Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

How much smaller is the British Airways long haul fleet post pandemic?

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

The British Airways long haul fleet is smaller than it was before the pandemic – but how much smaller?

As our other article today explains, British Airways is rumoured to be leasing an A330neo from Air Belgium to fly to Chicago for five months. Given the squeeze on the fleet, it has few options.

Routes such as Bangkok, Seoul, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Kuala Lumpur and Durban will probably come back to the British Airways network in time. The retirement of over 30 Boeing 747 aircraft during covid is causing severe issues, however.

BA 747 retirement

British Airways currently has 15 fewer long haul aircraft than it had in March 2020. Average utilisation per aircraft is unchanged at 13 hours per day, meaning that there is a direct correlation to miles flown by the long haul fleet.

Here is how the fleet looked in March 2020 (hat-tip to Rob Walker on LinkedIn):

  • 5 x A350-1000
  • 0 x Boeing 787-10 (not yet introduced)
  • 18 x Boeing 787-9
  • 12 x Boeing 787-8
  • 12 x A380-800
  • 12 x Boeing 777-300
  • 45 x Boeing 777-200
  • 32 x Boeing 747-400

…. for a total of 136 aircraft.

Here is how it looks now:

  • 13 x A350-1000
  • 7 x Boeing 787-10
  • 18 x Boeing 787-9
  • 12 x Boeing 787-8
  • 12 x A380-800
  • 16 x Boeing 777-300
  • 43 x Boeing 777-200
  • 0 x Boeing 747-400 (all retired)

…. for a total of 121 aircraft.

British Airways a380

Is British Airways going to fill the 15 aircraft gap with new arrivals? Not for a while. There are 10 x A350 and Boeing 787 aircraft to be delivered over the next couple of years – the 14th A350 is imminent. There will then be a gap until at least 2026 until the first of the Boeing 777-9 fleet arrives.

We’re probably looking at 2027 until the long haul fleet is back at 136 aircraft. This means that we may be waiting for four years to see a long haul schedule as varied as the one we had in 2019.

(In case you’re wondering, the narrow body fleet for short haul is pretty much as it was pre pandemic at 143 aircraft. Finnair and Avion are both providing additional resources at the moment with leased aircraft.)

Don’t get your hopes up too high though. In general, the new aircraft being delivered are smaller than the Boeing 747 aircraft they are replacing and this situation will only get worse if the A380 fleet is retired early. Even if the missing British Airways routes come back over the next few years, there may be a squeeze on the number of seats available.


How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2023)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (109)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Stuart says:

    Did BA pick up some new 777-300s or were they from elsewhere?

  • Nate1309 says:

    An article on where the A380 flies to would be good to 😀

  • Matarredonda says:

    SAS got to sell a 4 year old 350-900 as part of their Chapter 11 reorganisation so maybe BA will be in the market to buy.

  • Alex says:

    I’ve given up hope on KUL coming back…

  • C says:

    Except for the a380, is BA close to completing the club suites rollout?

    • Rob says:


      • LittleNick says:

        Is there an argument that as BA are short on long haul aircraft they don’t want to take many out of service at any given moment for Club Suite refurbs as it increases capacity constraints, hence why it seems a bit slow?

  • Franz Plachy says:

    Don’t worry too much about the reduction of aircraft and available seats. They are probably just “right sizing” for the loss of passengers in all classes that are fed up with the lack of BA customer service both on the ground and in the air. Give it a couple of years and they will need a few less aircraft again.

    Reminds me of the old joke “how do you run a small airline?”
    Take a big one and manage it for a few years! I am sure it sounds even better in Spanish.

  • David Starkie says:

    How is BA managing its long-haul slots at LHR? Cannot all be switched to short-haul.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.