As has been widely trailed on social media over the weekend, BA will be officially unveiling its new Club World seat at around 10:00 GMT this morning.
Much is known already. It’s an entirely new seat and cabin layout with direct aisle access for all passengers. Unlike the existing Club World seat it is not an entirely bespoke design for the airline.
There will be gate to gate in-flight entertainment for the first time. Privacy and personal storage will also be significantly improved.
There is also an important element of expectations management. It is going to take some time for new aircraft to arrive with the new seat. The first 4 of 18 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft will arrive this year. Next year, BA will begin to take delivery of 12 Boeing 787-10 aircraft and 18 Boeing 777-9 aircraft from 2022. It will also take time to retrofit to the existing fleet and many aircraft will not be retrofitted.
The importance of Club World to BA cannot be overstated. It is not dubbed the “profit engine” for no reason. History has shown that the financial performance of the airline is inextricably linked to volumes of Club World traffic.
It’s also worth remembering how very reluctant BA has been to give up the existing 2-(3/4)-2 layout. Up until a couple of years ago IAG was adamant that whilst the seat would be updated for the Airbus A350 it would maintain the existing cabin layout because of its space efficiency. Market forces have dictated otherwise.
Here’s our history of Club World from its humble origins as a curtained off section of economy in the 1970s, to Super Club, and Club World.
Virgin Atlantic is also expected to reveal its new Upper Class cabin for its Airbus A350-1000 in the next few weeks.
Boeing 787 Woes Continue For BA
There are signs that the Trent 1000 engine Boeing 787 Dreamliner issues are not going away at BA.
American Airlines & British Airways will jointly operate up to five daily flights between London Heathrow and Miami from Sunday 27 October 2019 to Saturday 28 March 2020.
The increase has been achieved by American Airlines reinstating a second daily flight for the winter season and BA maintaining a third daily flight it added last year.
It’s a route where you can certainly adopt a “pick and mix” approach as far as aircraft are concerned.
At the time of writing, American Airlines timetables are showing a Boeing 777-300 on both of its outbound flights from London Heathrow, but a Boeing 777-200 and 777-300 on the inbound flights. However, this may change. We have recently reviewed American Airlines Boeing 777-200 and Boeing 777-300 business class.
BA will operate the Boeing 747 on two flights and one flight with the Airbus A380.
British Airways is about to officially launch its new Club World seat. This is the first radical redesign of its long-haul business cabin in 20 years.
It is by some margin the most important cabin for the airline. The financial performance of BA is inextricably linked to the volume of long-haul business class traffic. Here’s how it has evolved, both in terms of cabin design and marketing, since the very first origins of “Club” 40 years ago.
The Origins Of “Club”
Which airline deserves credit for the introduction of long-haul business class depends on who you ask.
Qantas claims to be the first airline to introduce a dedicated long-haul business class cabin in 1979.
However, it was in May 1977 that British Airways introduced an “Executive Club” cabin on its Boeing 747 flights to New York. The relatively large size of the aircraft allowed for the introduction of new cabins. This was a separate cabin for economy passengers paying the full fare, divided by a not particularly attractive curtain.
A year later this became known as Club, a word which has become synonymous with business class. The Club cabin was soon extended to all transatlantic routes, and then worldwide.
In March 1981, BA launched “Super Club” on transatlantic routes
These were expanding seats in a 2-2-2 configuration with a folding table in the middle of each seat pair. BA promised it was the widest airline seat available with 24 inches between arm rests.
The “Super Club” seat was extended to all long-haul routes worldwide, as illustrated by the 1984 advert below where the aircraft had to be opened up to fit the seat in it. This was one of Saatchi & Saatchi’s earliest TV adverts for BA and you can see the cinematic influence.
This is one iteration of the “Super Club” seat. Before personal TV screens were introduced in the 1990s, personal at seat in-flight entertainment amounted to in-flight audio only.
It was in January 1988 that BA introduced the “Club World” brand.
Club on short-haul flights was also rebranded as Club Europe. For the first time Club World had a dedicated cabin crew as well as new a “slumberseat”.
The launch was marked with this TV advert. A group of colleagues in London think they have set up a colleague seconded to New York to fail by despatching him on a red rye flight to London in business class. “Like a lamb to the slaughter, gentleman”.
Whilst the advert emphasised how the Club World cabin addresses the needs of the business traveller, such naked male one-upmanship is not something we would see in airline advertising today.
British Airways has put in place blanket cancellations from London Heathrow to Mumbai and New Delhi from April to June 2019.
BA143 from London Heathrow to New Delhi is cancelled from Sunday 31 March to Monday 15 April 2019.
BA142 from New Delhi to London Heathrow is cancelled from Monday 1 April to Tuesday 16 April 2019.
BA139 from London Heathrow to Mumbai is cancelled from Friday 14 June to Sunday 30 June 2019.
BA138 from Mumbai to London Heathrow is cancelled from Saturday 15 June to Monday 1 July 2019.
No specific reason has been given for the cancellation other than “operational reasons”. It is likely that aircraft availability due to ongoing maintenance issues with the Boeing 787 fleet is the cause.
Passengers whose flights have been cancelled are entitled to a full refund. Passengers should also be able to rebooked on alternative BA flights between London Heathrow and Mumbai (BA199/BA198) and New Delhi (BA257/BA256).
Affected passengers can check the status of their booking on ba.com and should contact BA or their travel agent.
Air Belgium’s Airbus A340 aircraft will soon become a firm fixture at London Heathrow Terminal 5 for almost a year.
It is covering selected flights from Heathrow – Dubai until the end of March, and Heathrow – Newark from April to early June. Air Belgium will now also cover one of BA’s twice daily return flights from Heathrow to Toronto Pearson.
One return flight, BA93 & BA92 from London Heathrow to Toronto, will be operated by Air Belgium from Sunday 9 June to Saturday 17 August 2019.
The flight will be operated by an Air Belgium A340-300 aircraft.
The overall service standard should be similar to that of BA.
All passengers have the option of rebooking on to BA’s alternative return flights from Gatwick or Heathrow to Toronto (BA2271/BA2270 BA99/BA98) as close to your original date of travel as possible.
Full refunds are not available to any passengers, except First Class and Club World passengers, unless allowed by the original fare rules.
First Class Passengers
There is no First Class cabin on Air Belgium aircraft.
Unless passengers rebook on to an alternative BA service, they will be downgraded to business class and receive a partial refund of their fare.
Passengers will still have a First Class baggage allowance, earn the Avios and Tier Points of the First Class fare, and have access to First Class ground facilities such as the Concorde Room at London Heathrow.
Alternatively, passengers can request a full refund.
Premium Economy Passengers
There is no premium economy cabin on Air Belgium aircraft.
Unless passengers rebook on to an alternative BA service, they will be downgraded to economy and receive a partial refund of their fare.
Passengers will retain their original baggage allowance and Avios earning entitlement. Some passengers may also be upgraded to business class.
Affected passengers should contact BA or their travel agent.
American Airlines Codeshare
This flight is codeshared with American Airlines under flight numbers AA6207 and AA6210.
As American Airlines does not have regulatory approval to codeshare on BA flights operated by other airlines, AA passengers will have to rebook onto an alternative BA operated service between London and Toronto.
Welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 13 March 2019, our weekly update on transatlantic travel from Europe to North America.
Hudson Yards New York Opens This Week
Hudson Yards, a $25bn mixed use development on Manhattan’s west side that is cited as New York’s most ambitious real estate development since the Rockefeller Center, officially opens to the public this Friday.
Much of Hudson Yards’ towers of office and private residential accommodation will be out of bounds to the public.
However, there will be a new public arts centre The Shed opening in April and an Equinox branded hotel opening in June as well as many shops and restaurants.
There are many UK influences. One restaurant “Wild Ink” will be operated by the Rhubarb hospitality group, it’s first location outside the UK.
The biggest draw for visitors to the city is likely to the Thomas Heatherwick Studio’s structure “Vessel”. Dubbed an “infinite staircase”, the work is a 16 storey, cyclonic shaped structure of hexagonal platforms that spirals upwards. It will no doubt be a source of many thousands of Instagram posts a day. Pre-booking will be required.
Mondrian Los Angeles Refurbishment
The Mondrian hotel in West Hollywood Los Angeles was one of first examples of the “urban resort” hotel.
The Mondrian Los Angeles is owned by Morgans Hotel Group which was originally founded by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubbell, famous of course for running notorious New York night club Studio 54.
The hotel was known for its Philippe Starck designed interiors, “see and be seen” bars, and celebrity filled launch parties. As a guest of the couple of years ago it has to be said the experience for hotel guests was not so great. It’s a very popular hotel for private events. It may have been unfortunate timing but it often felt that hotel guests came secondary to hosting events in its bars and restaurants.
With an experience like that, logic dictates to chalk it up to experience and stay somewhere else next time. However, the hotel has recently undergone a $19m refurbishment and it certainly looks tempting to give it another go.
Hello and welcome to our weekly travel media and technology bulletin, published every Tuesday at 06:00 GMT.
Why oh why?
The past couple of days have obviously seen a major aviation story dominate the news headlines and TV news.
Each time this happen there is the recurring question of why do the same contributors always appear on the BBC, Sky News and other media outlets?
A combination of cuts to newsroom budgets and the growth of 24 hour news means there are fewer specialist correspondents employed by broadcasters. The skill demanded of TV news presenters and reporters today is the ability to present “open ended” coverage of any story. They are generalists not specialists, and they need to be able to call on contributors.
Like any industry, it’s not what you know but you know. It was no coincidence that ten years or so ago Virgin Atlantic could get easy coverage on BBC News because its then Director of Communications had previously worked for the corporation.
Regular contributors are also very familiar with the studio environment and broadcast media. They know they have a very limited amount of time on air and must get straight to the point. They know during an interview not to look directly in to the studio camera like a scared rabbit and not to bang their hand on the desk. They know to give the presenter pointers on what questions to ask before the interview when the cameras aren’t running.
There may be other experts on hand. But they may not be willing to make themselves available at very short notice to travel to inconvenient locations (Sky News studios are in Osterley) for what are very modest appearance fees. Put simply, they could be earning a lot more money doing other things. And they simply may not perform well on what is a very superficial medium.
Thus, it’s easy for a researcher working in a high pressure newsroom environment to pick up the phone to someone they know who will be both available and reliable rather than try someone who is untested and risk the wrath of an editor and the viewers.
Rough Guides Remembered
A large part of television today is influenced a short-lived programme called “Network 7” that ran on Channel 4 for just two series in the late 1980s.
Dubbed “a channel within a channel” the two hour programme that had the mantra “News is Entertainment. Entertainment is News.” It featured short bite-sized features, frenetic camera work and ever changing graphics were a near permanent presence on screen.
One of its co-creators Janet Street-Porter was recruited by the BBC to revamp its youth output. Janet took two of Network 7’s reporters, Magenta De Vine (known for her trademark sunglasses) and Sankha Guha, with her. One of Janet’s creations was “The Rough Guide..”
With sometimes awkward juxtaposition, it featured both serious and light insights on its featured destinations from the perspective of its residents for independent travellers. At the time this was genuinely groundbreaking television. Previously travel shows featured what were effectively heavily mannered infomercials on package holidays.
Magenta De Vine sadly passed away last week at the young age of 61.
It would be remiss not to begin this week’s briefing without mentioning Ethiopian Airlines flight 302.
The incident in which 149 passengers and 8 crew members lost their lives is naturally uppermost in everyone’s minds. It is our editorial policy not to provide a running commentary on incidents such as this as it’s a subject well outside our competence. There’s already significant coverage elsewhere, much of it very speculative, which is deeply unhelpful to the families of the victims.
Much of its contents are already known. However, IAG CEO Willie Walsh did have the following words for Rolls-Royce in respect of ongoing engine issues:
We faced many problems with the Trent 1000 engine in 2018, which meant a number of our aircraft were unavailable during the year. This was very
disappointing. It’s not the sort of performance you expect from a company like Rolls-Royce. We’re receiving compensation, but, to be honest, I’d prefer to have the engines functioning properly. It’s fundamental to our future relationship with Rolls-Royce that they respond positively to this issue in 2019, because the situation last year was completely unacceptable.
If that’s what’s being said in public…
Heathrow Third Runway Judicial Review
Last week we reported that judicial review proceedings brought by a number of local London councils, the Mayor of London and Greenpeace against the Government were about to be heard before the High Court.
It appears that the court case will now be heard this week. The hearing is expected to last for two weeks. It will be some afterwards before the court hands down its judgment. (Financial Times)
Air France cuts London Heathrow – Paris Charles de Gaulle
Last month, BA announced it is suspending London City – Paris Orly from 31 May 2019.
Air France also appears to be cutting frequencies on London Heathrow – Paris Charles de Gualle, with its schedule reduced by one flight to six times daily from Sunday 31 March 2019. Though, judging by queues for the Eurostar check-in at London St Pancras this weekend, many would have wished they had flown. The Heathrow slot appears to have been leased to Flybe to increase London Heathrow – Edinburgh to six times daily from Tuesday 23 April 2019.
British Airways unveiled its “Landor” retrospective livery yesterday.
Introduced in 1984, that period from the mid 1980s to the late 1990s which spanned privatisation and strong financial performance, is often referred to as BA’s golden age.
That is true to a point. Of course this era pre-dates the rise of low cost airlines following the deregulation of aviation in Europe, September 11 2001, rising fuel prices and taxes, and the internet which made for easy price comparisons between airlines.
BA’s aggressive expansion in the late 1990s also led to it emerging from 11 September 2001 heavily indebted and it took nearly a decade for the airline to recover.
With that out of the way, it remains the case that this 1995 interview with Sir Colin Marshall from Harvard Business Review on delivering consistent high quality service in a commoditised market should be mandatory reading for anyone with the slightest connection to air travel.
Sir Colin Marshall, like BA Chairman Lord King, joined the airline from outside the aviation industry having been CEO of Avis in the US. Sir Colin Marshall oversaw BA’s “Putting People First” training programme. Designed by Danish firm Time Manager Inc, this was introduced in the same year as the Landor livery and involved a two day workshop for virtually all BA employees.
The crux of the interview is that it doesn’t shy away from acknowledging that air travel is a tough price sensitive market. But where airlines ultimately fly the same aircraft on the same routes at the same speed, differentiation on branding and perception of value is critical.
Whilst almost every service industry is now falling over itself purporting to provide an “experience” (often very contrived and scripted in actuality), in 1995, this was not the case.
Comments towards the end of the interview on industry consolidation and technology also proved to be very prescient.
On providing value in a commoditised market
You’re always going to be faced with the fact that the great majority of people will buy on price. But even for a seeming commodity such as air travel, an element of the traveling public is willing to pay a slight premium for superior service. They are the people we’ve been trying to attract and retain as customers. We don’t just mean people who fly business class, first class, or the Concorde. Many service companies ignore the fact that there also are plenty of customers in the lower end of the market who are willing to pay a little more for superior service.
It all comes back in the end to value for money. If you can deliver something extra that others are not or cannot, some people will pay a slight premium for it.
British Airways has officially unveiled the third of its retrospective aircraft liveries to mark its centenary year.
One of its Boeing 747s, aircraft registration G-BNLY, has been painted in the Landor livery.
The aircraft returned to London Heathrow this morning, Saturday 9 March 2019, having been repainted in Dublin over the past week.
The Landor livery was the second livery scheme introduced after the operations of BEA and BOAC merged under the British Airways brand from 1974. It replaced the the first livery designed by Negus & Negus.
The livery was designed by Landor Associates in San Francisco which was founded by the late Walter Landor who designed brand identities for Levi, General Electric and Fuji Film. This was in itself a controversial decision amongst British designers, but reflected BA’s global ambition and outlook.
Landor was introduced in 1984 at a time of significant change for the airline. Lord King had been appointed Chairman and Colin Marshall had been appointed CEO. Saatchi & Saatchi had secured the BA advertising contract. BA had started using “The World’s Favourite Airline” slogan. It had also introduced its “Putting People First” employee training programme.
The Landor livery cost $1million to design. Of course, it extended far beyond aircraft. It encompassed a complete redesign of BA’s visual identity. Landor Associates spent 18 months on the project, including 4 months travelling on the BA network to carry out a “visual audit” and conducting over 1,000 interviews.
The concept behind the Landor livery was an emphasis on precision. It wasn’t received with universal acclaim. Some British designers, perhaps expecting a modernist design, derided it as regressive and mediocre. Others mocked the inclusion of the BA crest on the tail fin.
This particular aircraft previously sported the Landor livery on its delivery to BA in 1993. The aircraft’s original name “City Of Swansea” has also been reinstated.
The aircraft carried the Landor livery until the introduction of the “World Images” tail fins from 1997, which unsurprisingly will not be the subject of a retrospective livery.
This aircraft will retain this livery until its retirement in 2023. It’s due to fly to Miami as BA211 today. There’s no way of predicting exactly on which routes this aircraft will operate. However, as a 52 Club World seat aircraft, it will regularly operate from London Heathrow Terminals 3 & 5 primarily on routes such as Accra, Cape Town, Denver, Miami, Phoenix and Vancouver.