British Airways New Club World Update (We’ve got the #InsideScoop!)

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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″.
New Club World Catering

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.

Qatar‘s new Qsuite

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”.

New Club World Catering

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.

New Club World Catering

Alex Cruz started his presentation on Club World by emphasising two points:

  1. 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”.
  2. 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.

Bottom line

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?

Comments

  1. Ben says

    The important take is that BA is not trying to be another EasyJet as some bloggers have suggested or feared. It seems that BA absolutely understands that their future is in offering a good premium product after all.

    • Gordon simpson says

      Not while it’s 8 across. The joke is already here, not in 10 years time as the article implies

      • Joe Deeney says

        Yes, I think we probably share a similar personal view on that actually, but I know quite a few business travellers who genuinely don’t seem to mind the 8 across layout (yet!).

        • Gordon Simpson says

          Don’t get me wrong Joe, I choose to fly BA for various reasons and I personally have no “issue” with Club World, but when you’re spending £3,4,5k+ (personally, not through business expense), I want it to be the best value it can be and when other airlines are offering so much more for a similar price, it just makes it harder to justify. I once flew Emirates to CPT out Business and back First class on an A380.. suites, showers, limo transfers and it cost less than the rest of the travelling group who flew BA club world both ways. Apart from mis placed patriotism, why would anyone NOT take the better offering?

          • Joe Deeney says

            Agreed!

            I don’t think they’re a joke yet heading West (but do need to improve to keep up with the competition), heading East it’s difficult to make an argument for BA really though, whether using cash or Miles.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Actually, I don’t believe that BA wants to “offer” a good premium product. What they want is to be “perceived” as a premium product.

      Transatlantic business travelers is all that matters for profits, and so being “more or less as good as” Delta, Virgin and United is all that BA is aiming for.

      8-across is much maligned, but there are lots of people who like to sit next to their partner or don’t enjoy stuffing their feet into tiny spaces when sleeping so direct aisle access, herringbone, etc. has its drawbacks as well.

    • Angela says

      We can only hope ….. but all too little, too late. Brand image has been ruined of late with dreadful P.R. am not surprised at the time scale, thing’s take for EVER to change at B.A. and even then they’re not worked out properly for the crew to implement changes smoothly and efficiently. The company needs a panel of people – comprised of :- mainly experienced crew, caterers, engineers as well as top rate designers to work carefully and swiftly on the new projects to make sure thery’really workable…. not some manager people who just look at the bottom line and “invent” things just to keep themselves in jobs. They should work closely with the people who deliver the services so they’re not made out to look complete numpties when face to face with the customers. … must be so humiliating. It’s going to take a huge amount of improvements to get the company anywhere NEAR the top again; they need to work on the exclusivity of the airline, the luxury and image of flying where the passengers are made to feel special, welcome and valued.

  2. Dr Redeye says

    So judging from the dessert picture… are BA actually going to be catered by DO&CO? I had their catering on austrian last year and i was rather impressed. Had a rack of lamb that was comparable to @ good version on the ground!

    • Flyer35 says

      Yes… DO&CO already provide business class catering on their mid haul flights and it’s also just been rolled out on short haul in Club Europe.

      • Dr Redeye says

        interesting… tend to avoid BA when I can but have a club europe flight next week… wasn’t expecting anything decent from the food, but maybe this will be decent

  3. Points to be Made says

    Cruz’s opening admission appear to be worlds apart from his “scrounge-scrounge-scrounge” executive decisions elsewhere. Did you get the impression he was putting on a show? BA’s wave of negative publicity recently must be lingering somewhere in their minds…

    • Joe Deeney says

      I definitely found some of his comments surprising. Whether it was PR bluster or a genuine understanding of how the CW product needs to be improved (or both!), time will tell.

  4. Simon says

    The new club world seat is the same as the current club world seat… just moving them around slightly to avoid having to climb over peoples legs,

    • Joe Deeney says

      That certainly was the previous consensus – and I think it probably is still the case. But, I was genuinely surprised by the degree of vagueness and equivocation in Cruz’s comments. The impression he gave was that BA knows there is a problem with the current layout and that they haven’t committed to a particular replacement yet – only that there definitely will be a replacement. We’ll have a video of his speech up tomorrow for everyone to take a look at for themselves, so don’t miss that!

  5. Adam says

    A little too late IMO. They should be rolling out the dining experience now on all CW tickets and not just on one route. Years until a better seat, BA are being left behind…

  6. Phil Bew says

    The Transatlantic premium offering vs the Middle East premium offering.

    I think as others have suggested all BA are doing is trying to remain competitive when compared with Virgin, Delta, United etc. To bring them inline with carriers based out of the Middle East would be a quite different business model.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Absolutely – but objectively (if it didn’t involve connecting) I think that even their transatlantic JV partners currently offer a considerably better product. The new Iberia, AA, Finnair and Aer Lingus Business Classes are all very solid (if not in danger of being called world-class, perhaps). Not everyone agrees, but I quite like Air Berlin Biz Class too.

      I’ve not flown Delta One or United Polaris, but they look to be pretty good these days as well.

      I have a soft spot for BA and really do hope they manage to come up with something good.

      • baccarat_guy says

        Delta One soft product has much improved. Heck, they are evening investing in their wine program
        (LINK : http://travelzork.com/delta-wine-nice-surprise/ )

        But, Delta is “exclusively” the (ancient) 767s and 757s to/from LHR. The 767s are 1-2-1 in DeltaOne, but a very narrow and rather old lacklustre product. (It pains me to say this, but the Delta One 757 product is perhaps a touch nicer… even if not direct aisle access.) Very very far from world class. I’ve flown the products extensively. To or from LHR, BOS/SEA/PHL. Actually, SEA-LHR is now VS as of a few weeks ago; I caught it right before the switchover.

        • Joe Deeney says

          Interesting – any idea why they use the old planes to London? I’d’ve thought that would be seen as a flagship route.

          • baccarat_guy says

            My opinion, LHR is not really key for Delta (it’s a crappy SkyTeam hub in comparison to AMS and CDG where you have the much stronger SkyTeam partners for connections onward on KLM and Air France). The JV between DL and VS is nice an all, but, I have always felt that most prefer to fly British Airways or Virgin and not Delta. The plus side? Low (62,5k + €20’ish) one way awards in business class (Delta One) ex-USA to London are not that hard to ascertain from competitive cities like Boston, New York and Philadelphia (where most prefer to not fly Delta). Onward connection at LHR require transit at LHR from T3 to T4, which is also sub-optimal. LHR seems to be more of an O/D city than a connecting city for Delta passengers to LHR. Best feature of DL out of LHR, is that Diamond Medallion can (once again) access the Virgin Clubhouse on economy class tickets. So, you do get a great lounge pre-flight….. if you are Delta Top Tier.

  7. Malcolm Kiely says

    I am a little surprised that no one has picked up on the outragous taxes and surcharges BA charge on their reward flights and I am at a loss to find where I can receive a breakdown of exactly what these charges are. Had I been in attendance yesterday I certainly would have been questioning Mr Cruz regarding this!

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Taxes are taxes – part of the problem is the UK’s punitive tax treatment of flying – and BA pay out of their own pocket for Reward Flight Saver rewards. (i.e. you pay less than what BA must pay the government and the airports)

      As far as long haul surcharges go, I write as much as I can about programmes that don’t add surcharges. It’s up to people to vote with their business, rather than moan rather ineffectually about BA’s surcharges.

      But actually there are very solid reasons for the existence of surcharges in general and they are set completely independently of their impact on reward travel. And clearly lots of people just see surcharges as a cheap price for premium cabin travel, so I doubt that Cruz would consider that giving away seats helps him “invest in improving the product”.

  8. Alan says

    Seems like the sentence after “Bottom line” is missing the word “but”.
    “Don’t get me wrong – I’m fairly confident that the British Airways new Club World seat won’t be anything BUT revolutionary, but I’m less confident than I was before.”

    • Joe Deeney says

      Hi Alan – thanks for commenting!

      What I meant is that the consensus for a long time (and one I continue to agree with) has been that BA is only going to make relatively minor changes. After hearing Cruz talk about the plans for Club World, I think it’s possible (but still unlikely) that BA might be planning bigger changes.

      If I put “the British Airways new Club World seat won’t be anything BUT revolutionary, but I’m less confident than I was before”, wouldn’t that indicate that I previously thought the changes were going to be big and am now less sure?

      I tried to be clear ( but clearly failed!) and apologies if I’ve caused any confusion – let me know if you still think it could be phrased better.

      Cheers!

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