Today is IAG’s Capital Markets Day. And news is emerging that, after a delay of many years, British Airways will finally follow its rivals with a ten-across cabin on many of it B777s.
From 2018 the entire London Gatwick-based B777 fleet will adopt the controversial, and some would say unpopular, 3-4-3 layout in economy class.
It is understood BA’s aim is to lower costs to better compete with Norwegian on its low-cost transatlantic routes out of Gatwick.
BA’s passengers are sure to notice the difference. At the present time all its B777s (whether 200 or 300 series) have a relatively roomy nine-across 3-3-3 layout.
The graphic below is taken from IAG’s Capital Markets Day presentation, and shows the total seat count on the aircraft increasing from 280 to 332 seats.
BA will be refurbishing 25 of its B777 fleet and these will be retrofitted with ten-across economy seating. It will include all the Gatwick fleet plus a few of the B777s which operate out of Heathrow.
The Gatwick-based B777s will see Club World decrease from 40 to 32 seats. But World Traveller Plus and economy class will see increases. The former’s cabin is enlarged from 24 to 48 seats, while, at 252 seats, the latter’s cabin is also larger.
British Airways has provided Business Traveller with the following statement on the changes:
“We are flying more customers than ever before to our expanding network of destinations.
“To meet this demand, we are updating our 777 cabins to bring us into line with many of our competitors.
“As part of the update, we will also be fitting new entertainment systems.
“British Airways continues to offer customers a generous hand baggage allowance and complimentary food and drink on all our long-haul services.”
Readers with long memories will recall that BA had an agreement with an airline called Flying Colours to operate B777s on a couple of long-haul routes.
These B777s were configured ten-across but following many passenger complaints BA took over the flights in question and therefore the seating reverted to its normal nine-across 3-3-3 layout.
Densification of short-haul A320/A321 fleet
BA will be installing an extra two rows of seating across its short-haul A320/A321 fleet.
This means the A320’s seat count will rise from 168 to 180 seats while the A321 will go from 205 to 218 seats.
Many readers have complained how the conventional carriers are going down the low-cost route rather than promoting more comfort and amenities.
These configurations suggest BA is adopting similar tighter seating as found on its low-cost Spanish partner Vueling.
It is unclear whether or not business class (Club Europe) passengers will be provided with more pitch. At present the pitch is 30 inches both in business and economy zones on the above aircraft.
Airline analyst John Strickland says “Densification of aircraft is [now] an important part of IAG’s future strategy [it includes] both long- and short-haul.”
Club World investment
Long-haul business class (Club World) is also set to be refurbished. “A major investment is planned” says BA.
Business class (Club Europe) on domestic services
The introduction of a domestic business class is interesting. Yes it will offer a product more to the liking of premium long-haul passengers as they will receive a premium product on all stages of their BA itinerary.
It will enable BA to better compete with the Gulf carriers who, for regional travellers, already offer a premium product via their hubs.
But it will also challenge the train companies. In recent years both VTEC (Virgin Trains East Coast) and VT (Virgin Trains West Coast) have begun attracting air passengers because they offer not only more space but also free catering, drinks and meals in first class.
Business class will go some way to redress the balance.