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British Airways Shuttle dates

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British Airways Shuttle dates

Old 19th Jul 2013, 20:51
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British Airways Shuttle dates

Can anyone help with the start and end dates of the BA "shuttle" service.

The Shuttle was the guaranteed seat, backup flights provided as required, no reservations, every hour/2 hours service from London Heathrow to Glasgow, and then (I think the right sequence) to Belfast, Edinburgh, and Manchester. All routes it started on had previously been normal BA domestic flights.

I believe the first route, to Glasgow, started 12 January 1975. What were the start dates of the remaining destinations ?

There was a relaunch in the early 1980s when "Shuttle" became "Super Shuttle", with decent catering and bar (previously there was none), and the end of pay-on-board. Did this happen to all four routes on the same date ?

The Shuttle approach seemed to just fizzle away without any publicity, back to regular scheduled services. What date did the whole no reservations guaranteed seat service finally get given up ? What was the last ever backup ? The callsign on these routes is still "Shuttle", but the concept is long gone.
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Old 20th Jul 2013, 11:24
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It must have been very expensive to operate - a second aeroplane and crew standing by just in case the first one filled up. I remember it well at Manchester, operated by Tridents and 1-11s.

I remember the free bar, as well. If you got a second G&T on the short sector MAN to LHR and didn't go into the hold, you ended up landing with table tray folded, seat upright, and G&T still in hand, to be finished off as we taxied in!
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Old 20th Jul 2013, 12:01
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It was not unusual at Glasgow for the backup to operate ahead of the scheduled flight which confused the pasenegers no end.
I vaguely thought that slots or atc permission to operate was one reason that backups became impossible.

I actually flew on the Eastern Shuttle DCA/EWR in 1964,paying on the plane.
My only trip on a Super Constellation.

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Old 20th Jul 2013, 12:45
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It must have been very expensive to operate - a second aeroplane and crew standing by just in case the first one filled up. I remember it well at Manchester, operated by Tridents and 1-11s.
I remember 'back in the day' (seems odd to say that about the 80s) there was a story that on just one occasion only a Concorde was used as a reserve on one of the shuttles, either the Manchester or Glasgow one. If true, it must have cost a few bob.
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Old 20th Jul 2013, 12:50
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Originally Posted by Shaggy Sheep Driver
It must have been very expensive to operate - a second aeroplane and crew standing by just in case the first one filled up.
I can assure you that the control team were experts at demand prediction for each flight, and certainly did not just hang around to see what happened. There were a whole range of techniques to handle it. Nor was there just a second aircraft - I can recall on occasion there needing to be third ones - which were always to hand.

I understand the key reason it was wound down was the whole approach was just incompatible with yield management. Certainly at the beginning I understood they had a special arrangement with the slot co-ordinators for backups to be accepted.

The worst "disaster" was the first year of the Belfast Shuttle, on Christmas Eve. Traditionally people had booked to go home to Ireland for the holiday, and as flights filled they would have to go one or two days earlier. This wasn't necessary of course once the Shuttle started. The control team saw it coming but not the extent to which everybody turned up right at the end on the last evening, with the whole of BA European then shutting down for Christmas Day and about 600 people left at the end of the evening. The Long-haul division, who still had ops going on, came to the rescue, and operated two 747s over to Belfast early on Christmas morning.

Concorde was used as a reserve on one of the shuttles, either the Manchester or Glasgow one
These did happen from time to time, generally as some form of promotion to get the attention of the press (which it always did). I believe it was just mixed in with some Concorde training requirement. The PR team never revealed that they didn't loop out over the sea to go supersonic, so the journalists generally made this up !

Last edited by WHBM; 20th Jul 2013 at 12:54.
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Old 20th Jul 2013, 12:59
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For some reason the only airline that has been able to operate a shuttle (Puente Aereo) over the years is Iberia between MAD and BCN, although I would question whether, against the competition on the route not only from other airlines, from themselves, and from the AVE, it makes a profit. It is expensive.

Iberia doesn't seem to have had much success with anything except the Puente Aereo.
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Old 20th Jul 2013, 13:23
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The cost of the Shuttle backup was sometimes ameliorated by a reciprocal agreement with British Midland to take excess BA passengers. BA in turn carried BMA pax when the destination weather was below limits for the Midland DC9s that were only CAT II capable. This happened to me two or three times between LHR and GLA when I was tranferred onto a CAT III equipped Trident or 757.

The Super Shuttle's improved in-flight service was I believe a direct response to BMA's excellent 'Diamond Service' catering.
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Old 20th Jul 2013, 15:23
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It was not unusual at Glasgow for the backup to operate ahead of the scheduled flight which confused the passengers no end.
IIRC, this was even more prevalent on the Belfast service, hence the technique in general was referred to as an "Irish backup".

Incidentally, I don't know if he's still around, but if he is then Rod Lynch would be the obvious guy to ask about the history of the BA Shuttle.
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Old 20th Jul 2013, 16:27
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Originally Posted by DaveReidUK
IIRC, this was even more prevalent on the Belfast service, hence the technique in general was referred to as an "Irish backup".
Yes, I remember the crew announcing it as such. In print it was described more officially as "We can leave once we are full; no point in a planeload of passengers waiting for the official time".

The technique worked where, for example, you had a 1700 departure from Glasgow due Heathrow at 1810, and also an 1800 departure the other way from Heathrow to Glasgow, both of which were expected to be requiring backups. If you could get the first section of that 1700 departure away at 1640 you could hope to be at Heathrow at 1745, turn round in 25 minutes, and be away as the backup to that 1800 flight at 1810.

One of the things of this hourly service was that passengers tended not to go for a specific flight but turn up in more of a steady stream. If a backup was operating, typically 10 minutes after the main section, the gate was kept open until the last moment and there were always a number more passengers turned up, which in turn relieved the next flight.

All the ground crew were on their mettle to achieve this sort of operation; great pride was taken in getting everyone away on time. I sometimes think of this when I arrive inbound at T5 to find that, yet again, we have to stop and hold on the taxiway because there's nobody manning the gate to turn the stand guidance on.

Last edited by WHBM; 20th Jul 2013 at 16:31.
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Old 20th Jul 2013, 16:38
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Not sure of the date, but the 757 entered BA service on the Belfast Shuttle service...loved seeing that aircraft at Aldergrove.
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Old 22nd Jul 2013, 09:14
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Caught a 111 back-up on an EDI-LHR shuttle once. Got the jump seat on the way down. On final at LHR the captain pointed out the aircraft in front on the ILS was the Trident that had departed on the scheduled flight when full. He was determined to beat it to the gate so on touch down full reverse and braking, turned off the runway and got in front of the Trident on the taxiway. Captain then gave a big "YESSS!!!!".
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Old 22nd Jul 2013, 09:42
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Wasn't the key point here that Shuttle was all business class? It was VERY expensive even with the cheapeset APEX option.
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Old 22nd Jul 2013, 11:28
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Not so much business class as "one class", and certainly at the beginning there were no C-class trappings at all - no catering, 3-across seating, not even lounges. Furthermore, a significant amount of the traffic was still those connecting, on through tickets, to BA services out of Heathrow, who of course were mostly Y class. One of the changes made was to require those with these connection tickets to check in southbound at a normal 30/40 minutes beforehand, rather than the 10 minutes before at the gate for actual Shuttle users, to make sure they got on the first section of the flight. Returning through Heathrow they just got put on the next flight available in the normal Shuttle way, of course.
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Old 22nd Jul 2013, 16:43
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Manchester was added to the BA Shuttle network with the first day of operation being Sunday 28th October 1979..

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Old 23rd Jul 2013, 09:55
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Somewhere in my cupboard I have a BA Shuttle tie.

Wonder if it's worth anything?

(Ditto one BCal tie)
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Old 23rd Jul 2013, 16:29
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But do you have the CAT III tie? Given when an actual CAT III landing was made.
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Old 24th Jul 2013, 18:53
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Trident G-ARPC operated the first Glasgow flight on 12 January 1975, Edinburgh was next on 1 April 1976 followed by Belfast on 1 April 1977, not sure about Manchester. The Super Shuttle concept was rolled out all routes on 30 August 1983 in response to the BMA challenge on these routes. BMA had applied to operate Heathrow to Glasgow and Edinburgh in 1981 but were turned down. They won on appeal and their services started on 7 March 1983 and extended to Belfast later. By the end of 1983 BMA had a 28% share of the market. BA launched an advertising campaign in 1983 showing a single passenger being flown in comfort on the back up aircraft. In order not to fall foul of the advertising standards authority BA had to demonstrate that this had actually happened and it had once. However there were many times when only a handful of passengers were flown on back-up aircraft (cost of a single ticket in 1983 was 56 cost of a 1983 Trident flight to Heathrow from Glasgow - 10,000). When BA and BMA reached an agreement on overflow passengers, BA passengers were passed to BMA with a 5.50 voucher being the difference in the cost of the tickets. On the Edinburgh route BMA were operating 5 flights a day to BAs 11. As already stated Concorde was occasionally used on the routes for publicity eg a flight on St Andrews Day on the Scottish routes.
It did all seem to fizzle out although there must have been some definite cut off point.
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Old 24th Jul 2013, 20:28
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Thank you KeMac for those dates. The Manchester operation did come along a few years after the rest; it was the only one to convert from One-elevens, whereas the others had been Trident operations previously, although just before their Shuttle started Belfast had a couple of Lockheed Tristar rotations per day, so it would have seemed a backward step to all-Trident.

In the beginning, for Glasgow only, the operation was all Trident 1, both main aircraft and backups. As the operation extended the Trident 3 became the principal main aircraft, with One-elevens as backups, and later again the 757. Edinburgh had been the last route to convert from Vanguards; in the early 1970s it was consistently argued that jets could not use the "old" runway, 13/31, and construction of the new runway and terminal were finally agreed after much angst. As soon as this was done Tridents were put on the Edinburgh run, and as described here the Shuttle started on the old runway (and to the old terminal) a good 12 months before the new ones were completed.

There was also a little-known 727 Shuttle operation during one of the seemingly regular Trident shortages; this was chartered from American Trans Air, but gained BA titles, and used on the Glasgow run for a few months, principally as a backup aircraft as it had been chartered at a hefty rate per hour !

Photos: Boeing 727-22 Aircraft Pictures | Airliners.net

One of the guys from our Glasgow office travelled on that first Super Shuttle day in 1983 and actually got on Concorde, this being one of the "publicity" times it was used; he gained huge street cred in the company for this for some months afterwards !

The last Trident Shuttle flight (and last BA Trident overall) was AWZU on the last day of 1985. This aircraft was then sent to Stansted where it was used for tractor pushback training, where I saw it until well into the 2000s, sometimes just sat at a spare gate in basic BA colours and looking definitely like a blast from the past. The first 757 had come in 1983 so the transition from Tridents on the Shuttle was very rapid.

My guess, from being a regular user at the time, is that the Shuttle backup operation wound up in about 1991, but I can remember being surprised to find that it had gone. After the changeover, for a while, tickets were still treated as readily transferable to earlier/later flights if possible, and the timetable seemed to be the same, it was just that the guaranteed backup had gone; then the ticketing changes were slowly clamped down on as well.

Around 1980 we did have completely "open" blank tickets for it which were kept in the petty cash tin in our office, pre-stamped for our account, which you filled in yourself and which were then invoiced by BA later, this is when pay-on-board was in operation and at a time when credit cards were still not universal.

Last edited by WHBM; 24th Jul 2013 at 22:02. Reason: Recalled the Tristar and 727 usage
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Old 24th Jul 2013, 20:38
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I remember well into the 80s (and maybe 90s?) those open tickets. If we (in Manchester) had a meeting in London next day we'd be given one. I remember having a meeting in Bournemouth, and I had a shuttle open ticket in my pocket (I'd have got a hire car from Heathrow). But'd booked a Cherokee which I used for the journey, the shuttle ticket / hire car option being in case the wx that day were unsuitable for VFR. I went by PA28, and returned the shuttle ticket to our office stock on returning.

I have a vague memory of the shuttle gate at MAN having a large cardboard seating plan of the aircraft, with a removable 'badge' for each seat. As the seats were allocated at the counter, the 'badge' would be removed from this plan and either handed to the pax or perhaps attached to the pax's boarding pass (can't remember for sure).

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Old 29th Apr 2016, 03:13
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Shuttle from the drivers seat.

I spent several years flying both front line and back up and thinking about it brings back a myriad of stories as well as happy memories.
The planning goes back to the 60s.

I flew once with Eastern...no doubt a 727.
It was a time when SR were very short of crews and I dead headed from Boston to New York.
Whilst we were flying 600+hours a year we were only getting 6 or 7 days off a month and there were guys who hadn't any leave in 18 months - the DH flight was to try and get more crew efficiency.

The flight deck had booked seats whose ticket price was around double the shuttle cost and we boarded early.
Towards the end of the scrum a scene unfolded more akin to "Ga-Ga Land" or a movie from that part of the country.
A young woman around thirty suddenly shrieked "You can't talk to me like that this is AMERICA" and threw her arms up in the air in a Titanicesque pose, reached up to extract her carry on from the hat rack and stormed off the aircraft.
No one batted an eyelid and the Flight Eng, skipper and I just exchanged glances.
If it happened in the UK today she would have been arrested and had her orifices searched; we would have been deplaned and placed in a sterile area whilst the sniffer dogs romped up and down the aircraft.

The Swiss had a jaundiced, arrogant view of the US of A - land of opportunity but lacking any efficiency and I witnessed a "put down" of our Swiss station engineer in Chicago in front of dispatch when the skipper, who was a colonel or something in the Militia, turn to the flight eng and stated in very broad bunstli dialect "what can you expect from a developing land" - some might consider the Swiss as astute.

Someone in BEA management was very clever as they put together a team of young dispatchers to run the show. Not unlike the traders from East London and Essex who make a fortune on the stock exchanges.

The team were very enthusiastic and able which was reflected in the crews who operated the fights.

One has to understand the demographics and remember that in the 50s and 60s the manufacturing base, as well as the social structure, in Scotland and the North had been destroyed which led to a lot of commuters which was our core business. One had to then factor in rugby, cricket, horse racing, bank and school holidays to the back up requirements.
Whilst they got it right most of the time they actually flew an empty aircraft to Glasgow, then on to Edinburgh and finally back to London.
It was intelligent gambling.

Flight deck did a block of 4 day, eight hour standby - it was often incredibly boring as there is only so much Bridge that you can play (especially with a dummy hand) and only one Telegraph crossword. But sometimes you worked your arse off and your duty times had to be doctored to stay legal.
The guys and girls on the ground were a great team and both sides would bend over backwards to help each other - so if the Mrs wanted you home one evening they would do their best to arrange it and similarly we would do our best to help them with a problem.
One of the dispatchers was learning to fly and almost certainly got his hands on a Trident 1 - met him at a fellow Trident pilots funeral last year - he eventually made senior captain in BA.
To be continued..
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