Is British Airways Introducing Business Class “Suites?”

Filed Under: British Airways

In my opinion the most anticipated new business class product of 2019 is British Airways’ new Club World seat.

It’s not the most anticipated in terms of me necessarily thinking it’s going to be the best, but rather it’s the most anticipated in terms of it being the most overdue, given how outdated British Airways’ current business class product is.

British Airways’ current 777-300ER business class

What we know about the new Club World seat

British Airways’ new business class seat will be introduced on the A350, which is expected to enter service in July 2019. By the end of 2019, British Airways plans to have four A350s and two retrofitted 777s with the new business class seats.

Given that the new product should be flying within the next six months, I suspect we’ll learn the details of the new seat design within the next few months. While plenty of airlines have leaked designs or seatmaps for new cabins, British Airways hasn’t.

Instead all they’ve revealed so far is that the new Club World seats will:

  • Be larger, with direct aisle access from every seat
  • Feature gate-to-gate entertainment
  • Feature increased privacy and stowage

As of now all we can do is speculate, and speculate we will. Most of us have had pretty low expectations, and many even expect that they’ll install something along the lines of Iberia’s current staggered business class product, which technically meets what they’ve been promising.

Iberia’s A340 business class

We of course hope they’ll do more, but…

Club World Suite?

Maybe we’re collectively reading too much into this, but Head for Points picks up on something very interesting. British Airways has sent out surveys regarding how they should name their new business class seat.

On one hand it’s silly to ask people what a seat should be named if they haven’t even seen it, but the choices are interesting.

In one section of the survey it suggests naming the seat in a way that describes the product, and the choices are Club Suite, Club World Suite, and Club World Space.

Now, if British Airways is going to describe the seat as a “suite,” that makes me sort of optimistic about how good it will be. It’s entirely possible that the airline is being delusional and overselling the product (it wouldn’t be the first time airline executives have an unreasonably rosy impression of their own product).

However, I’d hope that if they’re calling it a suite that it resembles that in some way.

Could it be that British Airways is actually introducing suites with doors in business class? My initial reaction is that I’d be absolutely shocked if they did.

Qatar Airways’ Qsuites

I guess this whole situation comes down to whether British Airways is under or overpromising here:

  • If the airline is overpromising, they could very well be introducing a mediocre product and calling it a suite
  • If the airline is underpromising, they may actually be introducing something good, and up until now they’ve been underselling the new features, like “increased privacy”

Bottom line

I’m really excited to see what British Airways comes up with for their new business class seat. No matter what, I’m sure it will be a significant improvement over the old product. While I’ve had low expectations, the way British Airways is considering naming the product makes me think it might be better than I was expecting. Or who knows, maybe they’re just overhyping it.

What do you think — could British Airways actually be introducing a great new business class seat?

  1. I don’t know if they still do but Virgin Atlantic called their current seat the “Upper Class Suite” for a long time and it’s much less private than many of the seats on the market today, including something like Iberia’s.

  2. BA fills those “7-across” and “8-across” CW cabins with very good load factors, at least across the Atlantic. Why on earth would BA halve capacity, which they would need to for “suites”, which presumably would be 1-2-1?

    They’ would either have to operate more flights to meet the demand, or drive high-margin pax to competitors.

    There will be no First on the A350’s so that will create some extra space. But if BA really introduces Suites then it will be the end for BA F, and that might be fine.

  3. Well, if taking the culture and history of Club World over the years BA tends to go outside the box of conventional thinking. So far it has been horrid in what’s come out (i.e.the current Club World) but this leads me to believe that this will be something completely different than the standard seen (as in Iberia)

    Add to that a new Upper Class from Virgin and with Delta gradually adding in their upgrades and it’s clear BA needs to stay on top of the game (at the very least).

    One comment on another site regarding this survey actually relayed a convo with a BA rep at Heathrow who told him to think more along the line of the Q-Suites. Now that would be bold and exciting!

  4. I’m more excited to see the new Virgin Atlantic upper class business class seat on their a350. As they’ve stated, it will be ‘revolutionary’ compared to their current seat.

  5. Expect the worst, hope for the best? I think airlines take a bit of creative license when it comes to what they call and how they describe their onboard product. I can see BA lobbing the term “suite” around with a fair degree of reckless abandon. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

  6. BA could just pull a Delta and put doors on a version of the Iberia seat and call it a day. That would be my guess.

  7. Using the Alex Cruz mindset, I would be only mildly surprised if they go with the IB seat – modified slightly so that the singles have doors and can be upsold as CW suites. Then they can get rid of F………

  8. My bet is either united Polaris seat (takes up similar amount of space as current seat) or possibly reverse herringbone to coincide with the American Airlines joint Atlantic partnership or whatever you like to call it.

  9. @Tom, that’s not the case at all. While people love to complain about BA being “8-across”, in reality seat width in Club World is the same as most staggered configurations, which are technically also 8 across, they’re just designed to appear more like 1-2-1 because of the staggering which allows direct aisle access. This is the same for angled seats such as reverse herringbone as well (drawing a straight line across the cabin you would cross parts of 8 seats, not 4).

    They would lose a small amount of density by introducing direct aisle access but nowhere near cutting it in half, just a handful of seats on each flight. Given that they often charge perhaps a third less than their European competitors in J, I would think a slight revenue premium from new seats would more than offset slight loss of density, especially if they pull F out of planes not serving super-premium routes like JFK or HKG.

  10. @ Stuart
    “BA tends to go outside the box of conventional thinking. So far it has been horrid in what’s come out (i.e.the current Club World)”

    What are you talking about?! CW was *absolutely revolutionary* when it was introduced.

    It was a game-changer, leap-frogging practically every other major airline with their old-fashioned angled seats (which some allegedly great airlines still use – AF-KLM I’m looking at you…).

    Where BA has gone wrong (in my view) has been leaving CW pretty much the same for so many decades. Some CW seats now have better-quality, larger screens, and most now have power sockets, but that’s about it. The competition has not only caught up but, mostly, leap-frogged BA.

    Equally, over the last few months the airline seems finally to have woken up. There have been pretty decent upgrades to the soft product: the food (in J) is markedly better, and the spread of Do&Co promises more; the bedding is a big improvement; even the amenity kit is better than the old cloth sacks (though they do make handy shoe bags when you’re packing).

    But everything now depends on the new seat. In every survey I’ve completed over the past few months (which is a lot, since they have the direct routes from my home airport), I’ve told them that they have now lost pretty much all my business going east; Qatar now gets almost all of it. And that’s primarily due to Qsuites.

    BA management aren’t fools – the profitability of IAG demonstrates that pretty clearly, even in the face of intense pressure on its busiest routes from the likes of Virgin and the US3, ME3, etc. And their corporate history tells them when they go big in improving J, it pays off.

    I’m hugely looking forward to the A350 arriving.

  11. @ the nice Paul. Seems their CEO Ben Smith agrees and AF should eventually refurbish ( hopefully sooner rather than later )the remaining 50 or so aircraft with the angled seats.

  12. Re the comments about seating density – I don’t see why revenue would decline with the new seat, even if the seat pitch has to be extended slightly to enable direct aisle access from all seats – it is likely that the existing config of four rows of seven seats across in a 787 cabin (or upper deck A380) could be replaced with seven rows of four across (1-2-1). This would also be the case on A350, which is the same width as 787. On the 777 fleet, going to 1-2-1 would be a small reduction in density, because they’d be replacing 4 rows of 8 across with 7 rows of 4 across – but the 777 fleet will shrink over the next ten years, so this would have a limited impact on revenue. The exact configuration would depend on the space between the aircraft doors.

  13. @The Nice Paul

    You are correct and I perhaps was not the best in wording this. My point was that BA CW has always been outside the box in design and it seems they rarely do “conventional” so I would expect them to continue that tradition to a degree. Yes, back in the day it was groundbreaking and I would have been better served to say that now it is not aging well. Surprisingly, as most seem to be here, I am not a hater of BA and find the upper deck 747 CW to be, even in the current config, a decent and comfortable product.

    On that note, that same person on another blog who commented that they talked to a BA rep and got some insight that the new CW, and that it would be very similar to QSuites, also said that the 747 will never be refitted and will just carry the old CW until retirement. As well that F cabins on the 777 and A380 will be reduced to 8 seats.

  14. In my mind IB’s slightly updated A350 J configuration makes the most sense from a business/ consistency perspective, also in regards to aircraft certification, order/ time to install after BA stopped going for their own custom-made design at such short notice.

    In a perfect world I would have obviously wished for Apex Suites as they would keep BA’s promises too, however none of these can be found on A350s as of now, am I right ?

  15. British Airways first is nothing great and is often called business plus. The idea that they will introduce a suite in business is therefore a bit of a joke as it would be way superior to their offering in first.

    I would expect they will introduce the most tightly packed business class we’ve ever seen with no more floor space than they currently offer but it will be talked up and enthused about be BA apologists while the rest of us see it for what it is and avoid it.

  16. I suspect the BA “suite” reference is marketing hyperbole. As you said, airlines oversell. That being said, your comment on an Iberia-like product would be fine by me. Granted I do not have the breadth of exposure and experience with premium cabins that you have, but my Iberia business class flight in 2017 was one of my best business class experiences. I would consider that a MAJOR upgrade for BA. Though, so long as they still have exorbitant fees for award tickets, I will still avoid them!

  17. @ Phil Duncan
    “The idea that they will introduce a suite in business is therefore a bit of a joke as it would be way superior to their offering in first.”

    Which, of course, explains why Qatar (part-owner of BA, of course) has absolutely not introduced Qsuites on any of its planes – because it would make its non-suite 1st class look like crap.

    Oh… er… wait a minute…

    Maybe it’s not a coincidence that BA is introducing the new CW seat on the A350, which will not have 1st?

    Incidentally, I’m also a fan of Iberia’s staggered J, though the window seats are vastly nicer (for me) than the aisle seats.

  18. Kerry,

    You write: “@Tom, that’s not the case at all. While people love to complain about BA being “8-across”, in reality seat width in Club World is the same as most staggered configurations, which are technically also 8 across, they’re just designed to appear more like 1-2-1 because of the staggering which allows direct aisle access.”

    Fair point. Certainly in many cases the difference is small, like with United’s much-vaunted “Polaris” product which can easily be seen as 8-across, disguised somewhat.

    So to rephrase I don’t see BA doing anything too drastic with the density given that their North America CW cabins are often 80% full.

    Also, a high-value LHR-JFK regular flyer probably cares more about frequency and convenience than the kind of trappings that Av-Geeks get all worked up about. I find BA CW to be perfectly adequate most of the time.

  19. I have usually thought that @ The nice Paul, was border-line delusional in his defense of BA’s crappy product. But maybe I’m losing it, because I mostly agree. When introduced, BA’s J product was revolutionary – markedly better than the competition. The competition was generally providing recliners, not something even angled flat. Like he said, BA’s issue was trying to ride that dead horse a decade or more too long.

    Given the power of LHR, they really don’t have to be all that great (sadly). They can come up with something much better without taking up much more space. A competitive seat doesn’t necessarily mean a QSuite. I do think that they will improve the J product AND decrease the number of planes that have F.

  20. I’m a BA fan and I’ve got gold executive club status. I’m planning to try and get on one of the first flights of the new Club seat. I can’t wait to see what happens

  21. Do we know how many other airlines refer to their business or first class product as “suite”?

    Does someone know when or which year was the BA lie flat business class was introduced in the 747s?

  22. 6 planes fitted with the new overdue seats in what is virtually a years time. How typical BA of them. What a bunch of frauds. They have 289 aircraft in the fleet last count, so 2% of the fleet will have the new seats in a years time. And they are already PR’ing it. And OMAAT has fallen for it. Laughable.

  23. If I have to face backwards, I’m still not going to fly BA even if I don’t have to step over someone’s legs to get to the aisle.

  24. Didn’t Virgin name their seats; Solo Corner Suites, Love Suites..etc. Sounds interesting, but thats until you realise that they are just hyped-up, old ex-AirBerlin business class seats! Virgin as usual; promise a lot, but deliver little.

  25. Actually if BA gives CW seats around six more inches of pitch and then makes the footrest independent from the seat in front(just as old CW seats were), then all of the seats would get direct aisle access. Wrap the seats with walls then it becomes poor man’s Q-suites. Will probably decrease seat count by around ten per cent.

  26. BF,

    Actually facing backwards is a more natural way to fly, better for the body, and helps with sleep.

    It’s safer too, at the margin.

    And you’re more likely to get a window seat.

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