British Airways Introduces First Class Suite With Door (Pictures)

Filed Under: British Airways

British Airways now has its first plane featuring first class seats with doors… but don’t get too excited.

British Airways’ strange premium cabin evolution

Historically British Airways’ first and business class seats haven’t exactly been industry-leading. First class was nothing special, and more like a great business class product. Seats were in a 1-2-1 configuration, and a bit more spacious than typical business class reverse herringbone seats.

British Airway’s old 777 first class

However, British Airways’ business class was significantly worse, and on 777s in a 2-4-2 configuration. There wasn’t direct aisle access from every seat, which is otherwise becoming an industry standard.


British Airway’s old 777 business class

By comparison first class was better than business class.

That all kind of changed in 2019, when British Airways rolled out its new Club Suites business class product. With this, British Airways’ business class now consists of reverse herringbone seats with doors.

British Airways’ new A350 business class


British Airways’ new A350 business class

This was a massive improvement for British Airways, but still a bit strange:

  • British Airways introduced a new business class, but not a new first class
  • British Airways wasn’t eliminating first class, but rather was reducing the size of the first class cabin on some 777s
  • This created a situation where business class seats had doors, while first class seats didn’t, which sure seems backwards

Well, all of that is starting to change… very slowly.

British Airways adding doors to first class

We recently learned that British Airways is introducing an updated first class product. Unfortunately the seat isn’t being redesigned from scratch. Rather British Airways is updating its existing seat, with the most significant change being the addition of doors.

So far British Airways hasn’t said much publicly about the new seat, but here’s what British Airways shared about the concept internally:

“We are always listening to customer and colleague feedback about ways to improve our products. The response to our Club Suite has been great, and we are now applying some of the same thinking to a slightly modified version of the First seat on a few of our new 777 aircraft, creating even more privacy for our premium customers.

Starting in October, we will welcome two new variants to our 777 fleet: the 77L and 77H. The 77H variant will offer the modified First seat experience, which includes a privacy door and a three-point seat belt.

It’s important to note that these new aircraft were ordered well in advance of the Covid-19 crisis, but we could not defer their delivery.

I look forward to hearing how our customers and colleagues feel about the modified First seat when they see it on our 777s soon.”

British Airways had four remaining Boeing 777-300ERs on order. Well, the first one was delivered to British Airways within the past week, and we now have the first “official” pictures of the new first class seat, per Business Traveller.

British Airways’ new first class suite with door


British Airways’ new first class suite with door


British Airways’ new first class suite with door


British Airways’ new first class suite with door

It sounds like British Airways will initially just install these new seats on these aircraft, and not retrofit them on existing aircraft (even though existing 777s are getting new Club Suites).

British Airways also has 18 Boeing 777-9s on order, and it has been expected all along that those would feature new first class suites. I hope those get a fully redesigned product, rather than just these modified seats. Then again, who knows if/when British Airways will take delivery of the 777-9s on order, given everything going on.

Rendering of British Airways’ 777-9

Bottom line

British Airways has just received its first plane featuring a modified first class seat with a door. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like there’s a full-on seat redesign, but rather some minor tweaks have been made, and a door has been added. I have to say, it at least looks like a nice improvement.

This is a step in the right direction, since it was strange to have doors on business class seats, but not first class seats. Unfortunately expect just a few planes to feature these seats in the next couple of years.

Here’s to hoping British Airways installs a fully redesigned first class product on the 777-9.

What do you make of British Airways’ modified first class seats?

Comments
  1. I really don’t care much about doors on a plane. Better service, better food, better lounges… all way more important.

  2. I wish BA would speed the money on service which is horrible in F let along the worst seats in the air on the 787. I once flew from SJC to London in F and back in Biz the latter actually more enjoyable than up front. The doors are not going to make a bit of difference if the quality of service/food/attitude doesn’t change.

  3. Redesign it to what though? That’s pretty much what everybody’s first seat is like today

    A large seat with a wide screen and a door

    This seat is also 23inches so it’s very wide. I think when you use it Ben, you’ll enjoy it. It starts next month on London to New York.

  4. Echoing the remarks of the majority here – why so much need for a door? For me what makes a flight experience great or ok is not the door, but the soft product and especially the crew.

    Cheers!

  5. Forget all this noise, they need to add real power or USB outlets to their longhaul fleet. It’s 2020. No excuses. I’ll gladly pay more/connect/have less advantageous times to make sure I’m on AA until I know I’m set on power.

  6. To those of you who don’t want a door, just leave it open.. No one’s forcing you to use it.
    The rest of us want a door.

  7. “Historically British Airways’ first and business class seats haven’t exactly been industry-leading.”

    That’s completely wrong. *Historically* when it was introduced BA’s Club World seat — that you so hate — was revolutionary and industry-leading.

    The problem was that BA left it at that, while other airlines leap-frogged them.

    Even so, for two decades BA at least had a flat-bed J product on every single longhaul route, a milestone which some airlines have only just managed to reach (AA, for instance).

    Lots of things you can slag off BA for — but being *historically* rubbish isn’t one of them.

    And, God, even pre-Covid I loved doors. If you don’t like them just leave them open, but why are the critics also trying to deprive those of us who do like them?

  8. The seat belt thing worries me. If the other improvements are so minor they felt they had to talk about the seatbelt, that is not a great sign…………….or maybe I’m wrong and seatbelts are the next big thing.
    Who knows, maybe EK are about to add a 5-point belt in their F 🙂

  9. The window seats of the old-style BA 777 business class are superb. The new style and F class are not an improvement over this. However, the window seats of the old style BA 777 business class were a small percentage of business class seats.

    I was lucky to fly one round trip in those window seats. One was assigned and other was hijacked by me (oh, I got permission from the FA) because there were some empty seats.

  10. @Tom – the pictures come from a BA internal document for staff who have different requirements for information than passengers and aren’t publicity photos

  11. Ya…. I also thought historically it was BA that was literally leading the industry by 1. Angling their first class seats so they can lie flat and 2. introducing lie flat seats in business class? The problem is these seat has become too “historical “, and they haven’t updated them since.

  12. Man, you really hate BA.
    I’m no fanboi – despite years of loyalty to them and GGL in a former life – but give them some damn credit for when they did innovate.
    They just got left behind, but to continually slag them off for no reason gets a little tiresome.

  13. Interestingly, what is being referred to as the original business seat here is in fact the second iteration of business class seats. I am old enough to have flown the original version out to London and then flew the newly installed improved version, that is now the “historical” seat, back to the states. This seat was BA’s first move to improve, read, reduce the size of, the business seat, it felt too narrow even then. After 35 years of flying BA, I feel safe in saying that the every “improvement” BA has made in that time has felt like just an opportunity to reduce comfort and service. I look forward to contradicting myself when I can fly the new seats, but the way IAG has been treating its flight crews, I expect that the service will probably be worse–it would be if I was offered the opportunity to reapply for my job at half pay.

  14. I think the tone of this article is unnecessarily negative. No one would call the pre-club-suite J class beds industry-leading in recent years, but it was a good bit better than a lot of its competitors including AF who had angled beds in business class on many aircraft until last year.

    I would also happily take the BA yin-yang lack of aisle access beds above the Lufthansa “let’s play footsie” J beds which will be in use until 2025 now and also lack direct aisle access.

    First on BA was never comparable to AF or LH as it was far more widespread across the fleet, and far cheaper. Literally, less than half the price of AF or LH F on similar routes. I won’t defend it as the best but it was comfortable and the service is generally great along with the food, for what is priced as effectively a “J+” product. Nice that they will be getting doors although that wouldn’t sway me frankly, and I hope they don’t use it to raise prices….

  15. @Kerry
    I didn’t mind the pre-suite Club World seats either, and some of the seats you didn’t have to hop over the pax next to you. Plenty of room to move and sleep and I’m 6’. Flying backwards was awesome too. Popping up the divider after take off was always a bit weird as you didn’t want to be rude, but at the same time, you didn’t want to have to talk to some random person the whole flight. Biggest gripe about J was them taking away the breakfast bacon bap thingies.

  16. Wow, they’re putting a door on the seat? This changes everything. I’ll just forget the last 20 years of them treating customers and employees like crap and start flying them all the time.

  17. “Historically British Airways’ first and business class seats haven’t exactly been industry-leading.” I thought BA introduced the first-ever flat bed First seat, styled by an sailboat designer.

  18. I quite enjoy the F experience on the A380 from LAX to LHR and back. Door or no door the space works for me and I have never had anything but a wonderful service experience. The 747 I enjoyed because it is The Queen but that space was less spacious and private. Never flew it overnight because of this but would often fly it back.

    Maybe my origination and my aircraft give me a different perspective but door or no door as long as BA has F I will be flying them. I enjoy the experience and really enjoy the employees.

  19. @Paul
    “Even so, for two decades BA at least had a flat-bed J product on every single longhaul route, ”

    No unfourtunalty they kept the “cradle” seat on the Transatlantic second tier (i.e not Barbados, Bermuda, Trinidad and Jamaica) Caribbean routes

  20. I know Ben has an obsession with in-flight privacy (what do you expect with 300 show up to travel with you?), but I don’t. I’m more realistic.

    Yes, I can leave the doors open, Agnes. But in order to complete the installation with doors, airlines are designing a more closed-off seat. I’m not claustrophobic by any means,but I avoid FC cabins, like ANA and now BA, that have such a cocoon. My favorite seat in the air is LH First on A380 or 747.

  21. I can’t help but think that 77H and 77L refer to ‘high’ and ‘low’…
    “Dear passengers, welcome aboard British Airways’ First Class Low experience“
    Very classy.

  22. Not That I am a fan of BA but I think perhaps when you slag them off for innovation you should really look at things prior to you starting this blog.
    (I am not 100% sure on the accuracy of these statements)
    British Airways
    First flat beds in First Class
    First Flat Beds in Business Class with innovative “ying yang” design.
    First Airline to have the rear facing flat bed seats
    Created in the 90s the “premium Economy market” through the brand world traveler plus (including seats designs) when historically there was only a 3 class system.
    Created the BA Executive club and pioneered the whole millage game which we all like to play today/
    Re deigned and retrofired all there Concorde interiors in the early 2000s in prep for the relaunch post the french Concorde crash
    Created the High Flyers Club for children travelers in the 90s
    Created partnerships with Charities, most notably the”change for good” campaign with UNICEF.

    Most other airlines looked to BA and tried to play catch up. I agree today other airlines have exceeded.

    I mean there is a lot to BA you dont bother to cover really. I am no big fan. You could do with learning more about the history of an airline before you put them down so much.

  23. To all those who feel Ben is often too critical of BA…..

    Throughout its long and storied history BA has been innovative and industry leading. Concorde was a great example. Their first and business seats were at a time innovative as well.

    The problem is they’ve made the very conscious decision to no longer lead the industry and have let other carriers to take that position from BA. While that may certainly be a penny-wise solution I would argue that in the long run it’s pound-foolish. Sadly there is too much emphasis on profits today versus profits tomorrow. The financial markets focus on a immediate versus long term gains only make the problem worse.

    Today in part due to the lack of innovation BA is flying people who mostly “have to fly them” versus people who “want to fly them”. Given the choice I would choose a Middle East or Asian carrier over BA. BA is going to have to make a lot of serious changes which will impact short term profits in order to change that.

    And frankly, I don’t see them doing it.

  24. First of all I really don’t get the entire “door” thing. People go crazy over it but I see little value. Sure you could say it helps block germs w COVID but I seriously doubt it extends over 3 feet so anyone walking past would be above it anyway. My understanding is the only airlines with doors all the way up to create a private space are the ME carriers.

    Also, business and first class seats are pretty private by themselves.

    Finally to retrofit their old, mediocre product with a door is the very definition of “putting lipstick on a pig”.

  25. My problem with the doors is that when they are open they take up precious space. And I would prefer that mine be open. I also fail to see how having a closed door is going to make service better. Seems like an excuse to pass you by.

  26. Talking of a subpar product. There she is. I will pick Gulf Air Business class over BA first any day, any time. Not to talk of QR Qsuite or ANA’s. This product is really made for Britain.

  27. I find it a little perplexing that some blogs (including, I think, this one) often review cabins with no overhead bins as being “spacious” – despite the enormous disadvantages of not having a convenient place to store your luggage and access it during the flight. But putting a rather useless door on the suite, clearly and obviously reducing the “spacious” feeling, is also seen as a positive.

    Give me accessible and ample storage space and leave off the silly, useless door.

  28. Anyway, most of you saying you would fly Middle Eastern products over BA. It’s obvious they don’t give a damn because you’ve been doing that anyway and they’re still 10 times more resilient than all Middle Eastern carriers combined because they’re running a business at the end of the day; they have actual investors to answer to, different markets and different models.

    I think the seat looks fine anyway. But if it was Emirates that did this everyone would go crazy but that’s just what overhype and follow the crowd does. Anyway congrats to BA. After all Emirates is still flying an angled 7 a breast seat on over 50% of its fleet and that is world leading. LOL screaming

  29. @Paul
    Mostly true, and an analysis of the marketing ability of BA.
    Eva Air were first to create premium economy with large old first class cradle seats

    I flew BA J ying yang once only. NEVER AGAIN. Preferring a window seat I had to fly backwards, which I personally found most disconcerting. And the soft product was way below par. I was told that I couldn’t have a medium cooked steak due to hygiene reasons, the meat had to be thoroughly cooked. Well, they did that alright as I could smell the food cooking in the ovens on the ground. When I asked whether or not that was a Cranebank (training centre) instruction I was presented with a politically motivated CSD to argue the case.

    I don’t blame the crew; they are presented with a hard product that they have to make the most of (for example they are supposed to service behind the aisle seat, but I’d guess negotiating the footstool is more dangerous than their preferred method – across the face of the aisle passenger.

    How they have managed to survive so far is beyond me. I think it must be corporate moles, and auto upgrades for gold and above.

    At least they have now respected their crew and put the doors on. Bigger excuse to do nothing for the passengers.

  30. Can anyone explain to me why 3 point, lap and diagonal belts are being installed? I’ve flown J on Thai and JAL where they have them.

    Surely in the event of the need to brace, the safest config is to cradle your head in your lap with your hands to protect it.

    Having your chest anchored to the seat-back with the lap-strap leaves a 10lb head on a 7lb neck The head is then multiplied by the G forces in the event of sudden stopping, but the neck does not increase its strength to support it.

    I’m not medical, so I’d be grateful for any aviation medics to explain, or correct my assessment.

  31. I think I’m of the opinion that better food and service is preferable over a half height door – but I guess that’s what the feedback has suggested

  32. @ Johnny Grimes
    “How they have managed to survive so far is beyond me. I think it must be corporate moles, and auto upgrades for gold and above.”

    They have survived by ruthlessly exploiting their dominant position at Heathrow, throwing so much frequency at their most lucrative routes (eg NYLON) that there’s usually a more convenient BA flight for your specific schedule than those offered by all their rivals, and by following the money: they have (or had) more than two dozen US gateways enabling direct, non-stop flights, whereas most of their US rivals are wedded to the tiresome hub-and-spoke model. Which business traveller will risk two flights with a connection, when there’s a non-stop alternative?

    They are also (usually) *cheap*. They realised long ago that, despite what avgeeks whine about, most people are interested in (1) direct flight with a convenient schedule and (2) cheapest price. All the RMweb comparisons that prove BA’s First is barely at the level of some airline’s Business class for comfort and service are missing the point: BA’s ticket price is usually an order of magnitude lower. So why would I pay double, for an itinerary that involves two flights with a transfer, rather than the cheapo ticket on a direct BA flight?*

    Asking for your steak to be cooked “medium” is a rooky error. Airline steak is usually (and BA’s always) rubbish; it’s just not something that comes well out of the cook-chill process. Save ordering steak for a grillhouse on the ground. I can remember some great steaks I’ve eaten over the years: not one of them was cooked on a plane — any airline.

    AIUI the 3-point seat-belt is required by some regulators when the angle of the seat to the aisle exceeds a specified amount. Even then, the shoulder strap is usually only required for take off and landing, not during turbulence.

    Oh — I’ve been BA Gold for eons and I can’t remember the last time I got a free upgrade. They rarely hand them out.

    * There are a couple of exceptions for me: when flying east longhaul from the UK I almost always choose Qsuites over a direct BA flight. Doha is well set-up for transfers, it’s in my experience a reliable operation (I haven’t had a single missed connection), and the quality of the overall experience is simply so much better than BA’s. And Qatar operates a high-frequency service from London, so there is rarely a schedule penalty.

    But flying westwards, or to Latin America (which is one of my more frequent destinations), it’s either BA or via my local airport on KLM. And KLM is another airline which scores low on avgeek measures of super-luxury, but offers more of what I (and my employer) value — principally reliability, connectivity and reasonable prices.

  33. Thanks for that. I had forgotten.
    When BOAC and BEA merged, unknown at the time, most of the upper management and board were BEA. At the time that airline specifically gained their business performing high frequency, so business traveller had little alternative. At the time even that frequency was nowhere near today’s, but BEA ran 1 or 2 flights a day as opposed to the competitive destinations national carrier of maybe 3 a week.
    I remember very well the ethos of passenger service disappeared from BA at that point (BEA service nothing at all LHR/PAR!) and you are correct flight frequency, and domination of LHR does it for them.

    On the 3 point seat belt. It’s specifically on take off and landing when I’d imagine a “brace!, “brace!” situation and that’s when they say they must be used. So I don’t understand it at all.

  34. @Steven E

    I agree, I’d love BA service to be top notch.

    Problem is I’d guess that HR knows fully well how appalling they treat their cabin crew, so it would be difficult, with union control as well, to implement.

    Easier to change the hard product, that they can market with impunity.

  35. @The Nice Paul

    I rarely comment on others mistakes here, but I can’t let this one go.

    It’s farcical to accuse me of a “rooky error” in ordering a medium steak in J
    First, BA crew are trained on how to cook steaks when they do their upgrade courses and secondly, and more importantly I actually cooked 136 medium steaks for passengers on a BOAC 707 from New York to Bermuda, so I know first hand it can be done. I’m afraid the galley rooky here is you, not me.

  36. @opus
    That 7 abreast on a triple 7 with Emirates is still far more better, wider, comfortable and with higher perks than BA’s 7 abreast on their 787s.
    Please be reminded Emirates has historically been profitable and pay yearly dividends to their owners. Asian airlines offering great service aka Singapore Airlines, ANA etc have shown it’s possible to provide Excellent service and yet still turn a decent profit. Even airlines like Delta enjoy massive profits yet offer a great product.
    And by the way, take away the financial talk, we are customers, and our priority is to maximize value for our money. The airlines don’t pity us while charging outrageous prices for a mediocre experience, so why do we have to trade our comfort for their accounts?

  37. @UpperDeckJohnny
    It’s really confusing if you change your user name. 😉

    Times have changed, the world has moved on: I dunno about you, but it’s been *decades* since I last flew in a 707. And since then pretty much every new generation of plane has been greeted with complaints from cabin crew that galleys are getting smaller and, now, are too small (I’m sure they’re right).

    Is there any airline left which is actually cooking steaks in mid-air, rather than re-heating (maybe Turkish with chefs onboard? I dunno)?

  38. @The nice Paul

    As far as I am a aware, NO airline ever cooked steaks from raw. They are seared, and chilled, hence conserving the integrity of the meat. This means that although the steaks appear cooked on the outside, they are in fact raw on the inside, allowing varying degrees of heat duration to obtain the required amount of cooked result.

    Galleys were never that big anyway, although i agree they are somewhat more compact now. But the use of trolleys for storage helps greatly in achieving a working environment.

    I agree it is a very long time ago that 707’s flew the skies, but I quoted that because it was an economy service and I sought to indicate that a bulk quantity of steaks could be thus cooked.

    Latterly on 747’s and other wide bodied aircraft, then in business and first, the same principle applied, but it was easier to manage due to the smaller numbers.

    The bottom line is that it is eminently possible to cook a steak in an aircraft galley if the crew can be bothered to do it. But the shortcut is to just switch all the ovens on, on the ground and make sure everything is hot when it needs to be. Whether this results in it being overcooked, steak or other food, seems not to be a concern.

  39. BA has the worst business class I’ve ever experienced. They should be ashamed of that product. And first wasn’t much better, except I didn’t have to fly 10 hours facing a stranger in the adjacent seat.

  40. I often fly AUH-NYC return in biz, with a break in LON. The NYC-LON leg is BA, the LON-AUH leg is Etihad.
    There is no comparison: EY crushes BA by any measure, from ground experience, crew responsiveness, hard product, and catering. Admittedly, this was pre-covid, and I have not experienced the new BA biz seat. We shall see what aviation and the customer experience looks like on the other side of covid, although BA has miles and miles to do to catch up.

  41. I certainly welcome this development, although I’m not very often flying First. However, I don’t think there is reason for to over emphasize that move. All other European carriers featuring F (that’s AF, LH, LX, if I’m not mistaken) have a First class seat without door at least on part of their fleet. So really BA is just like the others.

    As regards the frowned upon old J product: Really the only thing I don’t like about it, is the lack of aisle access for a bit less than half of the seats. But otherwise, it’s great product, with a lot of privacy and good space. But again, the comparison with their competitors shows that even in respect of aisle access, they are not that much behind. Bot LH and KL have no aisle access in their J product and so does AF in their older J. LX meanwhile has aisle access but a claustrophobic product only suitable for dwarfs.

  42. @Andy
    KL has introduced reverse herringbone J seats, all with direct aisle access. But, again, it’s not (yet?) on all their longhaul fleet.

  43. I wear masks everywhere required right now, but would not want to pay thousands for first class, only to have to travel in a mask.

    This is because unlike American carriers, Asian and European rarely have personal air vents to cool the cabin. And I like it cooler when wearing masks.

  44. @victorAETM. That seat just about lies flat. Privacy is horrible I’d say BA’s old club has an edge because I believe the sleep experience is better even Emirates new business is still outshone by BAs new club from a hard product perspective. From a first point of view and economy I am confident Emirates beats BA

    On financials we still don’t know which creative accounting they use. Secondly they’re probably operationally profitable at best. Secondly the Asian carriers are profitable like ANA and are fantastic but still operate out of different markets, airlines that operate out of European markets tend to have the same level of service, same with Middle Eastern, same with Asian. Delta is alright.

  45. You lot will find my Hubby as a real weirdo as he finds the old BA Club World more often than not caters to his needs. He feels that the ying-yang seats comfortable and can sleep a solid 8 hours when traveling alone the window seats highly private. Whilst the onboard food can be a bit hit and miss, the breakfast being the worst but pre-covid he felt day flights on long haul were very good, he is not into interested in drinking onboarded. Service adequate and most importantly not overbearing.

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