British Airways' A380s now grounded until at least 2021

The UK lockdown leaves no room in the sky for BA's biggest birds.

By David Flynn, November 3 2020
British Airways' A380s now grounded until at least 2021

British Airways' Airbus A380s are likely to be grounded until at least early 2021 in the wake of a sweeping travel ban imposed by the latest UK lockdown.

The month-long lockdown, which will be in place from this Thursday November 5 through to December 2, bans non-essential overseas travel.

"People cannot travel internationally or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted exemptions," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, although "inbound international travel will continue to be governed by the travel corridor approach."

Senior cabinet minister Michael Gove has already suggested the lockdown could be extended if coronavirus-related deaths and hospital admissions continued to rise.

British Airways' owner IAG said earlier this month it would operate only 30% of its 2019 capacity in the current quarter: a number that's certain to plummet as domestic schedules are crimped, along with flights to Europe and further afield.

BA's superjumbo stand-down

All 12 of BA's Airbus A380s have stood idle since March 2020, when the airline joined carriers worldwide in slashing flights as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

Bringing those double-deckers back has proven to be a moving target due to lack of overall demand as well as border closures in key markets, with BA's most recent timetable update in October once again scrubbing the A380s from the schedule.

BA's Airbus A380s were due for a business class upgrade from 2023.
BA's Airbus A380s were due for a business class upgrade from 2023.

The 469-seat superjumbo previously plied the skies to seven major North American cities, Johannesburg, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Most of the British flag-carrier's A380s remain parked at France's Chateauroux airport, although they've all been rotated through BA's maintenance base for a check-up. 

In brighter pre-pandemic days, British Airways expected to begin upgrading its A380s from 2023 to feature the latest Club Suites business class, with those private pews replacing the dorm-like Club World seats.

BA's November 2019 Club Suites upgrade timetable.
BA's November 2019 Club Suites upgrade timetable.

The year prior was earmarked for the debut of BA's first Boeing 777-9 jetliners, to be adorned with the same Club Suites business class and a refreshed first class.

The 777-9 is now running at least a year behind schedule, however, pushing BA's timeline back to at least 2023 without accounting for any delivery delays which the airline and Boeing may agree.

With BA having already prematurely retired its entire Boeing 747 jumbo fleet, speculation has mounted that the A380 may follow, although a British Airways spokesperson said "the A380 is still a valued part of our fleet and there are currently no plans to retire them."


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.