Back in September 2014, British Airways (BA) announced (refer to this link for the news release) that it will refresh 18 Boeing 747s in its fleet to bring a consistent on board experience to its customers similar to its new Boeing 787s and Airbus A380s.
The following 18 aircrafts will receive the cabin refresh:
The London based carrier currently operates a fleet of 47 Boeing 747-400s (BA lists 57 in its website but some are not active) . This upgrade will only be installed in ~38% of the double deckers as the rest would be aggressively retired through the following fleet renewal program detailed below:
The majority of the retired 747 capacity will be filled by newly delivered aircrafts such as Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-300E/787-8. The rest will be managed through new aircraft deliveries from Airbus 350-1000 and Boeing 787-9/-10 from 2017 onwards.
After six months of evaluation, British Airways entered into contract with Airline Services Interiors to install new in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems on board the 18 747s starting in 2015.
The cabin refresh specialist will oversee the design, certification and manufacture of the modification kits for the IFEs. Panasonic Avionics Corporation’s eX3 system will be used. The system is capable of generating high definition picture with advanced capacitive touch technology on both the screen and handset. Installation can be completed without a floor based box which will free up seat space in any classes. Screen size is expected to go up to 9″ in World Traveller and 10.5″ in World Traveller Plus.
All classes will will treated with new carpets and curtains matching ones found in the new aircrafts. Additionally, new seat covers and foams will be installed to bring more comfort in World Traveller and World Traveller Plus cabins.
Below is a video of what to expect from the final product:
The new 747s have two configurations:
- Version 1 – 14F 86J 30W 145Y = 275 seats – used for high yield markets like London to New York. Refer to this link for the seat map.
- Version 2 – 14F 52J 36W 235Y = 337 seats – used for lower yield markets. Seatmap has not been published for this configuration yet.
Besides installing IFEs, World Traveller Plus passengers will have access to universal power port at every seat capable of accepting plugs from the UK, US and Europe. These passengers along with those in World Traveller class will also gain access to their own USB port to power smaller electronic devices such as phones and tablets. New seat covers will be added to match those found in the new wide-body aircrafts.
While British Airways have been testing Wi-Fi on board selected aircrafts, it will not be rolling out the program across the fleet until 2016 when Europasat by inmarsat goes live with a satellite based solution capable of bringing 4G speeds in the air.
British Airways has some of the oldest IFE systems compared to its main European competitors Air France (AF) and Lufthansa German Group (LH) in economy class. This refurbishment will bring the airline on par with the rest of the world. The only thing missing would be fleet wide Wi-Fi implementation that is slated for 2016.
British Airways has started refurbishing 18 of its older Boeing 747s. The first aircraft is expected to enter service by summer 2015 with the last completed by Summer 2016. This is an important step in bringing the UK airline back in line with its current product offering as well as international standards.