Looking for a commentary on what airlines expect the premium business travel environment to look like in the years ahead? Consider this: British Airways officially scrapped G-EUNA this week. And with its departure from the fleet the carrier’s service between New York’s JFK Airport and London City Airport, heavily focused on bankers commuting between the global business hubs, is no more.
The aircraft and the route were special in many ways. An all-business class A318 featuring just 32 seats on board gave the flight a hint of a private jet feel. So did the stop in Shannon, Ireland to refuel and clear immigration headed westbound, necessary because of the steep departure off London City’s short runway. Delivering passengers to the east side of London, near their banking jobs in Canary Wharf, with minimal immigration hassle was another big win.
British Airways also honored the route with the call sign Speedbird 1 (BA1) westbound, a designation previously used for Concorde supersonic travel between the two cities.
At the same time, however, the route flight was showing signs of weakness well before the current downturn.
British Airways had already retired the second A318 used to operate the route double daily at its peak a few years back. The carrier also cut down on some of the perks associated with flying on the Baby ‘Bus. Travelers at JFK were, at one time, afforded access to the Concorde Room premium lounge experience. But that ended years ago.
The cabin offered lie-flat beds, of course, but the product was already a bit behind the times when it launched in 2009 an never really improved. Call it the burden of being too far ahead of their time, but options for a truly premium flat-bed seat on a single-aisle plane only recently started to appear as the 737MAX and A321neo/LR/XLR are joining the market.
Inflight entertainment and internet connectivity options were similarly meager on board.
And so it is that the Baby ‘Bus is consigned to the British Airways annals of history. The route’s demise was announced last August, but with the aircraft still in the fleet there was always a change the decision could be reversed. Now that is not an option.
Perhaps the LCY-JFK route will return again. The Airbus A220-100 has already flown it once, proving it can operate nonstop westbound with 40 business class passengers on board. But no one thus far has expressed interest in that option. Maybe in a few years if demand recovers and expense accounts are loosened once again.
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