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British Airways (BA) is the national carrier of the United Kingdom, a subsidiary of publicly-listed International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG). BA’s extensive network, including that of franchise partners SUN-AIR and Comair (South Africa), includes services to Europe, North America, Latin America, Canada, Africa, Asia and Australia. Using a fleet of wide and narrow-bodied aircraft, the carrier operates freight and passenger services from it's three London hubs - Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport and London City Airport. BA is a founding member of the oneworld alliance.
Location of British Airways main hub (London Heathrow Airport)
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The A380 is once again under media scrutiny, despite there being no major movement on the type. Comments from Air France and Qantas about not taking further A380s have long been assumed, and it has been apparent that Malaysia Airlines does not even have the need for its A380s. Singapore Airlines not renewing the lease on its first A380 is hardly surprising, and offers no definitive conclusion about the A380 or second-hand market; early A380s had different production and are not as efficient as later models. The lack of movement on the A380neo continues to irk the model's largest customer by far, Emirates, and may not make for a productive relationship as Emirates weighs an A350 or 787 order.
For most, the A380 continues to fly. How and where it flies is changing. Flights to and from the Middle East are becoming more common as Gulf airlines, and mostly Emirates, take delivery of A380s. A further shift to the Middle East is inevitable. In Japan there has been a near exodus of A380s; airlines dropping the type as they moved from Narita to Haneda, which cannot accommodate the A380 during the day, and Singapore Airlines down-gauging. Intra-Asia flying is decreasing – notable given the growth of A380s based in the region. Services by the A380 to Australia are growing, perhaps as it becomes an easy market for airlines to redeploy capacity amid European security concerns and trans-Pacific overcapacity.
All-premium UK-US airlines. BA cuts LCY frequency; La Compagnie quits LTN; Odyssey to launch in 2017
There have been two notable recent developments in the market for all-business class services on the North Atlantic: British Airways is to reduce its London City-JFK A318 frequencies and France's La Compagnie is to withdraw from Luton-Newark to concentrate its 74-seat Boeing 757 operations on Paris-Newark (its only other route).
BA's 32-seat London City operation has been suffering from significant load factor declines, particularly on the outbound flights. These flights make a refuelling stop in Shannon, where passengers can pre-clear US customs, but this may not be a sufficient incentive for some passengers to take an indirect flight. La Compagnie expressed concerns about uncertainties in the UK post-Brexit, but its route economics must anyway have been struggling, due to Luton's lack of suitability as a premium market and its lack of feed.
So far there has been no reaction to these developments from the new-start Odyssey Airlines, which plans to launch an all-business class London City-New York service in 2017. It will no doubt be attempting to find a balance between relief that its level of competition has reduced, and some anxiety that its launch may coincide with a softening of market demand.
The Brexit referendum produced a vote for the United Kingdom to leave the EU, although this process has not yet been formally invoked. In the scope of aviation, one outcome is the potential loss of the UK in shaping air service agreement negotiations. The UK has been a liberalising voice, one that often counterbalanced more protectionist views from France and Germany. The UK is often able to galvanise the smaller EU states too.
The EU now has mandates to negotiate open skies with states, including the UAE, Qatar, Turkey and the ASEAN bloc. The UAE and Qatar, home to the three Gulf network airlines, are expected to produce the most contentious negotiations. France and Germany will surely takes cues from Air France and Lufthansa to impede Gulf growth. In this light there are questions about whether the talks are genuinely motivated, or merely designed to draw out the discussion and thereby not produce any additional traffic rights while under negotiation.
What Air France and Lufthansa need is a real, lasting solution, rather than persevering Canute-like with stonewalling. Although a partnership seems logical, they may have waited too long. The Gulf airlines have found that they can succeed on their own.
Part 1 of CAPA's Brexit follow-up report assessed the ASK exposure of UK and non-UK airlines to market segments where existing traffic rights could potentially change once the UK finally leaves the European Union. This second part reviews recent comments by leading European-listed airlines on how they see the impact of Brexit, both in the short term and in the longer term. Most of them acknowledge that there are considerable uncertainties, while simultaneously insisting that they will not be significantly affected in the long run.
There have been two initial impacts on airlines. First, Brexit has added to economic uncertainty, thereby muting demand and lowering yields. The magnitude and duration of this impact is unpredictable. Secondly, the consequent weakening of the GBP has made outbound international travel from the UK more expensive and less appealing, and lowered the value of GBP revenue earned by airlines.
The longer term impact will depend on whatever new traffic rights regime is negotiated between the UK and the EU. As a number of the airlines have acknowledged, this remains unknown and is, indeed, unknowable until the UK formally triggers its exit from the EU and then completes its two-year exit negotiations.
CAPA's previous analytical coverage of the UK referendum vote to leave the European Union flagged several questions surrounding UK airlines' future access to the European single aviation market. Traffic rights post-Brexit will depend heavily on the wider relationship between the UK and the EU and its markets. In turn, this may depend on how far the UK is prepared to go in embracing the EU's four key freedoms: the movement of capital, goods, services and people.
The UK has not yet triggered its formal two-year exit negotiation period and all aspects of its future relationship with the EU remain unknown. However, politicians in the UK are very reluctant to accept the continued freedom of movement of people, so existing airline market access is likely to be compromised in some way.
Rather than speculate on how negotiations might proceed, this report identifies the main market segments that could be affected by changes to the traffic rights regime, and evaluates the ASK exposure of airlines from the UK and from countries in Europe's single aviation market to these segments. A further report will review recent comments by Europe's leading listed airlines on how they see the impact of Brexit.
Late in the past century, Airbus and Boeing established competing visions for the future of air travel and shaped their aircraft products accordingly. Airbus envisaged a future of strong hub-to-hub flying that would require its A380. Boeing foresaw the emergence of new long haul city pairs as airlines bypassed hubs to link small/medium cities directly point-to-point with its 787.
Both manufacturers were right – and wrong. Hubs dominate, yet most airlines prefer medium/large aircraft and not the very large aircraft category, consisting of A380s and 747-8s. A380 sales have lagged, raising questions about the aircraft's future, while Boeing is cutting 747-8 production again and has acknowledged that it may need to end production entirely.
Boeing positioned its 787 as a “hub-buster” that would not require passengers to transfer through hubs. Yet 73% of 787 flights are between hubs, among those operated by airlines with more than hub. Hub-to-secondary flights are few, but demonstrate some of Boeing's objectives with the 787: new routes and more frequencies. While hubs dominate, the 787 has given rise to smaller hubs like Denver and Calgary. Partnerships also help explain 787 network deployment: 66% of 787 flights are on routes without a partnership, perhaps indicating airline preference for a lower-risk aircraft.