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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.

  • Alan says:

    Contrary to many I’m actually looking forward to the new seats! I only ever fly CE when it’s an add-on for an ex-EU fare (so to nearby destinations like AMS or BRU) and mainly make use of emergency exit row seats, or row 2 on domestics. Even with RFS I can’t really justify the extra cost of CE for some mediocre food, having normally eaten in the lounge anyway.

    In economy it looks like with the lack of change in pitch the knee room will actually increase due to the cutout design and the reduction in recline of the seat in front will also help.

  • Mark B says:

    It appears they’ve missed the opportunity to add in a usb port to the back of the seat to compliment the tablet holder

    • Alan says:

      Agreed that would have been a really nice addition, although I guess it would have been a major increase in expense given these cabins don’t currently have any wiring for power.

  • Ian says:

    Last week I flew on the Norwegian Dreamliner (economy) which is fitted with new slimline seats and quite frankly they were among the most uncomfortable I’ve experienced. Yesterday I flew CE on an A320 which was far comfier, the service was excellent but the reason I booked it was for the legroom. Looks like we’ll be ditching CE for someone else wherever possible as we can’t use emergency exit rows.

  • Halo says:

    I have several bookings in ET with exit row seats, which I was looking to upgrade to CE – I think I’ll stay where I am now. It looks like an improvement for ET passengers but a downgrade for CE pax.

    • Simmo says:

      I have both booked, but will these ET exit rows move with the addition of more rows?

  • tim says:

    It isn’t 4 inches less leg room it is 4 inches less seat pitch. The seat backs are thinner and so leg room might stay more or less the same.

    I am not sure that he numbers of extra seats make sense. Squeezing only 6 extra into a 320 but 11 extra into a shorter 319 – how does that work (and how can it be 11 extra that is 1 and 5/6th of a row?)

    The reduced recline is IMHO a definite improvement although I’d have abolished recline completely.

    • Rob says:

      That simply can’t be true though in this case because the entire plane will be 30 inches.

      I don’t know how BA measures pitch. Since they say Eurotraveller pitch was 30 inches and will remain 30 inches, I reckon they are measuring from your seat back to the back of the seat in front. That way they save a couple of inches with the thinner seat but the legroom doesn’t change.

      • Adam W says:

        Seat pitch is measured as any point on one seat to the same point on the seat in front. The seat back is most commonly used but any point will give the same result.

        This is not a case of slimmer seats being used to provide more legroom. As is stated in the post, it is being used to cram in more rows of seats. Got to love the ‘oh look – we’re saving the planet by doing this’ line at the end. Yeah right! Nothing to do with profit at all then.

        • tim says:

          “This is not a case of slimmer seats being used to provide more legroom. As is stated in the post, it is being used to cram in more rows of seats.”

          I disagree. The figures quotes suggest that slimmer seats are being used to achieve both aims. An A320 has 27 rows. A couple of inches saved in each row due to thinner seats gives 54 inches extra. Adding only one extra row (6 seats) as stated can’t be described as “cramming in” because it leaves 24 inches left over which is enough for almost an extra inch of leg room for everyone.

          BA could have crammed seats in. On the A320 at least it doesn’t look like they have. These new seats might be a win-win for everyone. Lighter wieght to allow BA to save fuel. more seats to allow more tickets to be sold AND more comfort for passengers.

          • flibbly says:

            I’m glad someone else appears to get it Tim (although of course we could be wrong – we won’t know for sure until we see the seats in real life), rather than all these knee jerk reactions about how people will never fly CE again – that is if there’s room to jerk your knees of course 😉

          • Adam W says:

            “Adding only one extra row (6 seats) as stated can’t be described as “cramming in” because it leaves 24 inches left over which is enough for almost an extra inch of leg room for everyone.”

            Do you think A319s are 11 abreast??? I can not see anywhere in the quote below (from Raffle’s original post) that states that ANY passenger will gain legroom. Quite the opposite, actually.

            “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).”

        • Nick says:

          Presumably the CO2 savings will come from reduced weight of the seat. I struggle to see how they can justify turning a CW seat into a CE seat on an environmental ticket. The seat changes sound like an astoundingly bad idea.

          • Adam W says:

            The CO2 saving is measured as BA state as “per passenger/km”. All that they are doing is carrying more people – so less CO2 per passenger!

  • Thywillbedone says:

    Unbelievably shortsighted move by BA. I mean 34″ was poor enough as it was. Don’t forget 32″ was until very recently the basic offering for all economy seating! And now 30″ for a business/premium class offering?? I am flying CE to Dubrovnik in a few days – a 2.5 hour flight – my number one reason for paying the fare difference is the legroom. Let’s face it, on these relatively short flights we can all put up with the food in economy. Add my name to the list of those who won’t be paying the CE premium ever again out of my own pocket.

  • Czechoslovakia says:

    Drat again. I just booked 3 CE returns over the weekend. Wouldn’t have bothered had I have known this. Being 6`2, those 4 inches make a huge difference. Only just started booking with BA over LX/LH. Won`t be doing that again. Massive fail, BA.

  • Matt says:

    Exit row with a comfort seat booked and then buy your own F&B onboard is the way forward!

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