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The new British Airways Club World cabin …. some info emerges

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British Airways is, at last, gearing up for the launch of the new Club World cabin.

A member of cabin crew sent me a memo on training requirements for the new cabin.  What is interesting about this is that it implies a more substantial change to the proposition than simply a tweaked seat – which we already know is coming.

All Club World cabin crew are being called in for a two day training session on new Club World.  Interestingly, crew who have not taken part in this training will be blocked from working in the new cabin.

British Airways 350

British Airways is taking this so seriously that they will be:

temporarily increasing the maximum number of ‘back to back’ trips crew may be asked to undertake from two to three in any 56 day period, in order to have enough qualified cabin crew in the air at all times

mixing Mixed Fleet and Worldwide crew on the same routes – but not on the same aircraft – to ensure that the new service can be rolled out to new routes as quickly as possible

A new role of ‘Club World galley lead’ is being created and is described as ‘pivotal’.  I understand that the reason behind this is that Club World is moving to a ‘dine when you like’ offering which will be introduced alongside a higher quality food offering.  ‘Dine when you like’ obviously has significant implications for cabin crew who are used to cooking up to 70 meals in one go.

And the new seat?

‘Evolution not revolution’ appears to be the name of the game with the new seat.  Accidentally or not, a seating plan showing what appeared to the new seat appeared in the City investor presentation at the end of last year.

Qatar, Etihad and Emirates are not quaking in their boots (well, Qatar might be as they are a major shareholder in IAG).  The current yin-yang layout appears to be staying, with seats facing both forwards and backwards. The real change is that all seats will having direct aisle access.

What is not clear is how this will be achieved.  The usual way is for aisle seats to be shorter than window or centre seats to create a six inch or so gap for the window or middle seat occupant to walk through.

The end result of this is that window seats and middle seats become more appealing (same size, gain aisle access) and aisle seats become less appealing (become shorter, already have aisle access).  Emirates, to be fair, has done something similar on its A380 aircraft with surprisingly less pushback than I expected.

The problem I have with all this is that I would prefer to see the money poured into a market leading hard product.  It is possible that BA is going to try something different – rubbish seat but with higher-than-average quality food and drink.

Economically, this makes perfect sense.  Squeezing in more seats compared to the competition generates thousands.  Doubling your food and drink spend costs hundreds.  The airline is quids in.

The problem with BA is that a few months down the line, someone will decide that cutting back the food and drink spend is a great way to save some money.  We saw it happen on the A380 aircraft, and if you’re as old as me you will have seen it happen company-wide two or three times over the last 25 years.  From the point of view of the passenger, putting in a great seat gives you some degree of confidence in the future because those seats are too expensive to rip out ….

PS.  Qatar Airways is launching its new business class seat at ITB Berlin in seven weeks and the German-speaking half of the HfP team will be there to take a look.   Qatar is ditching a seat which is already substantially better than the BA seat in order to launch something better …..

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Comments (118)

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

  • Aliks says:

    If the Lloyds Avios vouchers are disappearing, the only commitment I have to BA will be the 2for1 BAPP voucher.

    Just flew with an Avios redemption on Sri Lankan from Colombo to Male in Economy 1hr 20m but had a pretty good curry meal and coffee – I think there are quite a few nonBA redemptions that will be taking my money in future

    • Anon says:

      Agreed and even booking the rtn leg of a BAPP 241 voucher 355 days out has become a major PitA. BAEC USA no longer allowing UK registered BAEC a/c members to book as soon as flights are loaded at 12 midnight GMT;

      This is “an Enhancement for all EC members, you have to wait until the UK office is open”

      This stern and terse comment was followed by “the flights are being loaded at 1am GMT so that US members cant book them either.”

      Total BS – flighs at 355 days out get loaded at midnight GMT/UTC/Zulu, the BA app shows them being loaded and then disappearing as people book them within minutes..

      Which of course means by the time the UK call centres open there’s no availability for UK residents on returns from popular routes like Maldives, Singapore, etc, etc.

      Looks like BA is ensuring 2017 is going the way of 2016..

      • Rob says:

        Yes, covering this soon.

      • Daz says:

        Remember Zulu and GMT are not always aligned due to UK seasonal time changes.

        Roger out!

        • Anon says:

          Really how?

          I thought Zulu was always UTC and hence GMT.

          ie GMT still exists even when the UK is on BST.

          • Daz says:

            You are correct – Let me clarify my response as your initial post can be taken as someone who thinks that UK time is alway GMT or Zulu, which it is not:

            “This stern and terse comment was followed by “the flights are being loaded at 1am GMT so that US members cant book them either.
            Total BS – flighs [sic] at 355 days out get loaded at midnight GMT/UTC/Zulu, the BA app shows them being loaded and then disappearing as people book them within minutes..”

            Flights can be loaded at 2359/0001hrs GMT/ZULU and hence be 0100hrs UK time due to the UK seasonal time changes or BST (UTC+1/Zulu+1). Some people think GMT and UK time are the same all year round and use the term as such.

    • James67 says:

      Similar here, I save for one pair of longhand flights a year. Will now need to apply for BAPP to make it work though as tax and fees so high. If I find KLM works for me exEDI when seasonal AY isn’t available I’ll probably just drop BA altogether and use avios for regional flights on MH and CX. Agree on UL, December to unpretentious products and service which are superior to BA at prices offering good value.

    • Rob says:

      No-one is saying they definitely are going, for clarity.

    • John says:

      I still think BAEC is the easiest way to OWS or OWE for many and if I have to take 4 BA flights then that’s fine.

  • krys_k says:

    “We saw it happen on the A380 aircraft”…must have missed this one. Can someone elaborate?

    • JAXBA says:

      Perhaps referring to the tasting menu that was in First on the A380 but was discontinued (as well as the amuse-bouche and bistro menu from F in general).

  • James67 says:

    All this looks like more strike days to me. BA cabin density combined with MF staff on exploitation wages and dine when you like sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, morale will be rock bottom as the opportunity for rest on longhaul flights will be limited. I imagine staff will not want to work the CW cabin. I don’t understand why, on the back of recent obvious cutbacks on both the quality and quantity of food, BA suddenly does an about turn. Their management and strategic planning seems to be all over the place.

    • Mike says:

      My thoughts too and you know when – Easter !!

      • Rich. says:

        Totally agree with these comments,…..

      • Rob says:

        Apparently this is already brewing. One crew member told me she has been offered an effective £300 pay rise which would be her standard annual rise but includes a premium for agreeing to the new CW service pattern.

        Of course, you could argue that as the crew are being paid to be in the air then they should do whatever BA tells them to do during that time ….

        • James67 says:

          I guess I will need to rethink my attitude to the ME3 employment practices, it would no longer surprise me if BA were worse. However, it seems like the problems may be rife industry-wide. I was friendly with a guy who is a purser with CX when I was in London and he claims management of cabin crew has been strained for years. According to him, business class is the least favoured cabin to work at CX because there are relatively too many demanding passengers to crew and they are kept on the go constantly throughout longhaul flights. Apparently CX flight attendants really hate 777s and were disappointec the airline did not go for a380s. I hooe they will bd happier with the a350s.

          • the real harry1 says:

            not sure if a cabin crew job should be worth more than £20K

            it’s quite glamorous with the stopovers & expenses in exotic places

            combined with a basic drudge/ service job dealing with a combination of nice & horrible people – you don’t exactly need a degree in physics, just be happy to deal with people

          • Callum says:

            Therealharry1 – Exactly what I was going to say. It seems tied into the impression many people still have that flying is somehow special. Where’s the outrage over Pizza Express’ wages?

  • Paul says:

    The “jam tomorrow” approach of BA is not getting me excited and I really can’t see the point of training cabin crew when it will take at least 2 years, and quite probably longer for BA to fit out the fleet. Given their track record with First, you have to question if it will ever happen.
    There was s time when BAs major claim to fame was consisttancy and no matter which aircraft you got on the seats were the same. This is now no longer the case with F which has at least 3 variants and now cramped world is getting the same treatment.
    As it’s BA there will be a lot of hype, a lot of noise and then reality will arrive in the form of a cut price, half hearted attempt at getting CW near to where the competition are now only to find they have marched on again.

    • barry cutters says:

      Theres only 2 variants of first .
      I think ‘old’ first is now long gone. i haven’t had it for ages , – i actually preferred that. if it is still used they are not selling it as first i think its just used as extra club seating.
      Then ‘new’ first is on everything else, granted its slightly different layout in the nose of a 747 vs a380 vs 777.
      ‘new new’ first is only on the 789s which i actually liked .
      Its unfair to critizise for having more than one seat as it doesn’t make sense to rib out all first seat and make them the same as the dreamliner9s

  • Nick says:

    “The problem I have with all this is that I would prefer to see the money poured into a market leading hard product. It is possible that BA is going to try something different – rubbish seat but with higher-than-average quality food and drink.”

    I just hope that BA haven’t gone down the uncomfortable ‘skinny’ seat route that they took with Club Europe! It’s certainly hard, but certainly not a market leader!

    • the real harry1 says:

      Won’t happen. The CE seat is fine for journeys max about 4hrs or so – how do I know? – well it’s exactly the same as my economy seat on my RFS redemptions! (minus the blocked out middle). Comfortable enough bar the legroom.

      But on longer journeys, CW’d very soon start losing a LOT of business – pax absolutely require a higher level of comfort or would simply vote with their money.

      • Rich. says:

        Totally disagree. I don’t appreciate 28-29″ seat pitch and the narrow seats in CE
        With my knees touching the seat in front and insufficient room to use a lap top in Business class…

      • Daz says:

        CE is pap, no other words to say on it! They are only good for Avios redemptions for champagne and extra baggage whilst setting up for a longer business class flight from the EU.

        Saying it is suitable at the cost price vs the product and putting up with it means your sights respectfully need readjusting.

        I flew on a budget airline ‘Malindo Air’. From KUL to PEN, less than an hour and they had proper business class seating in a separate cabin in a old 737. The cabin crew were fantasticat all at Easy Jet prices; the same with national Carrier Malaysia from KL to SIN. That’s why CE is a rubbish hard product.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          fully agree, can see why they think its a good idea as they can flex the planes but as a product its awful

          Not sure how corporate policies work at other large companies under board level, but ours is up to 4 hours is Eco, 4-10 Premium if available then Business (if no premium or 10+ hours), based on the direct journey times.

          Sure lots of people actually buying business are looking for more than a spare middle seat now days

      • James67 says:

        You mean the ET seat with CE ‘service’ I think, let’s not indulge BA. I agree it’s ok for short haul flights but it is what it is and that’s not a premium seat.

        • Leo says:

          I didn’t mind it till the legroom went. I actively avoid CE if I can get an exit row – and to be frank it’s easier to ensure this on EZ.

      • John Graham says:

        I appreciate your point is that they won’t duplicate CE style seats in CW which I think we could take for granted, however I think you’ll find that a lot of the short haul market sees CE as virtually no better than ET as more space is the single biggest thing they want from a ‘premium’ seat; yet there is clearly a market for people who given the choice will go for premium soft benefits (food/drink) even if the seat isn’t improved, but that niche is covered by WT+ (which it should be noted is an increasingly popular option).

        • the real harry1 says:

          exactly my point – I wasn’t trying to say CE is a good product – which is why for my under 3 hr flight out to our place I wouldn’t dream of getting it on RFS redemption, let alone pay for it. Simply not worth it when you can buy a lounge pass for under £20 – the other benefits are minimal.

          But the seat itself is perfectly bearable on short haul, no worse than many 1st class train seats unless you’re a porker I suppose 🙂 . If it were a proper business class seat, I might just on occasion have a different opinion, the 7500 extra Avios & extra fee means it’d be costing me £70 extra, so take off £20 for lounge pass, £24 for 4 G&Ts and you get a comfy seat cost of £36, not so much different to paying for an exit seat! But simply not going to happen in Europe…

          • Rich. says:

            Why should CE have to be so tight as to be only “bearable???”
            I have long thighs and broad shoulders and am in no way a porker.
            I used to fly CE for the seat pitch, and fairly comfy seats…… with the ability to catch up on a bit of work if required. All of that is gone now.

          • the real harry1 says:

            you might want to compare cost to benefits, though

            even when there were decent CE seats, most big cos – FTSE100 cos – latterly insisted on economy for journeys 4 hrs & under for most staff, even most execs perhaps up to top team -1 – for a reason – it’s not really justifiable when you’re paying cash, the economy seats are perfectly OK posterior-wise & you won’t get much more work done / get more privacy to work etc in Club

            certain people won’t willingly do anything but travel in Club or better for their own reasons, usually money not being much of an issue

            but in value for money terms, cash-wise Club in Europe is exceptionally poor value, not that you’d be bothered if somebody else is paying

            in Avios redemption terms, it’s not particularly bad VFM, I grant you – particularly if you get your Avios cheaply

  • James A says:

    The rumour is that the Qatar ‘super business ‘ seat was uncomfortably similar to the new Delta seat, hence the delay

  • Howard Wiseman says:

    Obviously these are not being installed on BA’s cash cow museum pieces ( lovely collection of 30 y/o 747-400 still flying daily from BOS) they insist on flying until some regulator says stop. I would settle for a new screen equal in size to a smartphone.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Haven’t they all be upgraded inside?

      • Alan says:

        Not yet – my LGW flight had a dreadful old screen and I was amazed on a recent Chicago flight to have an old plane but with a fantastic tablet replacement fitted with a nice big bright HD screen. At least if they eventually do that across the board it’ll be a bit of an improvement.

        • Will says:

          Not been in a non upgraded 744, but the upper deck on the refitted “super hi H” 744’s is tally nice imho.

          • Alan says:

            yep, that’s what I had to ORD – was only half-full and I was in 64K as well, superb 😀

  • TGLoyalty says:

    Isn’t the new Qatar Seat to replace the and 2-2/2 seats on 777’s?

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