Whoa: British Airways Will Fly 747s To Austin!

Filed Under: British Airways

Here’s some exciting news for those in Austin, from an aviation geek perspective if nothing else. British Airways will begin offering daily 747-400 flights between Austin and London as of April 8, 2018. While an end date hasn’t been announced yet, I suspect this is primarily for the summer travel season. Prior to April 8 the flight is being served by a Boeing 787-9.

As a reminder, this flight operates with the following schedule:

BA190 Austin to London departing 6:40PM arriving 10:00AM (+1 day)
BA191 London to Austin departing 12:00PM arriving 4:15PM

The airline began flying to Austin in March 2014, a route at the time really only seemed possible because of the 787, which is a lower capacity plane than the 777 and 747.

I suspect the added capacity is due to a combination of factors. First of all, it no doubt reflects how much Austin has grown the past few years, and how many businesses have moved there. It’s a much bigger market than it was a decade ago. We’ve already seen the route upgraded to a 777 in the past, and now it’ll finally get the queen of the skies.

Second of all, I suspect this is a competitive response to Norwegian adding flights from London Gatwick to Austin as of March 27, 2018. Obviously British Airways and Norwegian are fiercely competitive, so I’m not surprised to see British Airways have a competitive response. At the same time, I’m not sure pumping up capacity really does much to help either airline, since Norwegian doesn’t seem to back down from routes they start.

The logic seems something like this, which I can’t fully wrap my head around:

“Oh yeah, you wanna double capacity to Austin? We’ll triple it. Take that!”

And we wonder why transatlantic fares are consistently $500 roundtrip nowadays. Hey, at least consumers win!

Norwegian’s 787 economy class

The British Airways aircraft change represents a sizable capacity increase, as their 747-400s feature 345 seats, while their 787-9s feature 216 seats. In terms of seats by cabins, the upgrade to the 747 translates to:

  • 6 more first class seats
  • 10 more business class seats
  • 3 fewer premium economy seats
  • 116 more economy class seats

British Airways’ 747 first class

Lastly I would note that while this represents a significant capacity increase, it doesn’t necessarily represent an improvement in the overall experience. While the economy seats are a bit wider on the 747, otherwise it’s a really tired plane, at this point.

Are you surprised to see British Airways scheduling 747 service to Austin?

  1. Interesting that increased capacity did not start in early March. 2nd week of March is a huge Austin travel week with SXSW and spring break.

  2. Ooh this is cool! I live in Austin and fly back to the UK a few times a year.

    I’ve done F in the 789 three times now and it’s a very nice cabin. Whilst the 744 isn’t on that level, it’s cool that I’ll have the chance to fly it from here, seeing as it’s not likely to be around for a while.

    My wife and I are going to be in Italy next summer and I was looking at the best route home…now I’m gonna try and make it FCO-LHR-AUS to take the 744.

    Hopefully there’s an increase in F awards and 2x are easier to find.

  3. Glad to see you beat the National Enquirer of Boarding Area (Gary) to the punch on this in his own hometown 🙂

  4. Not sure I can share in the excitement of flying on an old dirty plane with ancient IFE. There’s a good reason decent airlines have retired the 744.

  5. The route apparently has a surprisingly strong demand for cargo, which may be what is driving the increase in capacity.

  6. @niko jas
    I agree in principal, but I’m not sure what routes I’ll be flying on a 747 in the next few years, so I’m excited because there’s a chance it’d be the last time.

    That aside, yeah the 789 is vastly better.

  7. On April 9th, BA reintroduces a 2nd flight from Philadelphia on a 789. Guessing they are pulling the plane from Austin. I was on the 747 last April in First, definitely a tired product.

  8. I’m surprised to see that this (as well as Norwegian’s launch there) fall after the end of the traffic-peaking SXSW festivals.

  9. @nico jas
    Flew ba to Boston a few weeks ago and the 747 had a far more modern ife system than the a380 on the way back. Not sure if they’ve all been upgraded tho.

  10. @Lumma – they haven’t. The 744s on the Austin route are scheduled to be the “52J” configuration (the 747s with the lowest number of Club seats in BA’s fleet), which have the old IFE system. To BOS, I suspect you were on one of the reconfigured “86J” planes, which has a new Panasonic system.

    People around these parts love to bash BA, but I’d take an upper deck seat on an 86J 747 over a whole lot of other products.

  11. I had the misfortune to fly a BA 747 from LHR to BOS this past June. Who knew that it would compare very unfavorably to the Legacy US Airways AA 757 that we flew in the other direction. A hot, miserable flight. Poor Austin.

  12. I flew F on the 747 and on the 787-9 to London and Delhi respectively last month. It was like night and day – according to the CSD the 747 has a full time engineer on board because things keep breaking.

  13. The folks who mentioned the post- South By Southwest ( SXSW) launch date have an EXCELLENT point. Tens and tens of thousand people from around the world show up at AUS. Delta is running a nonstop flight from Amsterdam during the event, using B-767. I cannot keep up with Condor, but they are supposedly flying from Frankfurt and I guarantee they will be full, if they fly. Perhaps someone should clue the Limeys. It would probably be the only time the 747 is full. Or not. Unlike some posters, I admit that I might be wrong, and in this case, I hope I AM wrong. Ben, I think this might be the only time I’ve posted and not mentioned a wine list.

  14. I’m pretty sure Norwegian cut back on flights to Las Vegas once they started that route. Also, they axed San Juan and St. Croix as well. So, they definitely do cut back on routes they start.

  15. As for the passenger satisfaction between the 787-9 and the 747 it greatly depends on the cabin you are in and whether the 747 is one of the new refurbished ones or not.

    F on the 787 trumps the 747 easy – whether new or refurb
    J class – 747 refurb’d definitely.
    W class – 787
    Y class – a million percent 747 whether refurb’ed bird or not. 787 Y class is hideously cramped.

    It’s worth noting that the refurbished 747’s actually have the highest customer satisfaction amongst ALL BA long haul aircraft (including 380/787). It is roomier, most advanced IFE and will be the first to be wifi enabled.

  16. BA is holding onto their ancient 744 like cabin crew did with the old uniform , there’s a chance engine will end up of the coast of Greenland. Pass.

  17. Don’t fear Tom. If an engine falls off there will still be three more to get you to your destination – still one more than most other aircraft these days 😉

  18. Agree with all posters who mentioned SXSW. Have the brits been here in the summer? It’s hot, dry and empty. And have the Brits added wifi yet? Flights into/out of Austin are often ‘nerd-birds’. When I lived in London and commuted to Austin, I took Delta because I could get lie-flat upgrades and wifi all-the-way.

    I loved the couple of LHR-AUs flights I took on mostly empty 789s, except for the lack of wifi and award seats. Super Business class w/ Decent food and IFE.

    If the 747 is upgraded and is there’s award availability I’ll try it.

  19. A good article Ben. But a point of order if I may. The BA 747 is not a ‘tired plane’.
    Far from it. They are well maintained, have outstanding dispatch reliability, are safe and have refurbished cabins.

  20. Looks like the 747 operating the route will be the V1 (52J seats). That interior is old and nasty. I just flew the route last week on the 787-9 and it was really nice. Modern jet and definitely felt less tired. For me the 747 being put onto the route is a massive downgrade. If they were putting a refurbished 747 on the route might be attractive but frankly I would rather take American on a new 77W via DFW and get a plane with much better passenger experience than fly non stop on a 747 that really needs a refit. Disappointed that they are doing this. At least the 787 comes back for Winter 2019.

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