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No plan for economy only flights - BA boss

British Airways will not following in the steps of Etihad, states CEO.
NEWS, Aviation

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British Airways has no plans to follow UAE carrier Etihad Airways and introduce economy only flights in the Middle East and is instead planning to invest in its premium class cabins in the region, the UK airline’s CEO said.

BA’s CEO Willie Walsh said: “We are not considering all economy flights to the Middle East. We are very clear that the service that we offer a combination of premium and economy travel is absolutely right for the region.”

This follows an announcement earlier this month by Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan that the Abu Dhabi based carrier is to launch two economy class only Airbus A320 aircraft from October, which will fly to destinations including Doha, Alexandria, Egypt; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Damascus, Syria; Calicut, India and Thiruvananthapuram, also in India.

However, Walsh did not share Hogan’s stance and said there was still healthy demand for premium class services in the Middle East.

Walsh said: “The demand we see for premium travel is still quite strong and we would expect that to continue and we are continuing to invest in our premium products and the new [Boeing] 777-300 has a brand new first class cabin and that’s why it is targeted to operate in the Middle East as we see strong premium demand.”

Walsh also added that BA is in the process of a $100 million refurbishing of its first class cabins on its long haul aircraft, which will take around twelve to eighteen months to complete.

For its forthcoming winter schedule, Walsh said the British carrier was planning to increase its capacity to the Middle East by around three percent.

He confirmed: “We believe there is some scope for capacity and we will be increasing slightly our flying there next winter. Overall we are looking at a three percent increase in capacity in winter 2010 versus 2009."

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