British Airways’ New Business Class Seat: Updated Timeline & Details

British Airways has been making some improvements to their Club World product lately, which is what they call their longhaul international business class. I recently wrote about my experience with their new bedding, amenity kits, and catering, and I was extremely impressed (especially given my previous experiences with the airline).


Excellent new British Airways Club World catering

However, the biggest transformation that will happen with British Airways business class is that they’re finally going to be introducing a new Club World seat.

Yesterday IAG (the parent company of British Airways) had their Capital Markets Day presentation, which contained some interesting information about the new seat. There’s nothing here that wasn’t really known before, but rather it’s interesting to hear more of the same closer to the anticipated implementation date.

When will British Airways introduce their new business class seat?

British Airways’ new business class seat will be introduced on the A350, which is expected to arrive 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. That means in over a year only six planes will feature the new seats. Ouch.

British Airways says that rollout will accelerate starting in 2020, and the entire longhaul fleet should feature the new seats by 2023, five years from now. Optimistically I was hoping it would be faster than that, though being realistic most major airlines seem to take 4-5 years to install a new business class seat across the fleet.

It’s also interesting to note that British Airways’ newly delivered A350s won’t feature first class. As a point of comparison, British Airways’ 787-9s feature first class, while their 787-8s don’t.


British Airways’ 787-9 first class

What should we expect from British Airways’ new business class seat?

British Airways is still keeping the details of the new seat private, but there are some general hints. The new business class seat will:

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

At this point it’s anyone’s guess what the new seat will be like. We still don’t know for sure whether British Airways is introducing a true custom seat, or if they’ll simply slightly modify an existing popular model of seat out there.

I think the only real “clue” here is that they say they’ll feature gate-to-gate entertainment, which suggests that it will be a type of seat that doesn’t require folding away the TV screen during taxi and takeoff (which needs to be done with British Airways’ current business class seat).

I doubt we’ll see them introduce a revolutionary business class product, but as long as they finally introduce something that’s a bit competitive, I’d be happy.


British Airways’ 777-300ER business class

My one hope is that they don’t just install the current Iberia business class seat, which is a staggered configuration, and which technically meets what they’ve been promising. I could totally see them doing this, though that would be really disappointing, since it’s not a great seat, and far from cutting edge.


Iberia’s A340 business class

Bottom line

The first plane with British Airways’ new business class will be in service in July 2019, so I suspect we’re just a few months from the seat being revealed. Unfortunately expect the rollout to be very slow — by the end of next year only six planes will feature the new seats, and it’ll be 2023 before the entire longhaul fleet has these seats (and I imagine even that could be delayed further).

What are you expecting from British Airways’ new business class?

(Tip of the hat to Head for Points)

Comments

  1. Lol… “Be larger…” Well duh! The current one is barely sligthly larger then an economy seat… Most other airlines have bigger seats in their premium economy, even if it isn’t lie flat or anything extra.

  2. British Airways just needs to turn all their backwards seats around (and do a few touch-ups) and they have a functioning Apex Suite. I’m really hoping they go for an Apex Suite, even if their version ends up being narrower like JAL’s 2-3-2 version (that would still be a significant improvement over the dismal version they have now). That said, I don’t think it’s likely they’ll go with that.

  3. @ Carlos

    It would be fantastically useful if you could list all those airlines whose P/E seats were bigger. I’m sure many of us would be grateful to learn that and we could save money too! Though it’s disappointing that none of them are lie-flat beds … er. What was the point of your comment?

    Or, in future, under every post about them you could just write “I have an irrational hatred of BA”, and it would save everyone time.

    There were rumours a while back that BA was simply going to copy Emirates’ A380 J class seat, rather than custom-design something. Which would be good enough as far as I’m concerned. Even if I wish they’d copy their part-owner’s Qsuites but, unfortunately, that’s just a dream.

  4. I think they’d probably go for the United Polaris style seat as currently BA have 32 club world seats between doors 1 and 2 on they’re 777-200s and United also have 32 Polaris seats on they’re retrofitted 777-200s between doors 1 and 2, in addition, this configuration can also accommodate gate to gate entertainment.

  5. I am amazed that BA can not get it right when it comes to seats. I was totally underwhelmed with the 787 First seats which to me was the most uncomfortable seat out there let alone the biz seat.

    The good old 747 is till flying with decent first and biz seats so when flying BA I opt for 747 flights. AF has better seating of the European flags.

  6. “Grow seat count via competitive configuration” – I love how they word “we’re going to cram you poor sods even worse than before with less pitch and width”.

  7. Hey Lucky,

    Assuming they go with an existing seat – If you had to hazard a guess, which seat type do you think they’ll go with? 🙂

  8. I imagine they would go for the Iberia product given that IAG has been big on leveraging economies of scale.

  9. Hey Lucky,

    Where did you read that the A350s won’t have first class? I cannot find that anywhere :-/

  10. I don’t get the hate for BA Club World on these fora. Yes, it’s far from perfect and I myself have many gripes with BA, but AF still has angled beds in their business class on a good number of their fleet (A380, for example) yet they don’t get half the venom BA gets. And more importantly, BA is at least consistent. No what which aircraft you’re on you’ll get the same Club World seat (by and large). That applies to very few airlines.

  11. @ The nice Paul – A lot, actually – British Airways has 2-4-2 on their 777 with dividers and everything, which decreases the average seat width. Meanwhile a lot of airlines have 2-4-2 in premium economy on their 777 with no dividers and whatnot. More comfortable – no, but I’ve definitely seen bigger seats in premium economy.

  12. In its backbone, how is the Emirates seat any different to Iberia’s? Other than the tackiness?

    The only hope is that, BA does like to be seen as the superior product in the IAG family and might hopefully try to differentiate from Iberia. I don’t have high hopes, but then again, I quite like the Iberia seat. We know it’s never going to be an enclosed suite or have a closing door because of CAA regulations!

  13. @Airways and Travels

    The HeadforPoints blog mentioned the lack of A350 First was in the oral discussions not the presentation. “There was one interesting titbit in the discussion afterwards – that the A350 fleet to be delivered from next year will not have First Class.”

  14. @philco interesting. Then this aircraft won’t be deployed in premium routes e.g. SFO/LAX/JFK/ORD/DFW/NRT/HKG/SYD/DXB for sure. I know long term plans are to consolidate first class offerings, which makes sense.

  15. 5 years…so by the time they are finished, even if they manage to meet that schedule, their J cabin will be outdated once again. 😉

  16. @ Alvin

    But the configuration doesn’t tell all the story: because BA alternates forward and rearward facing seats, it means the individual seat is wider at the shoulders, where it matters, and narrower at the feet (yet, in BA’s case, there is vastly more footroom than many reverse herringbone and staggered formations I’ve flown).

    You seem to dislike rearward facing seats, whereas I prefer them (statistically they’re also much more survivable if your plane crashes!).

    @ Robert Hanson

    Well now, I know you hate BA, but there are still allegedly good airlines flying long haul routes with angled J seats (American only got rid of its last ones earlier this year – decades after BA had a long haul fleet fitted entirely with lay-flat beds. Doesn’t KLM *still* have angled Js? And Lucky’s much-praised (for 1st) Air France?).

    As someone else posted, consistency and certainty are important factors – or at least, they are for me. A brand should make it clear what you’re getting (which is why Virgin’s decision not to retrofit its fleet with the new seats is dumb).

  17. I’m excited! I didn’t love my last flight from LHR to JFK so would like to be impressed this next trip 🙂

  18. Just flew four legs on Iberia Business Class long hauls. I thought the seat was absolutely fine with one glaring exception – NO storage! I found that hard to fathom but the seat itself was fine for sitting, reclining and sleeping. What’s your issue? From BA’s aspect, just giving direct aisle access, which means four seats across instead of eight, would mean just about ANY seat would make people happy.

  19. Its interesting to note that while they have one of the worst fully flat products they actually hold the most profitable route in the world which shows (from a business perspective) that they’re new product doesn’t really have to be anything special or improved if that.

  20. For all the criticism Club World gets, the market share BA commands tells a different story! Especially in markets where people have options!

    Other than solo travellers, the product actually has quite the fan base, and people certainly vote with their wallets! Even when it comes to expensive award resemptions.

    While people are happy to fly BA’s product, although in some cases it’s simply because of the network rather than the product, BA has no need to change! They will get away with everything they can get away with!

    And while not my favourite product, I will actually miss the current Club World if/when it disappears. I like the configuration when travelling with someone, especially on the 747 Upper Deck!

  21. @ The Nice Paul

    LOL.

    1) I do not have those feelings against BA that you claim I have in your post. In the same spirit of your reply on my post, I give you back the suggestion that you should replace all your future posts regarding BA with “I love BA so much that you better not dare have an opinion different from mine or I will be very very very very upset and give you a trollish reply!”

    2) I have flown 20+ different airlines in business class and /or premium economy. Based on my experiences IMO BA:s seat in club world was by far the smallest and worst in the widebody long-distance flights category. Air France, SAS, Virgin Australia and Cathay Pacific are four airlines on the top of my head that gave me a better onboard experience in premium economy then BA did in Club World. I actually prefer BA:s intra european flights, at least the empty seat next to you in club europe makes it feel a little bit more roomy.

    3) The point of my post was that the seat is so narrow that it is barely sligthly larger then an economy seat. If they didn’t make it bigger (as they pointed out that they are going to), it would mean it would still be barely sligthly larger then an economy seat. Or they perhaps decide to shrink it to be the same size as their economy seat? Anyway, that is what I found so funny. In order for BA to expect their customers to be loyal and keep paying those hefty prices for a seat that IMO isn’t even mediocre, they probably expect their loyal customers to be retar… Oh wait. Never mind.

  22. They’re not talking about a new F seat, so don’t hold your breath for reverse herringbone in Club. The only way to differentiate the shoddy F hard product on BA is to have a shoddier hard product in Club. My money is on the Iberia seat.

  23. There is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY they will install the Iberia seat. Iberia is using the Solstys seat on the A330/340 family which optimises the floor space. British Airways, however, has a majority of 777 and 747 aircraft in their fleet. For those types, the Iberia seat (Solstys) would be a huge waste. At the moment, British Airways carries 32 passengers in the front-section of their 3-class 777-200 aircraft (without First Class). Alitalia, which has an identical seat to Iberia, carries only 20 passengers in the same area. That would be a death sentence for British Airways, especially as Qatar Airways even carries 24 passengers in their 777-200LR front section with QSuites! Therefore: highly unlikely that Solstys will be the seat of choice.

    I also contend it will be more UA Polaris-like.

  24. @Carlos

    The Nice Paul is the furthest thing from a troll you can find and always measured in his comments. IMO you are just plain wrong in your wider contention that so many PE products are better than Club World. Which one of them is lie-flat?…Oh wait…..

    It will be a great relief when BA does change its J product – if for no other reason than so much commentary on blogs is taken up in moaning about it.

  25. @Carlos — I second other comments. You’re just wrong. BA J is not tight, especially around the feet! Yes Cathay service is out of this world, but so are their prices! Even more than BA!

  26. Yeah! I do remember well when BA introduced the new Club World, back in 2006 , I was very involved with the Catering Operation in the USA. I was a great product, however back then I was still preferred the older business class seat, it had a very oriental style, brings to my mind HK, Sin, Bkk.
    As far as I remember did not take that long to retrofit all the planes with the new seats and new configuration including premium economy one of the most comfortable seats into class.
    Despite the competition, BA still have a big chunk of the transatlantic routes, the most profitable business. they know well what to do. Moreover despite the outdated product, passenger load factor is always high. $$$$$$

  27. What is the most dense configuration with all-aisle access? It will probably be that. I was surprised to see apex appears pretty dense viewed from SeatGuru, but I’m not sure if that’s representative.

  28. Pretty much anything they do to their J seats will be a big improvement over the horrible product they have now. Though I wouldn’t expect much since they will still need to maintain sufficient differentiation from their F seats…which itself is inferior to some of the J products out there.

  29. So will this mean no stepping over a stranger or being the one being stepped over by a stranger when you’re trying to sleep? I refuse to fly BA Club World for that reason.

  30. If they use an existing seat, they would probably use the staggered seat (used by airlines like ANA, Emirates, etc.) Or the seat that United and El Al use. I doubt they would use a reverse herringbone seat though many of their fellow oneworld parters use it so it’s a possibility.

  31. Given that Qatar Airways is their biggest owner (shareholder) we could see some variation of the Q Suites.

    I’m hoping for sth spectacular like club world seat was when they introduced it.

  32. @ Morgan

    Apparently BA has given up on designing its own unique seat (what you posted was a development of that), and instead will be modifying something “off the shelf”. We’ve had conflicting messages from BA over the last year or so, so none of us really knows. Until they started their recent investment in the J soft product I would have said they’d go for something as cheap and high-density as possible. But now I’m not so sure.

    Though I’d be staggered if they went for something Qsuite-y – most of BA’s profitable J business is on medium-haul TATL routes between business centres (especially NYLON). So they need something that primarily works in that 6, 7 hour market, while their ULH routes (SCL, EZE, at 14, 15 hours) will just have to make do.

    They did talk a while ago about some shorter routes requiring planes optimized for them, while ULH routes required something different. I am not sure how much that was just spitballing rather than a reflection of their developing purchasing strategy (and I always assume a lot of those public comments are just part of a negotiating strategy with the manufacturers to reduce purchase prices).

    But BA’s history is all about product consistency – more than pretty much any other legacy carrier in the world, and for better or worse, BA has an absolutely consistent hard product across the long-haul fleet. For me, that is such an important part of the brand.

    We all get dazzled by shiny new products; but what matters is knowing what to expect when you purchase.

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