Qatar Business Class

British Airways deals with 'old First' by closing the F cabin on four routes

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I wrote in December about how British Airways was offering 50,000 Avios as compensation to anyone who flew in First Class and was unlucky enough to get the old First Class seat, like this one:

British Airways old First Class seat

British Airways has now come up with a plan to deal with the remaining planes with ‘old First’ without paying to refurbish them.  These are planes which are due to be retired in the medium term.

From the start of the Winter timetable in late October, First Class tickets will no longer be available for sale on the following flights:

Cape Town (BA43 and BA42 Winter, BA59 and BA58 Summer)

Vancouver (BA85 and BA84)

Phoenix (BA289 and BA288)

Las Vegas (BA275 and BA274)

The Boeing 747’s with ‘old First’ will become a dedicated mini-fleet which will only be used on these four services.  The strategy is:

When less than 52 Club World seats are sold, close off the First Class cabin

When more than 52 Club World seats are sold, open First Class and upgrade passengers based on BA status

What is not clear is if the seating plan would automatically open when 52 seats are sold, with only BA status passengers being able to select seats in First, or if BA will process all upgrades themselves.  It is possible that, if a flight has a lot of last minute cancellations, First could be closed at short notice and passengers moved back to Club World.

This seems like a sensible move for British Airways with, in general, other flight alternatives available for a passenger who wants to fly in First.

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  1. PointBlank says:

    Travelling with my family of in November on Cape Town route. Have 2 seats in 1st, 2 in Bus and 1 in PE – all reward seats. Wonder how BA will handle us?

    • Phillip says:

      I assume they will just downgrade the two first seats to Club and refund the miles. This might be your opportunity to get the PE seat upgraded to Club, albeit at the extra cost of miles. It will all be down to your driving it rather than BA volunteering. I expect they will just inform people via e-mail about the “loss of FIRST”. Following that, whether you might be moved to FIRST when you fly will probably be handled separately at the time of checking in. You could always ask them to put a note in the booking and make sure all five passengers are linked.

  2. Phillip says:

    I imagine it will be similar to how Cathay handled their B747 routes where they did not offer a first class product for sale. In particular on their DPS-HKG route, they only sold business and upgraded people at check in, depending on status AND if they had checked in online (not sure BA will care about the latter). I somehow don’t see seats in FIRST automatically opening up. It will all be done at the airport in my opinion.

    • That’s not quite how it works on CX. DPS is a two cabin route so when operated by a three cabin aircraft they opened the F cabin for seating (but with J service). Marco Polo members could get preseating in the F cabin.

      • Phillip says:

        It was 6 years ago for me, and I don’t recall pre-selection for Marco Polo members but that may well have changed – or I just missed it.

      • James says:

        We are booked in “J” PVG-HKG Dec 2014, operated by a 747.

        We have selected 1A and 1K in the First Class Cabin.

        Both BA Gold.

  3. Have 2 F award seats to LAS In November too.
    A quick check on the seat selector shows only 1A 1K not available (usual blocking) and only 2A is taken along with our seats in 4E/4F. Of course more seats may be sold, but seats not selected.

    I wonder if BAs plan is to offer a business class service in F on these flights.
    If they currently deem 50k as compensation for getting old 1st, one wonders what they deem suitable for not getting a 1st service at all.

    • Col A-B says:

      BA will be offering a J class service in the old F cabin, when that cabin opens up.

      IIRC when F is closed and/or used for J the cabin crew levels drop from the standard 14 to 13.

      What I don’t fully understand is First being withdrawn from these routes/rotations permanently? Or is it just pending those old 747s being retired & replaced with another a/c which will have F again?

      • A few of these routes are likely A380 ones, Vegas could combine the 2 daily flights into one A380 for example with a smaller F as a percentage of total seats.

        • Col A-B says:

          I do hope so as I really want to go back to YVR area but not so keen on a 747 again.

      • Rocket says:

        I’ve just spoken with a relative who is booked on one of the affected flights and who gave BA a call last night. I’m affected too, but haven’t got round to calling them yet!

        He was told that BA have not yet decided what to do with the existing F bookings (they are waiting for a memo!) , and are insisting that those booked in old F will still get the full F service as it stands. Any F class seats remaining will be allocated to status holders booked in Y. So the message he got was if you are booked in F, you’ll get old F service (not Y) and compensation. They weren’t willing to reroute him until they had made their policy decision which may be a few weeks away yet.

        However, sounds like they are making this up as they went along, as they also said that once they have decided their policy on this, they’ll call those with existing bookings to talk about what they plan to do with compensation etc.

        Pretty shoddy if they allowed this news to leak without thinking about how to deal with their customers first!

        • I assume you mean status holders in J will be re-allocated to F, not status holders in Y?

          • Rocket says:

            Yeah, sorry!

            I’ve now spoken with them too – and was passed to a supervisor who conceded that at this stage, no decisions have been made about how to deal with existing bookings. He confirmed that they will know more on Monday/Tuesday, and will call me back then to update.

  4. Adam W says:

    Haven’t BA missed an opportunity here to appease their hard done to GCHs? Why not allow them (and silvers too perhaps) to reserve these F seats without the J must be full requirement?
    It’s not like they’d need more hosties to cater to them as they would be serving the same amount of passengers but these just be more spread out.

  5. You cannot get access to the F seats if you make a Club booking on the dates I tested. Even as a BA Gold. May be that they haven’t sorted out the passengers yet.

    • Adam W says:

      How do you know for sure that they’ve sold all 52 CW seats on that flight????

  6. Allan says:

    Had a similar experience with Lufthansa (gold card holder at that time) a few years back using a 3 class A340 down to Cape Town, but only selling BC & Coach. Worked out quite well as the purser ‘upgraded’ me to the front. Was still BC food and amenities but felt like a nice gesture, especially as the business cabin was far from full.

  7. Flieduk says:

    Do BA operate other flights on these routes that will also have First?

    • littlefish says:

      Yes & No! Yes – for CPT (over the Northern winter), so in theory people have the choice to travel the same day but at a different time. Yes – ish, for YVR. Some days it has two flights IIRC. No for LAS, No for PHX. But for both LAS and PHX BA might reckon there F-clientele would be happy to route through DFW or LAX or (even) ORD / IAH / JFK.

  8. AviosNewbie says:

    So does this mean all other routes will now get NF? I am booked to Mexico City over Christmas in F. I was secretly hoping to get the OF though, for the 50k avios 🙂

  9. Phillip says:

    Interesting article over at Business Traveller saying that the old F seats will be sold as J! There seems to be a fair amount of contradiction!

    • Col A-B says:

      Ermmm…..that’s precisely what this whole thread is about.

      • AviosNewbie says:

        Honestly, I wasn’t clear about this either until I read the Business Traveller article. Probably I misunderstood, but this thread doesn’t specifically mention that F seats will be sold as J

      • Phillip says:

        I initially read this as no FIRST to be sold and the physical seats only used if more than 52 Club seats sold. I read the Business Traveller article as no FIRST to be sold but the physical seats open to Club passengers at any one point. I guess in some respects both can be true, BA just needs to clarify the technicalities behind how and when the physical FIRST seats open up.

  10. Chilibenny says:

    I know this is off topic and apologies but for those who were interested, my BlinkBox points have all posted today.

  11. Susan says:

    On Business Traveller the main BA adverts are “Get a Free upgrade from business class to First”


    • Phillip says:

      @Susan I believe that’s been going on for years. Not sure if it is only certain fares in Club but BA have for a long time been offering free one way upgrades to First under certain circumstances.

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