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Update 6 November: We now know of at least 46 routes that British Airways will be suspending (click for more details)
England went into lockdown for the second time today and with all outbound travel being discouraged and with airlines already at the mercy of England’s ever-changing quarantine rules, this is a body-blow to the likes of Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. So far, there hasn’t been too much evidence of deep route cuts from the UK’s primary long-haul carriers but, based on a letter just sent out by BA’s head of global sales, a significant number of cancellations appears to be on the way.
Here’s the main body of the letter that Mark Muren, BA’s head of global sales, just sent out:
Following the Government’s announcement of a new national lockdown for England last Saturday, we have been urgently reviewing our schedule for November. Our focus is on keeping crucial air links open, bringing home the thousands of customers currently abroad, transporting vital goods, and ensuring people who are permitted to travel in and out of the UK for work, education and other reasons stipulated by the UK Government, can continue to do so. We are doing everything in our power to best serve and support our customers, partners and colleagues during this challenging time.
In light of this announcement, we have taken the decision to implement a number of cancellations across our network. Policies are in place to ensure maximum flexibility for our customers. If a flight is cancelled, customers will be entitled to a refund as per our standard customer guidelines. Our ‘Book with Confidence’ policy continues to offer the ability to change a flight, date or destination or request a voucher for future travel.
It is as yet unclear which routes will be hit hardest but I would suspect that cancellations will be made across the board. Most routes that are currently operated by more than one British Airways flight per day are almost certainly going to be towards the front of the line to have their services cut, short-haul flights are likely to be mostly empty right now so I would expect to see most of BA’s European routes being cut significantly, and considering the rules that are currently in place for entry into the United States and Canada, I’d expect a lot of cuts to BA’s transatlantic routes too. This will not be pretty.
A few days ago, there were rumors doing the rounds that British Airways was set to shut down most (if not all) of its passenger flights from this coming Sunday but, based on the tone and the wording in Mark Muren’s letter, the risk of that happening seems to have reduced…at least for the time being.
If you have a British Airways booking for November/December, I strongly advise you to keep a very close eye on it in the coming days. You’ll be in a better position to change plans and/or make alternate arrangements if you’re aware of any changes to your booking soon after those changes are made and, from personal experience, I can tell you that BA’s email notifications of a change or cancellation can sometimes arrive over 24 hours after the change/cancellation has been made. Staying on top of your bookings is more important than ever right now.