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BA plans denser seating on Airbus fleet

Published: 19/12/2013 - Filed under: News »

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Pinnacle seatBritish Airways will begin installing new seating across its Airbus fleet next year.

As part of the refit, BA is believed to be reducing the seat pitch in Club Europe (business) on its A320 short-haul aircraft from 34 inches to 30 inches, the same legroom as in economy, although middle seats B and E will remain unoccupied.

It plans to do this by installing slimline B/E Pinnacle seats (right) across the fleet and by adding extra rows of seating, although it is unclear whether this will be achieved by removing wardrobe space or a washroom, or possibly both.

The net result might be to increase the capacity on BA's A320 aircraft to 172 seats.

On the airline's existing A320 fleet of more than 40 aircraft, there are various different seats and configurations.

Seating capacity is a mixture of 135 passengers (seatplan here), 162 passengers (seatplan here) and 168 passengers on some domestic services that are retro-fitted Airbus jets from BMI.

On those aircraft offering Club Europe seating, passengers are currently guaranteed an aisle or window seat, with middle seats B and E blocked out. They also enjoy a 34-inch seat pitch, up to row 9, whereas economy passengers have a 30-inch pitch.

The B/E Pinnacle seat has been fitted on several A320-family aircraft delivered to BA this year but, starting in 2014, deliveries will be in a different configuration.

At a recent shareholder presentation by BA owner IAG, it revealed that it aims to increase capacity across British Airways' Airbus fleet by 6 per cent.

BA is competing on its short-haul routes with both legacy carriers — such as Lufthansa, which itself has installed new slimline Recaro seating on its short haul fleet (see news, December 2010) — and budget airline Easyjet, which is also fitting Recaro seating (see news, March 2013).

Both of these carriers fly the A320 — Lufthansa can accommodate 168 passengers in two classes, while Easyjet can seat 180.

Note, however, that BA is not alone in configuring its short-haul aircraft. Lufthansa is considering removing the rear galleys on its Airbus fleet to fit in more seats (see news, December 2)

Although images of BA's refit are not yet available, it seems that the seats will have leather covers, since manufacturer BE Aerospace has again selected Muirhead, which supplied the leather for the original seating.

A statement on Muirheads website says: "The leather update will be carried out across 130 aircraft including the Airbus A319, A320 and A321 models featuring from nose to tail making it available for all passengers to enjoy."

Business Traveller asked BA for a comment, but a spokesperson said it was too early since the plans are not yet finalised.

Tom Otley

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millionsofmiles - 19/12/2013 18:02

Why would anyone fly "Club Europe" then?
For a 200 Pound dried sandwich and a free newspaper?
30 inches is tighter than most charter airlines.

JETCRUISER - 20/12/2013 01:10

Privacy, space and COMFORT are the key reasons I would pay to fly up front! If BA seriously implements these oppressive changes in Club Europe, then they have lost me as a client.

MajdiAlAyed - 20/12/2013 03:22

Millionsofmiles I completely agree with you. Why would anyone do that. Service with European carriers continues to decline more and more. I am sure if there is more of a choice or competition that offers better service and quality then the likes of BA would think twice about their current strategy. Very disappointing.

GordyUK - 02/01/2014 12:52

seriously??? I mean seriously??. If this is true, then I'm ashamed to be a shareholder if their own greed allowed this to be approved.

gordies - 02/01/2014 13:06

Commercial suicide, simple as that.

lhrb777 - 02/01/2014 13:28

bye bye club europe!!

EHoch28 - 02/01/2014 14:23

Ouch! Given that CE only offers 2-2 seating, a full meal (the quality is debatable) and pretty drinks (champagne) it's hard to imagine why someone would spend the extra money. Perhaps this is BA's way of preparing flyers for the phasing out of CE.

CBaker2 - 02/01/2014 15:33

We are two more passengers who mainly fly Club for the extra legroom so would either fly economy or another airline if this does happen.

Puntomoo - 02/01/2014 19:00

BA Club Europe product is already half baked using economy seats. This is the worst club product I have been on anywhere. Service can be great, but I will no longer pay up if the seat has the same space as economy. Have they lost their minds?

endschi - 03/01/2014 07:06

BA is trying whatever they can to get rid of me as a (very) frequent flyer. I am from Munich, Germany and still fly mostly BA, but if the suggested changes will come, they will lose me to LH. Why bother and transfer in LHR when the service is non-existent.

ricor29 - 04/01/2014 19:03

Regrettably found out the very hard way about these seats! Flight from Gatwick to Larnaca has already been converted to have these monstrosities. Very cramped and my knees were up against the seat in front and I'm not that tall. Feel very cheated that BA didn't make clear that the usual club europe seat wouldn't be present. As lots of the people above have commented may as well have flown economy as it is really only the comfort that makes club europe worth it.

JohnnyFox - 10/01/2014 04:47

BA's neurosis about maintaining 'flexibility' between CE and economy seat sales has finally defeated its ability to offer any kind of quality product up the front of its short haul fleet. It needs to decide whether it's a European short-haul airline or not and if it is, to revise and improve a CE product which is already failing.

I've spent the last month rattling round Asia on MH VN and similar forward-thinking regional carriers who despite also offering a civilised short-haul economy product (towel wipes, drink service, box meal) have dedicated and very spacious seats permanently installed in a separate business cabin even on 737s and A320/1s, and if it works for their business models with a mix of short- and long-haul flying, why not for BA ?

AlexUpgrade77 - 02/03/2014 19:39

I've come to the conclusion that European carriers justify not providing Asian style short haul business seating because they argue that their higher cost base would make this unprofitable. But if you've flown the Australian and US carrier's short haul J class, they all have larger seating distinguishable from economy in terms of width and legroom. It IS possible, European carriers.

If BA go down this road they will be treating their CE customers with contempt. Might have to fly Y class at an exit to get decent legroom from now on.


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