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BA to launch premium transatlantic flights with A318s from London City

The service will be the first transatlantic airline flights from London City

British Airways is to launch a revolutionary all-business class transatlantic service from London City airport next year, using Airbus A318s.

The airline has placed its first A318 order, with a deal for two CFM International CFM56-powered aircraft for delivery in 2009. The A318, which is nominally a 100-seater, will be configured by BA with 32 lie-flat seats.

The service will operate twice a day to New York, says chief executive Willie Walsh. "We're looking at either JFK or Newark, and we'll make the decision based on what slots we get."

The A318s will be operated by BA's mainline division and Walsh says that it has an agreement with pilots. He adds that "there may be opportunities to expand [the London City operation]."

BA says that the A318s will have standard fuel capacity, and "will operate non-stop from New York to London City but will make a refuelling stop when flying westbound". It adds that it is "talking to a number of airports" about where the stop will be, although sources say that Shannon is the frontrunner.

According to London City airport, the westbound technical stop is required as the aircraft cannot lift sufficient fuel for the transatlantic flight from the downtown airport's short runway, which has a take-off run of 1,199m (3,930ft), given the airfield's "obstacle environment".

The connection will be the first scheduled service from London City to use the A318, which has been certificated to conduct the steep approach required to serve the airport. It is also the first transatlantic airline service from the airport, although flights have been operated by a Dassault Falcon 900EX business jet.

The move to launch an all-business service marks a departure for BA and pitches it into competition with existing transatlantic premium players such as Eos and Silverjet.

The latter, which operates 767s on nonstop flights from London Luton, is playing down the impact of the BA move, with chief executive Lawrence Hunt saying that it is "a ringing endorsement for Silverjet's business model" and that the airline's private terminals and dedicated security means it "will always be able to match any other commercial airline's check-in time".

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