How many BA aircraft now sport “New” First…

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  • AdrianHenryAsia

    To be fair to BA, they had to wait 3 months from the first aircraft being fitted to get CAA approval – that period ended in May so they have done another 18 planes in 5 1/2 months which isn’t too bad – about 3 per month.

    I’ve travelled in both in recent months and its frustraing going back into old First once you’ve been in the new cabin – and on occasion, when on the 747, I’ve also booked into CW as I think upstairs cabin is great and at least you know exactly what you’re getting!!


    It’s not so much the time it’s taking to refit the existing fleet, that’s understandable. It’s the fact that they waited three years to start the rollout in the first place. They had everything ready to go in 2007 but I guess when you’ve got no money …


    Golly, everyone seems to place unreasonable expectations on an airline to somehow magic up a new cabin interior across a fleet overnight.

    There are now 19 planes with new F, an increase of four in just the ten days since I posted this thread.

    This isn’t an episode of “I Dream of Jeannie”, and there is no magic available to instantly transform cabin interiors.

    BA has one of the world’s largest fleet of longhaul widebody aircraft; just over 100 747 and 777s (I think).

    Naturally, it just didn’t make commercial sense to invest heavily in a cabin refit until there were clear signs of a recovery.

    To be clear, there was no “fanfare” about a new cabin, just an announcement that one was coming which aired at the shareholder meeting in early 2009 (not 2007, as was erroneously stated). I posted the artist’s impression on this site in mid 2009:

    I was at the presentation in 2009 when it was announced, and know that there no formal mention of the new cabin prior to that.

    The new cabin is being installed towards the end of the recession, perfectly timed to take advantage of the modest upturn, as people begin to buy premium cabins and travel again.

    Further, re-fitting a cabin is not a simple cosmetic thing; CAA approval is required (including three months’ testing in the field) for the new seats, and this approval must be sought separately for both the 777 and 747.

    Any changes to the design (and there were significant changes to the Club World seat post installation – you will notice some cabins feature more sturdy seats than others – the notorious “wobble” has now been eliminated – and there have been at least three iterations of the fold down stool) take a huge amount of effort to implement and get regulatory approval.

    The current programme appears to be releasing just over one aircraft per week with the new First interior; I really don’t think that is an unacceptable rate of change, and with 19 aircraft now featuring new First you have a little over 25% chance of getting new First right now if flying from LHR (given most of these new First planes fly exLHR, and not all the longhaul fleet feature First).

    The rollout should be complete this time next year, and I for one am looking forward to the new cabin being available as widely as possible:


    I agree with the refit schedule, an airline cannot just magically install a new product overnight. I’m satisfied that BA is now committed to getting this done in the shortest possible time.

    But I disagree that NF was delayed simply because of the recession. This product was basically ready to go at the end of 2006 and we were not in a recession then. In any case, that doesn’t seem to have stopped the likes of SQ, CX, QF, EK and a host of other competitors. The truth is that BA’s commitment to First is not what is was 15 years ago and Willy decided to spend his money elsewhere and put NF on the backburner. Now I’m not saying this was a bad business decision in terms of how to run an airline. But from a passenger’s point of view, I resent having to pay top dollar for a First Class seat that is 15 years old, simple as that. End result, I don’t give half as much business to BA as I would want to and in the process, I’ve discovered some excellent if not superior products elsewhere. I’m not the only one who feels the same and as I’ve said in other forums, hopefully, we won’t still be flying “New First” in 2025.


    The patent for the new seat was only filed on 19 May 2006.

    There was absolutely no formal announcement made by BA about new First until early 2009, and then only to “closed user groups” such as shareholders/investors.

    While those more “in the know” might have known this was coming, the wider public did not; as you may recall BA was making massive investment in new Club World rollout during 2006-7 and in 2008 moved into T5, again another huge investment, and in 2009-10 found itself in one of the most perilous trading environments in a generation, and yet still pressed ahead with this new cabin refit.

    It should be noted that BA is also installing the very latest iteration of new Club World, with sturdier bracing, at the same time as new First, which might not be apparent as it’s mostly not obvious that anything has changed.

    I don’t think First is being de-prioritised (indeed, in 2007, the “soft” product was improved with various changes to crockery etc.) and BA’s Galleries and First/Concorde Room lounges remain some of the best available. First has been introduced to routes such as Las Vegas from next year, and deliveries of the new 777-300ER have First cabins, while other airlines (such as Qantas) are removing their First product.

    It is impressive that 19 aircraft are currently embodied with new First, and that all will be complete this time next year..


    VK – do you know as to why BA opted against suite style first product as offered by SQ, EK and there alike?
    Also BA have one of the biggest fleets of 747’s and where other airlines are discontinuing this model for either 777 or A380s, BA are still keeping, maintaining and upgrading them. Do you know what the logic is behind this and what the long term vision is for these aircraft?



    I think the suite thing didn’t happen with BA because they wanted to stick with the British style of luxury. They wanted to have a product Elegant which is British and not the general luxury that Arab airlines are ready to offer.


    The de-prioritisation of First started in 2003 when Rod Eddington quietly dropped First Class on more than half a dozen routes after having said two years earlier that First was sacrosanct and would remain on the entire long haul network. The priority went on CW which has effectively become one of First’s biggest competitors. If you keep an out of date product in the sky, you will have trouble filling seats, so you will start ripping them out of planes. It’s telling that no new long haul aircraft delivered to BA last year had First in them.

    The soft improvements of 2007 were a waste of money, it was just an attempt to paper the cracks. Anyone who thinks that a bit of crockery and a new Anya Hindmarch bag with “basic” toiletries in them will impress someone who has paid £8,000 for a ticket is living in a dream world.

    In early summer 2006, I was invited by Willie Walsh to be part of a focus group for First Class. They showed us New First largely as it is today and the set of soft improvements. We were asked if we would prefer the soft upgrades now but would have to wait longer for NF, or just have NF sooner. The guys were quite candid at lunch afterwards and said that because of cost considerations and the money they had just invested in the CW upgrade, Option 1 would probably prevail. And it did.

    In spite of New First, BA has yet to prove that they are behind First Class 100% but are instead providing this product where and when it suits. BA is no longer an innovator and a leader in First. Again, it may well be that all this is good for the bottom line and for my 200 shares, but completing NF by end of 2011 is not impressive, it’s “better late than never” at best.

    I have great admiration and respect for BA as a whole but as a First Class paying passenger, I feel a bit let down and I think many others do.


    Quote: “It’s telling that no new long haul aircraft delivered to BA last year had First in them.”

    Erm…that would be because no long haul aircraft (excluding the two CWLCY A318s) were delivered to BA in 2009.

    There is still a VERY limited number of routes on which First does not feature (most, but not all, of which are the Gatwick Caribbean/Florida Leisure routes).

    Off the top of my head I can only think of Rio and Las Vegas currently not having an F cabin exLHR, and LAS will get F next year; there are others, but they are very much market driven rather than a withdrawal of a First cabin which is in demand.


    I think you are spot on, P. Sepsas.

    British Airways “doesn’t do bling”.


    Denver does not have first and still has the awful 777’s, and club is always full. A very unpopular route with cabin crew who are usually disinterested.


    Ditto Montreal but using an old 767. Same thing with one of the two Toronto flights. Last winter season, BA pulled first off the second YYZ flight. There today, gone tomorrow, back in a few months.


    Well, the route can’t be that unpopular if Club is always full….!

    So from LHR without an F cabin we have Montreal, Denver, Las Vegas (until June), Rio, Grand Cayman, Nassau, Toronto once a day (so you can still choose First of you really want to), maybe Baltimore and Mauritius too?

    When you look at the whole BA route network, it’s hardly resounding evidence for a “de-prioritisation of First”.


    Well it is when combined with the fact that it took them 15 years to come up with something new. I would hardly call that a priority.


    I didn’t say that club was unpopular. I said that it was an unpopular route with cabin crew, as it is well known that they hate working the 3 class 777’s, and even more so the Denver route because of their brief stopover – generally leading to very disinterested crew on the return leg. Though luckily I have had several trips where a 747 has been substituted at the last minute, and often they run a 4 class 777 and put gold / silver club passengers in the first seats (with club service).


    Looking at the aircraft utilisation for those 777’s and 767’s with no First (for say the last month) then the following destinations would appear to have no First (or only some flights operate with First). Some of these destinations are on-off’s I think:

    Las Vegas
    Dallas-Fort Worth
    Tel Aviv

    Mauritius currently running on a 4 class 777 although I do remember reading somewhere that it was moving to 3 class some point at next year.

    At the end of the day, if there is no First on the route, there is probably not enough competition or it doesn’t make financial sense. Anyone who books a flight can check in advance to see what type of plane is scheduled to fly – there is a choice on most routes!!!

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