The Queen Of The Skies Flying To San Diego!

San Diego Airport has experienced some impressive international growth the past few years, both to Europe and Asia. A few years back San Diego Airport had no longhaul flights, until Japan Airlines launched 787-8 flights to Tokyo Narita, and British Airways launched 777-200 flights to London Heathrow.


San Diego seemed like a big risk for both airlines at the time, though it seems to have worked out quite well for them.

In September British Airways announced that they would upgrade the San Diego flight from a 777-200 to a 777-300ER. Not only did this translate into added capacity, but perhaps more significantly it meant British Airways would begin offering a first class cabin to San Diego (the 777-200 they previously flew to San Diego was three cabin, with business, premium economy, and economy).


This will be the first time that San Diego Airport has international first class service. Well, if you can even call British Airways first class that.

But it seems that British Airways has even bigger plans for San Diego, as they just updated their summer schedule. Via airlineroute.netBritish Airways will begin flying a 747-400 between London Heathrow and San Diego as of March 27, 2016.


Interestingly this “upgrade” actually signifies a much less premium-heavy configuration.

The British Airways 777-300ER features:

  • 14 first class seats
  • 56 business class seats
  • 44 premium economy seats
  • 183 economy seats

Meanwhile the British Airways 747-400 being flown to San Diego features:

  • 14 first class seats
  • 52 business class seats
  • 36 premium economy seats
  • 243 economy seats

As you can see, the number of first class seats stays the same, the number of business class seats is decreased by four, the number of premium economy seats is decreased by eight, and the number of economy seats is increased by 60. I suppose the less premium-heavy configuration reflects that San Diego is more of a leisure destination.

Unfortunately even in first class this sort of represents a downgrade. First class on the British Airways 747 is quite tight, while it’s rather spacious on the 777.


Bottom line

More than anything I’m writing about this because I think it’ll be damn cool to see the queen of the skies at San Diego Airport. The 747 is still the most gorgeous plane in the sky, in my opinion, and I never thought I’d see the passenger version of it at San Diego Airport.

British Airways seems to be doing quite well in California, between their multiple daily frequencies to Los Angeles and San Francisco, their service to San Diego, and soon their new service to San Jose.

How do you feel about British Airways launching 747 service to San Diego?


  1. Wow! SAN is my home airport, and like you, never thought SAN would see passenger 747s. I would have guessed a 787 would have been eventually rotated-in. But maybe the route has more demand that I would have guessed.

  2. BA flew a 747 out of SAN, with a stop in PHX both for passengers and because the SAN runway is too short for a fully loaded bird… I can only imagine what it’s like to see this landing over the skyline…

  3. Yes, BA did indeed have 747 service daily out of SAN for several years. The timing wasn’t great, but I managed to get free upgrades numerous times due to chronically overbooked Y and underbooked F/J. I still don’t like the timing of this flight on its return though.

  4. I watch the 777-200 come in most nights from the comfort of my apartment and always enjoy it. Can’t wait to watch the 747-400 fly past my window.

    Though previously when operated a fully loaded 747 could not take off from SAN, hence the stop in PHX to add the fuel on for the long haul part of the flight. Is SAN’s runway now long enough to accommodate a loaded 747 without a stop back to LHR ?

    Or will there be a cargo restriction on the plane ?

  5. This is not a reduction in premium seats. It is an increase in seats in ALL CABINS: first (new), business, prem econ and econ. It’s pointless to compare with 773 configuration since that configuration has never operated on scheduled basis on SAN-LHR.

    So I see this as vote of confidence in all demand segments not just leisure.

    I think the reason the 744 was not used nonstop before was more based on market demand / market size rather than field performance requirements. They would not have scheduled the flight as 744 unless their operations unit was comfortable with payload range performance from RWY 27.

  6. SAN is my weekly home airport as well, and it will be awesome to see the 747 there. I still get pretty excited to even see the 777 and 787 there too, since they are each only once a day. Is there a change to the runway that allowed this? Or passenger/cargo restrictions? I didn’t think there was enough runway for a fully loaded 747 takeoff.

  7. Would be excited if the route would have any sort of value for redemption. $800 fuel surcharges to fly to Europe? lulz

  8. Ohh….. was the header for this article not thought out all that well………………….Lucky? For a second or two I thought it was a bit of shameless self-promotion!

  9. It’s been a long time since I lived in San Diego. I was always under the impression the runway was to short to handle heavies.

    Did the lengthen it at some point in time?

  10. It took 8 hours and 8 posts before the the first “queen” comment. The peanut gallery is not in top form today!

  11. AS previsouly mentioned, SAN had 747 service from the mid 90’s to early 2000’s and yes, Virginia they had FC on the place, so this is not the first time BA offering FC on this route.

  12. I always appreciated the person who posted the comment back some time ago (and worth repeating for the newbies)…. Ben, you’ll always be the queen of the skies to us. 😉

  13. @ James @ Nathan @ Patrick — It’s going to take a lot of math, that’s for certain.

    Looking at the official takeoff metrics for the 744 (and factoring in the Rolls Royce engines, along with the climate conditions at SAN), it seems like it could just work. They will have to be conscientious about takeoff weight, so can’t load to max capacity, but should have plenty of allowance for fuel/passengers/luggage and some cargo.

    Whether or not that’s profitable though…

  14. James, as I recall it the BA PHX stop out of SAN was not for refueling but rather the SAN stop was an extension of the pre-existing LHR-PHX 747 service. It would typically be lightly loaded for SAN-PHX.

    But as such, it was probably quicker to fly LHR-LAX non-stop and then drive down 405/5. So a non-stop SAN-LHR makes sense if the traffic justifies it and if the constraints of the SAN runway don’t lead to lots of compromises and passengers being bumped and sent to LAX anyway.

    But why not a 787-9 like the ones that BA is now using for other smaller destinations like Austin and (soon) San Jose?

  15. UA operated a 747 out of SAN in the 80’s. I recall flying it and I think it went to HNL, probably a 747-200, not the most powerful but I don’t remember it being load restricted although they spooled up the engines as much as possible before the takeoff roll.

  16. @ Traveler UA never had scheduled 747 service out of SAN. The biggest plane UA flew out of SAN was their DC10.

  17. @Tony @Travlar…UA did have 747 service SAN-LAX-HNL back in the 70’s. As for the BA 747, can’t wait to see that beautiful plane fly to SAN once again.

  18. UA operated DC10 nonstop to Honolulu until October 1983 when they decided to make it SAN-LAX-HNL using 747-200. That didn’t last a year. Flight reverted to DC10 still through LAX until 1987. BA operated DC10s through LA in 1987. When the LHR-LAX segment was upgraded to 747-200, BA pilots were leery of flying over the San Diego hills at dusk, so the LAX SAN segment wouldn’t operate with 747 until there was better light (April through October). DC10 was still used on certain days. BA eventually discontinued service to San Diego until 1995 when it had an agreement with American. LGW or LHR to Phoenix was operated with DC10 again until 1998 when that flight was bumped up to 747-400. Tails had intricate artwork. In 2001, LGW to SAN was a nonstop with 772. This continued until 2003. The turnaround was early to mid afternoon(1-3 or 4-6). They had their own lounge in a run down baggage building. After an economic hiatus, BA returned in 2011 with 772 again with the turnaround being late afternoon and early evening (5-7,6-8). They shared elite lounge with American and Japan. The 777-300ER has been coming in occasionally, most notably during December and January. BA ground staff I’ve spoken with maintain that the jet will be a 773. We’ll see in 4 weeks.

  19. Obviously lots of DC10/MD11 and L1011 heavies used SD routes. The best was the old AA #76, an early
    Morning MD11 that flew SAN-LAX (it was only in SD due to lack of an overnight parking place at LAX. 16 minute flight with about 20 people on a jumbo jet! And as the commentators note, we had the BA (and before that UAL) 747. (Air Force One has also landed Lindbergh many times.) the coolest now is the 787 Dreamliner TIJ-MEX just to the south. And can also fly TIJ-Narita and TIJ-Shanghai. Those “fuel top off at sea level” in Tijuana after starting at high altitude and weight-restricted Mexico City.

  20. @Ken Williams, I’m booked on a return flight from London on April 3rd and again in May, both of these trips have seating options on a 747. My outgoing flight on March 24th is a 777-200. I’d much rather have the newer 777-300 that was booked, but it will be different to see the old ladies landing in San Diego again. 🙂

  21. I will be on this said flight, BA273 LHR-SAN Sunday 27th March 2016, arriving at 6.35pm…if anyone cares to photograph it/film it landing, I would LOVE to see it and would think of some way to repay you 🙂 I will be in 1A, waving…… As much as I am ready to try the new 787-9, I just can’t give up my love affair with the 747…….so to fly it in to one of my favourite places is a dream. FYI, for those with cameras at the ready (pleeeeeeease) take note:
    ‘If you like to watch airplanes from up close, you have to get to Albatross St street and Ivy street corner, this is the place I noticed is the best spot to watch planes touch down on the landing strip. ‘

  22. Daily service or cut back a bit. There is no scheduled flight today (28 March) according to Flightaware.

  23. BA Flight 273 (747-400) is scheduled to SAN with a listed arrival time of 18:35, today 3/28/16, according to the BA website and

  24. I live in San Diego, but did not think the runway at the Lindbergh Field could handle a 747. I was always a big fan of the Jumbo Jet, but I think it’s way passed it’s prime especially on BA, which does not seem to think much of the San Diego Market to offer a 787 or upgraded 777-300. The BA IFP is very poor with dated monitored and old programming.

  25. I’m an Uber driver sitting in the staging parking lot and just saw a British Airways 747 plane land at Lindbergh Field(San Diego Intl Airport). It was around 6:30pm. It was a beautiful sight seeing that huge, twin engine plane coming in over the San Diego skyline and land just 100yrds away from me. It was very cool. I thought at first it may have been making an emergency landing giving I’ve never seen a 747 land here and I didn’t think our runway could accomodate a plane of its size. It’s good to know we are becoming a world class city with a world class airport now!

  26. i have booked to travel on the 18th November but just noticed that the aircraft has changed to 777 does this mean BA are cancelling the 747 service ?

  27. Last night I watched a BA 747-400 land at SAN from the ride-share waiting lot (adjacent to the cell phone lot). I had no idea the runway was long enough, and it looked like the pilot about stood it on its nose to get it stopped in time, but still really cool to see. Kind of like a condor landing in a sparrow’s nest. One of my fellow Lyft drivers (unfortunately I didn’t get his name) took a few pics, here’s the best one:

  28. Yesterday I was in downtown San Diego around the time the BA jet lands and to my surprise, it was a 777-300!! I went to expedia and plugged in several different dates of the route and all of them had the 777. Exactly a year after the 747-400 started to land in San Diego, it has now been replaced by the 777-300. The 777 is my favorite airplane but the 747 landing in SD was more impressive.

  29. Yes I noticed the London/San Diego 747 has been replaced as well. I wonder if we will see it return with added capacity for summer tourist season. It was awesome having the Queen of the Skies here, I hope she returns. Here is an interesting article about the fate of the 747, it’s days as a passenger jet appear to be numbered with the remaining two US carriers retiring them at the end of this year.

  30. I’m going to Italy in December of 2017, and while playing with some dates for departure from SAN, I saw that the 747 IS BACK!! I believe October 30th will be the return of the 747 to America’s Finest City!!

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