Dubai: Passengers travelling between Heathrow and Dubai on British Airways will soon find that they are actually flying with budget airline Air Belgium.
The aircraft usually used on the route — the Boeing 777 — has been replaced by a budget Airbus A340-300 borrowed from the low-cost Belgian carrier.
From November to mid-December, British Airways will be forced to lease an aircraft from Air Belgium to operate one flight a day on its popular London to Dubai route, according to the company’s weekly schedule update.
A number of British Airway’s ultra-modern Boeing 787 Dreamliner have been grounded since issues emerged with their Rolls-Royce engines earlier this year, resulting in a number of fleet changes.
Virgin Atlantic, Air New Zealand, and Norwegian have also been hit by problems with the engine maker’s Trent 1000 turbine, forcing each carrier to cancel flights or “wet lease” new aircraft to compensate for the shortfall, as the parked planes await repair.
British Airways has already swapped out its Dreamliners on routes to Cairo and Abu Dhabi, with online customers being told flights are to be “operated by Air Belgium for British Airways.” The airline’s woes continued last week, as Airlineroute reported that Dubai would become the latest casualty of the airline’s depleted fleet.
The UK carrier’s updated schedule shows that one flight a day will be operated by Air Belgium on board an Airbus A340 jet.
British Airways did not respond to a request to comment.
The Belgian airline’s A340 aircraft have all been in service for more than 10 years, having previously been used by Finnair.
A number of customers were quick to express their dissatisfaction with the arrangement, with one passenger telling Gulf News that he was angered by the decision.
“They didn’t even bother to tell me,” said David Garfit.
Garfit, who is flying out to Abu Dhabi this week from Heathrow, said he only found out about the change when he logged on to his British Airways account.
The airline then failed to offer him any kind of compensation, Garfit added.
“I had booked premium economy, and then it just said I was now travelling economy,” he said.
The Air Belgium A340 configuration does not include premium economy or first class.
Garfit was then told if he wanted to fly premium economy, he would have to fly to Dubai instead, on one of British Airway’s two unaffected flights to the city, and then make his own way to Abu Dhabi.
“I was not even offered a transfer from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, I was told to get a taxi” he said.
He was informed his only other option was to upgrade to business on his own money, or fly economy, for which he would not be compensated.
Garfit added that when he went to choose his seats on the outbound trip to Abu Dhabi, British Airway’s system told him to refer to his travel agent.
“Who even books flights through a travel agent anymore?,” he asked.