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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.

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    New CW irrelevant. Flew F on various carriers and then my first CW. Thought on the 789 it would be OK – what a surprise. Biggest thing was nowhere to put my specs! Unbelievable!

    With super cheap deals, I now go where the deals take me. Off to Australia on the Garuda deal £1100!). Just missed the Qatar Tokyo deal (£600!) Enjoyed a St Martin deal (£900) MAD-MIA-SXM-LHR-GLA.

    So when the BA PP fee went up it was Bye Bye that too!

    Avios only good for IB to South and North America, internal USA and S E Asia.

    And wouldn’t pay cash!

    Sorry BA!

    • barry cutters says:

      MAD-MIA-SXM-LHR-GLA. Plus I’m guessing you had to go UK-MAD first ??, plus a night in a hotel??
      Probably still real good value -if you have the time to do all that over getting a direct flight . (granted probably not possible from GLA)

      • Colin mackinnon says:

        Yes. £37 EasyJet and £30 hotel at airport.

        No fog hassles at Heathrow and no flight to LHR. We always stay the night before at departure airport of our long-haul, just makes life so much simpler.

        Finally, BA domestic connections are not free – on redemptions they cost about £50 in fees. Redemption connections often not available at T-355, so need added on later (with charge fee!) or you could buy a revenue flight for about the same price. But now you have no connection protection through LHR, the very place you need it!

        On paid tickets, flights from rest of UK are almost always more expensive too , but from nearer and non-UK destinations they are cheaper!

        In summary, if not near LHR, BA is becoming a lot of hassle and a lot of cost.

    • Genghis says:

      There’s a SXM-LHR?

  • CV3V says:

    Is there 2 stories in one here? 1. improvement to CW food offering (not hard), 2. new CW seat coming. From the article it seems there is a rush on to get staff trained on the new CW product (food and seat), that suggests a new food and drink offering in the near term. The new CW seat layout must still be a long way off (new A350s? etc, refit of ancient 777 CW seats?). Otherwise why the rush? Mixing mixed fleet staff with old contract staff will just cause more strikes!

    • Rob says:

      I don’t think so. The way I read the document is that seat and service will come together. Otherwise you will have some planes with new seat / old service, some with old seat / new service etc.

      • James67 says:

        Then why the rush on training with the new seat still a long way off? Do you think this is a deliberate ploy by BA to provoke further conflict at a time of ongoing industrial action in the hope they can kill two birds with one stone and force a new deal on MF and old crew working together at same time as negotiations on a settlement for MF salaries?

      • Craig says:

        Does this all tie in with the 10 abreast refit on the 777 LGW fleet? Therefore this will happen quickly and in line with the new dine on your time offering?

        I imagine they will roll out the new dine offering regardless of new seats or not! That seat layout has been leaked for sometime and therefore could well be under way to be rolled out! I do recall a spokesman for BA suggesting a New CW layout sometime ago, even before Cruz started!

        Only my thoughts.

  • CV3V says:

    On recent F redemption flights the drop in service and food was marked. On both flights 1 member of crew was left to do the meal service for a full cabin on a 789, so it took a while, and a load of mistakes were made that shouldn’t happen in a First cabin.

    • James67 says:

      Last year some Thai friends of mine, who can hardly be described as big eaters, told me they were starving after flying CW into LHR. They said they would feed a baby more rice than the entree they were served up. Immediately after arrival they had to go eat. Thdy were also anniyed to be asked “are you going to eat” instead of being asked what they would like to eat.

  • Flight Detective says:

    Maybe they’re planning to rush the seat changes through rather than taking their time to complete a refit of the fleet. It will be interesting to see how that goes!

    • Rich. says:

      When they introduced the original flat bed club product they started it on the upper deck of the 747-400 to trial if I remember correctly?
      It would be good if they did something similar but I can see the new product being put on the A350 and a get on with it attitude.
      Alex Cruz is looking to reduce costs beyond reasonable IMHO and that won’t be challenged unless we all start thinking about which airlines we use….

  • John says:

    If they drop F, will the CCR become an superelite-only lounge??

  • Paul Roberts says:

    Interesting that all the talk is about food and seats. In a year or two, suspect speed, reliability and cost (complementary or charged for) of wifi connectivity offered to each cabin class (BA but also with many of the other airlines) will be what Rob reports on? Thoughts?

    • Cate says:

      Food and seats are a big thing for HfP’s targeted readership. No point paying higher fares than the people in economy if we are just going to get the same level of service.

      • mark2 says:

        Food and seats are what matters to me.
        I have no interest in IFE or Wifi.

        • the real harry1 says:

          food/booze & seats and ease/ cheapness of accumulating Avios!

          currently only interested in RFS redemptions, so HFP wheezes to get cheap Avios, cheap lounge entry and cheap/ free exit seats are honestly pretty much my limited horizon

          (boring for you perhaps but I can start flying LH for fun again in about 6 years’ time when we pack off the youngest one to University!)

      • Fenny says:

        Couldn’t care less about the food, really, as I think most of the menus above Economy are up themselves. What matters to me is whether or not the person in the seat behind is kicking me in the back every 10 minutes and thinks my head rest is a grab handle whenever they want to stand up.

    • the_real_a says:

      I think this is a generation thing, in 5-10 years you will start to have a critical mass of “millennial’s” in management or senior technical positions, it will not be a conscious option – WIFI will be expected in the same way as people today expect food and water to be served.

      Willie Walsh had a point that until recently technology did not allow a good bandwidth at a reasonable cost over ocean routes. That is not no longer the case, and you can imagine if BA does not implement soon someone like Norwegian would jump on this as a differentiator.

  • Waribai says:

    Flew LGW-TFS on Friday. Plane was only half full due to the date. Not being superstitious, didn’t bother us. However, the crew were having so many problems getting the Buy on Board purchasing devices to work. The issue seemed to be with those wanting to pay using avios which lets face it for the average non-HFP reading passenger, will now seem a very immediate and visible way to use avios.
    In the end it took them 2.5 hours to serve the drinks. They then started on food but ran out of time so half the plane could not purchase food. Being sceptical so and so’s we had actually gone to Boots and bought some food just in case. Glad we did!

  • Gill says:

    OT – upgrade offer for outbound leg to MEX appeared on my account. The full trip falls in the avios bonus period but was originally booked well before. Any chance taking the upgrade would put me into the promo booking period or wishful thinking?

    • barry cutters says:

      very likely , as you will be re ticketed. it happened to me i got upgraded from club to first in the last one and i got the avoids for the first base points x 3.

      • Gill says:

        Thanks for the info. I might just take a punt. Triple points across the return trip should get 30k points pp if my maths is correct. would be worth more than the £200 upgrade to me.

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

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