I toured the most iconic British Airways jet since the Concorde just before its abrupt retirement. See inside the plane that shuttled VIP flyers between New York and London.

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A British Airways Airbus A318 aircraft. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
  • British Airways just retired its exclusive all-business class jet that only served the incredibly lucrative London-New York route.
  • The single Airbus A318 used for the service stretched only eight rows and was fitted with luxurious lie-flat business class seats.
  • With 32 seats in total, the aircraft is more like a private jet that used London’s smaller City Airport to directly connect the Big Apple with the UK capital’s financial district.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

British Airways just dealt another blow to its premium customers by retiring its all-business class aircraft offered on the billion-dollar London-New York route, the airline’s flagship.

The service was operated by a VIP-configured Airbus A318 aircraft, the only one of its kind in the British Airways fleet when its retirement was announced in July, and boasted enhanced convenience and luxury to the business travellers that frequented the route. With capacity for only 32 passengers in a premium-configuration, it was the closest thing to a private jet in the airline world.

Launched six years after the Concorde’s retirement, the service once again solidified British Airways as the route’s go-to premium carrier and was the new crown jewel of the airline’s transatlantic offering. While heavy-hitters like the Boeing 777 and now-retired Boeing 747 still dominated the route, the smaller and more exclusive A318 service catered to the airline’s top spenders with a direct link between New York City and London’s financial district.

It was also a bucket list flight for many aviation enthusiasts since the A318 was already itself a rare aircraft on which to fly, let alone on a transatlantic journey and in an all-business class configuration.

Take a look inside the most exclusive aircraft to connect New York and London since the Concorde.


Most people travelling between New York and London on British Airways before the pandemic found themselves either flying on a Boeing 747-400…

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A British Airways Boeing 747-400 at JFK Airport. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Or Boeing 777-200.

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A British Airways Boeing 777. Reuters

The two make up the majority of flights flying the $US1 billion route between the two economic hubs but most don’t know about the third aircraft that flew British Airways’ top clients: the Airbus A318.

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A British Airways Airbus A318 aircraft. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Read More: These 10 global flight routes are where airlines made the most money in 2018 and 2019


The smallest member of the Airbus A320 family, the A318 was a commercial flop for Airbus that only saw a handful of customers, mostly in Europe.

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An Airbus A318 aircraft in house colours. Regis Duvignau/Reuters

The aircraft is out of production and though British Airways was among the last and smallest operators of the type, it made the aircraft an icon in transatlantic aviation by flying it between New York and London.

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A British Airways Airbus A318 aircraft. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

While the thought of flying on a short-haul aircraft across the Atlantic may seem unappealing, there’s a catch to this aircraft in that it’s configured in an all-business class configuration.

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Only 32 seats make up that sole premium cabin that’s spread out across eight rows.

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

And though small in size, this A318 had no shortage of comfort as all seats were typical business class seats with fully lie-flat capabilities. These seats are not typically found on similar aircraft.

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Amenities and features at each seat standard for business class included a plush pillow and blanket kit from The White Company….

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Amenity kit from The White Company…

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Foldable tray table…

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Personal reading lamp…

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Literature holder…

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

110v AC power outlet…

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. British Airways Airbus A318 JFK Tour

Coat hangars…

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

And adjustable headrest.

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

iPads were also distributed in lieu of seat-back entertainment screens.

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Each row also had multiple windows for better views of the crossing during the day.

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Though the standard in business class is now enclosed private suites which the A318 didn’t offer, a small divider separated the paired seats for an additional morsel of privacy.

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Only three flight attendants serviced the passengers, providing a full business class meal service and drinks for the 3,000-nautical mile journey.

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

The seats were controlled via the armrest, with numerous customisable positions.

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The lie-flat capability of the seats was ideal for the evening red-eye flight from New York to London, allowing business travellers to get a comfortable full night’s rest and head straight to work or meetings the next morning.

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

British Airways frequently saw passengers arriving in New York and London only to return within the next 24 hours, with the near downtown-to-downtown service allowing for a quick and luxurious in-and-out of the world’s top business centres.

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

While not the most modern business class product, the service as a whole made the Airbus A318 the aircraft of choice for those who could afford it when flying between London and New York.

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With only eight rows and 32 seats, the aircraft felt more like a private jet than a commercial airliner. Case in point, the flight before my visit only had five passengers on board.

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Inside a British Airways Airbus A318. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

As the aircraft couldn’t make it from London to New York nonstop – even with the reduced passenger load – it made a stop in Shannon, Ireland for fuel, where it also cleared US Customs and Border Protection.

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A US Customs and Border Protection agent. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Upon landing in New York, passengers onboard BA1 arrived in the terminal as they would if it were a domestic flight, with no further passport checks required.

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Terminal 7 at JFK International Airport. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

British Airways only had one A318 in its fleet, G-EUNA, which solely flew this route.

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A British Airways Airbus A318 aircraft. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Designed with business travellers in mind, the aircraft flew every day of the week except Saturdays.

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A British Airways Airbus A318 aircraft. Thomas Pallini/British Airways

It was intended to fill the gap left by the Concorde in 2003, with the A318’s first flight occurring in 2009.

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A British Airways Concorde aircraft. AP

G-EUNA flew the flag on British Airways’ flagship route wearing either the flight number BA1 or BA2 – depending on which direction it was flying – for 11 years before the coronavirus pandemic ended its tenure permanently in July.

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A British Airways Airbus A318 aircraft. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Though not as fast as Concorde, the service was nearly every bit as exclusive, earning the nickname “Concorde’s baby sister.”

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A British Airways Airbus A318 aircraft. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider