Why British Airways Is In No Hurry To Improve Club World

Filed Under: British Airways

As I mentioned previously, over the coming days and weeks you’ll see the occasional post from a fellow reader who has applied to write for OMAAT on an ongoing basis. It’s possible that posts will still be in the publication queue after we’ve announced our decision, so we’ll be publishing these anonymously. We hope you enjoy the different perspectives!

British Airways was the first airline to introduce fully-flat seats in business class, back in 2000. 18 years ago it was considered revolutionary for a ‘non first class’ to allow passengers to lie down completely flat on an aircraft.

Since then, industry innovations in business class soft and hard products now mean fully-flat seats with plenty of storage and privacy, all-aisle access, luxury bedding, and dine-on-demand have become the norm, not the exception, leaving British Airways in their wake.

There’s probably no other major fully-flat business class seat (and overall product) that is criticized as much as British Airways’ Club World.

The perfect way to get to know complete strangers

Ben (and others) have reviewed it several times and noted its short-comings:

  • the dense, narrow 2-4-2 configuration
  • staring directly at a complete stranger inches away from your face for take-off, meal-service and landing
  • charging full-fare passengers for seat assignments in business class
  • substandard lounges
  • grumpy and frumpy staff
Not exactly restaurant quality!

While their competitors continue to improve and innovate, British Airways has only announced gradual and fairly minor changes, such as new bedding and food delivery. Most airlines could manage an improvement as minor as new bedding to all routes about as quickly as they could physically ship the stock to their outstations, yet British Airways can only manage to slowly drip-feed it route by route after months, if not years of planning and deliberation.

In 2019, British Airways promises to finally release a new Club World seat, which they can’t even guarantee will be any less dense that the current 2-4-2 arrangement, although they do finally assure all-aisle access.

So why does one of the world’s largest airlines persist with such an outdated, unpopular product while their competitors truly innovate? British Airways knows how noncompetitive their product is but here’s why British Airways doesn’t want to or need to change anything quickly.

British Airways holds the most valuable airport slots in the world

London is unlike any other city for aviation. It has six airports, two of these holding unique records for being the world’s busiest dual-runway airport (Heathrow) and the busiest single-runway airport (Gatwick).

This means slots are very limited, especially at Heathrow, which has always been considered the most premium airport in the UK. In 2016 Air France/KLM sold a single slot to Oman Air for $75 million. British Airways owns hundreds of daily slots. Until the third runway is ever built, which is likely to be decades away if it happens at all, this valuable position will not change.

While some regional and secondary airports have to entice carriers to fly there by waiving landing fees and coordinating marketing, Heathrow and Gatwick don’t need to do this because just about every long-haul airline in the world wants to (or already does) fly to London.

Similarly, British Airways doesn’t need to try to convince passengers to visit or transit their hub city like the “big three” Gulf carriers do, by offering class leading products, free transit hotels, or city tours.

Sleeping in the aisle

British Airways offers more direct flights to and from one of the world’s business capitals than any other airline

Holding so many slots allows British Airways to operate more flights to and from London than any other airline and this is enormously valuable for high-paying corporate passengers. Time is money in London and most corporate passengers would rather take a direct flight than waste time transferring to a better carrier with a better product. Especially for overnight flights from the US to London or from London to Asia, passengers would rather maximize sleep than transferring somewhere along the way.

This route map is also very compelling for London-based corporate accounts. British Airways is more likely to have a direct flight to more destinations corporate passengers fly than any other airline will.

It is just easier for these companies to negotiate bulk discounts with British Airways than spreading them across every airline that might fly a route.

No storage or privacy

BA planes are full and profitable

Passengers pay a premium for the convenience and consistency of having more direct flights to and from London than anyone else, even if the product is far from the best in the market.

Although there are occasionally discounted premium fares offered by BA, they are rarely ex-London and never to the extent we see airlines like Qatar deeply discount their (class-leading) product.


Because British Airways can fill their planes at a premium. Their fleet-wide load factor in 2017 was 81.8% which is impressive for an airline with substandard products at premium prices. British Airways made a net profit of almost £1.5 billion (more than US$2 billion). Their primary focus is maximizing profits for their shareholders first, then transporting passengers second.

Why urgently invest in your products when they’re already making these numbers?

Gourmet meals

British Airways customers are loyal, and rusted-on

I’m Australian but have been living in London for several years and one thing I’ve found uniquely British is that they LOVE to complain. Life in London is hardly idyllic – there’s plenty of opportunity but it’s a grind – gloomy weather, a grimy city, jammed packed with people. So it’s understandable British people aren’t brimming with joy.

I never hear anyone in London say anything positive about British Airways as they continue to make cut after cut after cut, especially to their short-haul economy product. Yet people continue to fly it repeatedly and complain and complain about how it gets ‘worse every year’.

There’s a certain nostalgia British people have for ‘BA’ where they remember the good old days where flying was glamorous and products and service luxurious and well thought-out.

Bottom line

British Airways knows. Of course they do.

They’re not stupid. They’ve known for a long time. They could announce 1-2-1 suites with sliding doors and dine-on demand tomorrow. But they’re not going to. They don’t need to. They hold a unique position in London and can easily and profitably fill their planes.

So why change?

  1. The product does suck, but I will say, the handful of BA flights I’ve taken with the new Do&Co catering had really delicious meals.

  2. It’s more than just London slots here. UA fills planes out of EWR with everyone’s favorite 8-across business class products while there are throngs of airlines offering better products and pricing on the same routes at JFK.

    I’d say it’s all about convenience. London could go unslotted tomorrow and BA would still command a premium because locals can fly them to most destinations without connecting as you rightfully mention.

  3. Hi I’m Jeff and I have an opinion about BA. But, apparently I’m not allowed to express it over at TPG, because a lot of people get bent out of shape about those expressing their opinions; especially when it comes to BA. No opinions here, simply a statement that I hope I never have to fly BA again. It’s a piece of crap (that’s a fact, not an opinion )

  4. Tiffany, You’ve been living in London for several years? I thought you were based in San Diego. I remember reading several posts where you talked about flying from there to LAX to meet up with Lucky or your husband for travel onward. Am I missing something?

  5. In case people missed the introduction at the top of the post, this was written by someone in the candidate pool, not by me:

    As I mentioned previously, over the coming days and weeks you’ll see the occasional post from a fellow reader who has applied to write for OMAAT on an ongoing basis. It’s possible that posts will still be in the publication queue after we’ve announced our decision, so we’ll be publishing these anonymously. We hope you enjoy the different perspectives!

  6. The article is spot on. The entire point of having a better business class is that the entire flight experience is better. And if I have to hang out at an airport in Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Paris, let alone Doha or Dubai, then the entire experience is worse because of the extra time, hassle, risk and so on.

    BA CW is as good as it needs to be. It’s the airlines with inconvenient schedules and/or that use inconvenient airports that have to try harder

    Oh, and if you are BA Silver or above, you choose your seat for free when you book. The policy is favorable for elites, who are of course the best customers

    Oh, and if you can use First Wing at T5, it makes Heathrow a joy to fly out of.

  7. Do BA has an extremely dense Biz seat with 2-4-2 and Qatar’s biz is quality leading? OK, am I the only persons seeing thst the new QSuites are 2-4-2, too? I don’t deny that Club World is outdated, and needs a renovation, but don’t talk it worse than it is.

  8. I would never even contemplate flying BA long haul, especially in J rather than FC. But I happily use Avios short haul in Europe to hop from place to place. Last Summer that was CDG-LHR-ARN. With a pretty decent Priority Lounge in LHR terminal 5 in between flights.

    6 across in short haul J, with the middle seat blocked, is far preferable to 8 across, sitting backwards facing a stranger, IMHO. And if the food is pathetic, no problem, since in an hour or two you’ll be off the plane and can get your choice of something much better.

  9. “it makes Heathrow a joy to fly out of”

    Oh, how I wish I lived in that universe. 😉

  10. A weird mix of personal views and fact-ettes, some of which were just plain wrong (eg, “staring directly at a complete stranger inches away from your face for take-off, meal-service and landing”; not so. The divider must be down only for the safety briefing and can be up for takeoff and landing – and, if you’re in the last seat before the bulkhead, it can even be up during meal service!).

    “grumpy and grumpy” F/As is a ridiculous generalisation – like, say, “all Australians have poor writing skills”. Some do, some don’t.

    It might have been worth mentioning that every single BA long haul plane has flat beds – and has had them for years – while many of its rivals *still* operate some long haul planes with angled seats (American? KLM?).

    The point about direct flights is well made though: BA flies direct to 23 US cities. The US3 operate to just 8 US cities from London.

    Sorry, but this job application wouldn’t have impressed me…

  11. Good post. And the writer is spot on about BA and why it won’t change. I have suffered in that horrible aisle Club World seat more times that I want to remember. It is like sleeping on a bus station bench.

  12. Chilangoflyer : you’re not alone! I’d argue that the biggest innovation in seat design is getting away with calling 2-4-2 at an angle or alternating as 1-2-1.

  13. Tom,

    Mumbai has only one operational runway. The two runways intersect each other, and therefore only one is operational at a time. Hence, Mumbai is considered a single runway airport as it does not operate two runways at a time. Mumbai also holds the record for handling most flights a day by a single runway airport – at 980 flights.

    One interesting thing to note is Mumbai is busier than Gatwick, but it operates 24 hours a day whereas Gatwick has a time curfew. Gatwick could assumedly surpass Mumbai without the curfew

  14. I was the header, stating that the article was written by a guest from the reader pool.


    Why don’t you credit the writer?

  15. I agree with all this about BA. But, do not forget the benefits of being a frequent traveler with BA. Airlines like United, American, Delta, and now Flying Blue and Miles and More all calculate tier status with a wide variety of factors. With BA, you can get silver status (or oneworld sapphire status) with literally 4 roundtrip business class short haul flights.

    For example, you can fly from London to Tallinn in business class round trip on BA for ~$300 and earn 160 tier points for each round trip. After 4 of those you would be silver for at least a year. Compare that to American, which requires 50,000 miles and $6,000 of spend for platinum status (not even counting the fact that AA does not let its own sapphire elites into Flagship Lounges and AA award availability is never there)

  16. Sigh. Another anti-BA article. Hoping the other new OMAAT bloggers will pick a more original topic. I’d take the BA CW seat in a heartbeat over an ancient UA 777 with the 242 configuration. And a professional BA crew, catering and no tiny box to stick your feet in. And London is a fantastic city to live in and travel from. Hoping Tiffany and Ben will pick a less jaded colleague to work with.

  17. @John LGW only operate one runway each time due to runway separation

    If asking for busiest single runway airport it should be SAW(30mpa in 2017)

  18. This is a well-written article, but “BA Sucks” is a pretty easy swing… and it doesn’t offer a particularly unique voice either. Let me guess, next is an article about how the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great credit card, followed by a review of Emirates first class? If OMAAT is broadening to include new voices, I’d be more interested in reading posts from someone willing to go out on a limb about how BA Club World is amazing.

  19. I would give this author a 7/10 based on this article compared to how Ben would write it. It was interesting content, though the article was in no way engaging and left me scrolling toward the end of it.

  20. @Tom: But why fly BA from London. To the East, there are JL, QR, CX, QF. To the West, there’s AA which has a significantly better hard product. Factor in the great Star Alliance airlines flying out of London (SQ, NH, etc.) and there are tremendous alternatives to BA.

  21. One exception, the window seat is superb! It faces rearward. It is like a private cabin.

    Another possible exception is also the aisle seats, if you like wide open spaces.

  22. Erm enjoyed aspects of this article. But couldn’t really identify how tongue in cheek the British-love-complaining generalisation was. Some parts of this writing seemed a bit lacklustre for this blog IMO.

  23. I’ve always characterized all British “luxury” as having a component of ingrained misery.
    One look at British food, sartorial sense, automotive design/reliability, or stay in a classic London flat, will demonstrate that the proof is in the Yorkshire pudding.
    With nice things must come some guilt, in their minds.
    Of course with BA, there appears to be neither.

  24. Wow, how original another BA-bashing article, and one that mixes in some strange, gratuitous personal views that I wouldn’t agree with at all… Life in London has its challenges as with any big city but I wouldn’t call it a “grimy” city that leaves people joyless.

    Lucky has written repeatedly about how BA’s dominance at Heathrow means they don’t have to compete on their hard product as much and we ALL know his views on the BA J product.

    If you are going to expand your team can you please offer a new persepective? You could have done so much more with an article on BA. Why not get someone who has any real understanding of how the airline works to write more about what we know of their thinking on the new J seats? Or why they often seem to struggle with cabin cleaning more than other airlines?

    Sorry but this was not an original or interesting read.

  25. Disappointing article. Why have a kick at the character of the British? A nation of complainers who live miserable lives? I am no fan of BA and as such I avoid flying with them but I must say that the impact of this article was diluted by the unwarranted xenophobia. You may wish to reflect on your writing style and the potential offence that you can have on your international readership.

  26. It’s funny people think the author is a BA hater.

    Sounds more like a BA lover with an investor pitch deck.

    Or for Brits to understand.
    Rubbish airline wants to shag you in the loo and make you pay extra quids for the wankers nearby.

  27. Just to pick up on some misleading or incorrect information in this article:

    “- the dense, narrow 2-4-2 configuration”

    It is only considered 2-4-2 because the seats are in a yin-yang configuration – in fact the density is not much different from the reverse herringbone or interleaved forward-facing business seats of most other airlines, which are considered as 1-2-1.

    “- staring directly at a complete stranger inches away from your face for take-off, meal-service and landing”

    The privacy screen *only* needs to be down for the safety briefing (and for landing on the A380).

    “- charging full-fare passengers for seat assignments in business class”

    Seat selection is free for all passengers on a fully flexible (i.e. full-fare) business class ticket.

    “- substandard lounges”

    Subjective opinion – some BA operated lounges are better than others, and at LHR can often be ovecrowded, but are still better than most airline lounges – only lounges operated by ME3, CX, SG (and some by QF) are consistently better.

    ” – grumpy and frumpy staff”

    OK – I’ll give you that one, sometimes!

    So no one says anything positive about BA? I live near London. They fly direct to the places I want or need to visit. It is cheaper and quicker to earn status in the BAEC than most other frequent flyer schemes, even when flying out of London (not ex-EU). Earning opportunities for Avios in the UK are greater than for any other scheme.

    The author of this article does make many valid points, including the main one that BA continues with the current seat simply because they can – but it sounds like it’s written by someone who is obliged to fly BA a lot because of a corporate policy – or who flies to destinations that are only served direct by BA, and wishes the service was better, because it’s less convenient or more expensive to fly one-stop on a better airline.

  28. “There’s probably no other major fully-flat business class seat (and overall product) that is criticized as much as British Airways’ Club World.”

    On here perhaps…

    1) The dense, narrow 2-4-2 configuration
    Far from unique.

    2) Staring directly at a complete stranger inches away from your face for take-off, meal-service and landing.
    Close the screens as soon as wheels are off the ground. It isn’t hard – the button is right there.

    3) charging full-fare passengers for seat assignments in business class

    4) substandard lounges

    5)grumpy and frumpy staff
    I would take the worst BA crew I have ever encountered over most of the scraggy old sky hags that appear on many US carriers.

    “I never hear anyone in London say anything positive about British Airways”
    They are far from perfect, and in some cases utterly infuriating, but they aren’t United or Virgin. There you go – something positive.

    Not a particularly insightful or well written piece imho.. It also does nothing to veer away from the persistant BA bashing on this blog.
    Should fit right in.

  29. This was an excellent and useful article. It’s exactly the sort of piece that a seasoned traveler comes here for.

  30. Interesting angle, nice article. In general think more scope here at OMAAT to look at the business models of different airlines. BUT one key point missed out- why did BA feel that innovation pressure in the late 90’s to introduce world’s first flat beds etc? All the factors author describes were already in place then (corporate demand, restricted valuable Heathrow slots etc.)

  31. “Although there are occasionally discounted premium fares offered by BA, they are rarely ex-London”. Oh the irony. Yesterday there was a flash sale offering J fares to many USA cities for around $2,000 R/T.

  32. I don’t think this articke is a spot on. For me it is more or less a summary of already known and of an author’s opinions. I would say more proofs and data would help become more reliable and bring something new.

  33. I can see why this candidate (an Australian living in London, sounds like s/he might travel for business) might offer a different perspective.

    Nonetheless, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the writing or the topic and found myself skimming.

    Personally, I am a little confused by this whole process of “test” posts with the possibility that the person might be chosen before all posts have been posted. I understand that the goal might be to test the person on the back end, not necessarily see how well the post performs among blog readers. But then why post at all (unless the goal is to get some revenue, which is fine, I guess)? Just feels weird. Honestly, it would be more helpful to readers if there were something in the posts about the unique perspective the contributor will provide, since that was ostensibly one of the primary reasons to bring someone else on.

    Anyways, just my two cents.

  34. London, a “grimy city” with joyless people? I am gobsmacked at this ludicrous assertion; it’s reminiscent of Trump’s apoplectic declaration that Meryl Streep is overrated.

  35. The core point being made in this piece that BA enjoys a protected position that allows them to field a J (and F) product that is sub-standard is a perfectly valid one – frankly, BA doesn’t care what OMAAT or any of the low value customers posting in the comments here (I’m including myself in this) thinks, all they really care about is what the corporates with a large enough TATL travel budget to impact the BA bottom line think (plus the odd influential celebrity).

    This aside, there’s a lot here that’s questionable and the whole tone of the piece is no different from the commentary we get from Lucky moaning about BA pretty much weekly (who bizarrely continues to book BA tickets seemingly just to have something to whine about). If you want more of the same, well done, you’ve found it.

  36. Basic point is sound, though hardly original. The London-and-UK-bashing could have been left out – my experiences in London, several other places in England, and a good swathe of Scotland have generally been positive. Sure, Londoners can be a bit stressed, but nothing like people in a Paris or Rome.

  37. Why would an Australia want to live in a grimy city like London? Jumped up so-and-so.

    For what it’s worth I sleep well in CW. Mainly because my feet are not in a tight cubbyhole. I flew in qsuites recently DOH-LHR and whilst a nice experience for a leisure flight I wouldn’t fancy it for a 10+ flight where I need to get some real sleep.

  38. I am a BA Gold Card holder who avoids BA as often as I can however even I agree BA has a number of benefits for example access to AA Flagship.

    However the article is highly offensive about British people being miserable and complainers. Are all Australians drunk crooks, coming over here to steal our bar jobs?

  39. Not going to comment on the points made about BA other than to say I generally agree but if London is so bad why do you live here?what’s the attraction? surely you’d be better off back in Australia where by the way I’ve heard moaning that could match anything I’ve ever heard in the UK topped off with outright racism. I won’t quote what another candidate said to me at a job interview in Sydney but I was shocked. I decided to stay at my job in grimy London.
    Go home and moan about Qantas

  40. Although there is a description at the top of the article that this is a guest blog, the pic at the end and caption make it sound like a Tiffany post. To give the guest bloggers more visibility I suggest a generic guest blogger pic and title rather than using Tiffany’s, Ben’s, or another author at OMAAT author icons.

  41. Nothing really new or exciting here. Everyone already knows this about BA. Why not share some new knowledge or a different view point.

  42. Bravo! Well written and spot on! I’m among those who will never fly BA again. So glad to avoid the outrageous surcharges, horrible food and overly dense Business Cabin not to mention the whole Heathrow circus.

  43. @ Potato

    “But why fly BA from London. To the East, there are JL, QR, CX, QF. To the West, there’s AA which has a significantly better hard product. Factor in the great Star Alliance airlines flying out of London (SQ, NH, etc.) and there are tremendous alternatives to BA.”

    Er … doesn’t it depend where you’re flying to?

    I mostly fly long haul and my employer pays J class for me, but doesn’t expect me to take circuitous routes – or ones which increase the chances of irrops leaving me stranded in the middle of nowhere.

    So, pray tell, what are these great alternative options for recent trips to Denver, San Francisco, Miami (please don’t say Chav Air / Virgin), Baltimore and Chicago?

    Going the other way, I almost never use BA now – QR gets most of my business, or sometimes JL.

    To Rio, São Paulo and Buenos Aires you have a better direct option than BA? To Montevideo where BA has no direct flight I’m partial to Iberia or Avianca and a change. But there are few business flights that BA doesn’t cover – and their frequency is another important factor.

  44. @ Dan

    “why did BA feel that innovation pressure in the late 90’s to introduce world’s first flat beds etc? All the factors author describes were already in place then (corporate demand, restricted valuable Heathrow slots etc.)”

    Post-WW2, air treaties only permitted U.K. and US to operate 2 airlines to each other’s countries. For years, PanAm and TWA were the US two. When they finally went down the toilet, having been well past their glory days for years, BA was facing the prospect of two much stronger airlines competing in that market: American and United. And that market was far and away it’s most profitable. BA decided to dramatically up its game – and it did. Club World was the result.

    Today, despite some people preferring the new hard product on some of American’s planes, for decades the soft product was vile. And United seems to give BA the gift of self-inflicted PR disasters on a weekly basis – while failing to roll-out Polaris hard product.

    Different times. BA can (currently) afford to be complacent.

  45. I regularly fly business from LHR and do everything I can to avoid BA. I haven’t flown every single route but of those I have flown, the only inferior one that I know of is the UA 4 across which I recently was glad to ditch for BA when given the chance.
    I do however end up flying BA against my will as the other airlines often fill up first and if you book with not enough notice, you’ll find that BA is the only one left at a price agreeable to your finance department.
    I also agree with the loyalty of Brits to BA. I’m Irish and so have no such loyalty, a year or two ago myself and a few colleagues flew LHR to Toronto. I jumped at the chance to try out the new Air Canada Dreamliner and had a great experience while every one of my colleagues went with BA without even thinking about alternatives. I can understand that though, if I were going ex-Dublin I would probably be loyal to Aer Lingus.

  46. The worst part about the long haul BA flights is lack of inflight WIFI. Requiring payment for premium class seat assignments is also ridiculous.

  47. Boring – Change the record. Jeez I hope you hire someone with a bit more imagination than this individual. As ground-breaking as “What I did in my Summer Vacation”…..Info may be correct but we have heard it all before. Why would you want an Australian living in London anyway? Generally this is a very anti-UK site.

  48. It’s minimum viable product, and they’re monetizing the crap out of it with a highly loyal / tolerant / captive customer base. While not customer friendly, it’s commercially very smart from a product lifecycle management perspective.

  49. I chuckle at the people in the comments saying “Oh, another BA hater”… does anyone think that BA should be applauded? Their product is crappy and it’s expensive to fly. I thought the author did a good job of mixing information and their own personal thoughts, quarks, and humor.

    Especially for a first article, this was impressive. Good work.

  50. It would be great to have a writer based somewhere other than North America for a different perspective and some unique info.
    There are lots of frequent flyer programs and hotels chains that could be covered as good as the major ones here in Omaat.

  51. The writer forgot to mention BA’s instant drop in on-board service as soon as they hear an Australian accent.

  52. As much as everyone hates BA I have a soft spot having travelled for years from North America to Dubai/Abu Dhabi. When Club World first came out with beds they were wonderful, especially on the upper deck of a 747. Luckily over the years I have never had to ride on the main deck. I keep thinking that I should try them again for nostalgic reasons but the huge taxes at LHR and BA’s YQ always make me reconsider.

    Other airlines are touted as being better – but at the end of the day I have been more disappointed than enthused with the likes of EVA and Qatar. Esp Qatar where the food and beverages are definitely sub standard.

    Recently had a surprisingly good flight JNB-HKG where the staff and the food were excellent.

    Will be trying Qantas long haul later this year. No expectations other than the experience of some great short haul flights in the past. At the moment only in PE so really hope for an opportunity to upgrade. The return will be CX so I know what to expect – good soft product but crappy little footwells.

  53. The title should be: Why British Airways Club World won’t have significant improvement anytime soon

  54. There are some valid points here about slots, convenience, and so on. Yes, it’s dense in J and you face your seatmate briefly which can be weird. But I have always found the seat itself one of the most comfortable beds, plus I really like the rear-facing seat as a bed as I’m sleeping in the direction of travel. In BA J and F I’ve consistently had decent service by efficient and personable crew, who you can always have a good chat with.

    Yes BA has an outdated product and and old fleet. But what never gets mentioned is the quality of the flight deck. I feel extremely safe in BA pilots’ hands and have had this demonstrated personally during a safety incident which was handled brilliantly. I trust them and feel safe with them and choose them for this reason. I’m not saying other airlines aren’t safe, but I feel that BA pilots are their no. 1 asset which never gets a mention.

  55. I didn’t find it overly critical and I was very interested by the headline because I also often wonder “why don’t they improve” if all the feedback is negative. So didn’t think the article was same old BA bashing. As an Aussie based in the USA I’m always astounded why Aussies cling to qantas in the same way!

  56. This is a great article! Thank you for adding a fresh perspective to why British Airways is so terrible. I think your argument is logical. You have informed me! It’s a complete joke that a third/fourth/fifth runway hasn’t been built at Heathrow. The government is resting on its laurels.

    I do find it funny however, especially as a Brit, how so many Australians live in London yet constantly refer to the weather, the grime, the crowds…*slight eye-roll there*. The whole premise of your great article is that BA can get away with a terrible product. The reason they get away with a terrible product is because London is probably the greatest city in the world, and everyone wants to be there/fly from there/transit there. That’s probably why you’re living there.

  57. What is the point of this post? Don’t we already know these points ? Clearly not a Ben article – did not even have to read the byline to guess that. Tiffany should we expect your articles ( or ones that you chose from others etc) to always be aggravating?

  58. John

    Mumbai has 2 runways and Gatwick only has one. The fact that Mumbai;s two runways intersect does reduce capacity to some extent but, even so, there is far greater capacity than only having one runway

    My local airport is SFO. It has 4 runways, and each pair intersects with the other pair. Even so, that is way better than only having two.

    LGW is the busiest genuine one-runway airport on the planet, sans noce

  59. This article is well written but … might I say it kind of states the obvious? The way I see it, because of its location as the centre of the universe (as Londoners like to think), BA benefits from these customer preference inequalities:

    Average Biz + nonstop > Good biz + connection


    Average Biz + co branded credit card/and/or brand awareness/inertia + nonstop > Excellent biz on other nonstop airline > Excellent biz on connecting airline

  60. I am emerald on One World and earn most of those AA miles on BA and American. A couple of observations from a 300,000 mile p.a. flyer.
    * BA staff is far more professional than the USA partner American
    * The BA lounges in Heathrow (first and Concorde) are very nice
    * Qatar is the best member of the One World Alliance in every aspect
    * The Business Class seats in BA are marginal ( I agree) but I can purchase or upgrade to First on BA for half of what Air France Charges from the USA to Dubai
    * Business in Qatar is almost as good as BA first but with the Embargo in effect Qatar is no longer an option
    * I love beautiful Middle Aged French Woman that are Air France Flight Attendants versus the frumpy BA attendants… but this is difficult to attach a quantitative value to.. but then again I lover French woman
    * My mother was French, never really liked me much.. a smart lady.
    * I do like the BA Concorde Lounge in Heathrow

  61. I am emerald on One World and earn most of those AA miles on BA and American. A couple of observations from a 300,000 mile p.a. flyer.
    * BA staff is far more professional than the USA partner American
    * The BA lounges in Heathrow (first and Concorde) are very nice
    * Qatar is the best member of the One World Alliance in every aspect
    * The Business Class seats in BA are marginal ( I agree) but I can purchase or upgrade to First on BA for half of what Air France Charges from the USA to Dubai
    * Business in Qatar is almost as good as BA first but with the Embargo in effect Qatar is no longer an option

    * I do like the BA Concorde Lounge in Heathrow

  62. Writing: 8/10 (quite easy to read – can quickly follow writer’s thoughts)
    Content: 5/10 (rehash of points mainly)

    Need to see stronger content in next article. Many can write, but content is the truly valuble value-add.

  63. Great article.
    I’m personally a committed BA flyer but the very vast majority of your article makes perfect business sense.
    Good luck and I hope to see you as a contributor in future 🙂

  64. There is actually something worse than BA. It’s booking QR and getting a BA code share for one of the legs. I would not mind so much if it were not for the fact that you have to pay extra to BA for seat assignments which QR gives you inclusive for their legs. Sure you can wait until 48 hours prior to departure at which time BA graciously grants you free seat assignments (for a biz ticket for pete’s sake). Fine if you’re traveling alone, but when you’re corralling your family, it leaves the kind of bad taste that is totally out of proportion with the relative triviality of permitting code share seat assignment policies to transfer. So I traveled with my family salt & peppered through the cabin – thanks BA – thanks QR. It’s a small issue that leaves me with a “f*** you BA” kinda feeling. I had resolved a decade ago never to book BA again, but now I will be careful to avoid it as a code share operator also. Am I weird or do airlines need to better understand customer psychology ?

  65. I don’t agree completely. BA offten offers great discount on business class fare from Europe to Asia and America, and I’m talking about around 1.2K euros here. They are struggling with these outdated seats, and changes gotta come. As why they waited 18 years? Very simple, they are poor!

  66. Overall…ok article, nothing special.

    The points about London/The UK are bit unnecessary, and especially funny coming from an Australian, given how Australia is a much more racist and homophobic place overall than the UK, I find. Also, for all it’s problems, most people I know love London.

  67. I would also point out, that a bit more research on LHR’s expansion, would have clearly identified the reasons why BA is looking at a new Club World! It won’t be decades!

    BA went from being vocal about pro-expansion at LHR in the BMI days, to almost being against it post buying BMI. I say bring in real competition and watch BA innovate once again… it will only do it when it needs to!

  68. This post states that the product is well below par however, aside from upcoming QSuites, a BA Club World Window Seat is one of the most private seats in business class of any airline and so that makes it one of the best products for me. I flew with Qatar on their A350 and it was great in many ways except for feeling like I was sleeping on a park bench. So exposed.
    The 2nd draw for BA is that their loyalty scheme is excellent in that even someone who never flies can easily earn enough airmiles (via other earning routes) for a long haul business class flight. Not so with other airlines.

  69. @Dennis, actually I see quite a few French cabin crew working on BA and they’ve always been fantastic. Actually my best ever BA service experience was a long haul trip in J with the most fabulous stewardess who looked after me exceptionally well.

    I would never fly Air France again though and not because of their prices……..

  70. Get your facts straight!
    No, it was Kenya Airways who sold their slots for $75m and not AF/KLM! Everybody knows that by now.
    I stopped reading after that bit.

  71. I think the article neglects the fact that BA has announced the spending of around £500M on its Club World product.

    Why now?

    BA always had a stranglehold on its atlantic routes not just because of its dominant position at LHR but also because it DID once offer the best product between London and the USA. The american carriers were considered a joke and no one would voluntarily choose to fly United or AA over BA with their old angle flat seating and reputation for terrible service.

    Then the situation totally 360’d. Most of the US carriers now offer a hard product and service proposition way superior to BA’s. Full flat beds with direct aisle access, good food, improved service, wifi. BA was worried but not unduly so. At the end of the day BA had it’s Joint Business with AA so if some of its passengers preferred to fly AA it was no big deal as BA will still share in the revenue.

    Then DL purchased its stake in VS and they formed a Joint Business. VS chopped a load of their routes from London to the Far East/Australia in order to put more capacity between the UK and US to be a more formidable force against BA/AA. Although on a far smaller scale, the DL/VS Joint Business did have BA running scared as the transatlantic market is its most profitable and important. Although its perhaps worth mentioning that just last week VS announced its first loss in four years and BA announced record profits BA can not rest on its laurels.

    I was invited to a forum by BA for top tier frequent flyers which was attended by their CEO Alex Cruz who gave a Q&A. Of course most questions from the attendees centred around a new J seat. In true corporate fashion he was cagey about giving any solid answers on anything except to say that BA had moved away from a patent design of their own to an ‘off the shelf’ version with direct aisle access for all. It seemed he does not want a repeat of a UA/Polaris-like debacle.

    He discussed Polaris and its fanfare launch with lots of press, heightening the expectations of many to find that only a couple aircraft actually have the hard product (I think its still only five or six aircraft fitted – how far into the ‘launch’)? He stressed that when BA finally DID release the new seat it would be rolled out rapidly although he was again evasive as to how much of the current fleet would actually be retrofitted. Rumour has it everything from the whole current fleet to none of the current fleet so place your bets.

    BA Club World will never be intimate or exclusive in feeling – how can it be when you have a Club cabin of 97 seats (380) or 86 seats (747)? On a 747 the premium cabins literally take up over two thirds of the aircraft.

    But hey, that’s competition. There is plenty of choice of carrier across the atlantic. None of us have to ‘endure’ an airline we think is crappy. Vote with your feet and move to another if you don’t like your current one.

  72. British Airways is one of the best run airline in the world for the shareholders.
    The nature of a business is to be profitable. If you can give as little value to the consumers(passengers) and staff(including cabin crew who now get less with the new contracts)
    then you bottom line should be better.
    Not so great for staff and passengers.

  73. It’s not a brilliant product by today’s standards, but the amount of moaning people do about having to “stare at a complete stranger” is unbelievable. You see the person on the ground and during taxi and just at landing. You acknowledge them politely, maybe even smile if you’re not a complete jerk, and then mind your own business.

    People act like for the amount of money their company is paying fro them to fly business they have a right to not see another soul in the lounge or on the plane.

  74. Yawn. Nothing new in the article at all. Plus nasty business to insult the people and country that’s giving you a home.

    We’ve read a zillion reviews of BA Club, we all know the issues.

    Do you not think over the years that we might have already come to these conclusions ourselves?

    If you’re going to write on the subject at least do a good job of it – it’s purely lack of competition; through alliances, slot constraints and the demise of Virgin Atlantic, combined with Alex Cruz’s LCC background.

    Hire someone with a new opinion, that is likeable.

    The comments are more entertaining and give better analysis.

  75. How come standard Herringbone seats such as Virgin Atlantic’s and Air New Zealand’s don’t get as much stick as BA? They have far less privacy, you are staring at people across the aisle the whole flight, and are far less comfortable for taller people to sleep in with the barrier at the end of the footrest.

    Give me a BA Club world seat any day over those.

    Grumpy and Frumpy crew??? Only someone who has never flow American (actively hostile crew) or United (unprofessional inconsistently dressed) would think that. BA crew are professional and friendly, and as pointed out above have some of the best flight deck crews around. Just ask the passengers on BA38.

    Some of the points are valid, but are a result of the terrible competitor offerings until recently, and let’s not forget BA hasn’t had the benefit of a trip(s) to chapter 11 to help clear some debts to afford to modernise their seat.

    As for insulting your host nation, we’ll thats just classy…not.

    The comments have been brilliant, although some probably written by people competing for the job. But please get some new opinions on here not another U.K. hating Lucky clone!

  76. @ Alex

    “You see the person on the ground and during taxi and just at landing.”

    You’re repeating the same error as the author: the divider screen has to be down for the safety briefing, but can be up for taxi, takeoff and landing (someone has mentioned an exception for (part of?) an A380 J cabin – I can’t comment on that, only ever flying their 777s and 747s).

  77. “Then the situation totally 360’d”

    I think you mean 180’d. 360 would mean you’re back to where you started, which means nothing has changed.

    “Their fleet-wide load factor in 2017 was 81.8% which is impressive for an airline with substandard products at premium prices.”

    A somewhat meaningless percentage to provide without context. At least provide the average for all airlines, or a few other airlines with a better business class product, to compare it to.

  78. Once UK leaves th EU, London will be less of business center IMO.
    Already seeing businesses planning for Frankfurt Paris Brussels Berlin moves.

  79. @ travelermb

    That’s almost certainly true – but don’t underestimate the scale of London as a world financial centre. It will take some time for any other European city to build up anywhere close to London’s integrated expertise in not just finance but the ancillary services, including legal (many multinationals specify that their contracts are subject to English law, and the jurisdiction of the English courts (as an example, an Indian corporation contracting with a Brazilian corporation to deliver services), because the legal outcomes are pretty predictable compared to the majority of the world’s jurisdictions (I include many US jurisdictions in that), and certainly (relatively) swifter).

    LHR (and therefore BA) will have a captive business market for some years yet.

  80. Purely from a writing and relevance standpoint, this piece is very well done.

    BA business will never get my business (heh), either in cash or points, and this post does a great job in setting our expectations that it will not change in the foreseeable future.

  81. This is the same story as the US airlines. They are bus lines in the air. Service and experience matter ZERO. Even if passengers would pay for it, there is no competition. UA/AA/DL can pretty much do whatever they want and don’t need to improve at all to be profitable. Its sad but true.

  82. This is actually a very good article and it’s exactly my point of view (as a BA Gold!).
    I tend to travel more on AA TATL as their hard product is way superior.

  83. Duck Ling

    The CW upper deck of a BA 747 has an “intimate” feel to it. Much nicer than the CW section in the main cabin.

    If you don’t mind being rear-facing, the window seats are very private.

    Seems to me those who complain about BA CW are mostly the points/miles/upgrade crowd who aren’t really paying for CW anyway.

    While those who actually buy BA CW tickets are business flyers who think that BA CW is better than changing in some other airport just to get a slightly nicer seat

  84. Great post, readers of blogs like this forget they are not the targeted market. Points enthusiasts are an afterthought to these companies. Readers need to remember that air travel does not revolve around them and that carriers don’t need to be bending over backwards to make sure we fly around the world in F for free at their expense.

  85. I think this was a great article and a good viewpoint – it sums up BA’s lack of investment in pretty much anything – seats, food, bedding, planes…you name it. At a recent mtg in our office 9 out of 10 people at the mtg said they wouldn’t fly BA if there was a choice of airline on the route and company policy didn’t mandate flying BA. Perhaps this is why BA tends to just look after its premium corporate customers.

  86. Yet another Australian parasite leaching off of the British economy, whilst complaining about how terrible the place is. Book yourself a one-way ticket back to the cultural desert of Australia.

  87. @ David S

    “in our office 9 out of 10 people at the mtg said they wouldn’t fly BA if there was a choice of airline on the route and company policy didn’t mandate flying BA”

    Hysterical! I hope everyone enjoys Aerolineas Argentinas on the next trip to Buenos Aires. Personally I’d much prefer BA, but, you know, sometimes you have to suffer for your principles.

  88. “grumpy and frumpy staff“ Really??? 2018 and these are still acceptable comments worthy of being published….

  89. I take BA because of the companion tickets. I only take F as my experiences with their business class is less than stellar to say the least. Their companion ticket allows me and my partner fly to many places for a lot less miles compare to other airlines. To us, BA’s F is good enough. Gets us from point A to point B in a nice fashion. Would we love to be on Emirates or Etihad’s F when flying across Atlantic? Heck yeah. Would we want to use all those miles for the privilege to do so? Not really. Having been on Cathay F and Japan Airline F, we can see the difference between a good F and a oh so run F but we rather save up those miles and fly to more places that we want to visit than take showers in the sky. The day I stop flying BA F is when they no longer give out companion ticket.

    But back to the writer on hand, the article is stating the obvious as BA had been bashed over and over again like a piñata. We want an article about the sweet spot of every single major airlines out there and how to achieve that sweet spot by transferring miles from Amex, Chase, and Citi. Basically we want to know more about the detail math of miles game than opinions about an airline. It’s not helpful to us and I would guess not helpful to most of your readers.

  90. Kevin

    People bash BA because they find that they have to use BA for convenience. If there was a better airline to London that was also cheaper, obviously nobody would fly BA. But there isn’t.

    Most people who are paying rather than getting a freebie will choose to fly JFK to LHR on BA because the alternatives are either more expensive or involve changing planes somewhere.

  91. I’m sorry, Club World is better than plenty of Biz products. TAP J ex Azul product (Solstys), Delta One 763/4 (Vantage), are both inferior hard products in my mind. I recently flew a 744 leg LHR-JFK, in a refurbed Club World. I slept like a charm. Yeah the FAs weren’t EK FAs, yes I asked them to hang my blazer and they “forgot”, but the hard product wasn’t as terrible as everyone complains it is! With the Partition up on the rear-facing window side, I felt super private and comfortable. If anything, BA should address their awful, (and I mean worse that Norwegian and WOW) main cabin service, before throwing money at the clearly functioning Club World situation.

  92. I have flown BA business class long haul many times and first class once. Never again now we live abroad and have a greater choice because we do not have to use Heathrow or Gatwick to start our travels.
    The yin/yang configuration is just awful, many people have given the reasons why. Service and food are bad too.

  93. @ Penny Horsburgh

    Personal taste: personally I hate, hate, *hate* configurations with constricted foot-wells (which is most reverse herringbones), and BA has masses of room for feet.

    But I know most people hate BA first, and then look for “reasons” why.

  94. The British culture is generally not to complain and when we do we apologise for it – “I am sorry but….” seems to be the norm. There is British life outside of London, where culture is very different – it is simply not true that London is representative if Britain and it’s culture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *