British Airways has taken a knife to a swathe of international routes, with cuts to its usual network set to take effect including the permanent withdrawal of service on three Asia-Pacific routes, such as Kuala Lumpur, and a seasonal pause for flights to Sydney and Bangkok until at least November 2021.
The carrier will cease operations on a total of 13 routes next year, according to information provided to the airline’s trade partners, with no plans to return to these cities currently on the cards.
Kuala Lumpur will end
Most notably for our readers, flights to and from Kuala Lumpur, just a short hop from Singapore, will be cut from BA’s network.
The airline previously had a 14-year gap in service on the route, discontinuing it in 2001, but reinstating flights to the Malaysian capital with 4-class Boeing 777-200ERs in March 2015.
Flights switched to the Boeing 787-9 with newer cabin products later that year, in December 2015.
This was a good way to pick up First Class award space to London using Avios points or Asia Miles, with generally better availability than the Singapore route, provided you were prepared to take a short hop to KL in the afternoon or evening to give yourself sufficient time for BA34’s midnight departure.
The Kuala Lumpur route was temporarily suspended for six months in 2020 due to the COVID-19 situation, however it has been back in operation a couple of times per week since October 2020.
BA’s final Kuala Lumpur to London flight will depart on 28th March 2021, leaving fellow oneworld carrier Malaysia Airlines as the only operator on the city pair.
BA’s full list of permanent route cuts taking effect from the start of the summer season in late March 2021 is as follows:
- Abu Dhabi (AUH)
- Calgary (YYC)
- Charleston (CHS)
- Dammam (DMM)
- Durban (DUR)
- Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
- Jeddah (JED)*
- Lima (LIM)
- Muscat (MCT)
- Osaka (KIX)
- Pittsburgh (PIT)
- Seoul (ICN)
- Seychelles (SEZ) – last service 24 Apr 2021
* Short-term Hajj flights will operate in July 2021
Aside from Kuala Lumpur, in this region both Osaka and Seoul will suffer from the cull.
That’s not too surprising in the case of the Japanese city, which was a new addition in 2019 and has already seen frequency reductions before COVID-19, but it does seem like a big loss for South Korea, with BA exiting that market having resumed services there some eight years ago.
British Airways is far from the only airline globally to be scaling back its route network post-COVID, with Singapore Airlines announcing in September this year that its services to Canberra, Dusseldorf, Stockholm and Wellington will not be returning.
BA will temporarily suspend service to three cities for the summer 2021 season, but in these cases the airline plans to reinstate operation from November 2021:
- Bangkok (BKK)
- San Jose (SJO) – last service 17 Apr 2021
- Sydney (SYD)
Sydney will be back
Sydney is probably the most interesting suspension for our readers, with the service operating via Singapore and also offering a daily fifth-freedom option between the Lion City and Australia in ‘normal times’.
BA services to and from Sydney have been suspended since 9th April 2020, so this additional extension will mean the carrier looks set to be absent from Aussie skies for over 18 months as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Singapore will retain two daily flights
Only two weeks ago we were reporting how BA was downgauging its Singapore flights, with Airbus A380s off the cards, and cutting capacity to both Singapore and Sydney by replacing its kangaroo route service with smaller Boeing 787-9s.
Although the ‘Sydney extension’ on BA15/16 will now not operate throughout the summer 2021 season, BA still intends to retain its two daily flights between Singapore and London between April and October, using Boeing 777-300ER and Boeing 787-9 aircraft, both with four cabin classes available.
Summer 2021 season
British Airways has even operated one of its latest Boeing 777-300ERs with the Club Suites Business Class cabin and new enclosed First Class on the Singapore route recently, so we’re hoping to see this becoming a regular occurrence as the fleet expands to four aircraft (25%) with the new products in the coming months.
Meanwhile the airline’s Boeing 787-9 flights will still benefit from that newer First Class cabin, though unlike the refitted 777s it doesn’t (yet?) include the closing privacy doors.
BA’s London – Hong Kong route will also maintain a ‘downsized’ twice daily service next summer, with Boeing 777-300ER and Boeing 787-9 operation, also seeing these new products appearing from time to time in recent weeks.
What if you booked in the 50% Avios sale?
If (like us) you took advantage of BA’s recent 50% off promotion for Avios bookings in all cabin classes for travel before the end of June 2021 and your flight has now been cancelled, this may seem like disappointing news.
Of course you are now entitled to a refund of the points and fees paid, however British Airways will also move you to an alternative flight on a different date, including a flight not inside the original booking window for the 50% discount promotion.
This morning we moved our booking to a SIN-SYD flight in November 2020 for no additional fees or Avios points, meaning we’re still heading to Sydney next year in First Class for just 34,000 Avios.
We’re actually pretty happy with this.
A late June 2021 trip to Sydney was always a long shot, but being able to move it for free to November 2021, a period not originally included in the 50% discount offer, makes it a far more realistic prospect.
Also the weather is better in Sydney at that time of year, and there’s more chance of the Qantas Singapore First Lounge being reopened by then for the obligatory pre-flight martinis!
If you’re in the same boat as us – consider a free date change before opting for a refund. That way you’ll retain the excellent Avios rate you secured in the October promotion.
Airlines around the world are trimming their future route networks as they foresee a smaller post-COVID operation in the years ahead. British Airways is no exception, permanently cutting no fewer than 13 cities from its route map.
Singapore retains its twice daily London flights with BA, but most importantly the airline’s fifth-freedom Singapore – Sydney route will be suspended until at least November 2021.
Nearby Kuala Lumpur will also sadly lose BA service from March next year, removing a useful last-minute redemption option for those using oneworld frequent flyer miles to and from London (I’ve personally redeemed KUL-LHR the previous day for an urgent trip!).
If you redeemed a BA flight using Avios points in the airline’s recent 50% discount promotion and your flight has been affected, don’t panic.
Depending on your routing, which for many of our readers is to or from Sydney, you can swap your trip to a different date for no fee and (crucially) no additional miles outlay.
(Cover Photo: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock)