British Airways (BA) looks set to deploy its Boeing 787 Dreamliners on its routes from London Heathrow to Montreal and Seoul Incheon, according to its draft flight schedule for the winter 2015/2016 season, although it has since emerged the changes could take effect as early as March 2015 for the summer 2015 schedule. The tentative network changes were included in the latest update of OAG Schedules Analyser and also sees the carrier’s recently launched link to Austin being upgauged from a 787-8 to a 777-200ER.
First reported by our schedules blog, Airline Route, the initial plan for summer 2015 and winter 2015/2016 shows BA switching the operational aircraft on these three routes from March 29, 2015. Its daily London Heathrow – Seoul Incheon route and six times weekly London Heathrow – Montreal link will be switched from 777-200ERs to the 787-8, while the daily London Heathrow – Austin service will see a 787-8 replaced by a 777-200ER.
The introduction of the 787 to Seoul Incheon will enable BA to offer a different dynamic to its operations into South Korea and provide an enhanced product and competitive edge against other airlines serving the route. It will also enable them to more efficiently serve a market where the oneworld alliance carrier competes with Korean Air from SkyTeam and Asiana Airlines from Star Alliance, both of whom currently utilise the 777-300ER.
According to MIDT data around 58.4 per cent of the estimated 440,000 plus passengers on the route in 2013 was local point-to-point traffic. Around 23.0 per cent where connecting at Seoul Incheon to or from other markets and around 17.4 per cent at London Heathrow. The remaining 1.2 per cent was classified as bridge traffic.
In the London Heathrow – Montreal market BA currently competes head-to-head with Air Canada with both flying the route on a daily basis. The Canadian flag carrier currently uses an Airbus A330-300 in this market but had used a larger 777-300ER during the recent summer 2014 schedule.
According to MIDT data an estimated 74,000 bi-directional O&D passenger flew on this route in 2013, up 15.1 per cent on the previous year. BA had a 36.1 per cent share of the O&D traffic, up 2.1 percentage points on the previous year.
The proposed aircraft switch on the London Heathrow – Austin route shows the initial success of the route. Our analysis shows that over its first six months of operation on the London Heathrow – Austin route BA was already securing loads of between 70 and 75 per cent. According to MIDT data from the launch of the route on March 3, 2014 until August 31, 2014, BA had an average of 72.7 per cent occupancy on the US bound flight and 75.8 per cent on the return service to the UK.
The chart, below, clearly shows how BA has stimulated bi-directional O&D demand on the London Heathrow – Austin route, but the success of this link is also owed to the strong network connecting into the carrier’s UK hub bringing passengers from as far afield as China, India and South Africa.
BA has had good intelligence of passenger flows into the Austin market through its oneworld partner American Airlines via other US hubs, so the launch of the first regular transatlantic link from Europe and its first new route to be flown by the 787 was always an important network addition for business growth across the Atlantic, particularly supporting the thriving technology sector. The US city - BA’s third destination in Texas after Dallas and Houston – is rising in business importance and is home to many technology giants including Apple, Dell, Ebay, Google and IBM.
However, the local traffic is supported by strong connecting passenger flows, most notably on the UK end of the route where its standing as the sole direct transatlantic link has proved its value. A breakdown of passenger flows on the outbound route shows that around 54.3 per cent of passengers began their journeys before reaching London Heathrow with local point-to-point traffic accounting for around 42.8 per cent and beyond traffic from Austin 1.7 per cent. On the return leg from the US around 52.1 per cent of passengers during the period were flying beyond London Heathrow with approximately 45.8 per cent point-to-point traffic.