British Airways launches all-business class flights to New York

Loss-making airline British Airways announced yesterday that it would launch an all-business class service from London to New York this week, as it seeks to get back on track amid the downturn.

The twice-daily service will operate between London City Airport and New York, offering 32 seats onboard an Airbus A318 aircraft, the embattled group revealed in a statement.

The flights will have to land at Ireland's Shannon airport to refuel because London City Airport's runway is not large enough to cater for an A318 jet with a full load of jet fuel.

The inaugural flight will take place on Tuesday, while the first trip with paying passengers will leave London on Wednesday, a BA spokesman said.

Return fares for the service, which will include flat beds and Internet access, start at 1901 pounds ($3460). Tickets went on sale earlier this year.

"In the harshest trading environment airlines have experienced, we believe it is more important than ever to embrace the future and innovate," BA chief executive Willie Walsh said in the statement.

Passengers will use the Shannon stopover to clear US customs and immigration, saving time when they arrive at New York's JF Kennedy airport.

BA is seeking to turn around its fortunes as a severe economic downturn slams demand for air travel.

The carrier revealed last week that it would start charging passengers who want to choose their seats when they book their flights.

The seat charge is the latest measure BA has taken since it logged a net loss of 375 million pounds in its last financial year.