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British Airways launches its new short-haul seats – Club Europe legroom slashed

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After a fair amount of speculation, British Airways announced yesterday that it is – with immediate effect – starting the interior conversion of its short-haul aircraft.

They are starting with the 95 Airbus aircraft with the A320’s being the first to be done.

The full press release is interesting and I have reproduced extracts at the bottom of this article. 

New BA short haul seat 1

Here is a summary of the changes, some of which is not in the press release but comes from internal BA documents published on Flyertalk:

All Heathrow and Gatwick short-haul Airbus aircraft to be refitted

New seats will be super-slim to allow for additional seats row to be squeezed in.  A320’s gain six seats to 168, A319’s gain 11 seats to 143.

Seat pitch in Club Europe to be reduced from 34 inches to 30 inches.  No change to the Eurotraveller seat pitch of 30 inches on most aircraft (a handful drop to 29 inches).

Club Europe seat width is to be reduced from 18 inches to 17.5 inches.

Built-in tablet holders on the back of seats to hold an iPad etc

Club Europe seats to have a built-in centre console table in the unused middle seat

Seat recline restricted to make it easier for customer behind to use laptops – Club Europe from 4.5 inches to 3 inches and Eurotraveller from 4.5 inches to 2 inches

Baby bassinets to be removed

No additional storage space to cater for the additional seats

Multi-coloured LED mood lighting to be introduced

These things are not clear at the moment:

In Club Europe, will the arm rests on the middle seats ‘swing in’ to allow for additional seat width?  (EDIT:  NO!  The width is being reduced from 18 inches to 17.5 inches!)

Is the console table easy to remove?  It might be more of a hindrance than a help when flying with small children.

New BA short haul seat 2

The photographs that have been released do look quite classy.   If you’ve ever flown Virgin Little Red you will also know that clever use of LED lighting can make an impressive impact as well.

It is easy to be cynical about changes like this but I think we should wait and see how the planes look and feel before passing too much comment.

That said, it is very difficult to see how the loss of four inches of Club Europe leg-room is going to improve the product.  British Airways defends this by saying that Lufthansa does the same.  Given that Lufthansa had a major profit warning last week and is leeching passengers to its competitors hand over fist, this is not a good omen ….  (BA still has better lounges than Lufthansa and, disturbingly, generally better Club Europe food as well!)

I am interested to see how the legroom on the emergency exit rows compares to the legroom in Club Europe.  Being well over 6 feet, will I be better off in a Eurotraveller exit row seat with the middle seat taken, or a Club Europe seat with the middle seat empty …..?

New BA short haul seat 3

Here is the full press release:

“Today we have unveiled newly-designed seats and cabin interiors for our short haul aircraft flying across our European and domestic networks from London Heathrow and London Gatwick.

Fitting-out work begins this week on the first of the 95 Airbus short haul aircraft, installing elegant new designs that take inspiration from our most recent fleet entrants, the A380 and Boeing 787. The first aircraft type to be refitted will be A320s.

The elegant charcoal grey leather seats are slimmer and ergonomically designed to enable the addition of extra seats in the Euro Traveller (economy) cabin to allow more low fares.

Innovative design maximises personal space and comfort, with chair backs devised to provide more knee space for the customer behind. Customers can also make use of an eye-level seatback tablet-holder, which can also provide storage for magazines. A four way moveable headrest provides comfort and support and the seat back table moves in and out to provide optimum positioning.

The new Club Europe, featuring a silver British Airways Speedmarque on the front wall, will maintain its 2:2 configuration with the middle seat free. The seats will be bridged with a stylish new ‘central console’ table, providing Club Europe customers with improved functional space. This table provides inlaid leather mats for drinks, snacks and personal devices, freeing up the main table for work or a meal.

Contemporary LED lighting systems, inspired by our newest long haul cabins, will include blue tones for boarding, a relaxing candle-lit mood for dining and a restful gentle white for cruising and landing.

The new cabin is a testament to British design. The new seats are manufactured by B/E Aerospace in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland, the leather for the seat covers and pads on the ‘central console’ is supplied by Andrew Muirhead & Son Ltd in Glasgow and the decorative stitching on the Club Europe seats has been developed by Prototrim, a car seat design and dressing specialist based in Milton Keynes.

The new interiors, to be fitted across the Airbus fleet over the next 12 months, are the most dramatic of a series of changes to our short haul flights. We have already introduced a range of new fare options including hand-baggage only, semi-flex and day returns, which are proving enormously popular with customers. Following the success of day return fares from London, we will today start rolling out day return fares for European travellers coming to London.

The new cabins will also deliver significant environmental benefits, saving an estimated five per cent in CO2 per passenger/km, contributing toward our target of reducing net carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2050.”

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Comments (106)

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  • JamesW says:

    I have a very bad back and neck and flying in economy for anymore than about 2hrs has me in terrible pain for a couple of days after. Genuinely. I spend most of that time if I’m on holiday just around the apartment / hotel room taking lots of pain killers and doing gentle excercises & the same when I get home.
    I would never have paid the extra for ‘club class’ on European flights before I had this problem* but have found the extra few inches of leg room and extra versatility of seat recline an absolute godsend. I still have serious pain when I get off the plane but the extra room for manouvering and positioning myself helps tremendously.
    I also never would have paid ‘club class’ prices myself for long-haul flights, when you can get from A to B for a fifth of the price by just eating a mundane meal, having less movies to choose from and a little less personal space for 10 hours. However I now do pay the extra because it means that after a day or so I can start to enjoy my holiday instead of having 4 days of agony ruining my holiday. The ONLY reason I pay for club class whether its short-haul, mid-haul (where they use short-haul planes for 4+hrs flights) or long haul is for the extra personal seat space, including the adjustable seating, so that I can minimise my pain & discomfort towards the end of the flight and during the first few days of my holiday (and return home).

    If this goes from BA CE then so am I sadly, and I used to work for BA, own some shares & feel it an honour to have flown on BA’s Concorde fleet on occasion too but I’m afraid that my loyalty does not stretch as far putting myself into more discomfort & pain so that they can save a few quid whilst still charging me over the odds !!
    They could serve the finest champagne from the belly buttons of Page-3 beauties, Michelin star food from the breasts of angels & the finest Colombian cocaine off a high-class hooker’s ass but without the room & manoeuvrability of the seating – I’m out !!

    Who else offers a European club class product ? I need to start researching.

    * was a passenger in a vehicle sideswiped by an old codger thinking it was a good idea to try a 90 degree left turn across the two lanes of traffic on a dual carriageway at 60mph without even looking – what a dick. At least he had to be cut out of his vehicle to teach him a lesson. Sadly he was fine though and lived to wreck someone else’s life too I’m sure. The incompetent dick.

    • mikeact says:

      Sad to hear that, but of course, we all have a choice…nobody is forcing you or anybody else to fly BA, and referring to the number of Avios issued each year, (todays post, 97 Billion,) then BA and partners are obviously doing something right, and I doubt very much that you will find masses of empty CE seats on any given flight due to these changes.

      • JamesW says:

        Cheers. There will be plenty of people still willing to pay the extra for the small improvement from ET to CE on BA of course.

  • JK says:

    Just FYI – I flew on a BA A320 yesterday, with new seating I’d not seen before. I asked the CSM if this was the new layout, and she said yes! She could smell the new leather, though I couldn’t. If this was indeed the new layout, it didn’t look as impressive as the pics above, and the middle seat tables were not out (fortunately, as I was wish my daughter). The seat backs looked identical though, and for anyone hoping they’d be able to just snap their tablet in and watch hours or TV – I’m afraid you’re wrong. It’s just a deep pocket – not a holder. If you put your iPad in it, you won’t be able to see the screen – unless you have some flappy case solution as in the pic above. Otherwise, it literally is just a deep pocket, which is a real shame.

    The bassinets were removed, and the holes covered with white raw plugs, or whatever they’re called. Recline was indeed limited, but didn’t bother me. The headrest was better than the old CE headrests, but everyone your head leaned on to one of the arms, the arm flattened out (i.e. the arm isn’t really strong enough for purpose).

    So yeah, not entirely impressive, but it did get me to ARN just fine…

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