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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.

  • Adam W says:

    There’s no mention of this on BA’s Facebook page or twitter. I can’t imagine why they’d want to keep this ‘enhancement’ quiet!

  • Tim says:

    Total deal-breaker. I am 6 foot 4″ and cannot physically sit down in seats at 30″ pitch. I have been placed on crew seats in the past because of this. What is the point of CE if you can’t physically sit down? From now on, it will have to be guaranteed exit-row seats or, better, another airline.

    • Djouzef says:

      I am also 6 foot 4” so in the same boat. Wizzair at least give you a chance to pay so people like us can sit down but how can we fly BA now if no chance to guarantee yourself some space? At least taller people earn more on average according to the latest research 🙂 but that is not gonna help!

  • Frenske says:

    I flew to Geneva with Easyjet and Vuelling to Barcelona last weekend and they had slimline seats as well and I found it more comfortable than Easyjets, Vuelling normal offereing. That said I am reasonable long-legged and usual the discomfort comes from the lack of space for my knees.
    The slimline seats seem to offer more space for the legs because the storage for the magazines, etc is higher up the seat in the front. So even if the ptich is a bit smaller, you still might end up with MORE LEG SPACE.

  • Ben says:

    On the face of it things do not look good, the justifying comment of “short haul has changed significantly in recent years” does suggest this is purely a financially motivated decision. Other European airlines such as Air France operate these seats for short haul, and the BA seats look like the best of a “bad bunch”. I’ll reserve full judgement until I’ve actually flown them though!

  • CV says:

    As I usually just book economy I am looking forward to the cabins/seats finally getting refurbished. The LED lighting does make for a better atmosphere on the Little Red flights and I have used the slimline seats in the past (on long haul with a different airline) and thought they were really good – the current BA seats are worn out.

    As others have mentioned, a USB port would have been good, especially as they are promoting this new tablet rest feature. Also more seats might mean more chance of avios redemptions.

  • Rob says:

    I have edited the post to reflect the news that BA has confirmed via Twitter that the WIDTH of Club Europe seats is also being reduced!

    In response, presumably, to the general slimming down of the UK population, the new seats will by 17.5 inches wide compared to the current 18 inches.

    • Czechoslovakia says:

      So clearly, BA is now the airline of choice for all Wombles, Smurfs and Weebles.
      I suppose it will take a fair while to roll out this “improvement”, but still I wont be paying for anymore CE seats. The only real advantage to any biz ticket is extra space. It is for this very reason I never pay for euro biz on LH/LX – they use the same “blocked middle seat” principle with the same pitch as economy – mad on a 2 – 3 avro. Flew on an old Swiss Fokker 100 last week, straight out of the 80s, made be appreciate how much worse flying has got over the years.

      • Rob says:

        One odd thing about CE is that pax are, on average, bigger than in ET because you get more men (who are taller than women) and very few children. This makes cutting the seat size even odder.

        I have just booked a Virgin America flight in F for September. LA to Vegas. £113 one way and I get 55 inches of leg room in a monster seat. That is the way to go ….

        • Nick says:

          In the “what’s an Avios worth?” discussion, someone says they booked a virgin flight with Avios. This seems impossible to me, but if there is a way to do it I’d be interested to hear it!

          • Alan says:

            I may well be wrong, but I thought the post in that thread was referring to relative worth of redeeming Tesco Clubcard points for VS vs BA? The only potential to redeem on VS was when they bought bmi and we thought they might allow 2-way conversion between Avios and bmi miles, but that never came to pass.

          • Nick says:

            The comment said:

            “last this March I got Virgin Upper to Barbados and back and 8 nights full board hotel on Avios … Perfect.”

            I read that to mean the entire trip was on Avios, but it could just be the hotel. If he did manage to book Virgin upper class on avios, it looks like one seriously big loophole!

          • Alan says:

            Well only the OP can confirm what they meant but I can’t see any way of achieving that sort of loophole with Avios 😉 The closest I’ve come was flying LH F on bmi miles and due to irrops being switched to BA F and earning TP/Avios – that was during severe winter storms though where all bets were off!

          • Rob says:

            Or Avios were used via to book a package holiday? You can redeem in chunks of 10,000 Avios for £50 off a package from various operators.

        • Thywillbedone says:

          Indeed – I recall reading somewhere that women have shorter thigh bones than men – as such seat pitch is less of an issue compared to a man of comparable height!

    • JK says:

      Wow, just wow! So the fare difference now really is just for a guaranteed empty seat next to you, for more TPs and Avios, a £3 meal dressed up to look like it’s worth £5, and to off-board quicker. Because in terms of comfort – there will be absolutely no difference to the guy paying hundreds less 4 rows behind you! Absolutely shocking. Shorter and narrower – I just can’t believe any focus group on earth actually gave that feedback!

      I bet the question was phrased something like: “Would you rather have more legroom in CE, or, would you prefer a re-designed fancy new leather patched seat with an inbuilt tablet gadget, allowing you access to your own state-of-the-art IFE?” It all depends on how the question was posed.

      I am certain the question was NOT posed as :”If you pay extra from CE, do you mind having the same seat pitch and width as a fellow traveler in Economy?”

    • tim says:

      Reducing the width seems like a mistake and possibly just bad lazy design. There is no trade-off here making the armrests adjustable like on the ex-BMI aircraft would not have cost space anywhere else.

  • TTT says:

    wow..what a surprise..I’ve flown Etihad’s J Class on A320 many times over the past few years and it’s a hundred times better than this..I really don’t understand the concept of having the middle seat blocked. If you’re redesigning why don’t you make the seat wider like SQ or stagger the configuration somehow. Talk about being inventive (probably wouldn’t make money with this idea) 😉

  • Kelly says:

    This is probably one of the silliest thing BA has done for a while! We fly CE at least once a month for two reasons – I get a gluten free meal on board the plane (not offered on short haul flights in Economy) and for the extra leg room as I’m 5″11 – my other half and I are so not impressed with this decision and will look probably look for another brand to use in future.

    Funny thing is that on a recent flight, a rather large passenger couldn’t actually fit into the economy class seat so they moved him into CE to give him extra space – looking at how the BA Cabin Crew dealt with the passenger it looked like it was a common occurrence!

    I agree to the refit of the aircraft however I don’t think the mood lighting will put me in a better mood after being squeezed into a smaller space for a duration of a flight! Can see a mad rush for the exit row seats going forward.

    Thanks for the article!


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