a large airplane flying over a runway

Before Sean Doyle took over as the new CEO of British Airways, former CEO Alex Cruz offered a grim warning in response to the global pandemic: British Airways is going to be a smaller airline, for a long time.

Now, the realities of what that may look like are taking shape, despite positive hopes for the broader travel industry amid vaccine distribution. British Airways is retreating from a variety of cities and countries around the globe for summer 2021, and in most cases, the suspensions are indefinite.

an airplane wing with clouds in the background

British Airways Cuts Flights To 17+ Cities

British Airways is cutting flights to a variety of key global gateways, and focusing more on routes which are already robust and profitable for the airline.

According to an internal IAG Group presentation, British Airways will focus on making New York a key target once again, by putting its beloved ‘Club Suite’ business class on all flights to the Big Apple by Summer 2021, for both daily services to Newark and all 6 daily’s to JFK. This represents one of the best business class cabins on the route.

It’s not all bad news. Short haul travel is expected to rebound faster than long haul, which spurred the launch of new flights from Southampton last week, to accompany London and Manchester services.

While long haul route closures like Osaka, which only started up just over a year ago aren’t all that surprising, some are. British Airways long standing service to Bangkok, Thailand is on the chop, for now. Going forward to summer 2021, British Airways will only serve the Asian cities of: Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore, a remarkably stark contrast to last year.

a city skyline with a number of buildings
a red bridge over water

Intriguingly, the Airbus A350 has been pulled off Tokyo, and all Asia routes are slated to operate with a Boeing 787 or 777, none of which are currently slated to feature the new Club Suites (subject to change), which are instead predominantly being deployed to the Atlantic and onto Caribbean and South American routes.

Here’s the full list of British Airways routes which have been removed from summer 2021 schedules, most of which aren’t expected to ever return, at least for the next few years.

  • Abu Dhabi
  • Bangkok
  • Buenos Aires
  • Calgary
  • Charleston (SC)
  • Dammam
  • Durban
  • Jeddah
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Lima
  • Muscat
  • Osaka
  • Pittsburgh
  • San Jose (Costa Rica)
  • Seoul Incheon
  • Seychelles
  • Sydney

Sydney, Buenos Aires, San Jose (Costa Rica) and Bangkok are the only cities expected to return as travel rebounds, pending border news. Sydney will be reinstated when more certainty around Australian borders exists, and the same could be said for Bangkok.

Buenos Aires, however, will become a “tag” flight, as an add on to Sao Paulo flights, much like Qatar Airways does. In other words, British Airways is nixing direct flights to Buenos Aires, but customers will still be able to book the flights, with a stop in Sao Paulo, Brazil en-route in each direction.

a large airplane flying over a runway

What If Your Flight Is Now Cancelled?

With vaccines rolling out this spring and into summer, many travelers have high hopes for travel in later 2021. If you’re already booked on one of these flights, and woke up to news of long term route cancellation, you’ve got rights, and British Airways should assist.

If your flight has been cancelled by British Airways, regardless of whether you used cash or paid with points, you’re entitled to a “reimbursement, re-routing, or return”, as defined by EC261 law. This means British Airways must refund you, get you on other flights, likely with a partner airline, or arrange alternate dates.

If British Airways unilaterally cancelled your booking without you asking, they’re on the hook for any difference in fare for your new booking in the same cabin with another airline, which may prompt an agent to be more forthcoming with options to reinstate the booking and get you booked on flights with a partner.

Long Road Ahead For British Airways

British Airways relied more on premium, high value business travel than most airlines, and as the last thing expected to return in the travel recovery, the road ahead is long. The airline is shedding unprofitable routes, and reducing fleet size, with the retirement of the Boeing 747, and suspension of the Airbus A380.

Despite an uphill battle, British Airways is finding new footing in short haul travel, with more departure gateways for British travelers to explore Europe. Focusing again on long standing premium routes will help the airline catch what business travel does return, and new interest in the Caribbean is catching demand where it is right now.

British Airways may be worse off than many airlines right now, but often the toughest challenges lead to the greatest innovations. As one of its many millions of passengers, one can only hope.

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. Innovations (for BA) like:
    Loading the promised catering?
    Cleaning the cabins?
    Providing working seats / screens / advertised WiFi as appropriate?
    Competitive fares?
    Customer service contact points that are resourced to the scale of their business?
    Policies that value the customer as well as the shareholder?
    Trading honestly?

    Until the travelling public can trust BA again and they change their basic approach away from treating customers only as cash cows, they’re on a hiding to nothing.

    1. Here, here.

      Very well said, although, I fear, completely unseen by those who need to see comments such as these…

  2. BA has exhibited what most high-mileage travelers would most charitably characterize as: “Opportunistic and Abusive”. Filthy aircraft, embittered crew, waning service and amenities, and overtly deceptive and manipulative business practices.

    COVID has whacked BA, and they are cutting cities. Hmmmm…. Candidly, I can think of 6 superior airline experiences to those cities.

    Zero sympathy. None. The shareholders should demand “cleansing reform” and a reset to begin trying to rebuild the public trust.

  3. My April ’21 BKK-LHR flights have been cancelled. I am still waiting for a refund from Royal Jordanian for BKK-LHR flights that were cancelled in March this year. It’s a shame that I had to find out here, rather than BA themselves emailing me about my flights. I have still had no official information from BA.

    I understand the situation that airlines are in but they really aren’t helping restore customer confidence by effectively taking the money and running!!

    1. Yes, this is a serious concern for many. I was told by a pilot at BA that the airline was selling something like 20 flights over the next few weeks to a key European market, but had only rostered 3 pilot crews, thus meaning they intend to fly 3 of 20 round trips. It’s not quite above board.

  4. I am still miffed and at a loss as to how I achieve my requested refund for flights cancelled in July due to the pandemic. Like so many others, I asked for a refund via the email sent by BA informing me of the cancellation. Press this -press that- but to my astonishment an instant email was sent to me with vouchers for my flights. I did not ask for vouchers and still dont want vouchers just a refund which I understand I am legally entitled to. After a few phone calls- my first within 24hrs of the issue of non requested vouchers I have been palmed off with- There is nothing that can be done I have to accept the vouchers . I wrote to Alex Cruz but email returned as blocked. If Sean Doyle or anyone reading this can point me in the direction of achieving my rightful refund I would be most grateful.

  5. I booked rtn Club World flights to BKK with BA on Monday and on Wednesday received an email advising the flights were cancelled. The associated planning involving obtaining visas, certificate of entry, ASQ hotel in BKK etc were all in peril. It took me 4 hours of waiting to speak to a BA Customer Services agent but they managed to get me onto Qatar instead (Q Suite is a far better service than the tired Club World) same dates and same time departure pretty much with a short connection in Doha.
    I had booked seats on Avios and with an Amex companion voucher. So the BA experience in a nutshell – good, bad and frustrating.

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