Where is British Airways parking its planes during the coronavirus pandemic?
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The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for the airline industry. During the first lockdown period, airlines around the world were forced to slash operating capacity as a result of the decrease in demand and strict government-imposed entry restrictions. Others completely suspended operations.
Then, the summer came along. Receding infection rates and countries lifting entry requirements allowed the industry to restart to some degree.
However, as of 5 November, England has entered its second national lockdown. At this time, all non-essential travel — both domestic and international — remains off the table. As a result, airlines are preparing for a long winter largely consisting of only necessary operations. British Airways has announced that it’s suspending its Gatwick operations entirely through at least 2 December, choosing instead to only focus on Heathrow.
Currently, British Airways has 240 aircraft in its fleet, split between long-haul wide-bodies such as the A380 and 777, as well as narrow-body aircraft like the A320 and A321. Plus, it also has those in the BA CityFlyer fleet, which operates out of London City Airport (LCY).
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Earlier in the pandemic, BA made the decision to retire its remaining Boeing 747 fleet. While the fleet had been grounded for months because of the pandemic, BA made the decision to cut costs by retiring all 31 remaining 747s in the fleet. In October, the final BA Queen of the Skies departed Heathrow for the last time.
So while a number of BA’s flights aren’t currently operating, where is it putting all of those wide-body planes? Turns out that most of them are being stored in Cardiff or right at BA’s base at Heathrow. Let’s dive into it.
British Airways Airbus A380
The airline has 12 A380s in its fleet, which have remained grounded for the duration of the pandemic. All of the superjumbos are split between the airline’s home base at London Heathrow and Châteauroux, France. More specifically, eight of the airline’s A380s are parked at Châteauroux Airport (CHR), and four of them are parked at London Heathrow (LHR).
Five of the A380s have made trips between the two airports in recent weeks. For example, G-XLEA flew from CHR to LHR on 22 October, while G-XLEI flew from LHR to CHR on 28 October.
British Airways Boeing 777
Split between the 777-200 and 777-300 variants, British Airways has a total of 57 in its fleet. According to our data tracking the movement of each of the 777s, 19 of the aircraft have been marked as stored or have not operated a commercial flight since 6 April.
The most 777s are currently parked at Cardiff (CWL) with a total of eight. An additional six 777s have been stored at London Gatwick Airport (LGW), and a total of five 777s are at Heathrow (LHR).
Our research found that 38 777s are still in service and have operated a flight since 6 November.
Interestingly, BA took delivery of two new Boeing 777s — installed with the airline’s new First and Club Suite products — during the pandemic. In fact, G-STBN was delivered to BA from Boeing’s factory in Everett, Washington (PAE) on 5 November. Since taking delivery of the aircraft, BA hasn’t yet operated a commercial flight with it.
British Airways Boeing 787
Between the 787-8 and 787-9 variants, British Airways has 32 Dreamliners in its fleet. The fuel-efficient aircraft remain largely in operation. In fact, according to our research, only one of the 787s in the fleet is stored.
G-ZBKP, a 4-year-old 787-9, is stored at Heathrow (LHR), having operated its last passenger flight from Dallas (DFW) to LHR on 2 November.
British Airways Airbus A350
British Airways has seven A350s in its fleet. While none of them are marked as stored, one of them hasn’t operated a passenger flight since at least 6 November. That aircraft — G-XWBB — is parked at Heathrow, having operated its last commercial flight from Boston (BOS) to LHR on 6 November.
Narrow-body aircraft storage
Along with the wide-body fleet of aircraft that operate BA’s long-haul flights, it also has an extensive fleet of single-aisle aircraft it typically uses to operate its regional flights to Europe and northern Africa. Because demand has suffered so much, especially as we head into the winter travel season and stricter restrictions on travel, BA has been forced to park some of its regional aircraft.
Of its fleet of A319 and A320 aircraft, many have been parked at Heathrow (LHR), Glasgow (GLA) or London Gatwick (LGW) airports. A few of the aircraft are still stored at Madrid (MAD).
And as for the single A318 in BA’s fleet that typically operates the airlines famed BA1 and BA2 flights between London City Airport and New York (JFK) via a refuelling stop in Shannon, Ireland (SNN), it has been retired and remains parked at Madrid (MAD). The aircraft, G-EUNA, flew from LCY to LHR on 18 March and then from LHR to MAD on 20 March.
Since BA has resumed London City Airport (LCY) operations, it’s still flying some routes from the airport. The airline’s two E170s — G-LCYH and G-LCYI — have flown since 6 November, however, are at LCY as of time of publication.
Most of the E190 aircraft in its fleet have been parked either at Norwich Airport (NWI) or London City Airport (LCY).
While the coronavirus has brought uncertainty to everyone’s lives, it’s also brought about mass aircraft groundings for airlines. While BA’s operations have been severely reduced — and will likely continue to be reduced over the coming days and weeks — it’s likely keeping aircraft on hand for repatriation efforts and cargo flights.
Featured photo by Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images.
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