There were definite winners and losers. The winners were longer range flights to destinations such as Helsinki where there was a wider choice of mains, with each course delivered separately. The losers were many shorter range flights where hot meals at lunch and dinner were replaced with a panini or a salad.
There has been criticism from frequent flyers about the repetition of meals and the scope creep of Brunch and Afternoon Tea where no hot meal is offered. These are set by scheduled departure time which does of course not mean the time you actually eat your meal. Many business travellers do not have the luxury of being able to observe normal meal times throughout the day and would simply prefer a guarantee of a hot meal on their flight.
Regular passengers in British Airways short-haul business class “Club Europe” have not had a great time of late.
After the “densification” (IAG & BA lexicon for adding more seats) of its Airbus short-haul fleet of aircraft the leg room in Club Europe is no different to EuroTraveller economy. More seats on aircraft also means more competition for space for hand baggage in the overhead lockers.
On the ground, BA has closed some business class lounges in Europe in locations such as Dusseldorf. Fast track ground facilities such as access to priority security lanes are not guaranteed for BA passengers at many European airports.
Over the past fifteen years or so, the catering offer has also been steadily reduced. One of the most notable changes was the replacement of hot meals with a cold breakfast plate on mid-morning flights and the introduction of Afternoon Tea. (Although Afternoon Tea has some fans, we think BA has a frankly absurd obsession with serving it on the ground and in the air, not least because nobody in the UK actually eats Afternoon Tea.)
By its own admission, BA has looked at withdrawing Club Europe altogether, at least at London Gatwick. However, the cabin has soldiered on. Indeed, BA is adding Club Europe to its UK domestic routes from 1 April 2017.
British Airways is to introduce its “Club Europe” business class cabin on all of its UK domestic routes from Friday 31 March 2017.
Currently, all UK domestic routes operate with a single class configuration on board. From Friday 31 March 2017, all UK domestic flights will operate in a two class, Club Europe business class and EuroTraveller economy configuration.
(Note, BA’s official guidance says that Club Europe launches on Saturday 1 April, but ba.com is showing it as available from Friday 31 March.)
British Airways parent company, International Airlines Group, is holding its annual Capital Markets Day today, Friday 25 November 2016.
Whilst the event is very much aimed at the group’s institutional investors, there are also a number of announcements of interest to passengers.
One of which is that BA is to introduce the equivalent of its European short-haul business class product Club Europe on U.K. Domestic routes from London to Belfast, Manchester, Leeds-Bradford, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness. Historically, aircraft on UK domestic routes have operated with a single class configuration.
This means passengers will benefit from seating in 2-2, rather than 3-3 configuration as well as complimentary food & drink (though this is likely to be limited given the relatively short flying times).
The exact timescale is to be revealed though it should be relatively easy to do given it doesn’t require any physical changes to aircraft.
This is no doubt a response to the decision to introduce buy-on-board catering in economy on all European and domestic short-haul flights and will ensure passengers in business and first class connecting from long-haul flights receive complimentary catering on their short-haul connections within the UK.
You can view the slide deck from the Capital Markets Day here.
Update: Club Europe will be available on UK domestic routes from Friday 31 March 2017. More details here.
In recent months, there has been a flurry of activity by Europe’s legacy airlines in respect of their short-haul operations.
Traditionally, these airlines (British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa etc) have operated a business model of broadly making all of their profits on long-haul flights whilst losing money on short-haul flights.
Losses on short-haul flights have historically been tolerated on the basis they provide connecting passengers to support long-haul operations.
However, the maturing of low cost carriers such as easyJet into credible rivals for lucrative business passengers has put pressure on short-haul revenues. Furthermore, the intensity of competition from Middle Eastern airlines has reduced the profits on long-haul against which losses on short-haul operations can be offset.
Lufthansa is in the process of transferring short-haul flights that do not serve is Frankfurt and Munich hubs to Germanwings. British Airways has undertaken a number of revenue-raising measures such as short notice day-tripper and weekender flights and seasonal flights during quiet business travel periods.
The next phase of activity from BA is a complete reconfiguration of almost all of its Airbus short-haul aircraft.
For passengers travelling in the economy EuroTraveller cabin, the changes are broadly positive. For passengers travelling in the business class Club Euroe cabin the picture is more mixed.
Here are the main changes:
1. New ergonomically designed, slimmer leather seats with moveable armrests and a 4-way moveable headrest.
2. New literature pockets that can also hold the sleeve of an iPad for passengers who want to bring their own in-flight entertainment.
3. In Club Europe, a new central table feature called the ‘Centre console’ will be positioned in the middle seat that is traditionally kept free.
4. The aircraft will also be fitted with new curtains, carpets and wall coverings and a LED lighting system and “refreshed” washrooms.
The big downside is that leg room in Club Europe will be reduced from 34 inches to 30 inches. However, BA claims that this will not impact significantly on “usable” space due to the design of the seats which allow for more knee room.
The effect of the reduction in leg room and other changes is that the overall number of seats will increase on each aircraft. On an Airbus 319 aircraft BA will provide 143 seats instead of 132 seats. On an Airbus 320 aircraft will provide 168 seats instead of 162 seats. On an Airbus 321 aircraft will provide 205 seats instead of 188 seats,
The first refurbished aircraft will enter into service on 4 July of this year and the rollout is expected to be completed by next year.
The Boeing 767s that operate in a short-haul configuration and the Boeing 737s that operate at Gatwick are not being reconfigured as they are both shortly being retired from the fleet.