BA’s new short haul Club Europe product

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  • GrahamSmith

    BA has just confirmed to Business Traveller that the Club Europe seat pitch will be reduced to 30 inches.

    I’ve updated the story we ran yesterday to indicate this is now a fact.


    How on earth do BA think they will get away with this? Doomed to failure.
    In the old days VK would have been able to explain this to us.

    Same config as the economy seats….and monstrous fares! We already have this config on the A319s at LGW and they are paying compensation for the 30″ seat pitch and narrow seats. Very confusing.


    It’s true that full fare club is “monstrous”. However, how many people are actually flying full fare club, unless lower fare classes are booked? From what I can see, and it’s worse ex-LGW, the vast majority of Club pax are:

    – long haul connections on low e.g. ex-EU fares
    – POUG/paid upgrade at MMB or check in
    – I fares
    – corporate discounted fares
    – because the prevailing Y fare was more expensive
    – because Y Avios redemptions were unavailable
    – op-ups
    – ID50/90/staff other

    So the incremental revenue from CE is pretty marginal. Certainly not 50% >Y – and that’s just the added space you get in CE vs ET, never mind the cost of the frills from lounges to fast track to catering

    I have sympathy for those few paying full fare C, but, frankly, good on BA for trying their luck… Is it enough to make you switch to Alitalia or Lufthansa?


    I will now be booking Swiss for my bi-monthly trips.


    Well it seems like BA have accelerated the race to the bottom with this ‘enhancement’. I just wonder why Walsh didn’t pass the routes to his friend O’Liary to operate on BA’s behalf, think of the savings and then they could also go to the bottom in one go.

    I’ve used BA a bit more recently than I have in the past but with a 30 inch pitch I’ll go back to LH, AF, KL, LX and so on. Service on LO a couple of weeks ago was great and the pitch above average.


    A very logical next step on the way to an all economy short haul run by Vueling.


    No matter about anybodys opinion BA will steam roller this through – remember all the lounge debacle – now forgotten – the reduced hot meal times on CE – now forgotten. Chain yourselves to the railings of Westminster – you are wasting your time ! Prepare for the next BA episode of mugging the customers whatever that may be !


    Well BA hasn’t been my carrier of choice for about 8 years now so I wing be stressing unduly.


    In fairness to BA (coming from a loyal Lufthansa Group traveller) all they are doing (IMHO) is aligning with the rest of the European carriers. Of course, we all wished it was different. Hence, moving to LH or LX is just more of the same.


    Hi Westlake. The 321 is a bit of a ‘special case’ in terms of minimum crew requirements. Even with a config of under 200 it has always had a legal minimum of 5 crew.

    Personally, the only time I would consider buying a CE ticket would be if it was within £80 of the cheapest Y fare. My main motivator would be the extra tier points and no middle seat (I am exec club G so get all the other perks anyway). Although legroom is a nice to have for me on a short flight, the reduction wouldn’t put me off paying up to £80 more. Above and beyond that amount, forget it – 34″ of legroom or 30″. So I guess that providing BA continues to offer these kind of deals either from the outset of booking or via MMB upgrades I will continue to buy CE tickets.

    I guess those that will not are the customers that list legroom as one of their top priorities – though saying that due to the ‘flexible’ nature of the size of the Club Europe cabin the first half a dozen rows of Y would offer the same increased legroom as CE under the current seating anyway.

    One small step forward though – BA has confirmed internally that future deliveries of the 787 will come with 32″ legroom throughout Y (with some seats at 30″ and at 9 abreast currently the 787 can resemble a sardine can in Y) and the seats will also be widened slightly although this will be at the cost of slightly narrower aisles.


    Contrast CE/Euro business classes to US domestic First or moreso, Australian domestic Business, and it looks far from compelling. After some time of it being an almost entirely upgrade based product, US carriers are evolving towards using the front cabin to boost yields (witness American’s new ultra low density 3 class A321s with first, business and economy for the long coast-coast route).

    Those examples are often dismissed because there are much longer sectors in those countries, which is partially true, but take the heavily operated Sydney-Melbourne route, which is scheduled at 1hr 20m. Both full service carriers offer dedicated cabins in the front, with wide reclining 2-2 seating on 737s (2-3 rows) and sell these seats as high yielding products. What scope is there for a similar product to be offered (after all, the premium products on long haul are sold predominantly because of seating), with the rest of economy left as is, and for high tier FFs to get middle seats blocked off if unsold in the front of economy?

    Or have the airlines done the sums, figured out true premium demand has migrated to PJs and the residual demand isn’t going anywhere else because legacy operators in all European hubs are dominant because of their networks (can’t beat BA at LHR, AF at CDG, LH at FRA etc, but in the US and Australia, there is choice).


    This is what happens when autocrats view themselves as running an airline company as opposed to a customer conveyance company.

    Replace “United” with “BA” in the European Denial Arena…..

    …..XX doesn’t care about customers – and hasn’t for a very long time. XX is focused on “operational excellence” (using the word excellence very loosely) as Messrs. Treacy and Wiersema called this strategy in their mega-popular book “ The Discipline of Market Leaders” from 1995. XX’s strategy, like many, many businesses today, is to constantly strive for better execution of an old, historical business model (in their case, hub-and-spoke flight operations) by hammering away at cutting costs….

    ….Locked in to this strategy, XX invests in more airplanes and gates (including making acquisitions like XXXXXX) believing that being bigger will lead to more cost cutting opportunities (code named “synergies”.) They beat up on employees, fight with unions, remove anything unessential (like food,) invent ways to create charges (like checked bags or ticket change fees), fiddle with fuel costs, ignore customers and constantly try to engineer minute enhancements to operations in efforts to save pennies……

    Crazy having a strategy which is blind to basic customer anatomy. Improved diet clearly shows the average westerner’s height is increasing apace, yet “airline” managers seek to reduce leg-room…. Clueless


    I think the only reason you see ‘true’ domestic business class on short haul flights in the likes of Australia is because of competition. In fact I can remember a time when Ansett and Australian Airlines both used to offer First, Business and economy on domestic flights on short haul aircraft. Australian merged with Qantas and Ansett went bust leaving the gap for Virgin Australia to fill which now also has proper Business Class on their 737’s.

    I think the low cost airline revolution hasn’t penetrated Australia to the same degree as europe. There is Jetstar although we know as part of the Qantas group it’s routes are very much at the behest of the mother company and it is ensured it doesn’t directly impact Qantas too much. Tiger has a horrendous image amongst australians and it wasn’t helped when it lost it’s air operators certificate for a time. It still only competes on a few routes with a much slimmer schedule on those routes than QF or Virgin.

    Although it could also be argues that the economy short haul product is better on BA than on the domestic australian carriers. Qantas has a complex matrix of when booze is free and when it isn’t (certain times of the day on certain routes) and Virgin’s is even worse. A paid for meal/drink service until recently but I think the freebies only kick in on flights over 2.5hr(??). Although both Aussie carriers offer better IFE I guess.

    In europe the majority of passengers on shorthaul flights now fly low cost airlines. Ryanair and easyjet carry far far more passengers within europe than the legacy carriers. Like the US, even the loco’s are redefining themselves. Vueling for example calls itself a ‘next generation’ airline instead of a loco. It offers a Business Class as well as it’s economy cabin. Easyjet has taken huge strides in attracting corporate travellers by offering more services to passengers flying on business, more flights from main airports and a good reputation for customer service and punctuality.

    Punctuality rates as the number 1 priority for short haul passengers within europe and the fact is the low cost airlines do fantastically at this generally as they operate from less congested airports and their flying is less complex (no waiting for passengers or bags from connecting long haul flights for example).

    The whole reason BA have taken the option of even further reducing the CE offering is because it wants to make short haul profitable – and one way of doing this is having more seats available for sale on the same aircraft it currently operates.

    Saying that, it would be interesting to see what would happen If Air France and Lufthansa unvelied ‘true’ short haul Business Class products next week I think we would see a shift. But it’s unlikely to happen.


    I suspect BA are doing this in the full knowledge their Club Europe passenger number will fall. The airline would then claim there is no demand for Club Europe and ditch it altogether. This would leave the entire short haul fleet to be operated in ‘low cost’ model. Since they now have a range of UK and Europe fares which differ with or without baggage, it can only be a question of time before complimentary short haul catering goes too.


    Bear in mind Virgin Australia was once a LCC, but found greater profits in moving upmarket (with lower costs) to attract higher yielding passengers. The bare truth is that it is the same carriers competing on all major routes in Australia, in Europe it is different ones – and the legacy carriers all sit comfortably with large corporate contracts with customers that wont go to competing legacy carriers because they only compete with one or two routes per carrier. e.g. LH only competes with BA on flights to Germany, and vv. BMI DID compete with BA head on, but never on a scale to make that difference.

    In the US, LCCs abound, but legacy carriers still have premium traffic and their FF programmes engender loyalty, and all three US legacy carriers tend to face vigorous competition from at least one of the other at most of their hubs.

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