After months of development and short preview teases, British Airways unveiled the much anticipated new international business class seat named Club Suite. The redesigned seat will help the airline compete in the highly competitive premium segment.
British Airways is celebrating 100 years of service in 2019. It was the first in the world to introduce the lie-flat seat design in business class back in 2000. While that introduction was a revolutionary milestone for the airline and the world, iterative updates over the past eighteen years have made the seat uncompetitive to its peers in the hotly contested premium market.
After spending months of development, the highly anticipated new seat was unveiled in London, England on Monday, March 19, 2019. Rebranded as “Club Suite”, the new seat will be installed on the Airbus A350-1000 aircrafts to be delivered in mid 2019 and will be retrofitted on the airline’s existing long haul fleet over the next four years.
The New Seat – Big Improvement
The Airbus A350-1000 will have three cabins – Club Suite (Business Class), World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) and World Traveller (Economy). Premium seats (Club Suite and World Traveller Plus cabin) will occupy a high 34% (112 seats combined) of the total capacity of 331 seats.
The 56 Club Suite seats will be installed in the current industry standard of 1-2-1 configuration with all passengers having access to the aisle. This is a significant improvement over the 2-3-2 or 2-4-2 configuration used currently. Each Club Suite seat has a 44 inch (112 cm) seat pitch which will convert to a 79 inch (201 cm) bed with a press of a button. It also features a 40% increase in storage space, a vanity unit and mirror, individual PC / USB power ports and between a 17 to 18.5 inch (43 to 47 cm) high definition on demand touch screen inflight entertainment system using Panasonic’s X3 platform. Finally, the airline will be the first in Europe (and fourth overall following JetBlue Airways, Qatar Airways and Delta Air Lines) to introduce a sliding door for its business class product. The door is half height (46 inches / 117 cm) and will provide additional privacy and noise reduction from foot traffic.
British Airways used Collins Aerospace’s Super Diamond seat (also used by American Airlines, Virgin Australia and China Airlines) as a base with the in house design and product teams partnering with highly established clothing brand Hainsworth on interior fabrics and aesthetics. Color scheme is a mix of grey and white with silver metallic trims and lighter wood accents. The seat itself is wrapped with a soft fabric with a quilted design while its surrounding has a soft felt feel.
British Airways will continue to work with catering company Do and Co and luxury homeware outfit The White Company to evolve the Club Suite food service and bedding. The airline has been receiving praise since partnering with these two companies to elevate business class experience on board. Passengers will continue to have the ability to pre-order food choices 30 days and up to 24 hours in advance of departure for most flights from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) and London Gatwick Airports (LGW). They will also gain high speed WiFi access. Currently, the airline has not decided on pricing scheme.
The first Airbus A350-1000 is scheduled to be delivered to British Airways by June 2019. Short haul familiarity flights will begin shortly afterwards from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (MAD). Long haul operations will commence on October 1, 2019 with flights to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) and Dubai Airport (DXB) after the airline receives three additional aircrafts. By the end of 2019, two Boeing 777s will be retrofitted and rejoin the fleet. It will take up to 48 months before the rest of the long haul fleet will be retrofitted.
Commenting on the Club Suite unveil, Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said “The arrival of our first A350 featuring our new Club Suite is one of the most exciting developments in our £6.5 billion investment programme.”
“Each new suite has direct aisle access and comes with a personal door – design features which were incorporated as a direct result of the feedback we’ve had from our customers. We’ve worked hard to ensure every aspect of the Club World experience from the lounges we’ve refreshed, to the new gourmet menus from Do and Co on flights from Heathrow, and the luxurious bedding we’ve introduced from The White Company exudes the very British style and quality customers expect from us.
“At British Airways we have one of Europe’s largest long-haul fleets and most far-reaching global networks, so it will take some time to make the cabin available to everybody. We hope that as more customers have the chance to experience it, they’ll enjoy travelling in it as much as we’ve enjoyed designing it.”
What’s Up Ahead for British Airways?
Flights with the Airbus A350-1000 are on sale for the Toronto route. The others will be updated once information is available.
- London Heathrow (LHR) to Madrid (MAD) – not loaded into schedule yet
- London Heathrow (LHR) to Toronto (YYZ) – BA 93 (outbound), BA 92 (inbound)
- London Heathrow (LHR) to Dubai (DXB) – Not loaded into schedule yet
In the near horizon, the airline will unveiled a more exclusive first class concept and new generation World Traveller Plus seat in the next 6-8 months. They will also continue updating their worldwide lounges, introduce WiFi progressively to its entire fleet and retrofit Boeing 747s with current generation inflight entertainment systems and receive new Airbus A320 family aircrafts as part of short haul fleet renewal. Finally, the airline will rollout additional 100th year celebration events and promotional items.