It’s been 16 years since British Airways last operated regularly scheduled flights to Melbourne, Australia, and even longer since the Heathrow-based carrier flew to Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth, but if the persistent rumours are to be believed, that could be about to change.
Along with its longstanding Singapore to Sydney route, could British Airways be preparing to make a welcome return to Melbourne?
Let’s start by saying that these rumours aren’t new. The rumour mill can be traced back to early 2020 when BA pilots noticed that the onboard airport navigation system on the airline’s new Airbus A350s had been loaded with the dataset for Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport installed.
According to God Save The Points, airlines buy each airport data set separately, and they don’t come cheap, so if an airport is listed in the OANS, there’s at least some probability that an airline has at least considered launching flights to that destination.
In fact, it was the OANS that alerted pilots to the fact that British Airways was going to be sending its A350s to Austin and Boston long before the airline officially announced the routes.
But what of Melbourne? Well, it’s been over three years since the route rumour emerged, and in that time, there’s not been even the slightest indication that British Airways actually intends to launch flights to the Victorian capital.
British Airways seems perfectly content with its once-daily service between Singapore and Sydney, while it focuses much of its attention on North America, which affords the airline optimal airframe usage.
But still, the rumours persist and with good reason. The latest thinking is that BA could be persuaded to launch flights to Melbourne on behalf of joint venture partner Qatar Airways, which also owns a significant stake in British Airways parent company IAG.
Despite its best efforts, Qatar Airways has failed miserably in its quest to secure additional landing slots in Australia’s four busiest international airports, including Melbourne and is currently restricted to operating just 28 weekly flights from its Doha hub.
Qatar Airways went out of its way to court the Australian government during the pandemic in an attempt to win greater access to Australia’s international air travel market, but the airline was rebuffed earlier this year in a surprise decision by Transport Minister Catherine King.
The refusal hasn’t been without controversy, and while Qatar Airways is still pinning hopes on Australia’s having a change of heart – or at least bowing to public pressure – it would make for the airline to be considering alternative options.
Could one option be to codeshare with British Airways on a new route to Melbourne?
It’s certainly true that Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker is keen to turn Doha Hamad International Airport into a major hub for the Oneworld alliance, of which Qatar Airways and British Airways are members.
At present, British Airways operates a codeshare flight from London to Doha, primarily serving transit passengers who connect to Qatar Airways flights rather than finishing their journey in Doha.
If, and it’s a big if, BA could spare the airframes and pilots, then an onward flight to Melbourne could be a big money earner on what is a popular but capacity-constrained route.
For now, a return to Melbourne for British Airways is just a rumour but a persistent one that no doubt is sticking around because so many people want it to be true.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.