BA is due to take delivery of its first Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, G-XWBA, this coming Friday 26 July 2019.
This is much anticipated as it will be the first aircraft to feature BA’s new Club Suite.
It has also been known for some time that BA is to begin retrofitting the Club Suite to four class Boeing 777-200ER aircraft this year, of which there are around 23 based at London Heathrow.
At the same time, BA will reduce the number of First Class Seats from 14 to 8 and increase the number of seats in World Traveller from 9 to 10 across.
Two aircraft are planned to be refurbished this year and seat maps for some flights are showing as operated with refurbished aircraft.
These include select flights to New York JFK from late October 2019 and a random assortment of flights through until early 2020. You can tell if your flight is operating with refurbished aircraft as the seat map will show Club World seats in 1-2-1 configuration, labelled A-E-F-K from rows 5 to 17.
The Club Suite is much anticipated on the 777 as the current Club World cabin is one of the least favoured on any BA aircraft.
However, a word of caution should be sounded before booking Boeing 777 flights that show as operating with the Club Suite.
Historically, BA has always prioritised “blu riband” routes when retrofitting new Club World seats to aircraft. This used to mean retrofitting high premium seat configured Boeing 747 aircraft first.
As these aircraft used to operate all flights to certain destinations such as New York JFK, Hong Kong and San Francisco, BA used to be able to publicly guarantee refurbished aircraft would operate on certain routes.
The position with the Boeing 777-200 aircraft is quite different. It’s a versatile aircraft that tends to be paired and swap with Boeing 747 and 787 aircraft on many routes. From a cursory scan of historical flight data, on many flights to New York JFK the Boeing 777 and Boeing 747 operate the same flights on different days of the week. Boeing 777-300 aircraft can also pop-up now and again.
It’s certainly a safe assumption that BA will want to put refurbished Boeing 777-200 aircraft on New York JFK as soon as it can, not least because Virgin Atlantic is using its new Airbus A350-1000 on this route.
Also based on the experience of the Gatwick Boeing 777 refit programme, whilst seat maps for future flights were a reliable indicator of the general plan for the refurbishment, refurbished aircraft operated on many routes before seat maps indicated so.
There are of course also a multitude of factors that can result in last minute aircraft swaps on the day.
Put simply, until there is a critical mass of refurbished Boeing 777 aircraft in service, it is not possible to give a reliable indication of which flights they will operate. Passengers should certainly not make purchasing decisions without specific guidance from BA.