2019 is going to be the year of the long-haul business class war.
Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are going to introduce new long-haul business class seats with the Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.
For BA, this will be just before it officially celebrates its centenary. And Virgin Atlantic never does anything quietly.
This will be the first radical reconfiguration of their business class cabins in 15-20 years. Whilst both airlines have introduced new seats since they first introduced fully flat beds in business class near the turn of the century, the fundamental layout of the cabin has remained the same.
In the case of BA, this is its “yin-yang” 2-3/4-2 layout with backward and forward facing seats. For Virgin Atlantic, this is its reverse herringbone configuration with window seats facing into the cabin.
BA’s New Club World cabin
BA has today, Friday 2 November 2018, confirmed the following details of its new Club World cabin:
– The new larger seat will feature direct aisle access for all passengers.
– Personal storage and privacy will be improved.
– Gate to gate in-flight entertainment will be introduced for the first time, meaning that the TV monitor will be fixed into place, rather than adjustable as at present.
– BA has not given anything anyway at all regarding the look of the actual seat and cabin.
BA’s New Club World cabin on the Airbus A350-1000
The new seat will arrive when the first Airbus A350-1000 aircraft is delivered to BA in July 2019:
– Four Airbus A350-1000 will be in service by the end of 2019.
– BA will take delivery of 16 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft in total.
– BA will also take delivery of 12 Boeing 787-10 aircraft between 2020 and 2023 which will be fitted with the new cabin. The first six aircraft are due to arrive in 2020.
Retrofitting the new seat on existing aircraft
Over 100 aircraft will be fitted with the new seat:
– Two Boeing 777 aircraft will be retrofitted with the new seat by the end of 2019. The number of Club World seats will actually increase very marginally by 1 on these aircraft, with the extra space likely to come from reducing First Class from 14 to 8 seats.
– The retrofitting of existing aircraft will continue in 2020 and will be completed by 2023.
– Given that many of BA’s competitors have experienced delays in retrofitting aircraft with new seats due to late deliveries from seat manufacturers, there may be a degree of expectations management at play here.
– It’s a safe assumption it won’t be retrofitted to Boeing 747 aircraft as most will be retired by 2023.
– Based on historical practice, Heathrow aircraft with the highest premium seating configurations, such as 4 class Boeing 777s, will be retrofitted first.