British Airways' latest timetable shows the return of flights to Sydney via Singapore from late March 2022, almost two years since the airline was forced to suspend its popular Kangaroo Route once Singapore's Changi Airport banned transit passengers in the early days of the pandemic.
While the daily BA15/BA16 flights remain scrubbed through to 26 March 2022 (based on BA15's departure from London Heathrow), the airline's website now lists BA15 as back in the skies from 27 March, setting out on the London-Singapore-Sydney route alongside the regular London-Singapore BA11.
However, with the Airbus A380s still grounded, BA11/BA12 continues to show as a Boeing 777-300ER, while BA15/BA16 has shifted to the smaller but more modern Boeing 787-9.
British Airways' Boeing 787-9s feature eight first class suites, although these are currently not showing up for sale on the BA website.
And for now, we're seeing the Dreamliner with the original 'high density' Club World business class seats...
... not the latest Club Suites design with increased personal space, sliding doors and perhaps most importantly, direct aisle access.
Before COVID-19 took hold, British Airways intended to begin upgrading all its Dreamliners to the newer Club Suites business class from 2022, although an airline spokesperson tells Executive Traveller that this schedule remains largely on track.
But when will Australia-UK travel resume?
Let's make something clear: this doesn't mean that British Airways will definitely be returning to Sydney at the end of March 2022.
That date simply represents the official start of the aviation industry's Northern Summer 2022 season, around which all airlines align their schedules for the following six months.
There's plenty of time for BA to push back the resumption of London-Singapore-Sydney services, based on any extended travel restrictions between the UK, Singapore and Australia, as well as the demand for its London-Sydney route even if we see a Covid-safe corridor open up for vaccinated passengers.
However, according to the Australian government's four-stage roadmap for a "pathway out of COVID", international travel will return in what's called Phase C, which will be begin once the nation records 80% of the adult population as fully vaccinated.
Based on an August 3 update to the government's Operation Covid Shield vaccination campaign, Australia could hit that 80% milestone by December 2021.
The travel-specific highlights of Phase C include
- lifting all restrictions on outbound travel for vaccinated Australians
- extending 'travel bubbles' for unrestricted travel to new candidate countries
- a 'gradual reopening of inward and outward international travel with safe countries
- and 'proportionate quarantine and reduced requirements' for fully-vaccinated inbound travellers
This last measure is expected to include shorter periods of home isolation rather than hotel quarantine for vaccinated travellers arriving from low-risk countries, although an effectively no-risk category – including but not limited to travel bubbles – would not require any isolation on return to Australia.
Speaking at a Tourism Australia webinar last week, Federal Tourism Minister Dan Tehan was upbeat on "that strong ray of sunshine that we can begin to see once we hit that 80% (vaccination) rate by Christmas, and once we do, we will be able to turn the corner."
Tehan said that discussions are continuing with Singapore and Australia's Pacific Island neighbours on establishing quarantine-free travel bubbles, before adding "the UK obviously have got a 'traffic light' system in place which is working well for them, and so I think we'll be able to look to see what we can do with them."