British Airways has finally taken delivery of the first of 18 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, registered G-XWBA. The shuttle flight from Toulouse – London Heathrow was made via Chateauroux where it arrived earlier in the day so the aircraft could perform some training circuits. The aircraft arrived at London Heathrow 24 hours later than expected due to weather issues and a radar failure.
With long haul operations with the aircraft not initially due to start until October 2019, it was announced by the airline that it would be placed on the London Heathrow – Madrid flight in the mean time to enable the crew to familiarise themselves with the new aircraft. It was widely expected that it would operate the following flights to the Spanish capital between 6th August and 28th September 2019:
BA464/465 daily with the exception of 13th August, 31st August, 7th September and 8th September.
BA456/457 every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, with the exception of 31st August, 7th September and 8th September.
Closer to the delivery date, this plan changed. Whilst there still will be training flights to Madrid, with a promotional flight on 5th August, the above schedule has now gone out the window (that’ll teach me for preparing this article in advance!)
The airline was able to push the aircraft on to long haul flights earlier than expected meaning that from the 2nd September 2019, the aircraft will move on to long haul routes. The first destination will be Dubai which has been brought forward by over a month, followed by Toronto on the BA93/92 rotation. There is still a gap in the flying schedule on 7th/8th September to enable the aircraft to take place in a BA open day at Heathrow over that weekend.
Later in the year, once additional aircraft have been delivered, the airline will use the aircraft on the BA163/162 rotation to Tel Aviv before finally sending in to Bangalore on New Year’s Day 2020, serving the BA119/118.
The Airbus A350 is the start of a new era for British Airways. It will feature a brand new Club World Suite, the first update to the airlines’ long haul business class product since 2006. The new suite will do away with the unpopular 8 abreast yin/yang layout in Club and will instead introduce a Collins Aerospace Super Diamond product, set out in the now industry standard 1-2-1 layout. Although unlike the other airlines such as Qatar Airways and Air Canada that have this seat fitted, British Airways have fitted doors to their product resulting in added privacy.
Alex Cruz, CEO of British Airways said of the new suite:
“The arrival of our first A350 featuring our new Club Suite is one of the most exciting developments in our £6.5 billion investment programme. Each new suite has direct aisle access and comes with a personal door – design features which were incorporated as a direct result of the feedback we’ve had from our customers. We’ve worked hard to ensure every aspect of the Club World experience from the lounges we’ve refreshed, to the new gourmet menus from Do&Co on flights from Heathrow, and the luxurious bedding we’ve introduced from The White Company exudes the very British style and quality customers expect from us.”
There are also minor enhancements to the seating further back down the aircraft too.
As well as the new seating bringing in a new era for the airline, it also means the beginning of the end for the final Boeing 747’s the airline has in service. With a number of them having been retired over the last decade, the final few have been given a refurb and kept in service. With the arrival of the new A350’s however, this will provide adequate coverage to enable the final examples to leave the fleet by 2023.
British Airways will also be taking delivery of additional Boeing 777-300ER, Boeing 777-9 and Boeing 787-10 aircraft over the coming few years which will also go towards the replacement of the 747 fleet, along with the earlier 777-200’s that have been in service since 1996.
It’s also been widely rumoured that the airline is in the market for second hand Airbus A380 aircraft, although in my opinion I’d be surprised if this happens unless the airline can get a very good deal. In all, the airline will introduce over 100 new aircraft to its fleet in a ten year period.
More information on British Airways new A350 can be viewed here: https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/about-ba/fleet-facts/airbus-350-1000
Header image courtesy of: Clément Alloing/@CAlloing
Other images: © British Airways