BA news • March 2015

How does BA decide where its A380 will fly to?

In April, British Airways will start flying an Airbus A380 to San Francisco for the summer season. Here Phil Heard talks to BA insiders to get the low-down on how BA decides where to deploy its double-decker flagship


Size matters

Let’s just say it: the Airbus A380 is big. It has to be, to carry 469 passengers and 22 cabin crew. It takes skill to manoeuvre the ‘super-jumbo’ around busy airfields – airports often need modifications including stands and taxiways; even runways may need strengthening. “It will take years for some airports to be ready,” says Schedule Planning Manager David Smith.


Future visions

While the lead-time for launching routes is normally 12-18 months, it climbs to at least two years for the A380 due to infrastructure issues. And that creates problems, as Jack Walker, Manager Network Development, explains, “We have to think about where people will want to fly and what competitors will be doing.”


Economies of scale

The A380 offers a fuel-burn saving per seat of around 20 per cent over the Boeing 747. The further it flies, the better the savings. “Most fuel is used on take-off and landing, so the longer the cruise, the greater the economy,” says Walker. And while this means San Francisco during the summer, the A380 will spend the winter months on the route between London and Miami this year.


Slots of fun

BA uses the A380 to reduce the number of aircraft used on a route while maintaining or boosting seat numbers. Smith says, “Operating another flight can be an inefficient way to grow capacity because of the extra cost of slots, crew and additional aircraft. It’s smarter to use a bigger aircraft.” Because Heathrow is constrained and runs at more than 99 per cent capacity, landing and take-off slots are rare and costly. When BA started flying the A380 to Los Angeles, it reduced a three-times daily 747 service to two A380s, maintaining the volume of seats while handing back a precious slot to develop BA’s route network.


Are you going to San Francisco?

When the A380 flies in to San Francisco the local team will be well prepared, says Anthony Arms, BA’s Airport Manager at San Francisco. “We’re sending team members to LA to observe the A380 operations, and we will learn from best practice at Washington,” he says. Tony Edwards, the airline’s Airport Infrastructure Manager, has been working with SFO airport to secure what he describes as the “best stand” on the A satellite building, and the security area has been enlarged to deal with the increase in numbers. They’re ready – are you?

BA’s A380 flies to Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, San Francisco from April, and Miami from October.

This article has been tagged BA, Travel Tips