Rumor: British Airways Ditching Plan To Design New Business Class Seat

Filed Under: British Airways

While British Airways has been making the experience considerably worse for economy flyers the past couple of years, they’re also investing in their longhaul premium cabin product. The airline is in the process of rolling out a new service concept in business class, including new bedding and amenities from The White Company, and new catering for DO & CO. The changes certainly look like a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately they still have one of the worst fully flat business class products in service today, as their 777s, 747s, and A380s feature up to eight seats per row. The good news is that British Airways intends to introduce a new business class seat in 2019. They haven’t officially revealed the details of the new seat, though they’ve stressed the importance of offering direct aisle access from every seat. We’ve even seen some prototypes of what the new seat may look like, based on patents the airline filed.


However, rumor now has it that British Airways may not be designing a new business class seat after all. I’d only take this as a rumor for now, but Paddle Your Own Kanoo claims that British Airways is abandoning their plans to introduce a new business class seat in-house, and will instead use a staggered business class configuration that’s already used by many airlines:

Yet two sources who are familiar with the matter have confirmed that Cruz has knocked an expensive in-house R&D project on the head.  Instead, British Airways will be tailoring an “off the shelf” product to meet its own requirements.

Several months ago, a source told us BA had chosen the same seat currently used by Emirates on its Airbus A380 fleet.  Since then, a second source has verified the accuracy of this statement, saying the airline would “BA-ify” the Zodiac SKYLounge Core Business Class seat – currently in service with Emirates, ANA and others.

I can’t speak to the accuracy of the sources, though it’s an interesting rumor if nothing else. Emirates’ A380 business class is in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration, with fully flat beds and direct aisle access from every seat.

Emirates’ A380 business class

As far as staggered configurations go, I find this to be one of the better versions out there.

Emirates’ A380 business class

I don’t think these seats are as good as reverse herringbone seats or Apex Suites, but they’re a big improvement over what British Airways offers now.

While I imagine British Airways’ intent here is to save money by choosing an existing product, personally I’d have no issues with this decision. I’m not convinced that anything they develop in-house would be better quality than a staggered seat like this. Furthermore, there are other benefits to choosing an existing product, including potentially faster installation, since these seats are already certified, and it’s less likely they’ll have production issues.

British Airways’ 777 business class

What do you guys think — would you be happy to see British Airways introduce a staggered configuration in business class?

(Tip of the hat to Head for Points)

  1. Having just returned from a trip to London via 787-9 out of SJC First going over and biz coming back while your article states BA is making it miserable in coach their First is the worst I have flown, other than DL “First” Service on BA is always hit of miss and we missed going over. When they made the “bed’ I was astounded that the pad was paper thing, horrible, really.

    Coming back in Biz the service was great and actually we both slept better, while the business seats are poorly designed with no real flow to them never the less we felt more comfortable in Biz. will not fly up front and waste the money nor even points to do that again.

  2. Sensible move for once by Señor Penny Pincher aka Cruz. Why reinvent the wheel for the sake of it. We all know BA is behind the curve on so many things. Why bother with something “revolutionary” now?

  3. BA has gorgeously maintained the lower bar (in the industry today) that it simply can’t get worse with any design than the Yin-Yan seat

  4. BA CW is not as bad as some claim. The so-called “staggered” design used by some other airlines isn’t a true 1-2-1 anyway. Even United’s new Polaris seating can be seen as 4-across or 8-across, depending how you look at it.

    As someone who isn’t fat or overly tall, I find the CW seats comfortable enough, and I can’t see BA removing half of them given that it gets very good load factors as is.

    As long as people pay up for BA CW because of schedule, route and airport factors, it doesn’t need to be the best – just good enough.

  5. I will never understand the negativity towards the BA product; I like having my legs unencumbered. The most oppressive J seats out there are those operated by LX et al. IMHO.

  6. “The good news is that British Airways intends to introduce a new business class seat in 2019”

    Only regarding the new A350s – no retro-fit is planned on the existing fleet.

  7. I think BA are seriously behind competition, and need to up their game in business fleet-wide. It’s good to see them renewing their fleet with modern planes such as the 787 and soon A350, but what is disappointing is to see a brand new 787 with 2-3-2 in business class. I would not compare British Airways to Lufthansa in this class because Lufthansa is miles ahead with their current offering (fewer seats per row, slightly more privacy, better food and IFE). Personally, I don’t see why direct aisle access is so valued. For a solo traveller it is certainly more convenient, but as airlines try to find a way to fit the same amount of seats in a 1-2-1 configuration in the same space as a 2-3-2 configuration, personal space has been reduced (look at the Zodiac Optima used but United, for example). In Turkish Airlines and Emirates 777 business, the seats might be arranged in a 2-3-2 layout, but there is ample knee room, no footwell restrictions (which you might find in a reverse herringbone seat for example) while the downsides are small, such as slightly less privacy and occasionally having to step over your seat mate (which is not so difficult given that in the upright position these seats have massive legroom, so there is space to walk around and in lie-flat mode the seats recline very close to the ground, making it easy to step over). Therefore, even for a solo traveller, direct aisle access isn’t so important, given that in business class the most people you will ever have to step over is 1. However, in British Airways’ configuration, the seat width is atrocious, storage limited, awkward eye contact with seat mate inevitable and soft product still not up to scratch. Therefore I would rank Turkish, Singapore, Emirates, Eva, Virgin Aus. and Qatar in the top League, Lufthansa, Cathay, international airlines based in the US, Etihad (recently had a bad experience with them and soft product has been cut down recently), Air France, Qantas, LATAM. And BA after, at the bottom.

  8. I won’t book for revenue or award in business with what they have now
    Meal trays going over my body and face to reach over to the next passenger.Seriously?
    Anything has to be an improvement
    I hate Virgin Atlantic too (awful if you are 6″2)
    Avoid BA and Virgin for both revenue or award especially with their over charging with their extortion fees.Its so bad with seat comfort I would rather fly American or United in Business class so that’s really saying something.If you cant make the bed seat comfortable for tall people don’t allow a bed!Make it an awesome high end comfortable seat
    I will fly BA in First occasionally with BA.
    Some flights are very good and others awful with inedible slop
    Always carry food on board as a back up just in case now as they are not predictable

  9. I’d welcome the Emirates A380-type J seating. It’s certainly no Qsuite, but it’s a pretty nice way to travel (much better than most of Emirates’ other aircraft J seats that I’ve experienced).

    When booking on BA I always pick the last rearward-facing window seat in J – which does have direct aisle access. With that, I quite like the privacy of the current J product. But it (and the soft product) is clearly way, way behind the best-in-class: I no longer fly BA from London to any eastward destinations, and pretty much all my business on those routes now goes to Qatar (and occasionally one of the other ME3 or JAL).

    Like Martin, there are other factors at play here. BA will never be the avgeeks’ favourite (though I do find the levels of poisonous vitriol from some keyboard warriors a bit startling). For those of us who fly for business and are based in the UK, BA is often a solid compromise: the sheer volume of non-stop flights it offers is pretty unbeatable (23 US destinations non-stop from London, whereas not one of the US3 offers more than 8 US non-stop destinations); it is usually cheaper than most of the alternatives; and the new catering and bedding now on some routes are decent enough. I’m OWE, and the First Wing at LHR also makes a huge difference to the quality of the departures experience.

    Let’s not forget – some of those much-lauded airlines that some avgeeks worship still have planes in their longhaul fleets with angled seats. American’s best is better than BA; American’s worst is much, much worse.

  10. @The nice Paul – voice of reason as per usual.

    I’m right off BA at present for reasons I won’t bore with – but yes my God do they take a battering on here. And yet they still make money….how, I do usually ask myself.

  11. Tough problem for BA: they’re already using reverse herringbone business class seats — they just have them in F. I got on a BA 777 a few days ago and was confused for a moment walking back through the F cabin to my CW seat, since BA F looks so much like AA Business.

  12. The problem with BA is that they run on the Moro of ‘if it isn’t broke don’t fix it’
    Because of their good routes and reputation they’re able to continue to get good load factors and unlike the competition who usually update just to keep fresh regardless of load factors BA will only update if they’re struggling.

    Sadly with Mr Cruz in charge BA will continue to behave like a low cost carrier cutting everything they can despite running at profit.

  13. Definitely an improvement for BA.

    Though I think the Apex seats would make a better choice, since you can still cram in more seats (with a 2-2-2 or even 2-3-2 set-up) but everyone still gets aisle access and some decent privacy.

  14. You know besides EK biz AF has a pretty good business cabin, while it is the French never the less we have always enjoyed flights on AF. Have not flown Turkish but a half dozen EK R/T and that’s a pretty good product while many think it’s getting stale and I agree until you go back to BA, years ago when I was in the front end of the business there was a saying BOAC makes the Boeing Late!

  15. “You know besides EK biz AF has a pretty good business cabin”

    It depends which plane you are flying…

  16. British Airways should be classed as an ultra budget carrier. It’s not worth your time covering anymore than the coverage you give Ryanair and EasyJet, which is none.

  17. Shitish Airways could have kept the current one and moved the seats (and foot rests) a foot or so, so everyone could have direct aisle access. BA is an embarassment to our country

  18. N, how do you think we feel about some of ours over here? I have not flown US metal internationally for 10 years. I’ll trade you UA for BA and a draft choice

  19. I actually find BA first class pretty good product for the amount of miles I use. I get yearly free companion ticket which allows me to get two first class seats for around 170k miles from US to Western Europe plus $2300 in taxes. I think that’s a pretty good deal for the product. If I can get AF for the same price, I would definitely jump on it except you need to be an elite member of SkyTeam plus a lot more miles. If there is ME3 fly from US to Europe without stopping by ME first, I’m game too (and oh yeah, at the same number of miles and taxes for two tickets). Anyone know where I can spend similar amount of miles and money and get better product from US to Western Europe? TIA.

  20. BA has the worst Business class of all time And it’s First class is subpar of any respectable airline Business class product.

  21. @Evan asks, “And yet they still make money….how, I do usually ask myself.”

    I think the answer is simple: a) their dominance at LHR, and anyone going to the UK is *probably* going to Heathrow, or through LHR and onto the Continent; b) and in terms of long haul, they have much of the UK population at their mercy.

    Unfortunately, the ludicrous fuel surcharges leave BA (and VS) out of the question for many people, including myself — especially when there’s Iberia, AirFrance/KLM and others . . .

  22. BA has decent First Class on it’s antiquated 747-400 on the PHX-LHR route but the Biz Class seating is beyond atrocious!!!!! Which imbecile at BA thought that flying backwards in a window seat was a good idea? I guess the same imbecile that thought that adjacent back-to-front seating was a good idea. Or that a storage locker for small personal items like wallet, glasses, etc, was not needed on a ten hour flight. This is what happens when you have no competition (it is the only non-stop operator from PHX to Europe).

  23. This is a great decision if it’s true. I hope the fact they’re taking an off the shelf product means they will be able to implement this within a reasonable timeframe because that will be key.

    We all know BA’s business class needs real improvement in the hard product. However, regardless of all the extreme haters out there, it is not at the “worst businesss class of all time”. The seats now are substantially better than Emirates 777 seating, better than United, and arguably equal to Delta, Lufthansa, much of the AF fleet. American inched past them recently on hard product but not on soft.

    BA has already started implementing improvements to the soft product. If they can get their act together and start introducing this hard product reasonably soon (next few years across the fleet – please don’t pull a United) they would become extremely competitive to all the airlines I just mentioned above, which is all they care about. Bear in mind Lufthansa’s new hard product won’t realistically be introduced widely for perhaps 5 years…

  24. Anything but the terrible seats they have right now. Actually, they aren’t awful, except for they can be very hot, and it’s such a hassle stepping over someone’s feet, especially when there is the odd moment when a passenger is very difficult in creating a barrier with their legs. I’ve had that before. But the configuration that Emirates uses is excellent.

  25. @ Mark “I will never understand the negativity towards the BA product; I like having my legs unencumbered.”

    Me too. which raises the question why BA is too cheap to offer a decent bed length. I’m not freakish tall and yet can lie in my lie-flat seat. Head and feet are against the wall and the knees are still up in the air. Not everybody is as tiny as Senor Cruz Penny Pincher.

  26. @ Jesse Franklin
    “BA has the worst Business class of all time”

    Have you ever even been on a plane? Or have you recently suffered a heavy blow to the head? You should probably get that checked out.

  27. This would not be BA’s first try at staggered seating. For some time BA was flying planes it took over from BMI (if I am not mistaken) which had a 1-2-1 business class staggered seating. The planes were allocated to the LHR-TLV route and provided (at the time) the only decent business class seating between Tel Aviv and Europe. All this means is that BA does have experience with these type of seats.

  28. Omg…I will be retired (that should be in 20 years or so) before BA finally has a decent BC.
    As a BA Gold Membe, I just avoid them as much as possible. I fly Iberia, Finnair or Qatar where possible…

  29. FFF

    The problem there is obvious. In each of those examples, you have to change planes somewhere whereas on BA you do not. So while your BA experience may be inferior, when you factor in changing planes in Doha in the middle of the night to get to somewhere that BA flies to non-stop, you arrive in a worst state of mind.

    And as BA Gold you can use FirstWing and the First lounge, which makes Heathrow a LOT more tolerable.

    Oh, and of those three airlines only Qatar as a First Class – neither Iberia nor FinnAir do. As a BA Gold buying CW tickets, you will get upgraded to First a good few times per year in average

  30. Thanks Martin…but I am Belgian so flying from Brussels usually. So I’d rather have 2 superior BC experiences with QR and a night transfer at Doha instead of BA. With regard to the lounge: I used to be a big(ger) fan ….it is getting dorty and overcrowded there..but still good.
    Hey….what you think of Doha lounges ? In my view: great but at the same time the coldest and least cosy worldwide…

  31. @ Martin..I forgot to mention: I NEVER received any upgrade to FC during those Gold years..quite the opposite: I have vouchers expiring all the time because no seats for upgrade available on FC.

  32. FFF,

    Sure, if you are not in the UK then that’s different. Heck, even folks in Birmingham or Manchester will use a non-BA airline rather than deal with Heathrow. But there are enough people going to or from London to fill BA CW, so what is their incentive to reduce the number of seats in CW? Their load factors are good as is.

    Although I am curious how you got BA Gold if you never fly BA – you need 4 flights a year in BA metal as well as 1,500 tier points.

    Regarding upgrades, I only recently got BA Gold so just assumed that happens. But even as BA Silver I’ve been upgraded a few times, from Economy to CW or from CW to First.

  33. Hi Martin
    I do fly BA occasionally, but less and less. But I was indeed wondering how I could retain my Gold Status: I recall now that e.g. I took a BA flight to Tokyo operated by JAL (much better than BA in BC) and the return flight was in FC, slighter cheaper than BC…BA has such offers from time to time. Iberia has nice new BC seats on flights to Latin America.
    It could also be that for non-UK residents one needs less qualifying miles than UK residents ? Not sure, I should look that up… Air France/KLM has this ‘favor’ , it is easier for non French/non Dutch residents to obtain a certain Tier (less mliles needed), so not that hard to obtain Platinum for a Belgian 😉

  34. @FFF

    You earn BA tier points by flying on BA or *any* of its partners.

    You can plan trips to maximise points; for example, direct LHR-Japan on BA’s cheapest biz ticket as a Gold member will get you 160 tier points. Do the same trip on Qatar via Doha, and it will get you 280 tier points.

  35. We travel BA BC from LHR to SYD with two young children and to ensure that we get seats in E and F so that we can feed them the rather inferior food supplied, we have to pay £85 per seat extra as we are Bronze and can only reserve seats 7 days before the flight which could well be too late to guarantee these.
    I had an extended game of emails with customer services which changed nothing and on check in questioned their policy with the comment that seat allocations would try to give us seats with our children but they could just be A and B, D and E, F and G or I and J. Can you imagine how much food would finish up on the floor!! So we have a £85 per seat surcharge to guarantee that we can care for our children.
    I did read recently that a review has just been started to examine airlines policies regarding family seating and charges made. They should start with BA and leave Ryanair till later.

  36. Interesting article. I am probably on my own here but I actually like the current seats. I fly business class quite a bit and have been on: Qatar (not the Q suite), American, Finair, Cathay, Latam and Qantas. To be honest my favourite experience was on Qantas in what is now an old product but the seats were extremely comfortable. Personally I find having my feet a little box to be quite claustrophobic, I am 5ft 10 and on most carriers anyone taller than me would struggle.

    I have not flown on Emirates as I have One World Emerald status. I welcome a new seat I just hope its comfortable.

    I really don’t get it!
    And don’t tell me about service! The main thing on a 10 hours flight is NOT the service BUT THE COMFORT AND THE SPACE OF THE CABIN!
    Try IBERIA’s Business large 24 inches seats parallel to the plane (and not backwards like BA’s window seats!!!)

  38. Whoever designed BA current business seats or whoever in BA approved the idea are just total idiots who prolly never flown business before? How retard can they be? I will never spend that money on BA while i can enjoy way better business seats in their competitors. They should be called BS business!

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