What Happened To British Airtours?

Anyone flying out of or into London Gatwick or Manchester during the 1970s and 1980s may remember British Airtours. This was a charter airline operating Boeing 707, 737, 747, and Lockheed L-1011 Tristar aircraft. The brand existed until 1988 when it became Caledonian Airways. Part of it lived on into Thomas Cook Airlines until 2019.

British Airtours was a major operator of the Lockheed L-1011 Tristar. Photo: Rob Hodgkins via Wikimedia

Starting as BEA Airtours

British Airtours started life as BEA Airtours, a charter subsidiary of British European Airways (BEA), in 1969.

The airline offered a way for the government-owned BEA to expand in the growing charter and inclusive tour market. BEA offered scheduled flights, and BEA Airtours offered charter holiday flights. It started service out of Gatwick airport, using a fleet of de Havilland Comet aircraft. These were switched for Boeing 707s in 1971.

The airline was short-lived, as BEA merged with BOAC in 1974 to form British Airways. At this time, the airline was renamed British Airtours and became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the new British Airways.

BEA 707
BEA Airtours started with the Boeing 707, which became British Airtours. Photo: Steve Fitzgerald via Wikimedia

subsidiary of British Airways

At the time it became British Airtours in 1974, it operated a fleet of nine Boeing 707 aircraft. Under British Airways, these were later replaced by new 737-200 aircraft (ordered alongside aircraft for the main airline).

It also introduced one new Boeing 747-200 aircraft in 1984. This replaced the last of the Boeing 707s on the airline’s North American routes. These routes, known as Advance Booking Charters (ABC), had started in the mid-1970s as a way to meet demand on US routes not met by schedule airline options.

British Airtours 747
British Airtours owned one 747-200. Photo: Tim Rees via Wikimedia

Fleet expansion and variation continued under British Airways, with a move away from Boeing to Lockheed. The larger Lockheed L-1011 Tristar was introduced in 1981 and operated alongside the Boeing 737, flying to the more popular destinations with higher capacity. It went on to operate 32 Tristars in total – its most operated type, with the Boeing 737 coming next at 29 (data obtained from AeroTransport Data Bank,

Becoming Caledonian Airways

British Airways merged with British Caledonian in 1988. At this time, British Airtours was renamed as Caledonian Airways. It continued to operate as a charter airline and continued the brand of Caledonian, with a modified Caledonian Airways livery with elements from the British Airways’ Landor livery.

Caledonian Airways 737
Caledonian Airways took on the 737s initially. Photo: Ken Fielding via Wikimedia

Fleetwise, it replaced the 737s over time (they moved to British Airways) with further L-1011 Tristar and Boeing 757 aircraft. It also introduced the DC-10 and the Airbus A320.

Caledonian Airways continued until 1995, when British Airways decided to move out of the charter market. It was then sold to the UK tour operator Inspirations.

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Eventually merging into Thomas Cook Airlines

Inspiration continued to operate charter flights from the UK, under the Caledonian brand, as well as Peach Air (which operator flights for the tour operator Goldcrest). It kept the Tristar fleet, but the 757s moved to British Airways,

Inspiration was part of the Carlson Leisure Group. This merged with Thomas Cook in 1999, with the Thomas Cook brand being retained. Thomas Cook’s airline Flying Colours and Inspiration’s airlines were merged to form JMC Air. This was rebranded as Thomas Cook Airlines in 2003.

What Happened To British Airtours?
British Airtours eventually ended up as part of Thomas Cook Airlines. Photo: Getty Images

Under Thomas Cook Airlines, the fleet, destinations, and UK operating bases were significantly expanded. But some of the legacies of British Airtours remained. This continued, of course, until 2019, when the Thomas Cook Group declared bankruptcy and the airline ceased operations.

British Airtours was a significant UK operator until the brand was lost in the 1980s. Do you have any experiences working or traveling with the airline? Let us know more in the comments. 


Qatar Airways Issues A350 Legal Proceedings Against Airbus At London High Court

On December 20th, Qatar Airways announced that it had issued legal proceedings against Airbus in the Technology and Construction division of the High Court in London. The airline said that this action was a result of a failure to reach a constructive solution in relation to its “accelerated surface degradation condition,” on its Airbus A350 aircraft.

Qatar Airways has been the only airline to be publicly vocal about its issues, despite other airlines reportedly experiencing paint issues themselves. Photo: Getty Images

“We have sadly failed in all our attempts to reach a constructive solution with Airbus in relation to the accelerated surface degradation condition adversely impacting the Airbus A350 aircraft. Qatar Airways has therefore been left with no alternative but to seek a rapid resolution of this dispute via the courts.” -Qatar Airways

Going to the legal system

The ongoing surface degradation issue continues with the latest move coming from Qatar Airways. This comes just 11 days after Airbus said that it was seeking an “independent legal assessment” due to an unnamed customer attempting to “misrepresent this specific topic as an airworthiness issue.” While Airbus’ legal assessment announcement never explicitly named Qatar Airways, it’s reasonably clear that the Middle Eastern airline is the carrier at the center of this situation.

Responding to Qatar Airways’ announcement, Airbus issued a statement of its own, confirming that it had received a formal legal claim in the English courts filed by Qatar Airways, “relating to the dispute over the degradation of surface and paint on certain of Qatar Airways’ A350XWB aircraft,” adding:

“Airbus is in the process of analyzing the contents of the claim. Airbus intends to vigorously defend its position.”

Qatar Airways Issues Legal Proceedings Against Airbus in The Technology and Construction Division of The High Court in London.


— Qatar Airways (@qatarairways) December 20, 2021

Qatar Airways now has a total of 21 A350 aircraft grounded by the condition. The airline says these legal proceedings “have been commenced to ensure that Airbus will now address our legitimate concerns without further delay.” The airline goes on to say,

“We strongly believe that Airbus must undertake a thorough investigation of this condition to conclusively establish its full root cause. Without a proper understanding of the root cause of the condition, it is not possible for Qatar Airways to establish whether any proposed repair solution will rectify the underlying condition.”

Two sides to the story

Over the past year, we have been tracking this story, first reporting on issues experienced by Qatar Airways in January. While Qatar Airways and its CEO remained tight-lipped on specific problems early in this saga, details were eventually provided- particularly at the point when Qatar’s Civil Aviation Authority grounded an initial 13 A350s due to these surface degradation problems.

With Qatar’s civil aviation regulator stepping in to ground the aircraft (now at 21 A350s), it should indicate that the situation is fairly serious. At the same time, however, European regulator EASA stated in August that it was not intending to take any action on the issue- noting that the issue did not affect the aircraft’s structure or introduce any other risks. This is a position that it has held ever since.

Sideline-skeptics on both sides might claim favoritism or bias between aviation regulators and their respective homegrown organizations, although it is difficult to determine at this point just how much of a legitimate safety concern it is, in terms of public information available.

Costly Airbus A350 paint flaw goes wider than the Gulf

— Jamie Freed (@Jamie_Freed) November 29, 2021

Other airlines remain silent

This entire issue is quite a mystery as Qatar Airways has been the only airline to go public about this problem. Nearly 450 Airbus A350s have been delivered to airlines around the world at this point.

While other airlines have not gone public with problems, it doesn’t mean that no related issues have been experienced. An investigation by Reuters revealed that other carriers have also complained about the deterioration of the painted surface on the A350.

Indeed, the publication named Finnair, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Lufthansa, and Air France (on behalf of Air Caraibes) as all raising concerns about the issue. According to the investigation, Finnair, Cathay, and Lufthansa have all cited some ‘cosmetic damage’ on their A350s. However, these concerns were only voiced in a private maintenance message board used by Airbus and A350 operators.

Just hours prior to Qatar Airways’ announcement, Simple Flying had published an 11-minute recap of the entire situation, which can be seen in the embedded video below:

Ultimately, with this issue officially moving into the court system, the public should get to see the problem in greater detail. We would expect a great deal of evidence to be presented, with technical experts on both sides being called upon to weigh in on the seriousness of Qatar Airways’ problems and if these issues do indeed pose a risk to flight safety.

How do you think this saga will unfold? Share your opinions with us by leaving a comment.


Jet Airways Seeks Debt Settlement Ahead Of Planned Flight Relaunch

The new owners of Jet Airways want to restart operations early next year and have approached the relevant authorities, requesting to fast-track the debt settlement process. In order to commence domestic operations, the Kalrock-Jalan consortium wants to start clearing the payments due to various stakeholders, including ex-employees and ticket claimants, and complete other formalities ahead of flight relaunch.

Jet Airways’ new owners want to start the resolution process immediately. Photo: Getty Images

Early restart in 2022

In June, the National Companies Law Tribunal (NCLT) approved the insolvency resolution plan of Jet Airways, allowing the carrier to restart its revival process. Saddled with heavy debt, the consortium plans to gradually pay off creditors over the next few years.

The carrier has approached the NCLT again and, in its latest filing, has informed December 22, 2021, as the “effective date” when they want to start implementing the plan, which was approved back in June.

The consortium wants to infuse funds into the carrier to start the resolution process in order to commence operations without any further delay. Murari Lal Jalan, lead member of the consortium and proposed promoter and Non-Executive Chairman of Jet Airways said,

“The Consortium is ready with its investments and given the progress the team has made operationally since NCLT Approval in June 2021, we feel it is time to fund the company immediately for the revival of the business, without delay. We are aiming to start Domestic Operations at the earliest in 2022 as a Full-Service Carrier and look forward to creating history with Jet Airways revival.”

Jet Airways Boeing 777
The team at Jet wants to restart operations early next year. Photo: Getty Images

OC being revived; slots being discussed

The Jet Airways team is hopeful of clearing all other hurdles in time for an early 2022 relaunch. One of the first things that Jet needs is a valid Air Operator Certificate (AOC). The company has been working for months to get the certificate revalidated and thinks that the process should be completed soon.

Jalan pointed out that Jet is not applying for a fresh AOC but instead reviving the carrier’s existing AOC, which is valid until 2023 and was suspended in 2019 due to the company’s financial woes. He feels the time taken to remove the suspension will be substantially less compared to applying for a new one.

Then there are the slots. Jet commanded a substantial hold on airport slots in the country at the peak of its operations, but that has since changed. The airline faced a setback this year when India’s aviation regulator, the DGCA, declined its request to reclaim old slots, which have since been redistributed to other airlines. But the consortium is currently engaged in several discussions with key airports and is hopeful of getting the required slots before the summer schedule next year.

jet airways
People at Jet are busy getting the AOC revived and reclaiming important airport slots ahead of the relaunch. Getty Images

Modest fleet to begin with

As previously reported, Jet is looking to add 100+ narrowbody aircraft in the next five years, but for immediate operations, it will start with a modest fleet of six planes.

For its larger restructuring program, the Jalan-Kalrock Consortium is in conversation with both Boeing and Airbus for an order of at least 100 narrowbodies, which is said to have a budget of around $12 billion.

Many believe the potential order to go in favor of Boeing’s MAX series, given its keen interest to re-establish itself in India’s narrowbody market and offering lucrative discounts to edge out Airbus. A strong 737 fleet would mirror Jet’s first outing, which relied mainly on the Boeing narrowbody for the bulk of its domestic operations. An A320 carrying Jet’s livery would be quite a departure from how people have been used to seeing Jet Airways.

Regardless, an official announcement about an aircraft order is likely to happen sometime next year. For now, all eyes are on Jet’s initial performance as it sets out to relaunch flight operations in one of the most tumultuous eras in Indian aviation.


Rex Begins Boeing Flights To Brisbane

Australia’s Regional Express (Rex) closed the missing link in its golden triangle ambitions on Monday, commencing flights on the Sydney – Brisbane sector. The first flight on the route sees Rex meet its previous promise of running jet services on the three lucrative triangle routes in Australia’s southeast.

Regional Express has commenced flights to Brisbane from Sydney and Melbourne. Photo: Regional Express

ZL352 pushed back at 15:15 Sydney time on Monday for the 468 mile (754 kilometer) hop north to the Queensland capital of Brisbane. Monday’s flight follows flights starting on the Melbourne – Brisbane city pair last Friday. Rex commenced flying on the third triangle route, Sydney – Melbourne, in March.

“Despite the obvious difficulties, I am extremely proud of what we have been able to achieve. It’s
always nice to prove the sceptics wrong, and the big plans we have for 2022 means next year
promises to be even more exciting,” said Rex’s Deputy Chairman, John Sharp.

How good’s a bargain 737 lease deal?

Rex is running two return services a day between Sydney and Brisbane (except for Saturday when a single daily return operates). Double daily return flights operate between Melbourne and Brisbane on Mondays and Tuesdays, with daily services across the rest of the week.

Rex’s frequency is constrained by the number of jets it has – just six. However, the airline plans to ramp up operations (and launch new routes) as more 737-800s land next year.

“There’s never been a better time in our memory to expand into the domestic jet service business,” Mr Sharp told a recent CAPA Asia-Pacific Aviation Summit when discussing Rex’s decision to branch out into jet operations last year.

“Almost overnight, there were thousands of aircraft that were readily available. There were lessors who own those aircraft, who were distressed, and who would be happy to accept any price for a lease payment on one of their aircraft that was pushed up against a fence. So we have really good lease rates.”

How good? Rex is rumored to have picked up each of their six former Virgin Australia Boeings at the bargain rate of AU$60,000 (US$42,700) per month for the first 12 months of their leases (the first of Rex’s jets are just coming up to their first birthday at the airline).

Passengers board Rex’s first Brisbane-bound Boeing 737 service. Photo: Regional Express

Rex’s jets return to the Gold Coast

It’s not just cut-price lease rates that encouraged Rex to seal the deal. An abundance of freshly retrenched airline industry employees on the market made it easy to pick up the necessary skilled employees.

“There were thousands and thousands of highly skilled qualified people that we could draw upon to grow our business. And so we decided to do that last year,” added Rex’s Deputy Chairman.

In addition to commencing Brisbane flights over the last few days, Rex has returned to the Gold Coast, resuming flights from Sydney and Melbourne on Friday. These two routes are normally among Australia’s top ten domestic routes, carrying around five million travelers annually.

Rex’s John Sharp (left) in Brisbane on Friday. Photo: Regional Express

Last week, Queensland reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers and stranded Queenslanders down in the southern states. Since then, flights out of the south have returned to Brisbane and Gold Coast Airports.

Brisbane Airport’s CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff says Rex’s jets landing there was a “clear demonstration” that airlines and their passengers have the confidence to return to Australia’s third-largest state.

Did you miss our previous article…


Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380 Return: Where Are They Flying?

An unexpected twist in the second half of 2021, middle-eastern carrier Qatar Airways announced that it would be reactivating part of its Airbus A380 fleet. The airline deemed this necessary as a way to meet passenger demand and provide sufficient capacity in the face of some 20 Airbus A350s being grounded due to an ongoing saga over cracking paint. But for those hoping to fly the superjumbo with this particular airline, where might it be found?

Qatar Airways’ CEO was adamant that the A380 was an expensive mistake. At the same time, the jet is providing capacity in the face of issues with other jets in the fleet. Photo: Getty Images

Throughout much of 2021, we were led to believe that Qatar Airways’ A380 fleet would be gone for good. The airline’s CEO was quite vocal about the type’s inefficiency as a result of elevated operating costs and increased carbon emissions.

After noting that the airline would be taking an impairment on all 10 of its A380s at the end of September, there was a significant surprise change of course as it announced the superjumbo would be returning to provide capacity.

tale of two cities

At the moment, Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380 route network is extremely simple, operating two major routes as of December 15th:

Doha-London Heathrow (twice daily)Outbound: QR 0003 and QR 0009Inbound: QR 0004 and QR 0006Doha-Paris Charles de Gaulle (once daily)Outbound: QR 0039Inbound: QR 0040

It should be noted that other aircraft from the Qatar Airways fleet are also flying these routes and include the Boeing 777 and Boeing 787. Should you be lucky enough to be traveling in the near future and are hoping to step aboard the A380, select your flight carefully!

Doha Qatar A380
The airline is deploying the A380s on just two routes at the moment. Photo:

reluctant return

At this time, just four of the airline’s 10 A380s are active in providing these services and are registered as follows:

A7-APG (MSN 193)A7-APH (MSN 197)A7-API (MSN 235)A7-APJ (MSN 254)

These are the four youngest A380s in the fleet, ranging between four and five and a half years of age.

It was made very clear that the decision to reactivate the A380s was made very reluctantly. The move was based on the airline’s ongoing issues with its Airbus A350s, some of which have seen paint cracking issues and surface degradation. This has led Qatar’s civil aviation regulator to ground over 20 of the twinjets (initially this was 13).

Clearly, after the airline’s CEO called the jet its biggest mistake, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker would have preferred to keep the jets grounded. At the same time, he must be a little relieved that they’re still available as they can be reactivated to meet the current level of travel demand. At least aviation enthusiasts and all those who enjoy the spaciousness of the A380 certainly aren’t complaining.

Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Boeing 777
Over 20 of Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350s have now been grounded. Photo: Qatar Airways

Based on what we know, the A380’s continued deployment will largely depend on whether Airbus and Qatar Airways can find a satisfactory solution to the ongoing paint saga. However, in the unfortunate scenario where more A350s be grounded, the airline still has six A380s available for reactivation- in which case maybe more cities will see the quadjet.

Will you be flying on the A380 any time soon? And how long do you think this deployment will last? Let us know by leaving a comment.

Did you miss our previous article…


What Happened To Air India’s L-1011 Trijets?

Several aircraft types have become synonymous with Air India’s international fleet over the years. Back in the 1960s, the Boeing 707 did quite a bit of heavy lifting of the airline’s long-haul routes. Then came the 747s, the A300s, and today, it’s the 777s and 787s that the carrier relies on for most of its international flying.

Air India flew two Lockheed TriStar L-1011 jets in the mid-90s. Photo: Torsten Maiwald via Wikimedia Commons

However, Air India’s fleet has often been peppered with short stints of other widebodies, which quietly entered operations and left just as quietly. One of them was the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar.

Failed attempt

Although the TriStars flew for Air India in the 1990s, the carrier almost made a deal with Lockheed in the early 80s for the three-engine jets. In 1980, Air India had started looking for other options to phase out its older 707s. Boeing 747SP, the TriStar L-1011-500, the DC 10, and the Airbus A300 were all considered, but the TriStar was the front-runner.

According to a 1981 report published by India Today, Air India even issued a letter of intent for the estimated $200 million deal for three L-1011s with the option of purchasing three more. However, the carrier’s decision to put its faith in the TriStar raised quite a few eyebrows at the time.

What Happened To Air India’s L-1011 Trijets?
Air India initially considered the trijet in the early 1980s, but the deal with Lockheed did not materialize. Photo: Felix Goetting via Wikimedia Commons

Lockheed’s TriStar program was already in deep waters by then, with Air Portugal being its last customer in 1979. Lockheed Chairman Roy Anderson himself admitted at the time that a weak market for commercial airliners threatened its TriStar program. Air India also planned to deploy the L-1011s on its Africa routes, which accounted for less than 5% of its international seats. Many saw this as an unwise investment.

Although Lockheed tried padding the deal with an offer to train 30 crew members and position spares at Bombay airport, it did not work out eventually.

Second chance

In the mid-90s, Air India management had a change of heart and decided to give the trijets a shot. In 1995 – 15 years after the first letter of intent – Air India leased two Lockheed L-1011-500s. Both airplanes were some of the last L-1011s ever built.

With registration numbers V2-LEJ and V2-LEK, the airplanes were leased from Caribjet in 1995. During their very short stay with Air India, the trijets flew to some popular destinations in Europe and were often spotted in Frankfurt, London, Paris, and Amsterdam.

The trijets, however, departed quite swiftly from the carrier’s fleet, with the lease ending after a year.

What Happened To Air India’s L-1011 Trijets?
In 1995, Air India leased two L-1011s from Caribjet, which flew for the airline for a very short while. Photo: G B_NZ via Wikimedia Commons

Where are they now?

Before serving Air India, V2-LEK flew for a few airlines, including the Royal Jordanian and TAP-Air Portugal. After its lease expired, it went back to Caribjet and served other airlines over the next few years, including Novair and Air Luxor. According to, the plane now rests on the ocean floor as a diving wreck in Aqaba, Jordan.

V2-LEJ, too, went back to Caribjet and had subsequent stints with Air Transat and GlobeJet. Since 2007, it has been stored in Montreal (YUL).

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Virgin Atlantic Cooks Up A Festive Surprise For Christmas Travelers

With the Christmas holidays fast approaching, Richard Bransons’ Virgin Atlantic has decided to offer passengers special Christmas meals from December 24 until December 26. In a statement released on Friday, December 17, 2021, the Crawley-headquartered airline said it would offer passengers a fun and festive menu to help them get into the spirit of Christmas while cruising at 38,000 feet.

Virgin Atlantic to offer a traditional Christmas dinner on select flights.Photo: Getty Images.

The airline went on to say that it would be rolling out a similar festive menu for passengers traveling over New Year. Traditional in the United Kingdom, roast turkey is the main Christmas Day meal along with stuffing and all the other trimmings. Virgin Atlantic chefs know this and plan to replicate a traditional Christmas Day lunch for all Virgin Atlantic passengers.

Virgin Atlantic to offer passengers mince pies

If you are worried about Turkey causing drowsiness because it is packed with an amino acid nutrient called tryptophan, you don’t have to worry. As well as the roast bird, Virgin Atlantic chefs have developed a cranberry and thyme-crusted salmon fillet. Virgin Atlantic says it will also offer passengers what it calls a mouth-watering millionaire’s chocolate yule log for those of you with a sweet tooth. There will also be a dreamy cheese platter for all savory lovers if sweets aren’t your thing.

Virgin Atlantic catering
Virgin Atlantic Upper-Class Christmas meal. Photo: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin also says, what would Christmas be without mince pies and some lovely Swiss Lindt chocolate. If you are not British, you may be unfamiliar with mince pies. As the name suggests, they are a pastry with a filling made up of a mixture of dried fruits and spices. While mince pies might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they are a must-have at every British Christmas dinner.

New Years Eve champagne on select flights

To celebrate the New Year and prolong the festivities, Virgin Atlantic says it is going all out to see in the New Year in style. Customers on select flights who happen to be airborne when the clock counts down to midnight on New Year’s Eve will be offered a glass of bubbly and a milk chocolate star.

economyclass catering Virgin Atlantic
Economy class Christmas meal. Photo: Virgin Atlantic

In what has been a challenging year for the aviation industry and people as a whole, Virgin Atlantic Holidays says it has seen an increase in demand for vacations at 5-star resorts. Virgin Atlantic also says that after months of travel restrictions that kept families apart, customers are increasing the length of their stays while visiting loved ones overseas.

Virgin Atlantic wants to make it a special experience

When speaking about the upcoming holidays and what Virgin Atlantic has planned, Chief Customer and Operating Officer at Virgin Atlantic, Corneel Koster, said:

“We know customers are so looking forward to their holidays or to be with their loved ones over the festive period, so we are eager to delight our customers from the moment they board our flights this Christmas. Surprising our customers with delicious feasts and treats is our way of creating memories and saying thank you for choosing to travel with Virgin Atlantic.

“Understanding the current challenges, our teams will ensure all customers fly safe and well and are more than ready to celebrate the festive period onboard, as we get our customers to their destinations in style. Many of our customers are flying to reunite with friends and family, so it’s incredibly important to us that we help make this a special experience.”

Will you be flying with Virgin Atlantic over the holidays? If so, please tell us what you are looking forward to the most in the comments.

Did you miss our previous article…


They’re Back: British Airways Puts Portland And Pittsburgh Flights On Sale

British Airways has put on sale three more US routes. Taking off next summer will be London Heathrow to Portland (the first time it’ll operate), Pittsburgh (resumption), and Gatwick to New York JFK (resumption). They come as BA pushes back the start of San Jose, pulls Gatwick to Las Vegas, removes the A380 from Los Angeles, adds the A380 to three more US airports, and makes various other changes to its US network.

BA is finally set to introduce Heathrow to Portland, which it had expected to begin in June 2019. Photo: Getty Images.

What’s happening?

Resuming on May 28th will be Gatwick to JFK. Operating once-daily, it’ll variously use the 332-seat and 336-seat B777-200ER, according to its schedule submission to OAG. It’ll be followed on June 3rd will be Heathrow to Pittsburgh and Portland, both by 214-seat B787-8s.

The schedule for all three routes is shown below (all times are local). The different departure times on different days reflect slot availability.

BA171: Heathrow to Pittsburgh, 16:45-19:50, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun; B787-8BA170: Pittsburgh to Heathrow, 21:50-10:10+1BA267: Heathrow to Portland, 15:10-16:59, Tue, Sun; B787-8BA267: Heathrow to Portland, 15:15-17:04, Mon, Wed, Fri; B787-8BA266: Portland to Heathrow, 18:45-12:10+1, Mon, Tue, Wed, FriBA266: Portland to Heathrow, 18:50-12:15+1, SunBA2273: Gatwick to JFK, 15:00-18:00, once-daily; B777-200ERBA2272: JFK to Gatwick, 20:01-08:00+1, Mon, Tue, FriBA2272: JFK to Gatwick, 20:10-08:10+1, Wed, SatBA2272: JFK to Gatwick, 20:25-08:25+1, Thu, Sun
BA Pittsburgh, Portland, JFK
There is no sign whether Charleston, introduced in April 2019, will resume. Image: GCMap.

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First time for BA to Portland

It’ll be the first time that BA has served Portland. It announced the route in December 2019, with it set to begin on June 1st, 2020, on a five-weekly, year-round basis, but it was understandably suspended. Had it launched in 2020, it would have been head-to-head with Delta’s summer-seasonal Portland-Heathrow offering. There’s no indication if or when Delta will resume the route.

BA inaugurated Pittsburgh in April 2019, nearly a year before the impact of the pandemic started to be felt. It had four weekly flights by the B787-8; the same as it’ll have next summer. Across all airlines, Pittsburgh-London had over 40,000 round-trip point-to-point passengers in 2019, booking data shows, together with around 270,000 to/from Europe generally. Meanwhile, it will be the third time since 2008 that BA has served Gatwick to JFK.

BA Pittsburgh
BA began Pittsburgh in April 2019. Photo: via Beth Hollerich, Communications, Allegheny County Airport Authority.

Other key US changes

BA will no longer use the A380 to Los Angeles from January 10th onwards. However, Boston, Chicago, and Washington will again see the double-decker quadjet next summer. The restart of San Jose has been pushed back from March 27th to June 14th, while Gatwick to Las Vegas (which was to be three-weekly from March 29th) has been cut next summer. Will it return?

BA A350-1000
In summer 2022, BA will use the A350-1000 (its largest aircraft) to Austin, Chicago, Denver (now from September 4th), Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando, Phoenix, and San Diego. Photo: Getty Images.

Other notable changes include Nashville becoming once-daily from May 6th, up from five previously planned, with the larger and more premium B787-10 replacing the B787-8. New Orleans gets a fourth-weekly service, while Houston and Seattle return to twice-daily from May 8th. However, JFK to Heathrow reduces to seven-daily.

Will you be flying across the North Atlantic next year? Let us know in the comments.

Did you miss our previous article…


What Is India’s UDAN Regional Airport Development Scheme?

In October 2016, the Government of India unveiled the UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme, which loosely translates to “flying made possible for the common citizen.” The project aims to connect small towns in India through subsidized air routes and developing regional airports. Through this initiative, the Indian government intends to build infrastructure and a culture of air travel for people in tier 2 & 3 cities by making flying cheaper and more accessible.

Indian Government’s UDAN scheme aims to provide affordable air travel to all citizens. Photo: Getty Images

Boost for regional aviation

While we talk about India being one of the largest aviation markets in the world, and rightly so, air travel still remains out of reach for millions of Indians. The LCCs have certainly revolutionized aviation in India, but there’s still much to be done to bring affordable flying to the regional parts of the country. The UDAN scheme – intended to run for ten years – has been implemented to do just that.

The scheme aims to enhance regional air connectivity in two ways:

Developing new and existing regional airportsCreating hundreds of subsidized air routes to underserved and unserved airports

The initiative has planned to develop 100 new airports, heliports, and water aerodromes between 2019 and 2024. So far, more than 750 valid routes have been allotted to shortlisted airlines after four rounds of bidding. For the development of airports, the Airports Authority of India has designated funds of around ₹ 25,000 crores (approx. $3.3 billion) for a period of five years from 2019 to 2024.

IndiGo A320neo
The scheme offers subsidized routes to underserved airports. Photo: Getty Images


To fund such a project, the government has to infuse cash and provide concessions, which it does in three ways:

Central government concessionsState government concessionsAirport operators’ concessions

The central government provides what is known as Viability Gap Funding (VGF) to make routes financially viable for commercial airlines. VGF is reduced if the passenger load factor remains high and is discontinued after three years when the route becomes self-sustainable.

The center also provides relaxation on Goods and Service Tax (GST) and freedom to some airlines to enter into codesharing arrangements with domestic and international airlines.

Support from state governments comes in the form of reduction of Value-added Tax (VAT) to 1% or less for ten years to airports developed under the scheme, providing land for airports and other utilities at subsidized rates.

The airport operators contribute by waiving parking, landing, and storage charges at participating airports, no TNLC (Terminal Navigation Landing Charges), and other such subsidies.

To boost regional flights, the scheme also calls for air caps from Rs 1,420 to Rs 3,500 for fixed-wing aircraft (based on distance and duration) for flights to unserved and underserved routes. Such fare caps are subsidized by imposing a small levy on every departure on major routes.

Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik!#UDAN-RCS is a first-of-its-kind scheme that aims to create affordable yet economically viable and profitable flights on regional routes along with boosting tourism and creating new jobs in the sector. #SabUdenSabJuden

— MoCA_GoI (@MoCA_GoI) September 9, 2021

Slow progress

The implementation of the scheme, however, has been slow, and several targets have not met their deadlines. An Economic Times report in July this year cited the rating agency ICRA, which said that not even 50% of the routes had been made operational, and the second wave of the pandemic impacted the plan even further. As of May this year, 47% of total routes and 39% of airports (unserved and underserved) were operational.

Shubham Jain, SVP and Group Head for Corporate Ratings at ICRA, stated,

“The slow progress of UDAN implementation is attributable to delayed upgradation of infrastructure and readiness of airports, due to lack of adequate right of way (including insufficient runway lengths) at some of the RCS airports and delays in securing necessary regulatory approvals.”

According to ICRA estimates, the target of operationalizing 100 airports under the UDAN scheme could face a two-year delay, pushing it to 2026 from the earlier deadline of 2024.

What are your thoughts on the Indian government’s UDAN scheme? Please share your comments below.

Did you miss our previous article…


What Happened To The Rolling Stones’ Boeing 767?

Music artists and bands often rely on private aviation for their fast jet-setting lifestyle. Private airplanes save much-needed time during busy schedules of tours and provide respite in between gigs by eliminating long queues, delays, and waiting time for regular commercial flights. And sometimes, when these jets wear interesting liveries, advertising the band’s name, they also make a spectacular announcement of the artists’ arrival in a particular city.

The Rolling Stones used a Boeing 767-300ER for their latest tour. Photo: Getty Images

The Rolling Stones, too, had their own private flying experience, first with a Boeing 737 and later on a much larger 767 for their latest tour.

Private luxury

From 2014 to 2015, the Rolling Stones’ choice of aircraft was the Boeing 737-400, the first of which was hired from Greek leasing company GainJet and the second from Phoenix-based leasing company Swift Air.

For their “No Filter Tour” in 2017, the band upgraded to the much larger Boeing 767-300ER, which, like the 737, carried the same livery of the group’s trademark lips image and the band name. The aircraft was hired from leasing company Aeronexus and had the registration number ZS-NEX.

The 767 was a significant step up for the band in onboard luxury and space. The plane has 96 huge first-class seats and a comfy leather couch that could convert into a bed and was privately placed in the cabin’s front.

The aircraft was often eagerly awaited and spotted by fans and aviation enthusiasts at various cities as the group flew around the world during their tour.

What Happened To The Rolling Stones’ Boeing 767?
The 767 featured 96 first class seats and a comfy leather couch, among other things. Photo: Getty Images

Where is it now?

The 767 first entered service 31 years ago in 1990 with LOT Polish Airlines with registration SP-LPA. Over the years, LOT leased it to airlines such as Air New Zealand and Air Europa.

In February 2016, the airplane was acquired by Aeronexus Corporation and later that year painted in the Rolling Stones livery for the band’s “No Filter Tour.”

Since 2018, the 767 has featured the Globus Reisen Voyages livery and has made several stops around the world in the last year alone. As of today, the 767’s last flight was on December 6th from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Johannesburg, South Africa, according to

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Not the only famous 767

ZS-NEX isn’t the only 767 to have high-profile owners. Canadian rapper Drake has his own Boeing 767-200ER for private transportation. Dubbed as “Air Drake,” the jet is registered as N767CJ and features shiny gold detailing on the walls, a theatre room, fully-enclosed private suites, and velvet couches.

The aircraft is provided to Drake free of charge in a partnership with Cargojet, which covered it in its unique branding in an effort to get free publicity.

Canadian rapper Drake also enjoys a 767 for personal transport. Photo: Getty Images

American billionaire Mark Cuban also once owned a 767, the most expensive aircraft in his private jet collection. Registered as N767MV, it was configured with 98 business class seats and was often hired out for high-end charter. The plane was also used at times to transport Cuban’s NBA team, the Dallas Mavericks.

As reported by Simple Flying, Cuban’s 767 seems to have had a change of ownership as it was seen flying for Atlas Air earlier this year.

Have you ever seen a private jet of your favorite band? Do share your comments.