Some time ago, we wrote of British Airways’ plans to refurbish 18 of its 40-odd fleet Boeing 747 aircraft. Full details of the refurbishment programme are here.
As part of this refurbishment programme, BA is to also reconfigure the capacity of its Club World business class cabin on these aircraft.
Currently, BA has two Club World configurations on the Boeing 747, with either 52 or 70 business class seats.
The former is a relatively unusual arrangement introduced just under ten years ago whereby World Traveller Plus premium economy is located between first and business class. Although many bawked at the idea at the time, it did allow BA to increase its business class capacity by 8%, which was roughly the entire business class capacity of Virgin Atlantic.
On 6 Boeing 747 aircraft the number of business class seats will be reduced from 70 to 52.
On the 18 aircraft earmarked for refurbishment the number of business class seats will increase from 70 to 86, with an additional two rows of Club World seats.
This means there will be 66 business class seats on the main deck (with the remaining 20 seats on the upper deck). This will make for a very large cabin, so it will be interesting to see how this works in practice.
The number of World Traveller economy seats will be reduced to accommodate the extra seats. The number of First class and World Traveller Plus premium economy seats will remain the same.
The new larger cabin is expected to operate on routes with high business class demand such as New York, Boston, Chicago and Lagos.
NB. We should add we receive a lot of search enquiries about the condition of BA’s Boeing 747 aircraft, so it’s clearly a very live issue for passengers.
As has been widely reported around the world today, a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 operating as flight VS43 bound for Las Vegas airport returned to London Gatwick after part of its landing gear failed to retract properly after take-off.
The aircraft made what Virgin Atlantic referred to as a non-standard landing after dumping fuel to reduce the landing weight of the aircraft. The aircraft landed safely at London Gatwick without the entirety of its landing gear fully extended. The aircraft remained on the runway at London Gatwick and passengers were safely escorted from the aircraft.
The incident was covered live in the UK on the BBC News channel and Sky News. Perhaps in part due to it being a relatively quiet period for news and recent aviation incidents, the incident attracted quite sensational coverage around the world (let’s not get started on CNN’s abominal coverage of Air Asia flight QZ8501!). The unfolding nature of the story lends itself to coverage on the rolling news channels and tales of instant heroism and, in their eyes, narrowly averted disaster, also play well in tabloid media.
Whilst this was no trivial incident and it must have been a source of distress for some passengers, considerable comfort should be taken from the fact that the crew were clearly well trained and prepared to handle such an incident.
The reason for this was that even though the flights continue to operate with a four class Boeing 747 aircraft, these routes would be operated with aircraft that have not been fitted with the latest version of BA’s first class cabin.
Instead, BA would operate the old first class cabin as an extension of Club World business class.
On 11 August 2014, flight BA78 arrived at London Heathrow from Accra in Ghana. For the aircraft operating the route, a Boeing 747-400 (registration G-BNLI), this was its last passenger flight after more than 24 years’ service at the airline (Source: The BA Source.)
G-BNLI is the 11th 747 to be withdrawn from service at BA. This marks a continuation of a process that started some five years ago.
The 747s were initially withdrawn in response to the financial crisis, but more recently to be replaced by more efficient Boeing 777-300s and Airbus A380s which have seen the BA 747 removed from routes such as London Heathrow to Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Sydney.
Update December 2014: BA has announced that First Class will return to Vancouver from Sunday 29 March 2015 and Cape Town, Las Vegas and Phoenix from Sunday 25 October 2015. More details here
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.