Three times very publicly IAG (BA) have tried to buy 6 additional A380's.Twice new ones and once (at least) second hand...
What routes were (are) they pencilled in for? Surely it would have had to be the replacement of these final 744's -what else could they have been for?
Having said that it appears that this long standing 380 negotiation process has finally broken down.
The negotiations over A380s were a classic Willie tactic, he did the same with Norwegian, talk about, act serious, but always knowing he'll never stump up the money for it. Why do it with the A380s? To leverage a better price out of Boeing for the 777-9 or a better price on more 787-10s - you're more likely to see a super hi-J version of the 787-10. In a similar vein, having 787s on order with Boeing and the threat of ordering a load of 777-9s shows Airbus he wants a good price on more A350s. Classic game of playing them off against each other.
In reality, BA don't like the A380 - it's inflexible, has awful economics if you can't fill it (same is true of every plane but while you can fill an A380 in the summer, doing so on a Wednesday in November is a lot harder) and its cargo capacity is poor.
This is all shown in that the A380 works for BA where frequency ism't that key, which is a small amount of routed pretty much limited to HKG, SIN and JNB. It's been tried to MIA, IAD, seasonal to YVR, ORD, LAX and SFO but ultimately while it might work once daily to LAX and SFO BA has retreated from 2x A380 daily LAX and reverted to 3x daily with only 1 A380. Cargo a hig factor, they couldn't carry it all with 2xA380s but frequency and the 3rd flight helps in the competition with Virgin/Delta. It's clearly not worked at IAD - that is now no longer on the A380 and frequency back up to more than 2x day. BOS a few times a week shoes that network planning have no idea what to do with it! Not sure it'll last long to ORD - that used to be 3xdaily pre-2009 and it's a route that requires frequency given the connections onto AA.
The A350 would work well to SFO, MIA, LAX, HKG as the other non-A380 flight but there'a already an order that covers that. The 787-10s should be sble to replace the 747 quite well to the likes of LOS, RUH, IAD, BOS and perhaps it'll be the 787-10 that gets the super hi-J config. The 777-300ER if 10 abreast in Y could mean a big increase in J seats without much loss of Y seating. So there are options.
This order will be as much to replace the last 747s as it will 20 or so early 777s - that means 787s to Heathrow to free up some 777s to move to Gatwick too. There are lots of ex-Monarch slots that need to be flown. That's why I think it'd more likely be a 787-9/10 order and perhaps a smattering of A350-9/10s split between Iberia and BA. Probably delivery 2022ish onwards, so no time soon.
The B787-10 yes, but what need does BA have for a B779? Their long haul fleet is built around the B772 size, with a dozen recent B77W's and a number of A35J's on the way.
Just below that they have the B787's covering the full spectrum.
A few rows of additional seats is not worth building a fleet of 3 types in the same size category, ie B77W/B779/A35J. That's not smart.
The A380 is not an aircraft that you can fit into an existing operation. You need to build your operations around it, the same way operators did when the B747 was launched.
Seasonality is a factor in all markets but LHR is one of those markets where seasonality is the least pronounced, at least in terms of volume.
I don't think that BA will have a problem filling a very premium configured A380 on a Wednesday in November between JFK and LHR.
I think though that the best way is to combine the A380 with B787-10's on the route, where the A380 covers the busiest slots and offers flagship service.
It's not only about schedule you know, people won't mind taking a 1 later departure to be on an A380 if it means that they can sleep better on board. A good sleep also has its value, that's why people invest in J fares.
It doesn’t really matter if the 777-9 is a bit too capable, if you can have such a thing, if the price is right. If BA get them at bargain prices they won’t really care. The 777-9 will still be useful on routes such HND, SIN, HKG, EZE, JNB, CPT, PEK, PVG, GRU, LAX, SFO, MIA etc. The A350 might be able to cover all of those well, but if they end up having to pay more for the A350 than the 777 then I don’t think BA will care about the complication - a long haul fleet of ~20 is sufficient to still get the rewards from economies of scale. That said, even if BA end up with a long haul fleet of 777-2/3, 787, A350 and A380 it’s the same as today, just swap the 747 for 777-9. The crew conversion from 787 to 777-9 is estimated to be relatively straight forward too. Just as many large airlines operate both the 737 and A320 today. That said, I’m not convinced IAG will go for 777-9s unless the price is a steal, but it’s in the mix to use as leverage against Airbus. It has to be to get the best deal possible. IAG aren’t going to turn up to Airbus and say “the A350 is perfect, we’ve ruled out the 787-9 as too small, the 787-10 doesn’t have the performance and the 777-9 is too capable.” Airbus will just jack up the price, you’ve played your hand!
The A380 doesn’t work for BA, doesn’t matter how much you try and build around it or do whatever with it. It’s a niche aircraft that can profitably sustain service on only a handful of routes. Bob Ayling tried to build the short haul fleet around the 757 to cater for future growth, it didn’t work. It was too much aeroplane for many routes. But as has been said multiple times, the infrastructure constraints of T7 at JFK means the A380 will never go there. In addition, the A380 might be a decent aircraft for a customer, but having a J cabin of 150 loses its intimacy, it loses its appeal. You’ll also end up in a huge immigration queue! It’s about frequency, not volume and in the process trashing your yields. The 777 is a more frequent visitor to JFK these days taking over some 747 frequencies, that tells you the direction it’s going in. The leisure traveller might not worry about time but BA’s highest yielding customers won’t and don’t choose by aircraft type, they’ll choose by schedule. I’ve flown some exceptionally high yielding, commercially important passengers, on the 777 to and from JFK rather than them going in the arguably more intimate First on the 747. Plus, the 787 onboard experience is every bit as good as the A380s.
As for a Wednesday in November, I’ve seen the loads drop off to quite a few places. It’s not so bad now that the industry is performing well, but if the economy starts turning south in the run up to or just after Brexit day then it’ll get tough quite quickly. Fuel prices are already on the up, the really hurts the A380’s economics, especially with large financing costs to boot.