BA skips more 777-300ERs as short-term 747 successor

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British Airways is intending to pass on acquiring any further Boeing 777-300ERs in favour of waiting for newer high-capacity twinjets to replace its Boeing 747s.

Parent company IAG’s chief executive, Willie Walsh, says the Airbus A350-1000 is an “excellent 747 replacement” for BA.

Walsh says the airline had the option of taking more 777-300ERs. “But the problem is that [this] aircraft is going to be rapidly overtaken by either the A350-1000 or the 777X," he states.

“So while there might be some short-term benefits, we’ve assessed that – while not the most efficient way of doing it in the short term – it’s the most efficient thing to do in the long term, to wait for the right aircraft.”

BA chief Keith Williams adds that the 747 will still give the carrier “huge flexibility” to manage capacity. The airline is considering increasing premium seating capacity on some of its 747s to take advantage of demand in specific markets.

The airline is retiring some of its older 747s and this gives it the ability to re-use the seats from these aircraft at little cost.

Williams says BA has “reached the end” of its 777-300ER programme and, while it has a few Airbus A380s and Boeing 787s still to come, it is reaching “a little bit of a hiatus” on the long-haul fleet.

Walsh says that IAG is keeping a constant watch on its short-haul fleet, stressing that flexibility is crucial to its operation.

He points out that the company has agreed a common specification for its Airbus A320s.

“The manufacturer makes a lot of money by trying to convince you to modify the basic product,” says Walsh.

“When we looked at our aircraft specification it was very different in BA to Iberia’s and to Vueling’s. And we challenged every different specification.”

He says that, by reviewing the aircraft, IAG was able to “remove a lot of stuff we’d had on our aircraft, simply because we’d always had it there”.

This included items such as unnecessary jump-seats in the cockpit, he says: “Typically the people sitting in those seats don’t pay. Now we only have one jump-seat. That’s all you need. It removes cost and removes weight.”