BA Extends Air Belgium A340 Lease For London to Abu Dhabi Flights

British Airways (BA) has decided to extend their lease of the Air Belgium A340 that they have rented to fly their Cairo route, to help cover their London to Abu Dhabi route that previously flew a BA Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

They initially leased the aircraft from Air Belgium as a cautionary move as they and other airlines grounded their 787 Dreamliners to diagnose a possible problem with the compressor in the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines that power the craft.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure our customers travel as planned, in light of continuing issues with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, which are affecting many airlines around the world,” – BA in a statement to ATW

The replacement plane being used is an Airbus A340-300, rented from Air Belgium (Ex-Finnair planes) for the dates September 15thto October 4th(By which time they hope their larger and newer Boeing 787 Dreamliners will be up and atom). As mentioned, hey had also been using the plane to fly a few routes between London and Cairo, Egypt, earlier this month.

ba air belgium leaseair belgium air belgium a340
LONDON, UK: British Airways’ first Boeing 787 Dreamliner arrives at London Heathrow on 27 June 2013
(Picture by Jeff Garrish/British Airways)

British Airways’ first and premium economy classes are not available on the Air Belgium aircraft. Additionally, we believe that this will be a ‘wet-lease’, not just a rental of the plane, but the crew, fuel and more (Dubbed ‘BA operated by Belgium Air’).

“In order to fly as many customers as possible on their original dates of travel, we have leased an aircraft from Air Belgium. We are in touch with customers who are affected to offer them a range of options if they don’t wish to continue with their booking.”

The rental is actually rather significant for Belgium Air, whom started operating earlier this year and has only three other planes (One of which was also rented to Air France during the summer season to operate Paris and Libreville in Gabon, Africa). We imagine that a full-time lease by such a big airline as British Airways would be quite lucrative.

Here is a table comparing the Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A340-300:

Plane Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Airbus A340-300
Seating Capacity 1 Class* 406 335
Seating Capacity 3 Class 290 277
Fuel Capacity 101.4 tonnes 110.4 tonnes
Speed (Cruise) Mach 0.85 (488 kn; 903 km/h) Mach 0.82 (470 kn; 871 km/h) cruise
Range 7,635 nmi (14,140 km) 7,150 nmi (13,240 km)

*The Air Belgium A340 is one class throughout, whilst a typical BA 787-9 has three classes (Economy, Premium and First).

A cross section of the Air Belgium A340-300. Photo: Air Belgium

The A340 plane is not an ideal replacement for a Boeing 787, in terms of capacity, range and speed. One has to wonder if British Airways considered renting an A380, but since the only wet-lease on the market, the Hi Fly A380, is currently a $440 million paperweight in Paris, perhaps the A340 is all they could get.

British Airways of course normally borrows planes off their partner Airline, Qatar, however as Qatar is still facing a blockade (For the last 15 months no less), British Airways cannot use their aircraft to service the United Arab Emirates (Where Abu Darbi is located), as Qatar and the U.A.E. are enemies.

Have you flown on Air Belgium? Let us know in the comments you experience!