“Just look at those wing tips,” murmured a member of the crowd, as British Airways aircraft G-XWBA rolled into view.
“Gorgeous,” nodded another.
It’s not exactly your typical passenger reaction, but then this was a group of BA staff, media and aviation enthusiasts gathered in the blazing July sun at Heathrow, ready for their first look at the the airline’s new A350-1000.
It’s an exciting moment for BA and many of its passengers, marking not just a new addition to its fleet but also the introduction of a long-awaited business class product, the Club Suite, as well as enhancements in World Traveller (economy) and World Traveller Plus (premium economy).
BA ordered 18 of the A350-1000 in 2013. According to Airbus, the plane measures 74 metres from nose-to-tail (seven metres longer than the A350-900), and has the longest fuselage of its new twin-aisle, wide-body jetliners.
It can fit up to 410 passengers, but BA’s will seat just 331 in three classes; 56 in Club World, 56 in World Traveller Plus and 219 in World Traveller, with economy seating being nine abreast (see the seat plan here).
As with other A350 aircraft, Airbus also promises ambient lighting, a 25 per cent reduction in fuel burn and 40 per cent less noise. The A350-1000 launched with Qatar Airways in February 2018, and Virgin Atlantic will receive its first of four orders for on September 10.
British Airways will take three further deliveries by the end of the year, while also retrofitting two B777s with the new Club Suite.
G-XWBA will be at Heathrow for the rest of the week, until it makes its inaugural flight on August 5, a familiarisation flight to Madrid which Business Traveller‘s Tom Otley will report from.
A350-1000s are set to enter service on British Airways’ Dubai route from September 2 and Toronto on October 1, followed by Tel Aviv and Bengaluru (Bangalore) later in the year.
But for those who want an early look, this is what we found inside:
Although the new seat is being called the Club Suite, the class is still Club World. BA has spent more than three years working on the new seat, which is a bespoke version of the Super Diamond by Collins Aerospace in a forward-facing herringbone layout – but is the first of its kind to feature a door. We have discussed the product and thinking behind it in detail with CEO Alex Cruz here.
When initial photographs of the seat were released, some wondered whether it would be a) too claustrophobic with the door closed, and b) too dark and gloomy.
Of course, we’ve only spent 15 minutes rather than seven hours in the cabin, but neither fear seems to be founded. There is ample space in the footwell (though we don’t have the exact measurements), and the seat itself forms a 79-inch long bed with 29 inches of width. The seat also comes with the new(ish) White Company pillows and bedding.
While roomy, the seat feels very private once closed, especially with the herringbone angle and sliding screen on the other side (if you are in the middle).
It will be fixed in the open position for take-off and landing, after which flight attendants will release the locking mechanism. If you prefer, you can of course leave it open.
Passengers travelling together will be able to keep the privacy screen open, which allows you to look through and talk without moving forwards in your seat. However you won’t exactly be getting cosy:
The Inflight Entertainment screen is 18.5 inches and by Panasonic, providing gate-to-gate entertainment as it doesn’t need to be swung into position.
Underneath this is the table, which can be recessed fully into the seat in front of you, pulled out and used at full or half size. It can then be pushed away so you can get in and out without moving all your things:
The seat controls are easy to use. There is a touch screen which allows more precise adjustments, as well as hard buttons with automatic settings for take-off, relaxation and sleeping. There is also a button to turn the light on and off:
There are several storage pockets – a deep one near the footrest that will fit a water bottle and then two next to the seat, the smaller one that you can see on the left and then a bigger one that also contains the IFE remote and charging points.
Your phone can be left charging in here while you are awake, and the edge of the pocket leaves a gap so that it can be closed while the remote control is used or your phone is charging but outside.
Next to these is a pocket that swings out to reveal a good-sized mirror:
The seat fabrics, which are silver, grey and charcoal hues, are by UK company Hainsworth.
Behind the seat is a fuzzy grey felt, which apparently dampens noise. See more of the detailing in our previous feature here.
The safety card slots into the container next to the light, which contains the mirror:
The front of the plane has a toilet and galley, and then there are 11 rows of Club World seats.
This is the bulkhead design:
Before the final three rows of Club World there is a bar area, in more shades of grey:
There is also a bathroom in this area, which is fairly small:
World Traveller Plus
You then reach World Traveller Plus, where there are seven rows in a 2:4:2 configuration. Seat width is 18.7 inches, pitch is 38 inches and screen size is 12 inches.
These have new furnishings and a new quilt and cushion.
They also come with new amenity kits made from recycled plastic bottles, which will contain an eyemask, socks, a pen, toothbrush, toothpaste and lip balm from Scaramouche and Fandango. Here is the press shot:
The seat has overhead headphones and a six-way adjustable leg, foot and headrest.
Rows 30-35 are World Traveller, behind which are four toilets and rows 40-59. At the very back there are two more toilets and a galley.
Here width is 17.6 inches, pitch is 31 inches and screen size is 10 inches.
All passengers will get access to wifi packages from £4.99 and USB/plug sockets.
A reminder that if you want to see the aircraft for yourself, the A350-1000s are set to enter service on British Airways’ Dubai route from September 2 and Toronto on October 1, followed by Tel Aviv and Bengaluru (Bangalore) later in the year.
Finally, here is a peek inside the cockpit: