British Airways Cuts New York Business Jet… Could It Be Permanent?

Filed Under: British Airways

While airlines globally are cutting flights at the moment, British Airways has made the decision to cut a very special flight, and I can’t help but wonder if this cancelation is for good…

British Airways’ Club World London City flight

British Airways’ Club World London City service is one of the coolest ways to cross the Atlantic in business class.

The airline has a specially configured Airbus A318 with just 32 business class seats:

  • The flight operates out of London City Airport, rather than London Heathrow
  • On the westbound sector the flight stops in Shannon, as that’s necessary to refuel (London City has a short runway), though passengers also clear US immigration there, meaning you land in the US as a domestic passenger
  • On the eastbound sector you fly nonstop

As you might expect, flying on a jet with at most 31 other passengers is pretty darn cool.

British Airways’ Club World London City A318

British Airways Suspends Club World London City flight

British Airways has made the decision to cancel the Club World London City flight between March 25 and September 1, 2020. That’s quite a long cancelation, though also not surprising.

Summer tends to be a quiet time anyway for this business route, so if they were going to suspend it through June or July, I guess it also makes sense that they’re canceling it through early September, since many people take holiday in August.

British Airways A318

Could this route be cut for good?

There have been rumors for a long time of this route being cut for good. British Airways used to operate this flight up to 2x daily, while now this flight is operated just 1x daily at most.

In many ways the advantages of this flight aren’t quite there in the same way they were over a decade ago, when the flight launched:

  • Being able to clear immigration in Shannon was considered an advantage, but with Global Entry (and reciprocity, since even UK citizens can get it), arguably that negates any time savings
  • Nowadays British Airways has wifi on most of their aircraft flying between London and New York, so time onboard isn’t “lost” for many in the same way that it used to be
  • The London City to Shannon to New York flight is blocked at about 1hr45min longer than the nonstop London Heathrow to New York flight, so aside from exclusivity, this is pretty hard for anyone to justify in terms of time savings
  • British Airways is introducing a new business class seat, which is significantly better than the A318 business class seat (which wasn’t the case in the past)

British Airways’ A318 business class

British Airways’ A350 business class

Bottom line

British Airways’ unique and cute Club World London City service is suspended through at least early September. That’s not surprising given the current situation, though I think the big question is whether this route will ever return.

Perhaps that question is true on a much larger scale given the current situation — for the airlines grounding A380s, will all A380s ever return to the sky, or will this be used as the start of retiring them even earlier?

In the case of Club World London City, there have been rumors for a while of this service being cut, especially with the service being reduced from up to two daily to just up to one daily.

The time savings just aren’t there for most in the age of Global Entry, and some of the other advantages have been lost as well. This route seems hard to justify beyond the exclusivity.

Do you think British Airways’ A318 JFK service will return after the suspension?

(Tip of the hat to Greg)

Comments
  1. Only used this flight once, but loved it. Only 18 of us when I took it, only had to have a seat mate if you wanted one. Loved clearing immigration in Shannon, actually friendly officers and no barking line police. I hope it returns.

  2. It’s a shame. Hopefully it will reappear at some point down the line…an A220 has done nonstop LCY-JFK with ±30 pax (i.e. a business class only config) so the technical capability is there. LCY is expanding, but will still be very close to Canary Wharf and the City even after Crossrail opens. And with a short checkin time it could be a nice option rather than heading out to LHR.

  3. I last flew this about 3 weeks ago (before covid-19 hit hard): there were just 7 passengers on board. It felt as if its days were numbered. Which is a pity.

  4. If I was BA, I’d move this bird to cover one of the LHR JFK slots for a few months while demand is in the doldrums.

    Helps maintain some service frequency for business demand, and a fair lot cheaper to fly across the pond than a 777 or 747?

  5. This flight is super dependent on business travel and in the current envoirment they might have some flights with zero pax. They might reconsider once covid19 corporate travel restrictions are lifted by the major firms.

  6. This will be a very sad loss if it is cut completely. I do wonder though: with this “break” in air travel, if airlines dont revamp schedules anyway (not just to deal with the current downturn).

  7. I was booked for June from LCY-JFK and overnight got my cancellation emails. This is sad. I love this flight.

  8. Crew rotations are costly as is managing a small sub-fleet of aircraft.

    BA really needs a supersonic option, again.

  9. Regarding factors on why this flight saves less and less time, I would like to add another:

    The conveinence of flying out of London City airport will be lessened since Crossrail (AKA Elizabeth Line) will provide direct access from Canary Wharf to Heathrow

    When you add the factors Lucky already mentioned, it doesn’t look good for them keeping this flight.

  10. You know what, I always wondered something about this specific flight. Since they use only 1 aircraft, which has to undergo heavy maintenance at some point, what would happen to the route? Maybe they’re approaching the mileage (or flight cycles) where G-EUNA has to go to the hangar, and find that it wouldn’t be worth the maintenance cost to keep it running? Especially with Odyssey Airlines coming pretty soon. It will be missed, but it looks like there will come a replacement

  11. Well I’ve been lucky then, I flew it last October knowing the rumours!

    There’s also a rumour of T5 (or a dedicated US terminal) at LHR getting pre-clearance which might put another nail in BA1’s coffin…

  12. But this is BA 001 we are talking about.
    The Speed bird 1.

    We need some supersonic adrenaline shot. It’s been so long, we overcome our withdrawal symptoms.

  13. I wonder how much Crossrail coming soon may affect demand for this flight as well (though that wouldn’t be in effect yet). Part of the benefit is LCY is close to the City and Canary Wharf for people who are going to offices there, but once Crossrail fully opens soon there will be direct and fairly fast train service between LHR and both of those places.

    There may also have been some advantage in customs wait times arriving into LCY vs. LHR but with US citizens able to use the e-gates at LHR now a lot of that may have gone away?

  14. Crossrail will have an impact on LCY-JFK demand, but (a) Crossrail is still a way off, and (b) some people would still rather have a longer westbound flight than having to deal with Heathrow.

    Just out of curiosity (and I’m on a break at work so I can’t research this, so forgive if it’s a silly question), has BA considered running LCY-LGA? The westbound preclears, so LGA’s lack of I&C doesn’t matter. Is it a matter of the eastbound not being able to make the run non-stop because of LGA’s runways? I avoid LGA like the plague, but some New Yorkers prefer it.

  15. I’m not nostalgic about this. I flew it a lot 5 years ago and it was great, always looked forward to it. But past couple flights (even last month) were awful. Food wasn’t good, service was cold, seats were dirty and uncomfortable. Immigration always takes a while and it’s slower than Global Entry on arrival. Now they don’t even have a lounge at the gate at LCY like they used to.

    Overall not an impressive service if you travel frequently and know what you should be getting. Of course if you want to do it for the exclusivity it ticks the box, but that customer segment clearly can’t sustain the route.

  16. LHR-JFK cannot replace LCY. Crossrail, e-gates, even TSA infrastructure etc so long as LHR is going to stick to 2 runways, there is still delay issues and arguments for LCY.

    If B6 is entering the market, BA may could use BA1 as unique sell and should use this as an opportunity to retool this option.

  17. Passing through US immigration in Dunlin/Shannon with friendly laid-back staff is worth the cost of the flight alone. Love arriving into the domestic terminal in the US. Straight off the plane and into a cab.

  18. BA1/2 wasn’t scheduled to operate in August anyway, summer holidays and maintenance. Cancelations are till end of July.

  19. I found about the cancellation on flyer talk

    No email from AA who I booked with and the AA app has the existing booking

    The BA app has me rebooked ex LHR on a flight that departs 5 mins before my flight from DUB us supposed to arrive at LCY.

    Am looking at alternative routings that (a) preseve the rough times of my original booking and (b) gets me the same tier points

    All very first world problems I know,

    I;ve done this flight about half a dozen times now and I really enjoy it. Shame it;s been cancelled but I hope it’s a temporary one

    Clearing CBP at SNN was easy and even easier with GE.

    @Ray – G=EUNA always has August off from flying and has all her heavy checks done then, BA simply don’t schedule the flight in August.

  20. Saw BA2 two days ago departing right ahead of my flight, BA112, which by the way was completely full in Y, W and F but rather empty in J. Got upgraded from Y to W in the morning of, and then waiting inside the lounge received another upgrade von W to J and switched seats to sit upstairs in 62K, just like Lucky suggested. I was very surprised to see the flight to full as my feeder flight from ORD to JFK on AA was about two thirds empty.

  21. I doubt it will be cut forever. That being said it was rumoured about a year ago that IAG were looking at replacing the BA cityflyer fleet with either A220’s or Embraer E2’s. If they follow through with an order for the A220 this route could be saved as the A220 has the range to fly nonstop to New York regardless of the short runway at London City. This route was very popular with people who work in London’s secondary business district, Canary Wharf, which is very close to City airport. If BA can cut out the Shannon stopover then I believe that the City to New York could become viable again.

  22. I wonder if they’ll repurpose the airframe with regular CE and WT seating or just park it. It’s an oddball in the BA fleet.

  23. I’m booked on this flight in beginning of April as part of a TP run
    Would I be able to cancel this trip all together and get a full refund ?

  24. I hope not. I reckon it could be a pretty fun flight for something different to the usual hop across the pond…

  25. @Anthony Thomas – waivers are (at least theoretically) possible. I was just wondering if it was a technical issue that kept BA from pursuing a waiver.

  26. I too worry. If the NY Port Authority would grant a waiver to their distance rule at LGA and LCY gained pre-clearance then an A220 may be the perfect solution, whether with BA, B6 or anyone else. Until that happens, I’m afraid it won’t be back.

  27. BA has been looking for an out on this vanity but unprofitable route. After 9/11 airlines had cover to make all sorts of service cuts. Almost 20 years later….

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