a plane on the tarmac

In summer 2019, British Airways began taking delivery of their Airbus A350-1000 fleet, which has overall been extremely positive for the airline, helping to usher in new seats and technology across its various cabins. Each of the new planes feature similar registrations all following on from the first G-XWBA, with G-XWBB, and one of the newer arrivals – G-XWBD, the last of which has been involved in a staggering number of incidents, just three months into the job.

Apparently, some birds just don’t want to fly.

Even before delivery, G-XWBD, a brand new British Airways A350-1000, experienced its first issue in being struck while in a hangar in the Airbus facility at Toulouse at no fault to the airline.

That was November 2019, and in each month since delivery, something has gone wrong, including a hard landing that took the jet out of service and now not one, but two serious hydraulic failures. Let’s recap…

  • November 2019: G-XWBD hit in hangar, delays delivery.
  • December 2019: Delivery to British Airways. Entered service January 1st, 2020.
  • January 20, 2020: Hard landing in Tel Aviv prompts jet taken out of service.
  • February 12, 2020: Hydraulic failure on approach into Toronto. Hydraulic fluid leak found and heat with brakes resulted in very minor smoky fire. Airplane could not taxi.
  • February 19, 2020: Hydraulic failure on approach into Heathrow, Hydraulic Fluid leaks onto runway causing closure of 1/2 Heathrow runways and similar smoky brakes.

a plane on the tarmac

Though superstition, science and engineering are often at odds – it just seems that some jets have all the luck – or lack thereof – and this just might be one of them. In contrast, the Airbus A350-1000 as a general program across most airlines has had very few notable issues and is one of the safest – and I’d argue best – planes in the sky.

Hot tip: if you ever want to know the registration of the plane you’re flying, the app FlightRadar24 is a great resource, where you can plug in your flight number and see which aircraft will operate the flight up to a couple days in advance.

Operationally, the A350 been one of the most reliable aircraft with the fewest service needs, which was cited as a key reason Qantas choose the A350-1000 aircraft for potential “Project Sunrise” ultra-long haul flights. Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic are the other notable airlines utilizing the plane presently.

Most of all – it’ll be really interesting to see what happens with G-XWBD going forward.

There’s no real reason why the program should be so successful on most airlines, yet half of British Airways (4) new A350-1000 aircraft, (G-XWBC, G-XWBD) are currently out of service. It’s reported that G-XWBC will be ready for a return to service later today, and teething issues are always standard with new jets.

There’s absolutely no suggestion British Airways has any part in the issues, and rather, they may have just been extremely unlucky with an otherwise outstanding new fleet.

I absolutely don’t place any blame at all on BA here, it’s just an interesting observation, considering all of Virgin’s A350’s, which were delivered at virtually the exact same time are yet to experience a significant fault, and there haven’t been any notable issues with the Cathay or Qatar fleets either, beyond a few initial issues for Cathay years ago.

If “lemon laws” exist for planes the way they do for cars, British Airways may want to seriously consider sending this jet back via Amazon Prime next day service, because the issues are becoming concerning for passengers and crew alike. Some jets just appear jinxed, and this is one of them.

As always, safety above everything else.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. “I absolutely don’t place any blame at all on BA here”
    Agreed, in terms of the engineering but NOT the:-
    non reclining seats
    the absence of any airbus “extras” eg. external cams
    the already dirty and worn cabins
    the consistent under provisioning of catering
    the ultradense configuration resulting in very slow service
    For which BA is unquestionably culpable… and given the premiums they charge in my view indefensibly guilty of intentionally downgrading the experience as part of their much hyped “£6billion” investment (HAhaha) programme

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