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As we mentioned earlier, InsideFlyer had the opportunity to spend the day with BA and get an ‘InsideScoop’ on a few things – not least the latest plans for the British Airways new Club World (long-haul Business Class) offering!
The first things that are going to change are (on the face of it) genuine enhancements to the existing Club World product:
- “From June new catering will be introduced in to the Heathrow business lounges to improve food quality and extend the breakfast service to 11am”.
- In the air from July fresh new linen, bigger pillows designed for sleep comfort, a soft mattress topper and duvet to give customers all they need for a great night’s sleep will be supplied.
- From September a new restaurant-style premium dining service will begin in Club World, with display trolleys allowing customers to select dishes from a choice of freshly prepared starters and desserts served on beautiful new table settings. A revamped service approach will be delivered to customers with a new culinary boutique experience. These changes will launch on flights between London Heathrow and New York JFK, before being rolled out across the rest of the long-haul network during 2018″.
So the plan is basically better sleeping and better eating – laudable aims. Having had one of the worst meals of my life (on land, sea or in the air) on a BA flight (in First Class too!), I’d say those improvements can’t come too soon.
What about the new seat?
The main issue that most people have with Club World is that BA stack 8 people across the cabin, in the same space that many other airlines seat only 4 in their Business Class cabins. Regardless of how ‘efficient’ British Airways’ use of the space is, you’re clearly going to have less room and less personal service flying with BA than with most competitors.
Club World may have been an excellent Business Class product in 1999 (nearly 20 years ago!), but in a world where Qatar are soon going to be offering seats like the ‘QSuite’, it just isn’t competitive.
BA have been talking about a new seat for a while now, so what did we learn about British Airways new Club World today? Not as much concrete info as we might have hoped perhaps, but that might be indicative of something in itself, as I’ll explain below.
The press release was particularly un-forthcoming “The airline is also developing options for a new seat in Club World with direct aisle access in 2019. Details will be released in due course”.
The consensus view has long been that BA has no intention at all of radically changing the existing layout. As CEO and Chairman Alex Cruz explained again today, the yield that 8 across allows BA to generate makes it very difficult to change and still have the finances stack up for the airline.
What was interesting today though is that I think BA is increasingly aware that passenger perceptions are beginning to shift in terms of what they expect from Business Class, and there is real fear of being left too far behind. What might be ‘ok’ for a few more years might be a bad joke in 10 years – and how passengers view an airline’s Premium Cabins has a big impact on an airline’s wider reputation.
Alex Cruz started his presentation on Club World by emphasising two points:
- “We have made a decision to move away from these Club Seats you are sitting in now… The time has come for us to change…we are falling behind some of our competitors”.
- Every seat will definitely have aisle access
We have known about the second point for a while, but I found the degree of emphasis on the first point surprisingly frank.
Mr Cruz also stated that, “We are going to slowly tell you as we make the decisions (regarding the new seat)” – which strongly suggests that they haven’t absolutely settled on something yet and bigger than expected changes might still be being considered.
Whatever decisions are made, the new seat isn’t due until 2019 and will be installed on new A350s and new Boeing 777s first.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m fairly confident that the British Airways new Club World seat won’t be anything revolutionary, but I’m less confident than I was before.
If there isn’t a big change this time, I think that we may see something completely new in the not too distant future.
What do you think about the changes?