2019 is going to be an extremely busy year for BA with a lot of cabin and in-flight service developments, and of course, the airline’s centenary in August.
Here’s a run through of the major aircraft, cabin, ground and in-flight service, and route changes you can expect in 2019.
New Club World Seat
BA will introduce a long anticipated new Club World seat with the Airbus A350-1000.
The first Airbus A350-1000 aircraft will arrive in July. There will be four in service by the end of the year.
The new seat will also be retrofitted to two Boeing 777 aircraft as part of a full refurbishment. The number of Club World seats on these aircraft will increase marginally by 1 from 48 to 49, with the extra space likely to come from reducing the size of First Class.
This refurbishment programme will continue from 2020, with the majority of refurbishments taking place in 2020 and 2021. It will be fitted to over 100 long-haul aircraft and be completed in 2023.
BA promises direct aisle access for all, improved personal storage and privacy. There will also to be gate-to-gate in-flight entertainment, meaning that the TV monitor will be set in position, unlike at present.
The first Airbus A350-1000 routes should be confirmed shortly. The Airbus A350 is intended to replace the 52 Club World seat Boeing 747 which is deployed on a number of North American routes such as Las Vegas, Miami and Phoenix. There will be no First Class on the first Airbus A350-1000 aircraft. However, there will be more Club World seats and significantly more World Traveller Plus seats compared to the 52 Club World seat Boeing 747. BA has not given an exact breakdown by cabin, but there will be 331 seats on the aircraft.
In terms of other Club World developments, the new catering standard should be rolled out at Gatwick. Do & Co should also start catering more Heathrow routes as it prepares to take on the full long-haul catering contact at Heathrow.
Whilst many airlines have withdrawn international First Class altogether, there is evidently still life in the cabin at BA, albeit with fewer seats and on fewer routes.
BA will introduce new First Class bedding, catering and amenities from May. There may also be other improvements to Heathrow ground services.
As mentioned above, there will be no First Class on the Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, which means that First is likely to be removed from a number of routes.
BA also will reduce the size of the First Class cabin from 14 to 8 seats on some Heathrow Boeing 777s, with a new seat, as part of a full refurbishment of these aircraft. It is also expected that some Heathrow Boeing 777s may be converted from 4 to 3 class.
World Traveller Plus
It’s almost 20 years since BA first introduced World Traveller Plus.
It’s an increasingly popular cabin, with new and refurbished aircraft having significantly more seats compared to when it was introduced. New World Traveller Plus catering and amenities will be introduced from early in the year. At the moment World Traveller Plus catering is a hybrid of a World Traveller meal tray and a main course from the Club World menu.
As part of the Boeing 777 refurbishment programme at Gatwick and Heathrow, BA will continue to introduce a new seat and enlarge these cabins.
BA has said there will be “improvements” to EuroTraveller catering this year.
No details have been given. It is highly unlikely that M&S Buy-On-Board catering will be withdrawn and is most likely to involve tweaks to the menus.
The roll out of WiFi will be complete on Airbus short-haul aircraft by the second quarter of the year.
80% of long-haul aircraft that are to be fitted with WiFI will have it installed by the end of year.
BA will finish its refurbishment of the New York JFK Club lounge in early 2019. The San Francisco lounge will close on Wednesday 2 January for refurbishment.
Lounges in Geneva and Johannesburg will also be refurbished. Whilst the Heathrow lounges won’t be refurbished this year, do not be surprised if BA announces a new contractor for its lounges and like, Do & Co taking on the Heathrow catering contract, BA may surprise. Appointing a premium hospitality/hotel group to run the lounges would significantly improve their competitiveness.
Heathrow Ground Services
All Heathrow customer facing staff will be equipped with iPads.
This is to enable customer service issues such as lost baggage or re-ticketing to be resolved on the first point-of-contact, rather than having to queue at specific desks.
The refurbishment of Gatwick based Boeing 777-200 aircraft will be complete by the end of the year.
Six refurbished three class Boeing 777-200 aircraft are currently in service and a further seven should be refurbished by the end of the year.
BA will also continue refurbishing most of its 17 remaining 52 Club World seat aircraft, as the airline appears to be slowing down its retirement plans for the 747.
So far, 2 have received a substantial refurbishment with new interiors and in-flight entertainment systems. 4 have received a modest refresh, whilst retaining their existing in-flight entertainment systems. It is expected that a further 6 aircraft will receive a full refurbishment and and 3 will receive a light refresh. The remaining 2 aircraft won’t be refurbished due to imminent retirement.
In terms of new aircraft deliveries, BA has now taken delivery of all of its Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 aircraft on order.
No further deliveries of 787 aircraft are expected until the 787-10 arrives in 2020.
BA has three 777-300 on order. Though the exact delivery dates are not known. BA will continue to take delivery of more Airbus A320 and A321 Neo aircraft at Heathrow and more Embraer aircraft at London City.
It is expected that BA’s parent company International Airlines Group will place an order for long-haul aircraft in the year.
At Gatwick, BA will relaunch Kos. BA will also transfer Almeria and Bilbao from Heathrow to Gatwick. Valencia will transfer from Gatwick to Heathrow. Next summer, Mahon will operate exclusively at Gatwick. Barcelona and Pisa will operate exclusively at Heathrow.
Subject to securing additional aircraft, BA may announce new long-haul routes at Gatwick as it makes use of the slots it acquired from Monarch.
Alliances and Partnerships
In terms of alliances and partnerships, Aer Lingus may finally join BA’s transatlantic joint-venture in the year.
American and BA are likely to continue to review the allocation of Heathrow transatlantic routes and frequencies between the two airlines. BA may, with Iberia, launch a joint-business with LATAM. This has received regulatory approval, albeit with some concessions demanded by regulators in Chile which were given a very guarded welcome by IAG.
There may also be further co-operation with China Southern beyond BA’s existing codeshare relationship as it is leaving the SkyTeam alliance on 1 January. There may also be co-operation with Royal Air Maroc – albeit BA does not yet fly to Casablanca – which is due to become a full member of the Oneworld alliance in 2020.
And last, but not least, BA will celebrate its centenary this year.
A new uniform designed by Ozwald Boateng OBE will be introduced. You can expect a lot more over the next 12 months.