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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 (107)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Paul says:

    For euro traveller many will not notice the changes.
    However for club Europe there is no question that in the rush to the bottom leafs the way!

  • Anon says:

    Travelling back to LHR on Club Europe today for the first time, shall enjoy it while it lasts! 🙂

  • Varth Dader says:

    So they’re going to be charging twice the price now for a seat that’s smaller and with less leg room?

    BA really are rushing to the bottom aren’t they !?!!

  • Volker says:

    “…the decorative stitching on the Club Europe seats …”

    Will they actually introduce seats that look different from Euro Traveller seats? Does that mean they will have a fixed number of CE rows/seats rather than using a curtain divider and adjusting that according to demand??

    • Rob says:

      No, the divider remains – I assume the stitching just goes on the first 10/11 rows.

  • Mikeact says:

    Where will the extra seats be fitted ? Which Rows are likely to suffer?

    • Matt says:

      It will obviously be an adjustment from the front backwards to generate the space.

    • Rob says:

      At present, I think the first 11 rows have increased legroom to allow the CE curtain to go back that far if necessary. If you usually sit at the back of the plane (ie behind row 11 or whichever row it is) you won’t notice the difference.

      People who sit in Economy but always at the front of Economy WILL see a squeeze in legroom.

  • SachsenTraveller says:

    This is a disappointing decision to say the least by BA. Removing the extra four inches for Club Europe passengers just smacks of penny pinching; when so many seats are empty on a lot of flights in EuroTraveller, the very significant extra premium for paying for a CE seat seems marginal at best, especially for very short trips onto the Continent.
    As a regular CE passenger, service in the CE cabin seems to vary enormously, from outstanding (especially from some of the older BA staff), to pretty much disinterested, with no real attempt to differentiate the service offering from the back of the aircraft.
    This decision will definitely make me think twice before spending my own money on Club Europe seats.

  • JK says:

    As someone who has earned BA Gold for around 12 years almost exclusively flying short-haul (largely CE) this is terrible news! Surely removing legroom from CE would be breaking some kind of cardinal rule! I’m in shock frankly.

    I just hope BA take this opportunity to introduce DECENT headrests, where one may actually rest their head in the MIDDLE of the headrest, without the headrest forcing it to roll off to the side. If BA can finally accomplish that, I may be able to get past the various other “enhancements”.

    What’s really surprising here is that BA are trying to sell CE customers the reduced legroom by telling them that this will allow for more Economy seats, resulting in more lower fares. So take from CE and give to ET! Sounds as though BA have taken it upon themselves to play Robin Hood!

  • Simmo says:

    Well BA have made my decision for me.
    No more Club Europe flights and no more Club Europe revenue for them from myself.

    I pay for the premium of a little more leg room, this is a crazy idea.
    Yes the lounges and champagne are great, but limiting the space is crazy, the whole point of buying a ticket is for the flight itself not the added ‘extras’ which you can get from a third party.

    I wonder what will happen to flights already booked? As I’m sure when I booked I was told about the extra legroom?

    Also how about Euro Traveller wing row seats, if they are fitting extra seats to these planes and I’ve booked leg room seats will these shift?

    Crazy. (It does look smart thou!)

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