With a total of 18 ordered and four already delivered, the Airbus A350-1000 is set to become a big part of BA’s long-haul operation over the next few years – especially as the airline retires the rest of its 32 Boeing 747’s between now and 2024 and shorter-range Boeing 787-10 start to be delivered later this year. But there’s allegedly one big problem that is stopping British Airways from realising the true potential of its brand new A350’s.
Boasting a maximum range of 16,100km, the Airbus A350-1000 is easily capable of connecting existing city pairs in BA’s route network like London to Cape Town (which clocks in at 9,673km as the crow flies) or even London to Singapore at just shy of 11,000km. But up until now, British Airways has only been flying its A350 on relatively short hops like London to Toronto, Tel Aviv and Dubai.
Even the furthest current route between London and Bangalore is only 8,000km – much shorter than the range Airbus or British Airways intended for the A350. British Airways took delivery of its first A350 in July 2019 and the current routes being operated by the plane seem to be following the original strategy detailed by the airline… but when will longer routes be announced?
There was, it appears, a plan to utilise the A350 on BA’s route to Tokyo Narita (9,600km) in time for the Summer 2020 Olympic Games – but British Airways quickly reversed that plan just days after it was loaded into the summer schedule. So why the change?
Well, if the current rumours are to be believed, it’s all to do with the amount of galley space British Airways has in its A350’s. Airlines have a great deal of freedom to customise the interior of their aircraft and it seems like BA has chosen a ‘densified’ configuration that sacrifices galley space for seats. As a result, there might not be enough space to store all the food required for an ultra-long-haul flight.
According to aviation blog GSTP, who first reported the rumour, sources at the airline claim there’s “hardly any space” on the aircraft to delivery just one main meal service – let alone two. Other sources quoted by the blog, however, insist there’s more than enough space.
Gilbert Ott, who runs GSTP said of the rumours:
“Numerous sources have stated that the BA configuration is so rammed, there’s hardly anywhere to put… anything, even for one service,”
“Sources inside the airline maintain that the plane does have the space to actually do a second meal service, but those with more intimate knowledge of service elements and goings on of actual events in the air tend to disagree entirely.”
What we do know is that British Airways has opted for special ‘space-saving’ lavatories at the back of its aircraft which would seemingly take out some room from the rear galley. That being said, with a premium heavy configuration, BA’s total passenger headcount is very similar to other A350-100 operators like Heathrow rival Virgin Atlantic, as well as Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways.
A spokesperson for British Airways has categorically denied the rumours, saying the A350 has “sufficient space to accommodate catering for the duration of any of our flights.”
The spokesperson explained that further routes are also planned but did not say what kind of distance they would be operating.
Last August, BA’s director of brand and customer experience Carolina Martinoli explained: “teams across the business have been working hard to ensure that every aspect of our customers’ experience meets and exceeds their expectations.”
British Airways has been contacted for comment.