Why BA's A318 couldn't really get off the ground

The year is 2003, British Airways has just announced that they are retiring the Concorde and that famous BA1 flight number will be no more, BA also has it’s final Boeing 747 on the way and things are looking well, weird. Is supersonic flight going to happen ever again? Is the 747 going to be the prominent part of BA’s fleet for decades? It’s only the early 21st century so how do I know. Let’s skip forward 7 years and answer those questions.

2009, it’s time for something different. Supersonic flight is becoming more and more dead by the day while BA’s 747’s are becoming compared open. It’s time for a new type of plane to enter BA’s fleet and while it might look like a domestic airliner it’s not. BA has acquired A318’s after some test flights. They are small regional jet’s that are meant to compete with the Boeing 737-600 but why BA acquired this jets is the most interesting part. Emissions and business are booming either side of the Atlantic and the solution, well it’s unique. Here’s the plan: fly an A318 in an all-business class configuration from London City to New York JFK via Shannon. In theory, it sounds excellent and for some people it was. It produced only 25% of the emissions of the 747 and flew straight into the heart of London’s business district, perfect right? Well not really.

BA1 was its flight number, a tribute to Concorde and in some ways, it certainly lives up to it. London City Airport the fare comes with everything you’d expect in business class like food and a wellness pack. Due to fuel and weight constraints, there is a quick stopover in Shannon, Ireland for refuelling and you clear U.S customs which is a bonus. The A318 then strides over the Atlantic and with fully lie flatbeds and while you sleep you can assure that you have complete privacy with chances of having a seat neighbour practically 0%. You then arrive in JFK essentially as a domestic flight and can go from flatbed to an NYC dinner within minutes. It’s one unique flight. Few problems though…

The seat, while comfy doesn’t have an IFE screen built-in due to weight constraints, you are instead offered a tablet preloaded with some movies and tv shows but due to the fact that the A318 is tiny, you’ll most likely get tossed around like a tumbleweed instead of actually enjoying the IFE. The issue of going through Dublin can also be a pain if you just want to sleep, the cabin is also outdated and with a flight time of over 8hrs plus the time in Dublin it’s a lot longer then your typical hop across the pond.

It’s hard to compare this flight to Concorde but it’s an experience. It was low patronised however and after BA started with two A318’s in 2009 there was only one left by the end of 2017, it’s a shame, I like flights more for the experience and this really encompassed that. The service was suspended in March due to the pandemic but the service seemed to have been struggling for years, I guess this was just the final nail in the coffin. Concorde will always be Concorde and this will always just be a somewhat poor imitation.

So why couldn’t BA’s A318 get off the ground? Simple. Economics, patronage and a pandemic.

Big bus and little bus image credit


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