While there’s no guarantee these flights will run, British Airways plans to swap out its Boeing 777-300ERs for Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners on the long-haul run to Sydney via Singapore next year. According to the British Airways website, the swap occurs at the start of the 2021 northern summer season, March 28.
It’s a welcome bit of news for BA loyalists who’ve long decried using the old Boeing 777s on such a long flight. Until earlier this year, British Airways offered a daily service down to Sydney via Singapore. It was the sole surviving route from what was once a reasonably extensive BA network into Australasia.
But the British Airways Boeing 777 was never a widely popular choice for travelers. There were far more comfortable options on the departures board to Sydney, including the Gulf carriers, tiptop Asian carriers such as Singapore Airlines, and the Qantas A380 service.
Scheduled to run, but will these flights get into the air?
A report today in The Travel Detective alerted us to the switch of aircraft on the route. That said, there is no guarantee flights will be back up and running as soon as March.
In early April, British Airways temporarily axed its flights to Sydney, citing continuing changes in travel restrictions. Last month, the airline extended that extension into 2021. Before that, British Airways was hoping to be back on the route by Christmas.
Australia maintains a tough border policy, heavily restricting the number of inbound travelers and requiring them to undergo a 14-day self-funded quarantine at a guarded government facility. That’s hindering the ability of airlines to make a dollar, or even break-even, on their Sydney-bound flights.
While many airlines are maintaining some flights into Sydney, others like British Airways have cut their losses and suspended services.
A scan of the British Airways booking engine indicates the airline has pulled Sydney-bound flights from its schedules until the end of February. But from March 1, BA15 to Sydney is slated to resume. Throughout March, the mid-evening departure from Heathrow is operated by a Boeing 777-300ER.
Skip forward to the northern 2021 winter season, starting March 28, and the aircraft is swapped out for a Boeing 787-9.
Is this really an upgrade for passengers?
The key problem the previous British Airways flights faced was that their hard product was a generation old on most 777-300ER aircraft. That aircraft type is now undergoing a refurbishment, with three scheduled planes to be upgraded this year. Better late than never, but before the flights were suspended, many potential travelers opted for more up-to-date hard products on other airlines.
But the 787-9 Dreamliner is a smaller plane than the 777-300ER, and arguably not much of an upgrade for the bulk of passengers who travel in economy class. On both the British Airways 777-300ER and 787-9 Dreamliner, the economy class seat configuration is 3-3-3. Seat pitch on both aircraft types is 31″, and the seat width is 17.5″. The economy class cabin on the 777-300ER is roomier. For many travelers, the feeling of more space around you might make the 777-300ER the preferable choice.
Passenger comfort probably isn’t at the forefront when it comes to planning at British Airways. It’s all about rightsizing the plane to demand. Whether Australia winds back its entry restrictions or not, fewer people will be traveling next year, and the 777-300ER is too big for Sydney flights. The Dreamliner might be a pokier plane, but it’s smaller and more efficient to operate. As we keep hearing, that’s what the airlines are chasing right now.
Simple Flying has approached British Airways for a comment on the aircraft changes for its Sydney flights in 2021.