LONDON – Some significant news has come from British Airways to start the week with the announcement of a brand new business class dubbed ‘Club Suite’.
The airline confirmed today that it would arrive on the first of its Airbus A350s, with the planned delivery month of July, although this is subject to change.
The new suite on the Club World cabin will offer direct-aisle access, greater privacy and luxurious flat-bed seats in a 1-2-1 configuration offering 56 seats in this area.
It also offers customers up to 40% more storage, Wi-Fi, 18.5″ inflight entertainment screens, high definition gate-to-gate programming as well as PC/USB power sockets.
Commenting on the new suite was British Airways Chairman and CEO Alex Cruz, who expressed excitement over this new product.
“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&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.”
On top of the 56 seats in the Club World cabin in a 1-2-1 configuration, there will be 56 seats in World Traveller Plus as well as 219 seats in World Traveller (Economy).
As part of the centenary celebrations, the airline will be rolling out the new suites a lot slower than usual in “a carefully managed programme designed to minimise disruption to customers”.
The cabin has already had some level of positive reviews. Rob Burgess, the Editor-in-Chief at Head for Points gave the cabin some praise.
“As a regular critic of BA’s current Club World seat, I am genuinely surprised and impressed by what BA has launched today. I thought they might settle for ‘good enough’ but introducing a business class suite with closing doors is more than most expected. Only Qatar Airways has anything similar.”
“Virtually all of the problems with the old seat have gone. The seat is longer, it finally has a decent amount of personal storage space, everyone gets to face forwards and the IFE screen is a good size. A lot of thought seems to have gone into the little details which make all difference on a long flight.”
“Coupled with the recent decision to switch the catering contract to the upmarket DO&CO group from 2020, I think that this represents a real step forward for British Airways. My only concern is that passengers will need to wait four years to see it across the fleet, with only six aircraft completed this year. This will lead to a lot of disappointed people when they walk into the old cabin.”
“It will be very interesting to see what Virgin Atlantic has to offer when it launches its own new Upper-Class seat in April. Will the bar disappear? Will it also move to suites with doors? BA has put down a marker now. Whichever seat turns out to be the best, I think UK business travellers are the ultimate winners.”
In terms of the A350 timetable, the airline has also set out a three-stage program from its delivery in July this year.
The first phase will see the A350s fly short-haul between London and Madrid to familiarise pilots and cabin crew with the new aircraft and to perfect the delivery of customer service.
The second phase, which will launch on October 1 this year will see long-haul operations begin.
At this stage, another three A350 aircraft would have been delivered at that point, meaning that two Boeing 777 aircraft can go into the hangars for the retrofit of the new ‘Club Suite’ cabin.
The final phase will begin at the start of 2020 where the retrofitting of the new cabin will become a lot faster and will be seen on the long-haul network a lot more frequently in that time too.
The Airbus A350 delivery and entry-into-service is yet another step of the airline’s £6.5 billion investment.
72 new aircraft, across four different aircraft types, including the A350 will see Boeing 787-10s, A320neos and A321neos, some of which are also beginning to be delivered over the course of this year and will be delivered over the next five years.
The airline has also ordered 18 Boeing 777-9X aircraft earlier this month which will see deliveries happening alongside the other aircraft ordered. By 2020, BA will have received 100 new aircraft in less than 10 years.
The last four years alone have seen 57 aircraft already delivered to the airline also.
On top of this, new routes to the likes of Osaka, Pittsburgh and Charleston are due to launch this year, also joining the investment programme.