BA – initial Florence-London LHR service encounters problemsBack to Forum
Last December 29 we reported on BA’s plans to operate its first ever London LHR to Florence service. But using a large A320neo in place of a smaller Embraer.
At the time this surprised me as Florence (FLR) has a restricted runway (it’s akin to that of LCY) which limits aircraft size and range.
Hence other carriers (including BA ex-LCY) use smaller aircraft.
Yesterday BA operated its initial LHR-FLR flight and, sure enough, it encountered a problem on the FLR-LHR return (BA 525).
High winds at FLR meant BA’s A320 suffered a restricted take-off. Some reports say some passengers had to be left behind. The Airbus (with its light passenger load) had to depart for refuelling at Pisa (PSA) some 50 miles away before continuing to London.
By this time London arrival was two hours late.
In the scheme of things that wouldn’t be quite so bad but BA is selling FLR-LHR as a feeder to its North American network. Many travellers missed their connections.
And the same happened again today. Another two hour delay into LHR is anticipated according to BA 525 Flight Status on Ba.com
Travel writer Julia Buckley tweeted the news yesterday.
BA's new Florence-LHR going well… A two hour delay and a diversion to Pisa to refuel before heading to London because short runway/A320neo/breeze doesn't go together (who knew?🙄)
Still, the least eco friendly flight you ever took (FLR-PSA, 15min) sure has nice views… pic.twitter.com/sUUBuaVOeB
— Julia Buckley (@juliathelast) April 16, 202317 Apr 2023
But this is very odd. Vueling has multiple flights from Florence across Europe including to Madrid and London, but they use A319.
So it seems that the A319 can take off using less runway than an A320, but surely BA would have planned for that and used an A319…?
It really does seem that BA have made an error here, and a “you could not make it up” error at that..17 Apr 2023
Glad you found this news of interest sparkyflier.
Seem crazy BA would consider using the larger Airbus into FLR.
BA must be after the large number of North Americans who visit Florence and who could be connected onto its vast network at LHR.
Julia Buckley tweeted me to say the flight “Was full of Americans – but then they had to read out a list of six or seven US connections that had been missed and tell angry people they’d be booked on flights tonight [Sunday]”
By the way I made a mistake about today’s flight.
Today BA operated that Florence flight into Pisa from where it departed back to London.
Again it would be two hours late into Heathrow (it’s en route at time of writing 14.40 hrs) so there will be more missed connections.17 Apr 2023
This sort of mess up is so normal for BA these days. 104 years experience yet its blood-thirsty cull of its uniquely experienced staff from operations to planning to engineering (experience most other airlines would give their left arms for) has made the company such a basket case of a business.
Simply amateur, no other way to describe. I hope Sean knows how to resolve this. Hopefully starting with a cull of the remaining Walshateers who are still lingering protecting their own little empires.17 Apr 2023
Having used FLR a fair bit over the years, it is an airport affected by terrain and also a short runway, which is vulnerable to wind strength/direction.
It is not as simple as using one model of aircraft, e.g. A319, the performance will be drivenby the particular airframe/engine combination, as well.
It is not uncommon for weight limited departures from FLR, across a range of aircraft types.
Having said that, it will make for an interesting EC261 claim, as BA will no doubt say weather = extraordinary circumstances, but given that a whole raft of flights operated normally, did they take all reasonable measures to avoid the delay?
SAS also operates an A320 Neo from FLR that also diverted to PSA yesterday, on the return, presumably for similar reasons to BA.18 Apr 2023
Why the pile on BA if other operators also face the same issues? Clearly using a 320 into FLR is not an issue if SAS do the same, and IAG will have the operational knowledge from Vueling and CityFlyer, maybe more akin to bad luck with weather than incompetence of I am sure quite capable staff at a rather profitable airline, who will know a lot more than most posters here.18 Apr 2023
Hello AndrewinHK – So far the posts here have been perfectly accurate.
Not sure if you are aware of FLR and its operational difficulties.
It is also incredibly close to downtown Florence which must be considered one of Europe’s most historical cities.
FLR itself was previously only for military use but, surprisingly, it was opened to civilian aviation just over 30 years ago. Until then Pisa would be the recognised airport for the Tuscan capital.
Almost all other airlines operate smaller aircraft into FLR.
Point is that the conventional airlines operating into FLR know the revenue they can earn from sixth-freedom traffic … especially to North America.
But then sixth-freedom airlines must offer reliable connections.
One would have thought BA would operate a smaller jet. But for one reason or another that never happened.
Weather conditions can and do affect flight operations at FLR. The airport not only has a short runway but the nearby Apennines can also be an issue.
In Alitalia days there was an Alitalia-funded rail link between Florence and Rome (FCO). I sampled it in the early 1990s and it was punctual !
I believe ITA Airways wants (or maybe it’s already opened) a Florence-Rome (FCO) rail service. Surely if and when Lufthansa takes over this will become a reality … I say that because Lufthansa is a rail-air leader in mainland Europe.
But at the end of the day ITA’s North American network is far behind that of BA.
1 user thanked author for this post.18 Apr 2023
at 13:5518 Apr 2023
It seems clear that some airlines are using aircraft that are not compatible with this airports conditions.
I know this airport (as we consulted for a Florence based company for several years) and why operators persist in using aircraft that are too large to operate on many days seems utterly stupid. Safety seems also be compromised
Pisa is an hour and a half away(about 120 km)on a good day but often two hours+ due to traffic which is why Florence was opened up to ‘smaller’ commercial aircraft.19 Apr 2023
It seems some airlines are taking the risk that the winds will trend to south westerlies as the summer season develops, to give their A320 neos the headwind component needed for this short runway, however if they get north easterlies, something has to give – thus my comment that it will make an interesting case under the ‘all reasonable measures’ part of the extraordinary circumstances clause. I’m not a lawyer, but I’d be happy pleading this in the small claims court.19 Apr 2023
@AMcWhirter I wasn’t commenting on your initial post, more on the replies to it, which take aim at staff and BA as a company, indeed I am aware of the operational constraints of FLR. I was merely pointing out that comments verging on the emotional towards a single carrier, when they are not alone in operating an aircraft type, and or facing difficulties due to weather on certain days, seems a little unfair. Route planners and bean counters at BA have obviously deemed this is a viable route.
1 user thanked author for this post.19 Apr 2023
[quote quote=1356505]Pisa is an hour and a half away(about 120 km)on a good day but often two hours+ due to traffic which is why Florence was opened up to ‘smaller’ commercial aircraft.[/quote]
In fact Pisa has its own train station. When I used it last in 1983 there was a direct train to Florence (SMN) taking around one hour.
Today I checked the schedules on Trainline.com and it appears all the trains now operate via Pisa (Centrale).
Pisa airport is really close to downtown.
Now it would indicate there is a bus link (two or three times an hour) to Pisa (Centrale) which takes eight mins.
From there there are four trains hourly to Florence (SMN) taking 61, 74 or 84 mins.19 Apr 2023