Malaysia and Thailand are back on the British Airways route map

BA is bringing back its Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur link and restoring flights to Bangkok – but from Gatwick

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Tuesday 05 March 2024 06:04 GMT
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Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur are back on the British Airways map – but the link to the Thai capital is much diminished compared with the pre-Covid era.

Starting with the winter 2024-25 schedules in late October, BA Boeing 777s will depart three times a week from London Gatwick to Bangkok. Previously the airline flew daily from Heathrow. First class has also been dropped, though it remains available on BA’s competitors from Heathrow to the Thai capital.

Thai Airways operates twice daily from Heathrow to Bangkok, while Eva Air goes nonstop on the same route once a day.

Back online: Khao San Road in Bangkok, to which British Airways will return in October 2024
Back online: Khao San Road in Bangkok, to which British Airways will return in October 2024 (Simon Calder)

Daily BA flights to Kuala Lumpur will resume from London Heathrow, using a four-class Boeing 787. The airline says the move back to Southeast Asia demonstrates its “commitment to expanding its network to Asia post-pandemic”.

The aviation schedule analyst, Sean Moulton, said the move “appears to be a change of strategy, moving away from the core BA market connecting Europe and India with the US and Canada”.

He said: “Kuala Lumpur has very few direct links to Europe so BA will be able to tap into unserved connections. Bangkok shifting to Gatwick shows the lower yields but popularity of the route.”

For decades Bangkok was a key destination for British Airways from London Heathrow. BA even launched a direct link from Manchester to the Thai capital, though it was soon dropped due to unprofitability.

Even before Covid, British Airways struggled to make money on the Heathrow-Bangkok link. The majority of UK visitors to Thailand now travel on the Gulf-based airlines: Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. They offer vast amounts of capacity out of the UK via their hubs. Qatar Airways has six flights a day from Doha to Bangkok while Emirates operates five daily Airbus A380 “SuperJumbo” aircraft from Dubai to the Thai capital.

BA’s Heathrow operation is focused on premium cabins, and there is simply not sufficient demand to fill the more desirable seats profitably. Costs of operating from Gatwick are lower, allowing BA to set more competitive fares.

The restored links with Southeast Asia were announced by the airline’s chairman and chief executive, Sean Doyle, at the launch of what is described as a £7bn modernisation plan.

He said: “We’re going to take delivery of new aircraft, introduce new cabins, elevate our customer care, focus on operational performance and address our environmental impact by reducing our emissions and creating a culture of sustainability.”

Mr Doyle added the airline is “laser-focused on transforming our business and fixing any pain points for our customers”.

From 3 April, members of BA’s Executive Club members will start to be able to send messages on a single device using the airline’s wifi, free of charge. The airline says the service will be available on every wifi-enabled aircraft within two weeks of the rollout date.

New aircraft cabins and seats are promised on the latest Airbus A320 series short-haul planes, including “extra-large bins for overhead luggage”. British Airways currently has the most generous free cabin baggage allowance in Europe, comprising two bags weighing up to 23kg each.

For more travel news, views and advice from Simon, download his daily Independent Travel podcast.

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