British Airways' newest route is just 54 miles long
From December, British Airways will operate a daily round-trip between two Gulf destinations that are only 54 miles apart and connected by road.
BA is extending its current Heathrow-Bahrain service to Dammam in Saudi Arabia. It is the nearest Saudi city to the island nation of Bahrain, to which it is linked by a causeway.
British Airways currently has a dedicated limousine link meeting its flights at Bahrain and taking passengers to Dammam, scheduled to take 90 minutes. It is coded as BA ”flight” 8499.
But starting on 1 December, a Boeing 777 with four classes will replace the road connection, flying only the same distance as London to Brighton.
BA flight 125 will first depart from Heathrow and fly to Bahrain in about six hours. Many passengers will leave the aircraft, but Dammam-bound passengers will stay onboard the aircraft on the ground for an hour.
The jet, weighing over 150 tons, will take a further 50 minutes to reach the Saudi city, including the aircraft’s taxiing time at either end. The average speed is 65mph, even though the 777’s cruising speed is 555mph.
During this stretch of the journey it is believed no alcohol will be served in any of the four classes, in contrast to the journey from London.
Boeing’s published figures show that the aircraft will use at least 1.5 tons of fuel between take-off and a height of 10,000 feet.
The aircraft is unlikely to fly any higher. When the fuel is burned, the CO2 emissions will be 5 tons.
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “When the aviation industry talk about the necessity of expansion, always remember that a lot of their slots are reserved for short hops. These can often be done just as easily by train, not just in the Gulf, but in many parts of the world.
“We need to place a strict limit on aviation emissions by managing demand like with a frequent flyer levy. The more you fly, the more you pay.”
John Stewart, chair of the aviation campaign group HACAN, said: “This is the sort of route that gives the aviation industry a bad name. “Aviation has an important role to play, but not this.”
Given the swift processing at Bahrain’s small airport, a Dammam-bound passenger who left the aircraft at the intermediate stop and hailed a taxi to Dammam would probably arrive at their final destination ahead of the plane.
Alternatively, frequent Saudi and Bahraini buses make the trip across the causeway connecting the island with the mainland for £10 each way.
Gulf Air flies four times a day between Bahrain and Damman using a narrow-bodied Airbus A320. The journey time is 35 minutes.
The current shortest route on British Airways is 62 miles, between Antigua and St Kitts. It is an extension of the flight from Gatwick to Antigua. But unlike the planned Bahrain-Dammam link, there is no road alternative.
The shortest link with a surface alternative is 155 miles from Heathrow is to Manchester, on which BA has seven flights a day.
Historically, British Airways’ shortest flight is believed to be the 24 miles between Guernsey and Jersey in the Channel islands.
The world’s shortest flight is between the Orkney islands of Westray and Papa Westray on Loganair. The one-mile hop is scheduled to take two minutes, but on a good day takes as little as 70 seconds.