British Airways Intends To Lease Three Qatar Airways A330s

Filed Under: British Airways, Qatar

A week ago I wrote about how Qatar Airways was willing to lease British Airways some widebody aircraft. British Airways has a fleet of 26 Boeing 787s, though there are some serious issues with the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines being used on many of these planes. This has led to operational issues for airlines, as these planes have required further inspections and in some cases replacements. We’re also seeing limitations placed on the routes these planes can fly.

Qatar Airways owns a 20% stake in IAG, so their motivation for leasing to British Airways is twofold:

  • Since they have a stake in the airline, it’s in their best interest for British Airways to operate as profitably and seamlessly as possible
  • This is also an opportunity for Qatar Airways to make money leasing out these planes, especially as the airline is currently losing money; due to the Gulf blockade the airline has some excess capacity (or at least they could be using capacity more efficiently)

With that in mind, we haven’t known much about which planes Qatar Airways planned to lease out, and how many of them. We now have some insights into that.

FlightGlobal notes that British Airways intends to wet lease three Airbus A330s from Qatar Airways between June 1 and September 30, 2018. This is according to a filing with the UK Civil Aviation Authority on May 4, where they request permission to do this due to “exceptional needs.”

Qatar Airways has a couple of different configurations of A330s. They have some A330s with angled business class seats, though the most common configuration features fully flat seats in a 2-2-2 layout.

My guess is that British Airways would be leasing the above A330s with flat beds, since I can’t imagine they’d settle for planes without flat beds. While this is far from Qatar Airways’ best business class product, which I’d consider to be Qsuites, followed by reverse herringbone seats, I’d still consider this to be a significant upgrade over what British Airways usually offers.

Best of all, Qatar Airways crews (both pilots and cabin crew) would operate these flights, so that should represent a nice service upgrade as well.

Here’s to hoping this actually happens — I’d be curious to see which routes get the leased planes.

This wouldn’t be the first time that British Airways leases Qatar Airways planes. When British Airways crews went on strike last year for extended periods of time, Qatar Airways loaned them eight of their Airbus A320s with crews. Talk about an upgrade over British Airways’ regular short-haul fleet.

  1. I personally would expect these on routes to the East Coast where we usually see 787s – e.g. BWI, EWR, BOS, YYZ – that can neatly be operated as a round trip with some maintenance time. These also offer plenty of options to rebook PE (and maybe F) customers if required

  2. I don’t see how this is an upgrade in terms of hard product

    To get out of a club world window seat you just have to hop over the feet of your neighbour and can use the seat shell to brace yourself.

    To get out of the window seat in this product (and others like LATAM, Lufthansa), you basically need your neighbour to get up, or else clamber precariously over their body with nothing to hold on to.

    Great privacy vs zero privacy.

  3. “Best of all, Qatar Airways crews (both pilots and cabin crew) would operate these flights, so that should represent a nice service upgrade as well.”

    I mean it’s absolutely no secret that you seem to despise BA (yet write about them all the time), but how exactly are BA pilots substandard and inferior to Qatar’s?? I mean you can have whatever opinion you like regarding the seats and service, but exactly what do you base your sweeping, demeaning generalisation of the professionalism of BA pilots?

  4. @adiosuk

    I think it’s safe to assume, that these planes will operated on routes where F isn’t offered. But since it’s the 787-9s that are affected and not the 787-8s, expect a few dissappointed passengers and refunds.

  5. Thanks Sam – its actually us having our first experience of BA F (I know, I know!) and deliberately chose the 787-9 to KUL in July

    Will be disappointed beyond words to be downgraded/cancelled. Will just have to see how to see pans out and have fingers crossed !!

  6. @theox

    BA doesn’t fly their 787s to DXB. However, BA DOES fly their 787s on routes to Jeddah, Cairo and Abu Dhabi currently. I can only imagine the smile that Akbar Al Baker would make if BA uses a QR plane to fly into one of these countries that is blockading Qatar.

  7. @michael

    I have to say, I was pretty shocked at this too, and would be interested to see Ben elaborate on how QR pilots represent a ‘service upgrade’. I’m sure the pilot community will be tuning in for the explanation.

  8. Why would Qatar give up their flat-bed A330s? You’d think they’d want to keep those to use themselves…

  9. @ Nolan — I don’t think they have that many angled A330s left (especially as some just went to Air Italy), but I could be wrong. I don’t think it’s a function of what they “want” to give up, but rather that BA is requesting flat beds (since it’s something they’ve offered for two decades), and it’s something that Qatar can accommodate. I guess we’ll see!

  10. @ Lawrence @ Michael — The statement wasn’t intended to be about pilots. I was staying that Qatar crews entirely will be crewing the planes (for anyone who was curious), and that this represents a service upgrade. I don’t think of pilots as being “service,” that’s cabin crew. But I absolutely think British Airways has great pilots, and I’d trust them over Qatar pilots any day, on balance.

  11. I wonder about the BA 787 flight that goes into Philadelphia if this might be affected back to London? Hmmm.

  12. Getting out of the window seat on those 2-2-2 aircraft is the worst access issue I have ever experienced. The low level aisle flat bed and extended pier between seats makes it near impossible.

    For me, it changed Qatar from the best to worst airline, literally overnight.

    Can’t believe I’d ever prefer BA hard product, but I would.

  13. As of today, the BA LAX-LHR flight that is operated by the Dreamliner are entirely cancelled, so they chose not to use the planes on this route, and cancel the flights instead. Customers have been sent messages informing them to rebook to another BA flight for receive full refunds. Perhaps there’s already enough capacity with the two BA A380s and the two AA 777s.

  14. expect the British Airline Pilots Association to object to this proposal. BA is an EASA regulated airline, so it should be leasing European based aircraft.

  15. I can’t say I’ve ever been able to fault the professionalism of any BA pilot, so how flight crew from another airline would represent an “upgrade” is quite a mystery to me.

    I appreciate that this blog is simply an expression of personal opinion and preference – albeit one which brings about an income for the authors – but some of those opinions seem rather perverse.

  16. @ADS the CAA has refused BA a lease on these grounds before (for this summer for Gatwick, instead various carriers have popped up so far including Germania, Titan, Eastern, Neos and I believe JetTime are back again at Heathrow)

    But for long haul it’s much harder to obtain capacity esp. in summer peak – Norwegian have already leased in a lot of the available frames from Hi-fly etc – so I imagine they’ll get approval, especially as the circumstances are out of their control (vs. the commercial decision to obtain more slots at Gatwick without the frames/crews to operate them)

  17. Just Curious,
    Can British Airways fly these planes to the other Gulf States(i.e. UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia)? Since technically they operate for BA now.

  18. Oh come on people… everybody knows that getting a nice flight crew in QR is easier than getting a nice one in BA. Nice vs rude. The upgrade is pretty clear

  19. @stuart, wondering the same. I’m booked on that route in a month from now. I’ll be watching closely to see what happens.

  20. Lucky, Qatar no longer has any A330 which are non-flat, you might want to update this article. In fact, for quite a long time now. The other configuration is similar to the 777.

  21. It certainly is an upgrade from four star carrier- BA to five star-QR. Five star service all the way.

  22. Seriously BA could only lease the A330 with average C seats not the B787 or A350 with the far more better seats?! Yes, it is an upgrade to have QR crew and service, meaning FAs and superiour service attitude..I will ignore Lucky’s comment on the BA’s pilots..I am sure he knows already, it was not right! I am not so keen to fly those seats but having QR service instead of BA ones, still is a far better argument to choose rather than the conventional ones. Or is it intentionally leased like so inorder not to lose customers who could fall in love to QR service and leave BA for the best? BA should be aware that it would not backfire and expose their weakness to their the end of the is all about having one step ahead of your rival and show no weakness.

  23. I’ve flown QR on 12 sectors within the past 18 months and I found the QR cabin service ranged from smiley and warm to somewhat indifferent robotic. Same goes for BA: When you get a great crew, the service is fantastic. When you don’t, you know about it! You can’t write an entire airline on or off by making such sweeping statements.

  24. The Qatar A330’s aren’t being used on 787 routes. Just for short 777 BA routes so the BA 777’s can be used for longer 787 routes. Below is the 3 routes affected. All usually BA 777 routes. The 777’s usually used on these routes will be used for the longest 787 routes where the Qater A330’s can’t handle the distance.

    All 3 A330’s will be newer cabins with fully flat seats.

    BA157 Heathrow to Kuwait between 9 June and 30 June
    BA156 Kuwait to Heathrow between 10 June and 01 July
    BA79 Heathrow to Muscat between 9 June and 20 August
    BA80 Muscat to Heathrow between 10 June and 21 August
    BA143 Heathrow to Delhi between 9 June and 20 August
    BA142 Delhi to Heathrow between 10 June and 21 August

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