Please be seated: can BA’s new A350 make a dent in Air Canada’s formidable London – Toronto market position?

A BA member of staff welcomes the oneworld carrier’s first A350-1000 service to Toronto. The 331-seat example is set to add capacity, and cut fuel costs, compared with 777s and 747-400s it is set to replace on the route.

British Airways put its A350-1000 on the London Heathrow – Toronto route for the first time on 01 October. The 331-seat type burns half as much fuel as the 747-400s it is set to replace, and features 56 of BA’s new Club Suites. This relatively high premium configuration is a continuation of the carrier’s policy of “high-J” seat counts on its lucrative transatlantic routes.

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser

Toronto is no exception, with BA averaging around 50 business class seats per flight since W17. This is significantly more than Air Canada, which tends to use higher density aircraft, like their 400 seat 777-300ERs. This is reflected in average seat counts shown below.

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser

Air Canada operates an average of over 300 seats per flight, made up of mostly 777-300ERs and some 787-8/9 services, which also have relatively dense configurations (265/298 seats respectively). However, W19 sees BA upgauging some flights to A350-1000s, and WestJet moving completely from 767-300s to 787-9s on their Toronto-Gatwick flights, which sees the gap to Air Canada close significantly.

Air Transat has moved to all-A321neo flights, with 199 seats, and it will be interesting to see which model works best over the next couple of years – lower seat costs by upgauging/densifying, or reduce total trip cost with narrowbodies? Either way, with Air Canada’s purchase of Air Transat set to close in early 2020, the Canadian Colossus can hedge its bets both ways.


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