British Airways scraps Chengdu, to launch New Orleans?

British Airways announced yesterday that it is closing its route to Chengdu in China after three years.

I have been calling out this route since it launched.  I was told by a BA employee that the plug was very nearly pulled before a single flight had departed, so poor were forward bookings.  I am not sure how it has limped on for three years, although I am sure that cargo must have played a part.

The last flight to Chengdu will depart on 12th January.

If you were far more cynical than me, you may link this news to reports that the Government was due to finally decide on Heathrow expansion today although the decision has now been delayed a few days longer.

British Airways is very keen for the third runway plans to be scrapped.  The chance of BA being given additional slots equal to its current % of slot control at Heathrow is somewhat lower than nil.  It faces both a massive increase in landing fees and a sharp increase in competition.  Is BA sending a message to the Government?  If we cannot make flights to China pay (along with all the routes to India launched and closed during the last decade) then where are the extra flights from a third runway going to go?

This is all speculation, of course.


As – it must be said – is the rumour that New Orleans will be the beneficiary of the slots and aircraft freed up from closing Chengdu.

There have been local press reports of a major airline announcement so this would make some sense, as would BA dropping back to a ‘safe’ US destination.

Have a think about whether you would be interested in a New Orleans holiday next year.  If the route is announced – and I stress that it isn’t certain – there will be two Club World seats immediately available on EVERY service.  You would have little trouble getting your preferred dates if you moved quickly.

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  1. Sam Wardill says:

    I took the Chengdhu flight in J with my wife and we were amazed to be the only non-Chinese pax. Great reward availability. Interesting place to visit for the adventurous traveller but not for your average Joe. I guess there would be some business demand but not a massive amount. I kind of wondered whether they just did it for the free BBC publicity.

    New Orleans appears to make a lot more sense. No direct flights at mo. Fantastic tourist destination and (even with low oil price) pretty good oil industry J demand.

  2. My brother moved there last year and has been periodically sending me local newspaper articles about rumours of a new direct flight to London. BA was mentioned in one he sent me just a few weeks ago.

  3. Though I’d imagine Mardi Gras will book up quickly!

    We’ve been twice, once via ORD (hellish two-ticket connection with a 6-hour wait that turned into 8), and once via MIA (3 hours which nearly wasn’t enough due to the immigration queue), so direct can only be a good thing.

  4. Actually there is further free 787 capacity for next year given the transfer of one of the PHL flights to American. So there could be two new 787 routes next year…

  5. Sad to see Chengdu close. I flew that route last year to visit friends in Chengdu in J using companion voucher. The J cabin was only 1/2 full but PE and Economy both looked almost at capacity. A shame as Chengdu is a fascinating city to visit with much culture plus the Panda Research Base and also home to rapidly expanding hi-tech and research based industries. It was also a great location for connecting flights to other Asian and Chinese destinations and part of the Chinese visa free transit programme meaning you could stay upto 72 hours without a visa if transiting to another destination outside China.

  6. plastikman says:

    long for the day when they will bring back a direct MNL flight.

  7. Talking of flights, we fly to Beijing every year as our son is there, been going for 10 years now it’s always been a 747 and always packed, in fact generally they are asking for people to step down. We’ve booked for September next year, was a 747 now switched yesterday to a 777-200, I wonder why the switch?

    • Jamie P says:

      The switch of aircraft to PEK between a 747 and 777 is seasonal.

      • Disagree there, we’ve always flown same dates in September it’s always been a 747, when I booked it was was a 747.

        • This has intrigued me now, I’ve just scanned from November 16 to September 17 and all flights are on the 777, wonder if they are taking the 747 out of service

        • If you’re looking at the timetable on the BA web site it is not 100% accurate. I was concerned that some months ago it was showing a change from A380 to 747 in Oct 16 (and I am flying Jun 17 and had selected seats on A380) but it was corrected eventually.

  8. Love New Orleans. Great to get a direct flight from London.

  9. Nick Burch says:

    OT Lufthansa PartnerPlusBenefit just emailed me to say that, if I booked a flight before the 31st of Dec, I could get business lounge access in Munich or Frankfurt airports for it. Email had a code, would just need to ring them with the code + PartnerPlusBenefit number + flight PNR.

    • I’m still waiting for the extra 1500 points from the double points sign up promo last week.

      • Give it another couple of weeks then drop me a note – I can get that fixed.

        • I got a phone call this morning welcoming me to PPB and I mentioned the 3000 sign up and was informed that the extra 1500 points will be awarded within 11 weeks of first flight booking.

        • It seems there has been some confusion on this which I will get PPB to clarify ASAP.

        • Edward Felt says:

          You should make contact and ask for the extra points. We had a call from them and informed them of the promotion, the additional points were added to our account within 24hours.


  10. Fits in with my theory that flights East to thinner routes will be via Doha, and BA creates more capacity flying West for QR transit traffic.

  11. BA not being able to fly to Chengdu won’t influence the government one jot – especially if they are going to reuse the slot to another destination.

    I know you attributed it to cynics, but I don’t think that theory has any credibility!

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      “I know you attributed it to cynics, but I don’t think that theory has any credibility!”

      That’s just what they want you to think! It’s not a conspiracy if they really are out to get you.

  12. Jean Morgan says:

    I love New Orleans! I was there in January and again in May this year. A direct flight would have been great as it was such a pain trying to find reward seats to a gateway city with a decent connection to NOLA. In the end we flew to Dallas both times and then onwards with AA.

  13. More speculation on why BA pulled out, but apparently it’s common for regional Chinese cities to provide subsidies to airlines wanted to launch long haul routes, typically for a couple of years. This article claims Wuhan was paying Air France EUR 30,000 per flight for its Paris route.

    Although the gist of the article is that airlines generally stick to routes after the subsidies expire, not all do.

  14. Oh dear…that’s inconvenient. I have a one-way reward flight booked for next Spring. Was hoping to take advantage of the 72-hour visa waiver before flying on to Japan as part of a big birthday trip. Although I’ve had individual flights cancelled before, I haven’t had an entire route cancelled. Do BA’s normal rebook or refund rules apply? The BA website states that they will normally rebook on the next available BA flight, but I assume that a refund will be the only option if they’re no longer flying that route. Any advice gratefully accepted.

    • BA has not emailed travel agents yet with the policy. They will be looking at what other options exist – there are few other options to Chengdu so they may just decide to refund everyone rather than try to rebook.

      • Thanks for the quick reply. Guess we’ll sit tight and see what happens over the next couple of weeks or so. Plenty of time to mess around with ITA Matrix and look at BA partner reward charts in the meantime.

        Thanks again.

        • JamesLHR says:

          CTU via HKG with BA/CX is always a oneworld option!

        • Thanks for the tip, JamesLHR. I’ve had a quick chat with BA and they offered to rebook us to either Shanghai or Hong Kong, but we’d have to find our own way to Chengdu from there. Shanghai doesn’t work for the visa waiver, so I’ll look into connections from HKG. Someone on Flyertalk was offered BA to AUH and EY onwards to CTU, so that maybe another option. We’re also just up the road from Dublin, so to speak, and DUB to CTU via AMS looks promising. At least we have lots of options to consider.

  15. RussellH says:

    And there was me thinking that the Europhobes all knew for sure that we were going to ramp up our flights to China once we were untied from from “Brussels”.

    Certainly true though that BA is not in favour of a third runway.

  16. Leafwarbler says:

    Not surprised – there were only 3 of us in J cabin in June last year.

    O/T anyone know if I stand any chance of using a Companion Ticket to Cancun in Feb/Mar next year? Dates quite flexible but 3+ weeks apart. Any advice welcome.

    • Leafwarbler says:

      Oops – meant 2018

      • Genghis says:

        You do if you book at t-355.

        • Chelseafi says:

          I’m confused how you use a 241 companion voucher, on the popular routes, how do you book t-355, on website or over the phone and how does the return part work? thanks

        • You can book the outbound online as soon as it pops up, at midnight-ish. This will be a one-way booking obviously.

          When the return becomes available, you need to ring BA and get them to add it to your outbound sector. If you wait until 8am you can ring the UK call centre, if you want to call at midnight you need to ring somewhere else in the world.

          You may be asked to pay the £35 per person change fee although some agents seem to be willing to waive this.

        • Chelseafi says:

          Thank you, already done Atlanta first class return in Easter Hols 2014 and this July did open jaw NY First with Chicago CW return, family of four, schools hols, these routes had a lot of availability, so planning for summer 2018 now and fancy West Coast US. Only couple of years ago I’d never heard of open jaw flights, so thank you & all the other contributors.

        • For the record did just this for a CE redemption next year (not as adventurous but still better than wasting the companion voucher) and the BAEC agent didn’t even mention the service charge and it wasn’t applied. Seemed as though the adding-return-leg-to-BAPP-voucher is a known ‘thing’ that doesn’t attract the service charge

        • And to be clear Rob, it is possible to redeem the companion voucher(s) when booking the return flights, when calling the contact centre ?

        • Yes

  17. BA has always supported the extra runway at Heathrow – if only because it doesn’t want it at Gatwick. This is just one of the arguments it offers:
    “During the last few years, the number of regional routes served from Heathrow has been reduced due to the lack of runway capacity there. A third runway will enable British Airways and other airlines to start new commercially viable regional services from Heathrow, hopefully using slots reserved for that purpose.” – BA

    Sure, they are fearful of the costs involved, but they’ve always favoured LHR over LGW.

    • This article neatly sums up the game BA is playing:

      • RussellH says:

        AIUI, this is really saying that there is no way that the airport itself can finance any third runway. Normally a business would expect to finance investment either out of profits or by raising further capital. Not by raising its prices massively!

        And who knows what the oil price will be in ten years times. At $200 a barrel many routes will cease to be viable and a third runway would be a massive white elephant.

        • If oil prices crept up, the huge capacity in US shale oil which has been mothballed will be brought back on stream – there is almost no realistic scenario in which oil will cost anything like $200 in 10 years…

        • The global aviation industry would need to plummet for a third runway at Heathrow to ever be unneeded. It could do with it now even if they’re not going to add a single flight! Gatwick too.

  18. Chengdu rebooking rules:

    Option 1 – move your trip forward to before 12 January

    Option 2 – fly BA to HK, Beijing, Shanghai and then buy your own connection (seriously)

    Option 3 – fly BA to Abu Dhabi and connect to Etihad, this is subject to Etihad having specific cheapo fare buckets available in whatever class applies

    More options may be available on Friday if you want to wait.

    • James A says:

      Option 2 doesn’t exactly satisfy their obligations surely?! Don’t CX/Dragonair fly to Chengdu?!

      • Buy Your Own Connection, and have the convenience of accessing your bag at the transfer point because BA won’t through-check it. It’s the next enhancement after Buy on Board.

      • It’s too far in the future for BA to be required to get anyone to the original destination. A further option is obviously returning the ticket for a refund.

  19. AVConsultant says:

    New Orleans route is going ahead for BA – subsidized by the tourist board of New Orleans to the tune of a few million. Launch to come soon with a Mardi Gras theme.

  20. Scallder says: