British Airways (BA) has revealed its long-awaited new Business Class offer that will be introduced this summer with the delivery of its first Airbus A350-1000. The newly-branded ‘Club Suite’ concept offers direct-aisle access, a suite door for greater privacy and a flat-bed seat arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration.
The airline’s chairman and CEO, Alex Cruz, describes the new Club Suite as “one of the most exciting developments in our GBP6.5 billion investment programme. Its unveiling has certainly been highly-anticipated and represents a significant improvement on the product BA currently offers across much of its widebodied fleet.
The airline says the design will offer 40% more storage for travellers and will include a vanity unit and mirror, WiFi, up to 18.5-inch inflight entertainment screens, high definition gate-to-gate programming, and PC / USB power, with every aspect “designed for today’s customer”.
As well as the new 56-seat Club World cabin, the three-cabin A350 will feature BA’s latest World Traveller Plus cabin (also 56 seats) with furnishings including “a plush new pillow and warm quilt, new amenity kits and an enhanced service and an improved dining experience”. The World Traveller (economy) cabin will offer 219 seats and customers across both cabins will also benefit from high-speed WiFi, allowing them to browse the internet on their personal electronic devices.
BA will roll out the new suites in a managed phased programme designed to minimise disruption to customers with it also due to be retrofitted on some of its existing fleet alongside becoming the factory-standard specifications for future deliveries.
The first A350-1000 is due to arrive in Jul-2019 and BA says it will confirm a delivery date during Jun-2019. During phase one, this aircraft will start some short-haul flying between London and Madrid to allow the airline’s teams to perfect their customer service delivery and familiarise cabin crew with the aircraft layout.
SEAT MAP – The new Club Suite Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seats will be placed in a herringbone formation, which is becoming increasingly popular for Business Class arrangements by offering all travellers aisle accessSource: British Airways
In phase two, from 01-Oct-2019, the aircraft will begin long-haul flying. It is currently planned to enter commercial long-haul service from that date on BA’s London Heathrow – Toronto route, operating the carrier’s BA093/092 rotation, before being deployed on the London Heathrow – Dubai route from 08-Oct-2019 (BA107/106). During this period BA says another three A350 aircraft will join its fleet and two Boeing 777 aircraft will also be retrofitted with the new cabin.
At the start of 2020 phase three will begin which will see BA rolling out its Club Suite on further long-haul aircraft across the network. This could be a long process given the size of BA’s widebodied fleet and could cause some confusion with corporate travellers as aircraft are introduced across the BA network. “It will take some time to make the cabin available to everybody,” acknowledges Mr Cruz.
Alongside the new Club Suite concept, BA’s investment programme is also delivering changes to its First, World Traveller Plus and World Traveller cabins, delivering new restaurant-style catering from Do&Co on flights from London Heathrow, adding bedding in premium cabins from The White Company, rolling out onboard Wi-Fi on board and opening new ground lounges.
Over the next five years BA is due to take delivery of 72 new aircraft, including the A350-1000 and Boeing 787-10 for long-haul as well as A320neo and A321neo for its short-haul network. In addition to this the airline’s parent International Airlines Group (IAG) recently placed an order for 18 Boeing 777-9s (plus 24 options) that will be placed with the carrier. These will be used to directly replace 14 747-400 and four Boeing 777-200 between 2022 and 2025 and configured with 325 seats in four-class arrangement.