British Airways Is Introducing Seats That Don’t Recline

Filed Under: British Airways

It has been amazing to see British Airways’ transformation over the past few years, as they’ve gone from being a relatively full service airline to an almost ultra low cost carrier. While they still offer different types of experiences depending on the cabin you’re traveling in, they’ve added more seats to planes, have eliminated free food & drinks in short-haul economy, etc.

I can’t say with certainty that many of their changes don’t make business sense, but there’s no denying that they’ve made the passenger experience worse.

In late 2016 we first learned about British Airways’ plans to densify many of their planes, including their 777s, A320s, and A321s. As we learned at the time, starting in winter 2017, the A320s are going from 168 seats to 180 seats, and starting in summer 2018, the A321s are going from 205 seats to 218 seats.

Now we have more details about the ways in British Airways is densifying their short-haul fleet.

British Airways A320

Changes coming to British Airways short-haul aircraft

Head for Points links to a post by FlyerTalk user MFCC, who has the details of the short-haul changes coming to British Airways. For A320 and A321 aircraft that are being reconfigured with more seats:

  • The first 12 rows of seats on A320s, and first 14 rows of seats on A321s, will retain the current seats, and will get both USB and standard power outlets added
  • Seats in the rest of the aircraft will be replaced and will feature just 29″ of pitch, will have USB outlets (though not standard power outlets), and won’t recline
  • British Airways’ short-haul business class cabin is flexible in terms of size since it simply features a blocked middle seat, though in the future sales of the seats will be capped on longer flights, as there won’t be enough galley space to store meal trays beyond a certain point, as galleys are getting smaller
  • To save weight, the planes won’t feature drop down monitors, so there will be manual safety demonstrations, and no more airshow
  • There will be no trash storage or potable water at the rear of the aircraft, so all trash will have to be carried through business class to the front of the plane, and all requests for free tap water will require the crew to come to the front of the plane

British Airways’ current regional business class cabin

Are these changes actually a big deal?

Call me crazy, but I actually don’t think they’re a huge deal, at least in comparison to British Airways’ already subpar passenger experience:

  • It’s fantastic that they’re introducing power ports, which to me is a huge positive
  • I don’t mind that the regular seats don’t recline, given the lack of legroom; when we’re talking about seats that have 29-30″ of pitch, I don’t view recline as all that much of a benefit
  • While the decrease in pitch from 30″ to 29″ is rough, keep in mind that the new seats will likely be even thinner, so there’s a chance the actual legroom won’t be decreased by an inch
  • Losing monitors isn’t a huge deal, as much as I enjoyed watching the airshow
  • The need to carry trash further through the cabin isn’t ideal, but it’s also not a huge deal

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like these changes, but my point is simply that the British Airways short-haul experience sucked before these changes, and it will still suck after these changes. I’m just happy that we’re getting power ports.

What do you make of British Airways’ short-haul aircraft changes?

  1. This move is unsurprising- BA has and will continue to make their economy product worse and worse. Very soon it will become so terrible that true low cost carriers will be way more worth it. I doubt BA will continue to receive a four star rating from skytrax, as it’s not even close to being “above avaerge standards”

  2. Been a BA Gold executive from 1989-2016, fell short @ 33000 avails lifetime points to quality for gold for life. Lost my status last year and been downgraded to the back of the bus to Bronze. Reading all this nonsense and bear in mind BA still flies 8 across in biz compared to the industry standard of 4 across, I’m not looking back and honestly not so sure I’m going to pull the acrobatic travel stunts I used to, just to try and catch up to Gold which I could easily achieve. Truthful, AA and UA are better choices across the Atlantic today.

  3. If ya’ll think US 3 are bad, BA is much worse!! I just flew IST-LHR in Y.. over 4 hour flight, you have to pay 1.80 Pounds for water.. and 2.30 Pounds for tea/coffee.. I think even some of LCC gives you water for free..

  4. This is what happens when you let the former Vueling CEO, Alex Cruz, loose with a full-service airline. For me, no way BA.

  5. @ anon — “Need?” No. But I also don’t “need” food on an intra-Europe flight in business class. But it’s certainly nice to have. BA operates some 3-4 hour intra-Europe flights, and when you consider that you get to the gate 45 minutes before departure, that’s potentially a lot of time without power. I certainly do value it.

  6. I do NOT understand why anyone in their right mind would fly this customer-unfriendly basket case of an airline. Expensive, shit service, shit business class and an ultra low cost carrier worth economy class.

  7. I think BA is missing the mark, big time. Their reputation is tanking and while they come up as more competitive in search engines due to basic economy (HBO fares), their nickel n’ diming puts a lot of loyal customers off.

    Once search engines start factoring in extra costs and start showing comfort factors more directly, BA will be at the bottom of the heap. And that’s not where you want to be in a global economic upturn. This BA is good for 2009. Not for 2018.

  8. I think that getting rid of recline is a positive change. It will be way easier to work on my laptop if the person in front of me isn’t reclining 🙂

    That said…I can’t believe that BA still gets away with charging airfare at legacy prices and not low-cost fares.

  9. Guess we need a clear definition of what a short haul is. I draw the line at 3hrs.
    In that case, don’t need power, USB, food, and I don’t care if seats recline or not.

  10. Flying BA from Heathrow to Budapest and back recently, I had to keep myself from laughing during the safety demo. Are those life jackets left over from WWII? Rather than snapping together the straps near your waist, you have two ropes that are to be wrapped around your waist twice and held together in a double bow.

  11. Great news. Hopefully US airlines follow. Nothing worse than a DYKWIA going full recline with their seatback damn near touching the tip of your nose.

  12. God BA… Even low cost airlines like Blue Air, which has a base at LPL and I think LTN offers free water and even a sandwich and they cost 1/4 what BA charges… how can they still consider themselves “flag carrier” when they’re just a low cost airline

  13. BA doesn’t care about passenger experience. Post Brexit the British will have their choice of airlines / flights severely restricted and BA stands to gain from that.

  14. Eliminating the recline function doesn’t matter at all. I bet the new seats will be so thin that they ‘recline’ even more when you just sit down and lean against them anyway.

  15. Seems like bad for paxex, but also bad for FAs, who I’m sure don’t want to have to 1) do manual safety demos, 2) deal with smaller galleys, or 3) go up front every time for water and trash disposal.

    On a related note (and point of contrast), can anyone confirm the following: I remember hearing from a Delta FA that one of their retrofits (A319/A320 maybe?) was so unpopular with FAs given the impossibly small rear galley that the airline actually backtracked *after* retrofitting some planes. Anyone know for sure?

  16. Now look, be good lads and keep paying a premium for BA flights. My pension is dependent on your continued suffering!

    Stupid people and suckers are born every day, and fly BA!

  17. KLM? Lufthansa anyone?
    I like SAS too which is why I just booked with them avoiding BA and Heathrow!
    Yes we have choices and I don’t mind going with the most comfortable carrier that offers decent customer service when I fly even if it makes for a bit longer flight time
    When I had flown BA in the past I was willing to pay more as I had the perception I was doing business with a premium carrier

  18. “To save weight, the plane won’t feature drop down monitors…” Brilliant! After all, monitors are so heavy! And coming soon, BA will weigh passengers and add a weight surcharge because current fuel surcharges are gouging customers nearly enough!

    AA should end their partnership with this loser airline.

  19. Seats that don’t recline on shorthauls (4 hours or shorter in my book) are great. Should be standard.

    Good on BA for that change, at least.

  20. Becky, in the comments above, hits the nail on the head.

    Anyone who actually likes to work at their seat will LOVE that the seats don’t recline. The lack of power is a bigger deal.

  21. And you didn’t even mention the horrendous “surcharges” ! 🙁

    Even AA had to back off on 29″ in economy. Getting rid of recline at that cramped space is of course required if you don’t want passengers being involved in fist fights over reclines.

    But it doesn’t make up for anything if the leg room is ‘just about the same’ because you’ve made the seat padding so thin it begins to become painful even before takeoff.

    Then seated in so called ‘Business’ (sic), you will have the FAs constantly brushing past you to provide water and trash disposal for over a hundred economy passengers.

    We are approaching the point where the genuine LCCs have better ergonomics, better service, and a better overall experience than BA, whose tickets will still be sold at a premium.

    I predict an Air Berlin future for BA. 🙂

  22. I mentioned on Tiffany’s recent post that right now we are in a huge boom for the travel industry so they can treat people indifferently but once the inevitable bust comes, they will have to quickly change their attitudes and treatment of their customers. The low points of ~2008 aren’t that long ago but greed causes people to forget things quickly (not to mention short term stock holders out for a quick profit).

    Thankfully I don’t have to travel for work and can often afford better seats.

  23. Have not flown BA for a few years. Recently booked Biz class from London to Oakland, and was surprised to learn that you have to pay extra to reserve your seat. Wow, in biz class….

  24. BA shorthaul works for me. Paid 50€ for a return flight. They mistakenly booked me a fare including a checked bag (make that two with an increased weight limit thanks to status). I get to use the lounge at both ends, fast track, priority boarding and, the cherry on top, had exit row (much more comfortable than their Club Europe product) booked.

    Those are all extra I’d pay dearly with a LCC carrier. As for on-board service, I don’t expect much on a 90 minute flight. I fill up on champagne, gin & tonic, coffee, coke, food and reading material before the flight and I’m good to go. Thanks BA for those lovely fares.

  25. Getting rid of drop-down monitors to save weight? How much of a savings is this? Isn’t it just a few per aircraft?

    Seems like savings 100 pounds isn’t a big benefit. Just tell the pilots to carry all their flight manuals on a tablet instead of in hardcopy and you get the same savings.

  26. Last night I did a LHR-ATH 3 1/2 hour flight in biz and it sucks!!
    The B.S. BIZ seat, food was not for humans! – luggage came out last after Eco finshed – no entertainment of any kind – – like I said – it sucks — been traveling BA FOR 35 years AND AT ONE TIME THEY WERE THE BEST

  27. Just another race to the bottom – September LHR – BCN departure delayed 1h55, after boarding early, of course, then a cart blocked the aisle for the entire flight due to the purchase everything including water model. No way to use the toilet for 5h. Incredible lack of customer focus. Return flight also delayed though not as painful perhaps because we knew what was coming.

  28. For my British friends, it’s a shame that Virgin Atlantic can’t expand its long-haul route map to kill off British Airways. Virgin is 100% times better.

  29. When will they start charging to use the bathroom on their planes? Hope we can use Avios for that.

  30. I fly BA shorthaul (in Y) most weeks and the only change that concerns me is that they’re changing the seats for only part of the aircraft. I’m interpreting this to mean that the new seats will be less comfortable than the ones used currently that will continue to be used for the first 12-14 rows. I find the current seats uncomfortable so can’t say I’m looking forward to the new ones.

  31. I actually think this is a positive change on seat recline. The vast majority of routes these planes are used on are sub 3hrs. BA charges roughly what the LCCs do in coach now, it’s rarely substantially more expensive, and the flight times/airports they serve are usually better, so I am not sure where people are getting the idea they still charge “legacy carrier” fares in economy. As @Potato said above, with status you can use the lounges and get exit-row seats, priority boarding, and free checked bags on most fares.

    For those commenters claiming BA will go under or lose business because of these changes, have a look at their financials. As much as I hate to admit it, their strategy of competing with the LCCs on shorthaul seems to be delivering them record profits.

    Where they really need to improve is in long-haul business class – clearly their weakest product (First and PE are actually fine to quite good imho), and probably the one that hurts the brand value and perception the most.

  32. I’ve never flown BA, and all I can think of is: yet another reason to never fly them. Are they TRYING to go out of business?

  33. Anastasia, possibly yes. At least it seems odd to hire some random Spaniard for the CEO position. What he did previously compares to hiring a local diner chef to run McDonald’s.

  34. The absolute worst airline in the world just managed to get even worse. Cruz needs to be fired. How they have the audacity to call their Club Europe business class is beyond me when the seats are identical to economy except the leave the middle one vacant. Their international first class is OK, the equivalent of business class on most other carriers but their long range biz class is an abomination. Whoever designed this configuration and seating, and whoever approved it, should also be fired. BA – Bloody Awful!

  35. Are all these changes with cutbacks in cabin service are caused by Airline CEO,s demanding multi million dollar fat cat salaries?? Greed wins out again.

  36. I flew BA business class once several years ago between Seattle and Paris and paid out-of-pocket. In a word, awful hard and soft products. Between the dirty cabin and nonfunctioning entertainment system on the flight back, I will never again fly them if at all avoidable. Factoring in the ridiculous fuel surcharge for award travel and this additional silliness, my decision is further confirmed.

  37. It is misleading to categorise BA as a LCC, or even ULCC. I think ULSC (Ultra Low Service Carrier) would be a more accurate descriptor, since the only part of ‘Low Cost’ has been to the benefit of the airline’s bottom line, not their passengers ticket cost. The race to the bottom continues apace in 2018, but as we have discovered the bottom is akin to the bottom of a black hole in a far universe, i.e. unknown.

  38. “Becky, in the comments above, hits the nail on the head.

    Anyone who actually likes to work at their seat will LOVE that the seats don’t recline. The lack of power is a bigger deal.”

    That change isn’t in isolation. I’m not sure who likes to work at their seat who will find much satisfaction with a 29″ seat pitch.

  39. What a disgrace !
    I’ll stick to LH , besides the hubs of FRA and MUC are not nearly as chaotic as LHR !

    As alternative I’ll give my money to AZ since all the bets are now off !

  40. I think it comes down a lack of options combined with a lack of creativity. BA probably hopes that most people won’t notice or really care about these changes, particularly if the short-haul is just a connection to long-haul.

  41. Having watched a passenger almost assault another who tried to recline his seat in front as soon as the seatbelt sign went off on a two-hour BA hop, I think no recline, which is a Ryanair trick (along with no window shades), makes sense. Lower plane and maintenance cost.

    BA’s new pay for food and beverage Y policy actually delivers better quality to your seat than you previously got for ‘free’ provided the price is right for you and they still have your choice when the trolley reaches you. I have seen them run out of time and stock before half the plane was served.

    BA’s timekeeping is appalling – where they have multiple rotations daily like LHR-BCN or FRA, often with the same A319/20/21, they get later and later so the final return can be over an hour late. Ryanair, when it flies to destinations in the same time zone as the city you really want to reach, at least leaves and arrives mostly on time.

    As ever, you will get what you pay for. LH planes are often newer and way cleaner but ‘free’ Y perks are minimal and fares high. Low cost, low frills is the only way forward for short haul Europe Y, as far as most airlines are concerned, so put up or shut up…

  42. It also sounds like the new seats will be at the very back of the plane and therefore probably intended for the lost fare, basic economy tickets, with perhaps 8 rows of the current standard in front (marginally less crap 30-31” pitch) going to Executive Club elites no doubt, and a couple rows of the crap Club Europe blocked middle seats right at the front. I am not sure there is any need to do more for an intra-European market that is LCC-dominated, where they have to compete on price. There are also no other full service carriers ex-London with their regional route network, so it’s BA or LCC. No one ex-London is going to be changing planes in Munich or Frankfurt to get to Italy.

    This fits with their recent strategy of separating out elite frequent fliers and premium cabin flyers (improvements to the lounges in NYC airports and LGW and soon LHR, construction of a First “wing” in LHR and soon JFK also for F and Gold passengers, etc) while also offering cheap HBO/Basic economy tickets to casual and occasional travelers who only look at price…

  43. In further news, BA has also announced that the blocked middle seat in J will be occupied by a drummer to mark time as the Y pax deploy oars. There will, of course, be an oar fee and a drummer fee added to all Y tickets.

  44. Quite interesting that he who doesnt travel in the back of the plane finds the lack of incline a non factor. Elitist much?

  45. This is the reason why I use the ‘4th’ international airport in London. Amsterdam Schiphol!
    KLM has so many flights out of the UK to the rest of the world. Transfer at this airport is so easy, it is only one building. And KLM is a full-service company. Even wine is complementary on a short flight like London to Amsterdam.

  46. Just adding another input in favor of no recline. Yes, I realize that they are thinning seats and reducing everything. However, I truly dislike recline. On overseas flights I’ve had people almost damage my laptop when they immediately and jarringly dropped their seats back.

    Also, this makes even more sense in short haul. If you can’t sit up straight for an hour or two, I don’t know what to say.

  47. The reality is that most of the contributors here are missing the main point that allows BA to do this. They own (through IAG) over 50% of the slots at the most capacity constrained airport in the world (LHR, as if you needed telling). Frankly they could seat their passengers on a metal spike and still fill planes out of Heathrow. European connections through LHR are still the most valuable there are as no viable alternative for long haul flights exists to any other London airport (especially when considering business class, with the possible exception of EK’s 3 A380 services from LGW). For other UK airports they are competing (with other?) LCC’s and so the service downgrades are just bringing them in line with competition. With no competition on last night haul flights connecting to European services (in the US at least you have a choice of 3 sub par carriers) it’s no surprise they can do what they like. If I was running the business I’d do the same.

  48. It’s ok – the flight attendants won’t have to walk to the front galley to get any water – they just won’t bring it to you at all.

  49. I have a bad back. I , therefore, need to recline a bit and the more the merrier. This change will absolutely affect my decision to never fly BA. NEVER!

  50. They put these non recline, economy class seats in business class on the 5.5 hour Cairo to LHR flight. I can’t believe it…BA used to be the best flight out of Cairo. I never understood how customers tolerate airlines pulling this fraudulent bs. Lufthansa started this practice in Egypt and now all airlines except for Air France, Egypt Air, Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Saudi and have this Economy Class for the Price of Business Class scam going.

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