British Airways' Red Carpet Scheduled Debut for the A380

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Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen,
Editor, Routesonline

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British Airways' Red Carpet Scheduled Debut for the A380

British Airways has confirmed its first Airbus A380 will make its scheduled debut on the London Heathrow – Los Angeles route from October 15, 2013 followed by flights to Hong Kong from November 15, 2013 and has opened reservations for the services with immediate effect.  The UK carrier is due to receive its first Super Jumbo in July and ahead of its scheduled debut will initially use the type on crew familiarisation flights across its short-haul network.  British Airways says details on the first commercial services with the A380 “will be announced once plans for training flights are completed”.

The A380 will be the largest aircraft in the British Airways fleet, accommodating 469 customers across four cabins. Customers in First will be seated at the front of the main deck.  The cabin will offer 14 seats and is evolved from the current First Class.  Club World (Business Class) will be positioned on both floors with 44 seats on the main deck and 53 seats on the upper deck.  These upper deck seats will feature a new 2-3-2 configuration across the cabin.  The 55 World Traveller Plus (Premier Economy) seats will be located on the upper deck while World Traveller (Economy) sections will be on both the main and upper deck. Both cabins will feature the airline’s current design, which is now flying on its new Boeing 777-300ER fleet.

British Airways has ordered 12 for delivery by 2016 as part of a £5bn investment over five years in new aircraft, smarter cabins, elegant lounges, and new technologies to make life more comfortable in the air and on the ground.  The arrival of the A380 has entailed a multi-million pound redevelopment of British Airways’ Heathrow engineering base to support maintenance of the world’s largest commercial aircraft type.  This included two 24-tonne roof ‘eyebrows’ being lifted into place in one of the hangars to raise the height of the entrance to accommodate the A380’s 24-metre tailfin.

“This will be a very special premiere. The A380 is a great aircraft that has been developed with huge amounts of British engineering ingenuity. London and Los Angeles are two world-leading cities, and we are proud to be the first airline to connect them with the A380,” said Keith Williams, Chief Executive Officer, British Airways. 

With the home of Hollywood the inaugural destination for the first A380, British Airways has recruited London-based actress Gemma Arterton to promote its initial scheduled route.  “Working in film means that I spend a lot of time travelling around the world, often to Hollywood. It’s essential to arrive feeling fresh and ready for the day ahead, as I often hit the ground running, and I prefer to travel in style with British Airways.  It’s very exciting that the A380 will be flying to Los Angeles. I think the red carpet route will be very popular,” she said ahead of today’s announcement.

British Airways is expected to reveal more details on its A380 plans in the coming months but remains secretive about the full interior product which, it says, will be fully unveiled when the first aircraft is delivered in July.  In the meantime, the carrier has produced the following video with a sneak look inside the new aircraft...

Hong Kong and Los Angeles are both key markets for BA and routes from London Heathrow where it faces strong competition.  Virgin Atlantic Airways offers links to both destinations; oneworld and transatlantic business partner American Airlines and Air New Zealand serve Los Angeles; while Cathay Pacific is boosting its own presence on the Hong Kong route this year.  The deployment of the A380 on these routes allows BA to better compete with its rivals in terms of service offering but without sacrificing lucrative London Heathrow slots to boost capacity. 

In 2012 an estimated 893,000 bi-directional O&D passengers flew between London Heathrow and Hong Kong and 785,000 between London Heathrow and Los Angeles.  BA has seen its own share of the point-to-point traffic on these routes fall.  Its share of the O&D traffic to and from Hong Kong has slipped from 31 per cent in 2007 to 24 per cent in 2012, while its share of the O&D traffic to and from Los Angeles has fallen from 30 per cent in 2007 to 28 per cent in 2012.

BA currently deploys Boeing 747-400s, currently its largest capacity aircraft, on its routes to Hong Kong and Los Angeles and its existing operation of the type could give some clues to future A380 destinations.  According to its existing schedule, BA uses 747-400s on flights from London Heathrow to 29 destinations including key markets in Africa, Asia and across North and South America, as well as the fast developing markets of India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

It is unsurprising that both Hong Kong and Los Angeles are among the top ten O&D markets outside of Europe from London Heathrow, ranked third and fourth, respectively, by 2012 traffic demand.  In the table below we highlight all of the top ten markets from the UK international gateway.

ESTIMATED O&D DEMAND BETWEEN LONDON HEATHROW AND DESTINATIONS OUTSIDE OF EUROPE (estimated bi-directional O&D passengers; 2012)

Rank

Destination

Estimated O&D Demand

1

New York John F Kennedy International (JFK)

1,890,881

2

Dubai International (DXB)

969,373

3

Hong Kong International (HKG)

892,731

4

Los Angeles International (LAX)

784,979

5

Newark Liberty International (EWR)

745,138

6

Singapore Changi International (SIN)

692,319

7

Boston Logan International (BOS)

681,299

8

San Francisco International (SFO)

653,683

9

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International (BKK)

649,701

10

Johannesburg OR Tambo International (JNB)

555,960

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