Will British Airways Schedule A Dreamliner On A Short-Haul Route?

a plane flying in the sky

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British Airways currently operates 7 Boeing 767 aircraft in its fleet and, while these gas-guzzlers last flew long-haul in 2016, they’re still operating on a number of intra-Europe routes for the airline.

We now know that British Airways plans to phase out all of its 767 aircraft by the end of 2018 and that throws up the question of what aircraft will replace them?

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on BA’s fleet strategy and I’m not going to say I know all that much about all of the routes the 767s currently operate…but I do know a little bit about one route in particular.

British Airways flys a 767 between London Heathrow and Larnaca (Cyprus) all year round and, during the busier summer months, the airline adds an Airbus A320 to fly this route too – but what will replace the 767 on this route come the end of 2018?

an airplane parked at an airportBritish Airways 767-300 at London Heathrow

Here are some important points to keep in mind:

  • The 767 that operates the LHR – LCA route offers 244 seats
  • The highest capacity short-haul aircraft that BA will have in its fleet by the time the last 767 is retired will be the Airbus A321 which, after BA finish squeezing more seats into it, will offer 218 seats in total.
  • During the busy summer months the 767 and the A320 that currently operate this route are often full.

If British Airways was to replace the 767 with an A320 the airline would be reducing capacity by 26 seats in either direction every day – that’s a reduction of 364 seats each week.

On top of that there’s the question of cargo.

I don’t know exactly how much cargo BA hauls between Heathrow and Cyprus but, as only BA and Aegean fly this route non-stop, I suspect there is a fair amount of cargo that’s being transported and the 767 can carry a lot more cargo than the A321.

It would seem as if BA has two choices here:

  1. Add more flights to the route (using A320/A321 aircraft) to make up for the drop in capacity when the 767 is retired.
  2. Replace the 767 with an aircraft that offers a similar capacity.

British Airways has a fleet of 9 787-8 Dreamliners (with 2 more on order) and these currently offer just 214 seats….but that’s because the Dreamliner is set out in a long-haul layout.

a screenshot of a video gameBritish Airways 787-8 Current Seat Map courtesy of SeatGuru.com

The 787-8s have 32 Club World Seats and 25 World Traveller Plus seats which could easily be replaced by higher density seating to significantly increase the aircraft’s capacity – I doubt a route like Heathrow – Cyprus will support 32 Club World seats.

To give you an example of what is possible bear in mind that Scoot (an Asian low-cost carrier) has managed to fit 335 seats into its 787-8….and we all know how much BA likes to follow the lead of low-cost carriers! 🙂

The runway at Larnaca will easily take a 787-8 and, considering this route’s flight time can edge close to 5 hours (on the return), I suspect the Dreamliner would still be an economical option despite the fact it’s more of a long-haul aircraft.

Amusingly, considering the BA 787-8 Dreamliner is often rightly pilloried for being less than comfortable in Economy Class, it could actually offer a little more space for each passenger than the 767:

787-8 vs 767-300

  • Seat Width: 17.5″ vs 17.0″
  • Seat Pitch: 31.0″ vs 30.0″

Clearly BA could choose to add in a few rows and decrease the seat pitch down to 30″…but there’s not a lot it can do to reduce the seat width so that should be guaranteed.

But is this what BA will do?

a white and blue airplane flying in the skyBritish Airways 787-8 – image courtesy of aceebee via Flickr

Clearly I’m only speculating here but I can’t see BA scheduling 3 daily flights between Heathrow and Larnaca during the busier months….but I can see the airline throwing a Dreamliner at this route just to see how it works.

Because of the nature of the route only one Dreamliner would be needed replace the 767 (with perhaps another on standby in case the first breaks down) so it’s not like this would be a massive drain on BA’s resources.

Add to this the fact that I’m not convinced BA is all that interested in the 787-8 any more (the larger 787-9 is clearly the preferred aircraft) so why wouldn’t it try the aircraft out as a replacement for the 767 (in a high density layout)?

A Final Thought

I could be completely wrong here (hey, it happens! 🙂 )but I think there’s a good chance that we’ll see BA at least test out a 787-8 Dreamliner on a route like Heathrow – Larnaca (or another long-ish 767 route).

I can see BA configuring a 787-8 with a seat layout similar to what we now see in Norwegian’s Dreamliners – 259 Economy Class seats and 32 Premium Economy seats (sold as Club Europe of course!) – and seeing how that goes.

On the Heathrow – Larnaca route I suspect this may work pretty well during the busier months but it may be too much capacity in the winter….but for those months BA could just operate a high-density A321 instead.

Anyone out there have a greater (better) insight into this? I’d love to know what BA has planned as I fly this route quite a bit and I’d like to prepare for my fate.

Featured image: Lorenzo Giacobbo via Flickr


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