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

19 May 2016 by Tom Otley
New British Airways business class will not be fitted to majority of fleet

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

ba.com

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