British Airways : a superb new business class and some questions.

Criticized for the weakness of its business class, British Airways answers with a superb product. But many questions remain.

It is not an insult to British Airways to say that their long-haul business product, the “Club World” was far, far below market standards. An aging product that was revolutionary at the time of its release and that took too long to be replaced.

British Airways Club World
British Airways Club World
Source : View From The Wing

Not beautiful, more than average on the privacy side, I’m not talking about the screens, nor the seat itself and even less the seats installed in the opposite direction of travel to optimize the density of the cabin. A real deterrent.

Last week British began to “tease” on social media, revealing small details of its future business headquarters, leaving fans to indulge in all the guesswork to find the model and supplier.

The Club Suite: a product at the top of the market standards

And the curtain finally fell, at least virtually, since the new seat was not shown “physically” but just in pictures. So it will be Collins Aerospace, with a derivative of their “Super Diamond”.

What does it look like in concrete terms?

British Airways Club Suite
British Airways Club Suite
British Airways Club Suite
British Airways Club Suite

So we recognize well the Super Diamond of Collins Aerospace. But British has taken care of the details, especially in terms of the material.

For the screen, an 18.5″ is announced.

British Airways is finally offering a cabin that meets market standards with a 1-2-1 configuration It was about time. Let’s compare the current cabin plan (on B777) and the new one (on A350).

British Airways Club World seatmap on B777
British Airways Club Suite seatmap
British Airways Club Suite seatmap

It’s clear that this is completely different. 56 Club suites will be installed on each Airbus A350 of the airline. If we add the 56 seats in World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) to the 219 in World Traveller (Economy), this means that in number of seats 1/3 of the cabin will be premium (so in terms of room taken almost half of the plane), which confirms the trend towards premiumization of cabins.

Other good news, the Club Suite will be equipped with doors for even more privacy!

British Airways Club Suite
British Airways Club Suite
British Airways Club Suite
British Airways Club Suite

According to the airline, the Club Suite is designed to give an impression of space that is missing in the Qatar Airways QSuite. We only ask to believe in it but we wait to see. But it’s true that the top view hints at a bit of space around the edges of the seat where more traditional, lengthwise configurations that offer the same suite concept as a 1st class but with a bit less length and especially width may worry claustrophobes.

And here are two virtual tours of the cabin.

To fly in Club Suite you will have to wait

So naturally the question that comes up is “when will we be able to fly on the Club Suite?”. Our answer is: you’ll be waiting a long time. And here’s why.

1°)British Airways has a large long-haul fleetso the retrofit will take time.

2°) At the beginning, only the new A350s and some retrofitted B777s will be concerned.

3°)There is no risk of seeing it on the B747s that will leave the fleet, and maybe not even on the A380s that British Airways would like to get rid of but which have no second-hand market. But for the 380 we still have the right to dream.

4°) The installation of such a cabin is possible on a 777 or an A350 but the width of the B787 could be a problem and the door could be forgotten.

The good news is that like Air France, which has put B787s on the Paris-Lyon and Paris-London routes for a while so that crews can be trained in the new product and to show it to as many people as possible, British Airways is going to deploy its Club Suite-equipped A350 on the London-Madrid route. When? We’ll see.

Is this the death of First Class at British Airways?

This announcement is remarkably timely in the context of ouryesterday’s issue on the future of the First Class.

British Airways’ first class is just as outdated as its current business class, which is no small feat.

The airline has recently announced upcoming improvements to its First product but this only concerns the “soft product” (food etc). Nothing has been announced about the hard product.

It is important to realize that with the arrival of the Club Suite, British finds itself with a Business product well above its First product, which is economically suicidal. This is the reason why, in our opinion, it is starting to be deployed on aircraft not equipped with first class to avoid the two products overlapping in the same aircraft.

In other words, the last retrofitted aircrafts will be those equipped with a first class cabin. Either the B777s and maybe the A380s, as the B747s do not have a life expectancy worthy of such an investment.

At that point, the question of the renewal of the first class cabin or its disappearance in favor of the Club Suite will be raised. Or maybe even before!

If the retrofit takes as long as it did at Air France (which we don’t wish them to do, but you never know), we may see the first B777Xs arrive before these aircraft receive the new cabin. The B777X has all the makings of a flagship on which to launch a new First cabin and we have no doubt that British is already thinking about the configuration of its cabin…unless the choice is already made but not communicated.

As we wrote yesterday, British Airways is one of the few European airlines whose DNA would justify a first, at least on some exclusive routes. So we are dreaming of a new premiere on some B777X and full Club Suite everywhere else, but, honestly, the risk of seeing the premiere disappear from the British airline’s offer is now very real.

Avoiding the Air France syndrome

But for the time being, one thing is vital for British Airways: the successful deployment of the Club Suite as quickly as possible to avoid that by 2024 or 2025 there are still Club World and that the airline is experiencing the Air France syndrome: a very good “Best” business cabin that is not sufficiently deployed, which means that for the vast majority of passengers who only see the very mediocre NEV4, the Air France business product is not worth the its price.

We can’t wait to test the British Airways Club Suite

So anyway, we at TravelGuys are unanimous: we are very eager to test the product, surely the most beautiful announcement of a business or business premium cabin since the Qatar’s QSuite.

A product that can be a milestone in the market if it is deployed fast enough. While waiting for the new “Upper Class” of Virgin Atlantic which should be unveiled on April 8th and with which it will be in competition from London?

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrin
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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