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British Airways 787s to Fill Asian Gaps Using 12 Heathrow Slots

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July 5 (Bloomberg) -- British Airways plans to utilize its new fleet of Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliners to develop a series of long-haul destinations in untapped markets using a dozen pairs of takeoff and landing slots at its London Heathrow hub.

BA acquired 42 Heathrow slots with last year’s purchase of short-haul operator BMI and has reserved 12 for intercontinental services, Chief Executive Officer Keith Williams said in an interview. The 214-seat 787-8s are well-suited to trialing destinations where initial demand may be modest.

“The 787s are ideal for startup routes,” Williams said, adding that the aircraft “gives new opportunities for long-haul flights” that would not have been viable with less fuel-efficient planes or the carrier’s larger wide-body models.

British Airways, which has taken delivery of two 787-8s, the smallest version of the Dreamliner, is a top carrier on trans-Atlantic routes while lagging behind some European and Gulf rivals in serving high-growth Asian markets. The carrier starts flying to Chengdu in China from Sept. 22 and is exploring other opportunities in emerging markets, Williams said.

The unit of International Consolidated Airlines Group SA has ordered 42 all-composite Dreamliners for delivery by 2021, including 12 of the largest -10 variant, due to arrive from 2018. The 787-8 will debut on the Heathrow-Toronto route on Sept 1, with services to Newark Liberty commencing a month later.

‘Trunk Routes’

Williams said he regards the Airbus SAS A380 superjumbo, of which BA yesterday received its first example from an order for 12, as best-suited to boosting capacity in established markets, especially where there are obstacles to adding frequencies.

The double-decker will seat 469 people in the relatively low-density four-class layout specified by BA and is “more suitable for trunk routes,” the executive said. The first plane delivered will fly from London to Los Angeles starting on Sept. 24 and the second will serve Hong Kong from Oct. 22.

British Airways will initially operate both the Dreamliner and the A380 on short-haul trips to ease their introduction.

The new, more fuel efficient planes will help cut BA’s 4 billion-pound ($6 billion) annual fuel bill by more than 100 million pounds by 2017, Williams said yesterday at Heathrow.

The U.K. carrier, which merged with Spain’s Iberia to form IAG, will also take 18 Airbus A350-1000 wide-bodies between 2017 and 2023, and is examining Boeing’s re-engined 777X.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Wall in London at rwall6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net

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