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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.

  • Jon H says:

    I wonder what reaction they will see from premium class connecting passengers – it’s going to be a pretty big shift from CW/F to 30″ on ‘Club’ Europe.

    I rarely fly CE, but for leg room would rather take the exit row now, so BA will be bringing new meaning to the term ‘involuntary upgrade’ on short-haul!

  • Trickster says:

    Travelled to Mahon with Jet2 the other day, and they had fitted these ultra thin seats onto their ageing 737s. They were very comfy and had generous leg room I thought.

    • Ian says:

      Also had slimline seats on our flight to Alicante last year with Jet2. I had no issues with comfort or leg room – but the aircraft noise in the cabin was very loud.

    • JamesW says:

      When you say “these ultra thin seats” do you mean actually THESE very ones BA will be installing ?

  • Kiran says:

    No more CE for me I am afraid. My main reason for upgrading to CE (even though my employer doesn’t pay for it) is to have the extra leg room. I am tall and have long legs. This is a stupid decision BA.

  • Gabbai says:

    One of the main reasons why I often spring for Club Europe is because the extra leg room really does make for a far more comfortable journey all round. I frankly don’t care if the new ‘central console’ table, has inlaid leather mats for drinks, snacks and personal devices. Bye Bye BA or where there is no alternative, I will purchase a cheaper seat.

  • LHR Tim says:

    Well looks like BA is “Enhancing” Club Europe to RyanAir standards. Now all we need is a crazy Irishman at the helm. Oh wait…

    • sandgrounder says:

      At least on Ryanair you can pay £10 to sit in the front row and board first at the time of booking. OK it doesn’t include getting drunk on premium booze, but not all of us drink.

      • LHR Tim says:

        Does one count HeidSick MonoPoo as “premium” nowadays?

        • sandgrounder says:

          I don’t know- haven’t had anything harder than Diet Coke for years. I reckon it’s better than the Lambrini on a Ryanair trolley though! 🙂

        • Lady London says:

          Did one EVER count Heidsieck Monopole as “premium”?

  • Polly says:

    Unreal, who is making these decisions? Or don’t they read the press! There are always issues about leg room, it’s the number one reason these folks chose to fly CE! Definitely ET exit seat for us now, as my OH really needs the leg room!

    • Rob says:

      As per my other comment, the leaked BA document on Flyertalk says otherwise – in focus groups, apparently no CE customer said they wanted extra legroom but did want the empty middle seat ….

      • JamesW says:

        That simply can’t be true. Or they only surveyed short-arses !

  • Nick says:

    Oh dear! Exactly what focus group came up with this ridiculous decision on a 4″ reduction in the seat pitch for a “premium” seat? Forget all the other froth, the seat pitch is the most important factor for me anyway!

    • Rob says:

      The internal BA document leaked on Flyertalk says not. Apparently CE customers questioned were only interested in the empty middle seat and are not bothered about leg room, which is why BA did this. I kid you not.

      • layz says:

        It depends how they worded their questions. They justified getting rid of the hot food in the club lounges at inappropriate times of day due to feedback.

        Many airlines charge more for extra legroom seats. If people didn’t care about legroom people wouldn’t pay more for it.

        I like the table, but why couldn’t the armrests move in like bmi to make the seat wider?

      • Kathryn Dowd says:

        How tall were the people in the focus group? Because at only 5 footish, I’m not that bothered by leg room either!

        • LHR Tim says:

          Which would you prefer when flying Club Europe?

          A. Less legroom but the middle seat free despite being an economy class layout

          B. A kick in the head with a steel toed shoe?

  • nick says:

    Great news for avios redemption, in a way . With legroom brought in so much, nobody in their right mind will continue to pay the premium for club Europe. Which should mean a lot more availability, even if it means wasting it on club Europe for short flights.

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