747 Refresh Ground Trial September 11th 2015 British Airways Picture by: Stuart Bailey / British Airways

Let’s be honest here. The British Airways Club World business class is a divisive product.


Clearly, from a revenue management and investor perspective – it’s amazing. Loyalist British Airways flyers swear by it.

Then, there’s the premium traveler, like myself, that realized his dollars were better spent elsewhere.

In the interest of fairness, I tried Club World in 2015 from Seattle to Moscow’s Domodedovo. I tried seats in both the window and aisle.

Whilst in the aisle seat, I felt as if I was actually sleeping in the aisle. Though sleep was elusive due to the lack of privacy and how the crews run the service, the window seat was considerably better.

The seat was narrow – a flawed design in terms of ergonomics, but the only seriously egregious point was that you still had to step over someone to get out of it.

What is striking is that the new seat is like a B/E Aerospace Apex Suite but worse.. It takes away one pain point the old seating style had of no direct-aisle-access, but it does not change the lack of storage and privacy.

One wonders if the money would have been better spent not on designing a bespoke seat that is already obsolete but just on purchasing Apex suites. Similar density (I imagine one could only do a 2-3-2 layout of Apex on an A350), better privacy, more storage. Also, everyone gets to face forwards.

This evolutionary product is best explained by the fact that it will debut two years from now on only two aircraft: the Boeing 787-10 and the Airbus A350-1000. Also of note, not all of these aircraft will be fit with first class.

Will the remainder of the British Airways fleet be refit?

Perhaps, says the airline. They plan to refit a vague number of aircraft. BA is nothing if not consistent. Introducing a wildly superior product on only certain planes could potentially harm yields or reputation.

As a passenger, this (lack of) change upsets me. Sometimes, as an airline, you have to rip off the consistency bandage to capture new demographics or remain competitive.  As a finance nerd, I get it.

Why break what is a perfect high-earner for the airline? British Airways has the enviable position of being the largest airline at Heathrow. They have their huge joint venture (JV) with American Airlines. They have a fiercely loyal following. You could colloquially say they are “Banker Airways.”

I see both sides of the issue. I understand that International Airlines Group (IAG) faces tough competition from low-cost carriers and airlines outside the JV. The thing is, I feel like they could still use their reputation and location to extract a higher yield from a seat like the Apex whilst achieving comparable density.