Many readers will know that, over the past five years, British Airways has been progressively updating its four class Boeing 777 and 747 aircraft with a new first class product.
The roll out on Boeing 777 aircraft has long been complete. Out of BA’s fleet of nearly fifty Boeing 747 aircraft, less than ten do not have the latest first class product. These aircraft are left with the Kelly Hoppen designed interior from the year 2000.
It is no exaggeration to say these cabins are showing their age and, in response, BA has by default offered 50,000 Avios to members of the Executive Club frequent flyer programme as compensation.
With number of 747s in BA’s fleet expected to fall to approximately thirty by 2018 and the last 747 due to retire after 2020, many of those aircraft that do not have the new first class cabin are likely to be retired over the coming year.
BA has now decided to stop selling first class on these aircraft and will instead offer a three class service, with business class passengers seated in the first class cabin (who will receive the standard “Club World” service) if there is the demand.
This means that from 26 October 2014, first class will not be offered on the following flights:
London Heathrow – Cape Town: Flight BA43 & BA42 (First Class still available on BA59 & BA58)
London Heathrow – Vancouver: Flight BA85 & BA84
London Heathrow – Phoenix: Flight BA289 & BA288
London Heathrow – Las Vegas: Flight BA275 & BA274
There is precedent for this with Qantas doing the same when it converted its Boeing 747s from four class to three class aircraft.
It has not yet been confirmed how seats will be allocated, eg to top tier frequent flyers or on a first come, first served, basis.
This development does not necessarily mean that first class will be permanently removed from these routes. BA is due to take delivery of the Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner next year and BA has confirmed this will have a first class cabin but with eight, rather than fourteen seats, as is the case with the Boeing 747.
Update: British Airways has published guidance on its trade website for passengers with affected bookings.
Passengers have the option of either accepting a downgrade to Club World, travelling in First Class to an alternative gateway (Seattle, Los Angeles, Johannesburg) or taking a domestic US Airways/American Airlines flight to another US gateway offering a First Class flight to London. Refunds are not allowed, unless originally permitted by the fare rules.
Update October 2014: BA has also announced that, amongst other routes, flights to Cape Town, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Vancouver will move to Terminal 3 on Wednesday 14 October 2015.