rolled out of Airbus’ paint shop sporting the BA’s full scheme, complete with its tail design also on the winglets—a unique touch to the A350 fleet.
British Airways placed an order for 18 A350-1000s in September 2013, forming part of BA’s long term plans to replace the Boeing 747-400, which is now one of the biggest passenger fleets in the world.
The order was a surprise move, given the carrier’s historic preference for Boeing aircraft in their long haul fleet, which consolidated when the airline ordered 18 Boeing 777-9s in February 2019.
The A350 will be the first aircraft for British Airways to feature the new Club World cabin, which has the main selling point of each seat having direct aisle access. However, it does loose the backward facing window seats, which certainly set the BA club world cabin apart from other offerings.
The new type will operate flights to Dubai and Toronto from early October, and heading later into the year and early 2020, it will start operating to Bangalore and Tel Aviv.
Internally, the A350 has been nicknamed the “Cinderella fleet”, which given its route network thus far is extremely appropriate. Given BA’s constant shift towards Boeing in the long-haul space and Airbus in the short-haul space, it was always an interesting move.
Assuming the testing goes to plan, it should be very soon that we discover just what the A350 will bring to BA, and the advantages, or lack thereof, that it has over the Boeing fleet.