British Airways’ chief commercial officer has defended the changes the airline has made to its short-haul Club Europe business class product, saying they “made sense”.

In an interview with Business Traveller, Andrew Crawley also said that the market for short-haul business is not shrinking, but growing.

BA last week started to roll-out its new short-haul economy and business class seating, with identical seat pitch across both cabins, and a flexible arrangement allowing the business class cabin to be shrunk or expanded (see news, July 11).

Crawley explained that “short-haul premium is growing, not shrinking”, and said Club Europe “made sense” for BA.

Referring to the new cabin configurations, Crawley said: “We have flexibility now, so the curtain can be moved backwards and forwards, as we do today, so we can price Club Europe proportionate to the space it takes up.”

Using the example of passengers flying from New York into Europe “over Heathrow”, Crawley said that having flown long-haul in business, for the short-haul flight “having an extra seat [the middle seat is blocked] and a bit more privacy is something that a business class customer would expect and value”.

He also said that the fare, when split between the two flight sectors, “gives a very good yield [for BA]”.

In addition for point-to-point traffic from Heathrow to Europe, “there are some corporations who value the privacy and the ability to work, and the ability to start the day with a meal and end the day with a meal and they pay for that.

“If you are going out somewhere to do a deal and you need to do the work on the way over, you do not want to be sitting in a row of three, you need some privacy and to be able to spread out, and we do deals with those companies so they can get that at good value.”

Crawley added: “There are also the premium leisure flyers who are going away for the weekend, and they want to start off in the lounge, they want a glass of Champagne, they want to get off the airplane first, and they want to sit just the two of them together without anyone else in the row.”

To read reviews of BA’s new Club Europe and Euro Traveller economy seating, click here¬†and here. To read a forum thread on the new Club Europe product, click here.