British Airways Details First Business Class Seat Redesign in 13 Years

Nov 3, 2018

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In April 2017, British Airways announced a slew of changes to update its aging product, including upgrading lounges, catering and bedding. At the time, the airline shared that its new Club World business class seat — featuring “direct aisle access for all” — would be introduced in 2019. As TPG pointed out at the time of the announcement, “BA isn’t doing anything revolutionary or new, and is instead just catching up with the competition.”

Now, we are getting a better idea of when and where British Airways’ new business class seat will start flying. In a presentation on Friday, British Airways announced the new all-aisle access seat would first be installed on its planned fleet of Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, which are set to debut in July 2019.

Although it’s been more than 18 months after the new seat was announced and just eight months until it starts flying, BA still hasn’t shared images of the new seat design. However, in this week’s presentation, BA CEO Alex Cruz described that the all-aisle access product would provide a larger seat with increased privacy, increased stowage and “gate-to-gate in-flight entertainment.”

Image from IAG Capital Markets Day presentation on November 2, 2018.

Similar to United’s glacial roll out of its new Polaris product, British Airways will be slow in introducing this new seat. By the end of 2019, British Airways plans to have this new product installed on just six of its 140 long-haul aircraft: four Airbus A350-1000s and retrofit on two Boeing 777-200s.

Those familiar with the current Club World seat know that these “larger” and “increased” comparisons to the current seat aren’t setting the bar very high. With a 2-4-2 seating arrangement, current Club World seats measure just 20 inches wide. The alternating forward-back seating arrangement means you get to stare at your neighbor for taxi, takeoff and landing. And, in-flight entertainment screens must be stowed for these same critical phases of flight, so you aren’t able to watch the IFE from gate to gate — an issue that’s supposed to be rectified in the new design.

The current Club World seat on a Boeing 777-200. Image by Julian Kheel / The Points Guy.

Designs have emerged that allege to be the new Club World seat design. These designs would technically meet British Airways’ announced intentions of providing aisle access to all seats and additional storage, but not the increased privacy aspect nor the gate-to-gate entertainment feature. The image below could be the new design, but British Airways hasn’t confirmed:

This design jives with a patent that was filed for a very familiar looking BA Club World-esque seat, which shows how the all-aisle access element would work in practice:

If this is indeed the new seat design, it’d be a very underwhelming redesign of BA’s current 2-4-2 business class arrangement. So, let’s hope that British Airways scrapped this design and is working on something a lot more innovative. And let’s hope that we don’t have to wait until July 2019 to see the new product.

Featured image by Scott Barbour/Getty Images

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