British Airways (BA) has revealed it will resume direct flights between London and Malaysia in summer 2015 with the return of its flights between London Heathrow and Kuala Lumpur International. The airline has been expected to return to the Asian market, which it last served in 2001, since it secured additional slots at London’s international gateway following its acquisition of bmi british midland in 2012.
The introduction of the BA daily flight from May 27, 2015 will put added pressure onto Malaysia Airlines which currently serves the route on a twice daily basis using Airbus A380s. The carrier has suffered a challenging year following the loss of flight ‘MH370’ in March and then the subsequent crash of ‘MH17’ in Ukraine in July and media reports suggest it has seen declining loads on the route due to the indelible damage to its brand from these tragic events.
BA will utilise a four-class Boeing 777-200ER on the route configured with 12 seats in First, 48 in Club World, 32 in World Traveller Plus and a further 127 in World Traveller. Its return to the city pair will boost capacity on the route by 22.2 per cent with weekly seats increasing to 8,449 in each direction from 6,916 currently. The flight will operate with the same ‘BA033’ and ‘BA034’ used when it was previously flown up until 2001.
“We have been working to resume flights to Kuala Lumpur for a long time, so it’s wonderful to be back in the heart of Malaysia once again,” said Lynne Embleton, director of business strategy, British Airways. “We are re-starting the route in response to commercial demand from our customers who have been asking us for direct British Airways flights to Kuala Lumpur, which opens up new connecting routes around the region.
Kuala Lumpur is the world’s largest aviation hub not currently served directly by British Airways, and a major centre for oneworld airlines. Malaysia itself has strong ties with the UK and a large, rapidly growing economy with a focus on international trade. “A thriving economy offers fantastic opportunities for UK businesses, while holiday-makers can enjoy some stunning destinations around the country and beyond,” added Embleton.
BA, known then as Imperial Airways, first began flying to Malaysia on December 9, 1933. The flight from London Croydon Airport, made 22 stops before eventually reaching Alor Star (now Alor Setar) nine days later. The airline’s first flight to Kuala Lumpur took off on August 1, 1956 when BOAC operated a Canadair Argonaut ‘Coronet’ aircraft on the outbound route and a Lockheed Constellation ‘Majestic’ on the return.
Malaysia Airports has been working closely with British Airways for several years in planning the carrier’s resumption of its flights to Kuala Lumpur with talks regularly taking place at World Routes and regional events in Asia. ““I believe this new route will have a very positive economic, political, social and cultural impact on both countries and it underlines the strength and vibrancy of the air travel market between them,” said Datuk Badlisham Ghazali, managing director of Malaysia Airports.
As our analysis, below, highlights BA will not just be competing with Malaysia Airlines on the route but other operators which provide a one-stop strategy, most notably the major Gulf carriers which have a convenient transit option via hubs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha. Although demand levels declined in the late 2000s, MIDT data shows a renaissance over recent years with an estimated 310,000 bi-directional O&D passengers flying between London Heathrow and Kuala Lumpur in 2013, up 20.2 per cent on 2012, when a larger 34.1 per cent growth was record on 2011 demand levels.
This growth can be clearly attributed to the additional capacity introduced on the route by Malaysia Airlines through the deployment of its 519 seat A380 Super Jumbos and which has seen it increase its share of the O&D traffic from 59.3 per cent in 2011 to 69.5 per cent last year. However, this has caused a decline in yield with its average one way fares between London and Kuala Lumpur declining from $1,133 in 2011 to $1,040 last year and return fares slipping from $1,112 to $1,079.