British Airways heads east with new flights to Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok 

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British Airways (BA) is expanding its range of destinations served in the Far East by offering new flights to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Bangkok, Thailand. Both cities have been served previously by the carrier but are returning to the airline’s route network in October 2024. 

Starting in the IATA northern winter scheduling season, daily flights will depart London-Heathrow (LHR) bound for Kuala Lumpur (KUL) using Boeing 787s in a four-class configuration. BA last served the Malaysian capital city between 2015 and 2020 before halting the service due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The service starts on November 10, 2024, in what the airline calls “a commitment to expanding its network to Asia post-pandemic”. 

The Thai capital of Bangkok also sees a return to the BA fold, albeit with a twist. Instead of originating from the airline’s London superhub at Heathrow, unlike the route to Kuala Lumpur, the service will depart from London-Gatwick Airport (LGW), home to several other leisure-focused routes flown by the airline. The route will be flown three times per week starting October 28, 2024, using Boeing 777-200ERs.  

BA previously served Bangkok for many years daily from Heathrow until 2020, and the city even benefitted from a direct flight from Manchester for a short time. The switch of the route to Gatwick is likely due to the route traditionally being used by leisure travelers who represent low yield for airlines. As Gatwick offers airlines lower costs and increased slot availability, the route may prove to be a hit for BA with its higher-density Gatwick-based 777s.  

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The move is also likely to allow slots to be freed up at Heathrow where they are scarcer, for higher-yielding premium routes. 

While Kuala Lumpur is barely served by European carriers directly, Bangkok sees far greater service. Thai Airways operates twice daily from Heathrow to Bangkok using Boeing 777-300ERs, while Eva Air goes nonstop on the same route once a day on its way to Taipei, again using 777-300ERs. Singapore Airlines’ budget carrier even served Bangkok from Gatwick on a fifth-freedom basis via Singapore between 2021 and 2022 using 787-8s but subsequently off the route.    

Even before the pandemic, BA traditionally struggled to make money flying to the Thai capital. Nowadays, the vast majority of travelers flying from the UK to Thailand fly on one of the so-called “big three” Gulf-based airlines – Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways 

These three carriers alone offer huge amounts of capacity for connecting services between the UK and Bangkok via their mega hubs in Dubai (DXB), Abu Dhabi (AUH), and Doha (DOH) respectively. For example, Qatar Airways has six flights a day from Doha to Bangkok while Emirates operates five daily Airbus A380s from Dubai to the Thai capital. 

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