British Airways confirms Dreamliner service from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi will be temporarily replaced by Air Belgium flights
Passengers left reeling after BA swaps Dreamliner for low-budget aircraft for London to Abu Dhabi route
British Airways has angered passengers with its changes to aircraft for the route between Heathrow and Abu Dhabi.
Passengers who booked flights on a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner will now be travelling on an Airbus A340 belonging to Air Belgium.
Those on flight BA73 had booked their trips expecting seats on the latest aircraft, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.
But on Monday, the airline sent them an email saying that, as a result of problems with those engines, the flights would be operated by Air Belgium for 20 days from Saturday while the issues are resolved.
Francesca Howie, 26, said she was to fly on Saturday and she received notification of the changes.
“I phoned them up and told them I wished to change my flight to Dubai, which flies at a similar time,” Ms Howie said. “I said I have paid for a BA service, not a budget airline.”
Ms Howie, who lives in Dubai, booked a flight to Abu Dhabi in economy because it was cheaper than flying directly to Dubai. She paid Dh1,965 for the flight.
“The email I received simply said: ‘Your flight on September 15 has been changed to Air Belgium due to operational issues. We’re sorry for any inconvenience’,” she said.
No contact number or information on how BA could help or provide a refund was provided, Ms Howie said.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure our customers travel as planned, in light of continuing issues with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines that are affecting many airlines around the world,” a BA spokesman told The National.
“In order to fly as many customers as possible on their original dates of travel, we have leased an aircraft from Air Belgium.”
The spokesman said BA was “in touch with customers who are affected to offer them a range of options if they don’t wish to continue with their booking”.
Marina Bruce, 54, is booked to fly from Abu Dhabi to Heathrow next week.
“I am gluten intolerant and slightly worried in case the booked special meal will be forgotten,” Ms Bruce said.
“I would have preferred a bigger plane for such a long trip, too, but I suppose we should be grateful that the flights were not cancelled completely.”
The airline said it was offering lower fares and, where possible, customers were being upgraded at no extra cost.
“Where customers have selected and booked special meals we are meeting this,” the spokesman said.
“If for any reason this wouldn’t be possible, for an individual, then we would contact them in advance and offer alternatives.”
BA has been in the news a few times in recent months concerning its Abu Dhabi flights.
In May, The National reported how it cancelled almost a dozen flights on its Abu Dhabi to London service at the start of Ramadan.
The airline’s website told passengers there were no direct flights for that route on some dates between May 16 and June 6.
The BA spokesman said the cancellations were minor schedule changes caused by demand and were not related to the latest changes on the route from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi. It was also reported that BA was looking to lease three aircraft from struggling Qatar Airways to cover gaps caused by maintenance to the Dreamliner.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA’s parent company International Airlines Group, said some Dreamliners would not be available during May, June and July.
The airline was under further pressure in June when cheap flights to Dubai were cancelled because of a computer glitch that incorrectly displayed prices.
Travellers who had snapped up £200 (Dh958) return tickets through travel agencies said they were appalled at the decision to cancel their flights.
At the time, a BA spokesman said that such instances were rare and, under contract law, the company was not legally bound to honour the arrangements.