New British Airways business class will not be fitted to majority of fleet

British Airways A350

British Airways’ new Club World seat on the Airbus A350 will not be retrofitted to its other long haul aircraft.

Speaking with Business Traveller, the new Chief Executive of British Airways, Alex Cruz, said that the new seat that will debut on the A350 will not be retrofitted to the rest of the long haul fleet because “… it doesn’t appear to be sufficiently revolutionary.”

IAG has a total of 43 A350 aircraft on order (18 for BA, nine for Aer Lingus and 16 for Iberia), with the first scheduled for 2018, and 24 due to be delivered by 2020.

The news will be a double disappointment for BA Club World regulars.The business class seat was first introduced in 2000. It has been refreshed since then, but is felt to lag behind many of BA’s competitors.

American Airlines, for instance, has a 1-2-1 configuration on its B777 aircraft (4-across), compared with a 2-4-2 configuration of BA’s B777 fleet (8-across).

The hope was that not only would a new business class seat be introduced on the A350, but this would then mark the beginning of a retrofit across BA’s long haul fleet (see this speculation about the new British Airways Club World seat).

It now seems clear that the configuration of the seat will remain the same. As Andrew Crawley, the airline’s chief commercial officer (and now Chief Executive of IAG’s Cargo Division) pointed out in 2014,

“The yin yang configuration is something we patented because we thought it was a smart innovation — it is a very efficient use of space.”

This efficient use of space allows British Airways to have a seat that reclines fully flat into a bed, but at the same time allows for a relatively high density of seating in the business class cabin. Crawley also addressed a familiar lament about the configuration by saying he had “…never had a letter of complaint about people having to step over the person next to them.”

Having seen the new seat, Mr Cruz said that it was not “ultra-revolutionary” and so would not be retrofitted. Instead he said,

“What I think has some merit is to look at some of the attributes and small extras around the seat and the seat experience that we could more easily translate to the premium cabin.”

After stories about his intention to axe free short haul catering and bring in “Buy on Board”, Mr Cruz said that while it was being considered, so were “millions of other things”, and he denied that he was intending to “Ryanair-ize” British Airways.

“I’m very conscious that we do have a job to do in looking for ways to make our premium products more premium in a way that is suitable for passengers.” He said.

As far as the business class cabin on the rest of the long haul fleet is concerned, that would mean “…potentially some of the features, yes. The seat, I’m not entirely sure. For us to commit to a new seat [across the long haul fleet], those are big words.”

A350: What you need to know

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  • “It now seems clear that the configuration of the seat will remain the same. As Andrew Crawley, the airline’s chief commercial officer (and now Chief Executive of IAG’s Cargo Division) pointed out in 2014,”

    This is so funny, perhaps not intended as such, but hilarious nonetheless.

    The CEO of cargo deciding how to cram in the pax!

  • I thought exactly the same. Treating us as cattle is something a Cargo Master would know well. What a lost opportunity this is. And to say he has never read a complaint about having to step over the person next to them is rubbish. Maybe he just refuses to read any complaint letters and only positive comments, when there are some.

  • So Mr Crawley doesn’t get a single letter of complaint?

    Is that because his assistant screens his mail and dumps them in the bin?

  • He wont get a single letter of complaint because unhappy customers will just go elsewhere.

    Of course until recently, the competition on the key Trans-Atlantic market was just VS, which has a hard product with its own limitations. Now AA, DL and UA all have fully lie flat products, BA no longer has the hard product advantage it once had (and it has lost it on most routes to Asia and the ME).

    Bear in mind its other competitors have been AF/KL and LH group for hubbing in Europe, and none of them have had fully lie flat in business until recently either. Even then, the LH lie flat product still doesn’t offer aisle access to many customers, and the AF/KL retrofit will be slow.

    BA First is akin to good business (e.g. SQ) with soft product to excel that, so for now it works. It will change it when it finds market share dwindling and prices having to drop to fill seats.

    For now, I use it because it’s price competitive and “good enough”, but if price didn’t matter it would rarely be the first choice.

  • A couple of comments; I wrote to BA with a complain regarding the poor customer service in Business class and the response from BA Customer Service stated that all customer get treated the same way..I.E. Expect poor Service. Clearly the decision not to upgrade the seating is an indication of how BA will treat its Business class customer.

    I traveled Business class on SAS from Stockholm to Chicago, I was impressed with the great customer service and the comfort of the seat. I rate SAS a 10 and BA a 3. I encourage customers to switch from BA. When revenue hurts, BA will respond!

  • Alas, after what seems (in my opionion) like years of decline in standards of comfort and quality, in both the hard and soft product, I am one of those who has absconded to alternative Airlines.

    Again, in my opinion, this Yin-Yan seating is a nonsense, and was devised and implemented with only the Airlines capacity and revenue as it’s basis, and not the paying passenger’s comfort, or practicality at heart. This may sound daft, but I for one DON’T LIKE facing backwards on a plane, especially on take off and landing…and am sure neither do lots of others.

    As for rolling out the new Business Class across the fleet, I for one don’t really give a flying donut, as I now only use BA Business on long haul as a last desperate measure.. .where no alternative carrier is available.

    If BA want to learn a lesson in comfort style and especially value, in the long haul Business cabin, I suggest, from recent experience, they take a LHR/SGN or HAN flight aboard Vietnam Airlines newly revamped Business offering aboard their newly delivered 787-9’s.and A350’s (CDG/SGN)

  • I walked from BA for long haul 3 years ago, after 12 years as silver or gold. My job is global and my big annual holiday is either Sydney or Asia. I can’t remember a long haul J class flight since then where I haven’t been able to have not only direct aisle access, but pay less, and be consistently served better. What mugs Mr Crawley must take us for.

  • This just goes to show the utter disregard that BA senior executives have for their own customers. Their business class seating is the absolute worst of any of the dozens of airlines I have flown and is a disgrace. To claim they have never had a complaint is an outright lie as I have personally complained several times, and I’m damn sure lots of others have also.

  • Another point that shows how much Mr Crawley is out of touch with the real world: “letter” of complaint? No emails or social media then? Rolling out onboard WiFi in 2017 is probably being celebrated as the equivalent of a moonshot…

  • ….. and with the rollout on onboard WiFi, Mr Crawley will be able to enjoy real time feedback on his not so “ultra revolutionary” J class product.

  • With Qatar now part of OneWorld, which offers cheaper fares (most of the time about 30% less) there is really no reason to fly BA anymore. Except if your company pays! And okay it will. For loyalty? Gold Exec Club card? Pleazzzzze.

  • I thought the funniest thing in the article was BA’s admission that the new seat “doesn’t appear to be sufficiently revolutionary”

    ‘Nuff said…

  • He clearly never reads letters from passengers. It’s become a common complaint and even a topic of discussion amongst passengers, especially with most airlines now offering full aisle access in business class and with more personal space (AA, AF etc).

    Even though I’m Gold Exec Club (and based in NY), I have to say I now fly AF over Open Skies to Paris and choose AA for night flights to LHR (service is not 100% but I sleep anyway).

    BA must be relying on their corporate accounts to keep a product that’s definitely fallen behind. It will probably last for a few more years but once the image of an airline starts to deteriorate it takes even longer to restore it.

  • There were/are some very competitive fares in business class to the Far East with BA and I gave serious consideration to booking but I looked at the configuration and not only were the window seats rear facing but half were misaligned with the window. I did not write and complain but chose Etihad for one trip and Cathay P for the second

  • If Mr. Crawley has never received a complaint, maybe someone of his staff can forward him these comments of complaint, so that he is in the picture. Maybe he and Mr. Walsh should stop flying FIRST and get a seat in J, best in the 380 in the very center and fly LHR-SIN. For the return I propose QR or EK, also in J. If they still find the BA-product to be competitive, they are wrong in their position.

    I’m a loyal BA customer and Gold member since more than 20 years, but BA’s policy to cramp even more pax in J is not acceptable any more. I’m based in VIE and regularly travelling to Asia and AUS and found Qatar with a much superior business seat, longer, wider and lots of room around you if you need to work. And by travelling via DOH I earn 200 status points more (!) on a return than with BA.

    BA cramped 7 across into their new 380s, with a too short bed, no room around you (not even a space for the obligatory water bottle) an a shaky table, were you can’t even cut your meal without spilling the drink. Other airlines (QR, EK, …) made the 380 their flagship and are attracting new customers, while BA is loosing loyal pax.

    A very similar mail was sent to Mr. Walsh & Co, so it’s a simple lie that they haven’t received any letters of complaint. Or are they only counting letters in the mailbox with a stamp on it?? It would fit to BA’s attitude.

    • Despite BA claiming that is not going to Ryanise BA, its already happening. So if you still travel with BA look out for in flight meals being charged together with the use of the toilet,after all Micheal O’leary is a countryman of Walsh.Plus Alex Cruz, straight from Vueling has the same potential to Ryanise BA. So pay BA Business Class price and get a shoe box for a seat.

  • Look at the major Airlines with new aircraft,business class is 1-2-1 not a shoe box 2-4-2. WEDGING more in might suit the Airline but its more people for the same amount of toilets. I love BA for its polite and helping staff who are not tied to a corporate regimen, shame they set seats in such a way,I would have thought that customer would be first as per Qatar,Singapore Airlines, Cathay pacific etc etc etc

  • Perhaps Andrew Crawley and other Senior BA executives should try flying on Emirates, Etihad or Qatar to see how business should be like ragher than their outdated 90s product!

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