Club World is the name of British Airways’ long-haul business class cabin. BA is in the process of upgrading the Club World in flight service and will roll out a new seat in 2019. Here are the latest developments in Club World.
Any one who has flown British Airways’ Club World long-haul business class on more than a handful of occasions will be more than familiar with the in-flight service.
It begins with the offer of pre-take off drinks of champagne, orange juice and water. The hot towels, amenity kits and bottles of water are dispatched. There is a bar and main meal service, with one choice of coffee to follow. A widely varying offer of snacks are available in the self-service Club Kitchen. Before landing there is a second meal service, typically Afternoon Tea or a light breakfast, depending on the direction of travel.
Over the years the catering budget has gone up and down, depending on external and internal financial pressures. There have been small initiatives, such as the Heston Blumenthal inspired “Height Cuisine”, changes to the presentation of meals and the ability to pre-order a main course. The Club Kitchen gets periodically gutted and restocked. The quantity of sandwiches and cake for Afternoon Tea has been forever tweaked with. However, the service has fundamentally remained the same.
British Airways has outlined its initial plans to invest in its long-haul business class cabin, Club World. These include radical changes to food & beverage, new bedding and new service routines designed to maximise the available time for sleeping on flights.
BA has announced today (4 November 2016) at the Capital Markets Day of its parent company, International Airlines group, a significant investment in its Club World long-haul business class cabin.
At the outset, we should say this is unlikely to involve BA removing its “yin-yang” 2-4-2 Club World seating configuration from existing long-haul aircraft.
A new Club World seat is planned for the Airbus A350 aircraft which is not due to enter service for some time. However, this is expected to maintain the 2-4-2 configuration, but with modifications to provide direct aisle access for all.
Whilst this is uncompetitive against many airlines which have introduced business class seats with all aisle access, BA favours the density of seating afforded by this configuration.
What BA does promise is a significant improvement in food & beverage through, for example, the ability to pre-order a wider range of meals online in advance of a flight and a complete redesign of the in-flight service.
BA also promises investment in cabin crew training and an improvements to cabin ambience to provide a better environment for sleeping (we’re not quite sure what that will be).
In the interests of expectations management, this investment is unlikely to involve increases in cabin crew numbers in the cabin nor changes to the size of the galleys on the aircraft, so we would not expect anything truly radical. BA is also not likely to introduce anything that adds significant weight to aircraft or could result in high levels of wastage.
No date has been set for the changes. However, when they are implemented it is likely they will be introduced gradually across the route network.
You can view the full slide deck from the Capital Markets Day here.
With American Airlines, Air France, Cathay Pacific, Finnair and others introducing new business class seats which provide all passengers with direct aisle access, British Airways has maintained its typically eight across “yin-yang” business class cabin on all recent deliveries of new aircraft.
The reason for this is the efficiency of the cabin layout and that BA flies a number of routes with very high business class demand (such that some 747s are to have business class seating increased from 70 to 86 seats and its A380s have 97 business class seats).
The patent application did prompt speculation that BA would abandon the “ying yang” layout on future deliveries of Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.
British Airways is responsible for launching fully flat beds in long-haul business class with its patented “yin-yang” layout. However, its cabins are now falling behind the competition as most of is competitors now offer cabins with all seats having direct access to the aisle.
Many airlines have long offered passengers in first and business class the opportunity to pre-order their meals in advance of boarding their flight. Singapore Airlines has its “Book The Cook” facility. Qantas offers the same facility under the guise of “Q Eat”.
The passenger benefits in securing their preferred choice of meal and the airline benefits in reducing wastage – catering being one of a very few areas where airlines can actually control costs.
One notable exception in offering this service is British Airways, in spite of it carrying very large volumes of first and business class passengers (some 84 on most Boeing 747s) and having one of the highest proportions of revenue attributable to first and business class traffic.
From an as yet unspecified date in the second quarter of next year (so possibly some six months away), BA is to trial the pre-ordering of meals in Club World business class and First class on the London – New York JFK route.
From what is known so far, passengers will only be able to choose from the existing menu and will not have additional menu choices (and opting out of “Afternoon Tea” does not seem to be an option!). No doubt this is being driven by the desire to reduce wastage, but it would be good to see the proceeds in any savings reinvested in the improving catering.
Update: This facility is now available on all long-haul routes from London Heathrow and Gatwick. You can pre-order your meal through the Manage My Booking tool.