Premium fare passengers flying British Airways will miss the ambience of the B747's cabin when flying to Singapore and Sydney this winter.
From October 31 BA has decided to substitute the popular B747 with a smaller and cheaper-to-operate B777 twin jet for flights 15 and 16 which operate to Sydney with an en route stop in Singapore. The carrier's existing daily London-Sydney service via Bangkok (flights BA9 and 10) will continue to be operated by a B747.
It is the first time that BA has introduced the B777 on flights to this part of the world. Knowledgeable passengers are telling Business Traveller that they will miss the B747's upper deck seating in Club World and its slightly wider cabin (compared with the B777) on the maindeck (even though the seating is still disposed eight across). One could also argue that the first class configuration in the B747's nose is more appealing than the routine layout on the B777.
Says Yorkshire-based reader Tim Newman, "The B777 is the sort of plane which I would expect a discount airline to operate on this route. A carrier of BA's reputation shouldn't be operating anything smaller than a B747. The point here is that it's a long flight to Australia so although the difference in ambience might be bearable on an eight hour transatlantic leg it's a different matter on the 24 hour London-Sydney trip. Yes it's true I could still sample the B747 if I were to fly via Bangkok but I prefer to transit Singapore."
Adds another reader, "The main business class cabin on the B777 is quite unpleasant and feels like it's economy, although the beds are good."
When asked to comment on these points, BA said, "We remain committed to flying to Sydney and offering a connecting service with our partner Qantas to other cities in Australia via Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong. However we need to look strategically at our overall route network in terms of capacity, aircraft type and fuel efficiency. Between flights we offer and those of our partner Qantas we have enough capacity to accommodate all of our passengers on codeshare flights."
"By using a B777 on this route, we will use less fuel. As fuel is currently very expensive we need to look at areas where we can economise on fuel use."
The problem faced by BA is that premium class revenue for the Australia route is relatively low compared with services to the US. A return London-New York business class ticket costs more than one to Sydney even though a flight to the latter city is three times the distance. In addition, aircraft utilisation is lower.
During the time it takes that B747 to fly to Australia and back it could have fitted in at least two round-trips to the US. This is one reason why Austrian Airlines will suspend flights to Sydney and Melbourne next year (see Online news, August 3).
As for the others ... Qantas will continue to operate B747s on all flights between Europe and Australia. Virgin Atlantic uses a four-engined Airbus A340 for its London-Sydney service. Emirates operates a mixture of B777s and A340s. SIA (via Singapore) operates mainly with B747s while Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong) has a mixture of plane types.
For more information go to ba.com
Report by Alex McWhirter