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What was a British Airways A380 doing in Oakland?

Sept. 11, 2019
3 min read
What was a British Airways A380 doing in Oakland?
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Passengers flying out of the Oakland airport usually see a lot of just one type of airplane: the Boeing 737, and mostly in the colors of Southwest, the biggest airline at OAK. There isn't a lot of airplane variety at the airport on the other side of the bay from San Francisco, despite a relatively big number of yearly passengers. About three-quarters of those 13.6 million passengers fly Southwest, and Southwest only flies 737s.

So it was a big surprise when keen-eyed TPG reader Sam Engel spotted something very unusual when flying into OAK on Tuesday: an Airbus A380, in the colors of British Airways,

Image courtesy of Sam Engel

What was the biggest passenger airplane in the world doing at an airport normally frequented by humble 737s?

Did the big Airbus divert from its intended destination, San Francisco, because of the runway construction causing disruptions, our reader wondered? And if so, what did its passengers — 469 of them, assuming a full plane — do? How did they get to San Francisco if their plane did not go to SFO?

So we did some quick digging, and found out that the big bus didn't divert to Oakland because of construction. It went there as a consequence of the pilot strike that crippled British Airways operations worldwide on Monday and Tuesday. At one point on Tuesday there were no British Airways planes in the sky, anywhere in the world.

Since BA could not fly its long-haul planes back to the UK during the strike, it ferried some of them for temporary parking to airports with available space. In the case of Oakland, it would also be cheaper than parking at a major international gateway like SFO.

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We looked at the flight logs of the airline's A380s, and sure enough the one with registration G-XLEG was ferried from SFO to OAK, after disembarking its passengers, on Sunday evening. That's where our reader saw it: his photo clearly shows that it was parked at a remote stand. (Oh, and if you are curious about where OAK ranked in our recent survey of the 50 top airports in the US, it came in at number 38.)

Flight-tracking site Flightradar24 showed that the plane flew to Oakland on Sunday as BA9154 — flight numbers that high usually indicate special or charter flights — and back to San Francisco as BA9155 on Tuesday, after spending two days parked. The schedule then showed it was expected to serve a London to Boston flight on September 12, presumably after going back to London from San Francisco as a scheduled flight with passengers on September 11.

Screenshot from Flightradar24

The Oakland A380 wasn't the only case of a British Airways long-hauler ferried to a different airport during the strike. Ryan Ewing of aviation news site Airline Geeks spotted others, for example a Boeing 777 and another A380 spending the strike period at Washington Dulles.

Featured image by British Airways

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
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Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees