British Airways considering using long-haul aircraft to European destinations this summer

Mar 12, 2021

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As the summer of the staycation looms, airlines are looking for any way to be able to capitalise on the pent-up demand of travellers looking to get away. For travellers who are likely to travel internationally, airlines are thinking they’ll stay closer to home than in pre-COVID-19 times.

With several holiday hotspots looking like they’ll be reopening in time for the summer, such as both Greece and Spain, airlines are adjusting their fleet in order to take advantage of the number of travellers expected to stay short-haul.

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According to a source close to the matter, British Airways is considering deploying some of its long-haul fleet on short-haul routes to sun destinations such as Greece, reports Bloomberg.

With the move to introduce its long-haul, widebody aircraft on short-haul routes, BA will be looking to take advantage of the larger number of travellers looking to travel to those destinations. With more seats to fill — and more premium seats, at that — BA could see a bigger return on both more passengers and whose who are looking to pay for a more premium experience.

British Airways typically flies its narrow-body fleet of A320 family aircraft to summer hotspots in Greece. However, it has large numbers of widebody jets such as its Airbus A350s, Boeing 777s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners that are parked at Heathrow, waiting to return to service. With long-haul travel not expected to return in the same timeline, their near-term future use remains uncertain.

According to the people familiar with the matter, BA’s final decision on the issue will depend on the U.K.’s route out of lockdown and the subsequent return to leisure travel. Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled England’s roadmap out of lockdown last month, which could see international travel resume as soon as 17 May — though that date may be delayed.

Summer holidays to both Spain and Greece look possible for this summer. Greece’s tourism minister said this week that the nation will welcome travellers who have proof of vaccination, antibodies or a negative COVID-19 test as of mid-May.

Related: Why your summer holiday to Greece looks promising

Spain is expected to follow, though details on exactly who would be allowed in and the timeline for that reopening is less clear. However, government officials have said that the nation, which relies heavily on tourism, does plan to welcome back Brits this summer.

Related: Will holidays to Spain go ahead this summer?

Using long-haul aircraft on short-haul routes isn’t a new concept for BA. When the airline first took delivery of its Airbus A350 in 2019, it operated the aircraft on short hops to Madrid (MAD) in order to train crewmembers on the new plane. Additionally, BA operated the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on short flights to Athens (ATH) last year.

It’s not just BA considering making the business decision to switch to long-haul equipment to serve these short-haul markets. Leisure carrier TUI is planning to fly 48 widebody routes from the U.K. to European destinations this summer. It’ll fly its Boeing 767s and 787s from cities like Manchester (MAN), Birmingham (BHX), London Gatwick (LGW), Glasgow (GLA) and Bristol (BRS) to destinations like Dalaman (DLM), Palma (PMI), Tenerife (TFS), Ibiza (IBZ) and more, according to Simple Flying.

Ultimately, the move to use widebody aircraft on short-haul routes for the summer could not only benefit the airlines, but also the passengers. Not only will passengers have a more comfortable flying experience on the airlines’ long-haul fleets (BA’s new Club Suite, anyone?), but there will be more opportunities to lock in award flights. With more seats available on the routes, there’s the opportunity for more Avios bookings on these high-demand routes.

Featured photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy.

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