New routes, A380s to return and vaccine passports: How flying British Airways will look this summer

Mar 15, 2021

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Changes are afoot — flying British Airways is going to be pretty different in the coming months.

The airline’s newly appointed CEO Sean Doyle has revealed that among other things, the A380 is set to return, digital passports will be introduced and we’ll see “customer-led” new routes.

Another of Doyle’s predictions is that it will take “two or three years to get back to where it was in 2019”.

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(Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

So exciting times ahead.

In terms of the route network — where the airline flies to — it’s going to be a very different picture from the summer of 2019.

Before the pandemic, Heathrow acted as a hub for mainly business-based routes like Shanghai (PVG), Hong Kong (HKG), New York (JFK) and Frankfurt (FRA), with Gatwick used mainly as a hub for European and Caribbean holiday destinations.

Related: British Airways extends Executive Club elite status by additional 12 months

Over the course of the last year, the arrival of the pandemic has changed that significantly. BA consolidated operations out of Heathrow, temporarily closing its base at Gatwick and announced it would be axing 15 of its long-haul routes.

Because business travel will likely take the longest to recover, BA now has more slots available for leisure flights from Heathrow — likely to be in high demand this summer.

And with that comes the prospect of new routes to exciting new destinations.

Speaking to the Independent,, Doyle commented: “We’re looking at new destinations both across long haul and short haul. We’ll be led by our customers on where we fly.”

The airline is currently offering non-stop flights from Heathrow to a record total of 12 Greek destinations.

Related: Why your summer holiday to Greece looks promising

Despite the predictions of low demand for business travel, as the aviation industry starts to get underway again, Doyle remains confident that it will bounce back.

“You do business with people, not organisations, and the ability to get face-to-face again will come back and will be part of the way people want to operate again in the future,” he said.

Now on to BA’s fleet.

The announcement was made early in the pandemic that all its Boeing 747s would be retired earlier than planned and many of its other aircraft were grounded at locations around the world.

This included all 12 of the airline’s A380s, which are currently stored at Heathrow and Châteauroux, France.

(Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

However, Doyle confirmed that though the A380 is not flying right now it is in the “plans for the future rebuild of the airline”. He did not confirm when exactly this would be.

While the future of other airline’s A380s hangs in the balance, it would seem that BA’s Superjumbos will live to fly another day.

Some short-haul routes are even set to get a wide-body upgrade this summer, as BA considers using long-haul aircraft on some European destinations.

In terms of vaccine passports, these are likely to become an integral part of the British Airways experience this summer.

“We are already offering access to travel app ‘VeriFLY’ on selected routes and IAG has been helping develop ‘Travel Pass’ with IATA”, said Doyle.

Related: 5 things to know about IATA’s Travel Pass app right now

On Monday, the airline announced it was starting trials of its version of the so-called digital health or vaccine passports on all passengers flying to India. They will be emailed three days before departure and reminded to upload any relevant forms.

Depending on the success of the trail on flights to India, the process will be rolled out to more destinations in the coming weeks. The airline is also planning on making it possible to upload those documents into the app, as well as via a web browser.

Doyle is of the opinion that everyone, whether they have been jabbed or not, should be able to travel again this summer.

“People who’ve been vaccinated should be able to travel without restriction. Those who have not been vaccinated should be able to travel with a negative test”, he said.

Related: A great COVID-19 test solution for travel: British Airways partners with Qured for 20-minute test results

Additionally, he is hopeful that the government’s announcement for the roadmap for aviation won’t be after 12 April as this will give an inclination as to the “sort of framework we’re [BA] operating with”.

Doyle also predicted that the strict self-isolating rules would not be the same as in 2020, which left thousands of holidaymakers subject to harsh two weeks quarantines with very short notice.

“The pandemic has thrown up many opportunities to come out the other end of this as a better business – driven by the use of technology and insight,” Doyle added.

Featured image by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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