Why You’ll Want to Avoid Coach on These New British Airways Flights

Sep 4, 2017

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Norwegian, WOW Air and other low-cost carriers like LEVEL have flooded the transatlantic market with bargain-basement economy fares. Which is great, unless you’re trying to run a legacy airline. Now, US-based carriers and their European counterparts are forced to find creative ways to keep fares low while limiting the impact to their bottom lines. One way to do that is to add a whole bunch of seats to existing planes.

That’s done both through new aircraft deliveries and a process called retrofitting — and while these refreshes often spell good news for business-class travelers (as with Qatar’s new Qsuite), they can also mean a much tighter squeeze in coach.

Last year, we learned that British Airways was planning to increase economy-cabin capacity by moving from a 3-3-3 configuration on its 777s to 3-4-3, which requires adding a seat to every row. Of course, that extra seat comes at the cost of passenger comfort, particularly for those of us with broad shoulders.

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With this change, British Airways will be adding a whopping 52 seats to its 777s, moving from 280 seats to 332. Business class will drop from 40 seats to 32, premium economy will double in size from 24 seats to 48 and economy will go from 216 seats to 252. And now we know when these high-capacity 777s will make their debut — according to a report in The Independent, the first flight will take off on May 7, 2018.

3-4-3 economy seating on a retrofitted Qatar Airways 777-300ER.

The ever-reliable Routes Online confirms this date as well, adding other destinations as follows:

London Gatwick – Orlando (beginning May 11, 2018)
London Gatwick – Tampa (beginning June 7, 2018)
London Gatwick – New York-JFK (beginning July 8, 2018)
London Gatwick – Ft. Lauderdale (beginning September 13, 2018)
London Gatwick – Kingston (beginning May 7, 2018)
London Gatwick – Punta Cana (beginning May 8, 2018)
London Gatwick – Cancun (beginning May 12, 2018)

Note that the new configuration is currently only scheduled to operate on select flights at first, though it’ll likely be used on all flights on the above routes eventually. Be sure to check your seat map when booking, and note that substitutions are possible (for better or worse).

Unfortunately, this change is inevitable — even carriers known for offering an outstanding economy product are moving to 3-4-3 on the 777, including Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific. It was only a matter of time before British Airways followed suit, too.

Will you be avoiding BA’s retrofitted 777s?

Featured image by Gareth Fuller – PA Images via Getty Images.

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