The aviation world is abuzz with a rumor that British Airways is at least contemplating a return to the capital of Victoria. The UK flag carrier hasn’t flown to Melbourne since 2006, but inside information is suggesting that it’s a destination that is on the table for future network expansion.
The only British airline in Australia
Currently, British Airways is the only UK airline still flying to Australia. Virgin Atlantic ended its London-Hong Kong-Sydney service in 2014, leaving just British Airways operating to Oceania, with its sole route a one stop itinerary between Heathrow and Sydney. Prior to this, BA had flown to Melbourne and Brisbane too, with stops in Hong Kong and Bangkok in the routings too.
British Airways’ London-Singapore-Sydney route has been moderately successful, particularly since the carrier switched out its Boeing 747s for the more economical 777-300ER on the route back in 2014. Now, it seems like the carrier could be mulling a return to Melbourne, and this time with an even more economical plane: the inimitable Airbus A350-1000.
The rumor of this potential new route was first shared by God Save The Points. While it is simply a rumor at this stage, there’s some pretty sound logic behind it. Let’s take a look.
Why would we think BA is returning to Melbourne?
God Save The Points came up with some juicy and logical reasoning behind the rumor, and it’s all down to something called OANS. OANS is the On Board Airport Navigation System, which GSTP describes as “an extreme version of Google Maps for pilots of each airfield.”
Now, each OANS must be purchased separately, and they’re not cheap. Buying an OANS is generally only done if an airline is pretty serious about using that airport at some point in the future. The purchase of an OANS for Boston and Austin was precisely what tipped off British Airways’ pilots to the forthcoming A350 destinations, long before they were announced by the airline.
GSTP reports that “multiple BA pilots with first hand knowledge” have said that the OANS is now listing Melbourne as a destination within the onboard systems of the A350. If this is true, then it indicates that the A350 is being sized up for some sort of service to the airport at some point in the future.
What would Melbourne flights mean for BA?
What is unknown at this stage is whether British Airways is planning to add Melbourne to its one-stop Singapore service, as an alternative to Sydney, or if it’s planning to fly direct. We all know Qantas has very publicly expressed a wish to fly nonstop from Sydney to London, a move it has dubbed Project Sunrise. In fact, it has even selected the A350-1000 for the job, the very same aircraft British Airways operates.
Melbourne is a top destination away from Sydney. According to McCrindle, Sydney is larger, with a population of 4,879,000 but Melbourne is growing at a rate that is 18% faster. In fact, Melbourne is predicted to be Australia’s largest city by 2050. That makes it a top choice for BA, and would mean it was not in direct competition with Qantas.
British Airways has received five of its widebody A350-1000 aircraft but has a further 13 on order. While the standard A350-1000 is short on range to make the trip nonstop, with some cabin modifications it could go the distance. Singapore Airlines has proven the concept with the current world’s longest flight, which offers the A350-900 in a premium heavy configuration.
Of course, British Airways could simply offer Melbourne on its current one-stop routing via Singapore. This would allow it to fly an A350 in the standard configuration on the route. However, with multiple airlines already offering Singapore-Melbourne connections, this would be something of an odd move, and somewhat risky for British Airways.
We asked British Airways about this rumor, but all the airline would tell us is:
We always keep our global network under review.
It would certainly be exciting to see British Airways flying to Melbourne once again. If this was a nonstop route, a la Project Sunrise, it would be one in the eye for its oneworld partner Qantas and a hugely exciting proposition. But, with no confirmation from the airline and any announcement likely some time away, for now, we’ll just have to wait.
What do you think about British Airways returning to Melbourne? Would it be good for you? Let us know in the comments.