Not long to go until the turn of the New Year, and a step closer to the big reveal of British Airways new Club World product. It’s going to be the first major overhaul of the business class cabin in almost two decades, and boy, are we excited!
Over the last 12 months, the new head of BA, Alex Cruz, has been leading on the project to improve the business class experience. Back in April, he announced a £400m investment in Club World, which has since been bumped up to £600m.
Central to the revamped Club World will be their new seat, which is due to be fitted to all incoming A350-1000s, 787s and will be retrofitted over the coming years to the existing fleet.
As the year of BA’s centenary, the new Club World seats are going to be a big deal. They’re not giving much away at this stage, although some in the industry do seem to feel they have an inside track.
The Vantage XL rumour
We checked out this article which claimed to know it was definitely the Vantage XL. It would make sense, what with the XL being manufactured in the UK and infinitely customisable to suit their own needs.
It’s already in service with SAS, South African Airways and Qantas, with a modified version on Delta offering a more suite-like experience. However, we did kind of hope for more.
Despite what the rumour mill may be throwing up, a representative of British Airways spoke to Simple Flying and was very clear that this is not the seat they have chosen. When pressed about the rumours of the Vantage XL, they said:
“That is not the seat”
Couldn’t be clearer than that. So, despite the rumours, we’re still no more enlightened as to what BA are actually choosing.
As it goes, the same source claimed in January to be certain that BA were going to choose the Zodiac SKYLounge Core Business Class seat, as seen on Emirates, ANA and others. So, we don’t think they know either.
So, what do we know about the new BA A350 business class seat?
Although the new seat is ‘very top secret’, the carrier has given away a few nuggets about their improved seat design. What we know so far is:
- The seats will be larger
- They will have direct aisle access
- Personal storage and privacy will be improved
- Gate to gate IFE will be introduced (suggesting monitors no longer need to be stowed)
- Quilted leather upholstery, equivalent to the current first class
Four Airbus A350-1000’s will be in service by British Airways by the end of next year, with a further 12 being delivered over the coming years. In addition to the A350, BA will be taking delivery of 12 Boeing 787-10s between 2020 and 2023, all of which will also be fitted with the new cabin.
But it’s not just the new aircraft that are getting a makeover; in fact, over 100 of their existing fleet will receive the new cabin over the coming years.
By the end of 2019, two of their Boeing 777s will have the new seating retrofitted. The rest of the fleet is scheduled to be upgraded by 2023.
Although BA haven’t fully confirmed which aircraft will get the new Club World seat, we already know that most of the 747s will be retired by 2023, so it’s unlikely they’ll be investing any more in these. Judging by previous practice, aircraft based at Heathrow and with the highest premium seating capacity, such as the 777s, are likely to be retrofitted first.
What we know we don’t know about the new BA business class seat
To quote Confucius, “True wisdom is knowing what you don’t know”, and we definitely know we don’t know much about the new Club World seat.
Crucially, we don’t know whether BA will use an off the shelf product, or whether they’re having something specially designed for their fleet. When they first gave us flat beds in Club World, they were bespoke designed by a company called tangerine. Cruz intimated at the hassle of getting certification for a new product at an Israel business event in April, which suggests they’re working on something bespoke rather than tweaking an existing seat.
Many other carriers have already done some twiddling with existing models. The Zodiac Skylounge was modified by United to become the Polaris, and Delta modified the Vantage XL to add doors and a suite-style experience. So, perhaps BA are looking at a modified version of a popular Qsuite… I mean seat.
The configuration of the seating is unclear also, although we do know that there will be no first class on the A350-1000s. That means there will be far more capacity for Club World than there is on the 747’s they will be replacing.
Alex Cruz said, back in April, that ‘2-4-2 is no longer competitive’, which suggests we’ll be seeing a 1-2-1 layout. Probably. Cruz also said, ‘it really is something else’, which makes us even more excited for the big reveal next year.
As much as we’ve tried our best with the crystal ball/grapevine/bribes etc, there’s still an awful lot we don’t know about the new seat. British Airways are doing a great job of keeping tight-lipped on the specifics, and quite rightly too.
Despite our obvious excitement and blatant desperation to know more, we kind of hope they continue to keep it under wraps. We can wish with all our little hearts for a Qsuite experience, but until they make the formal announcement, all we can do is dream.