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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.

  • John says:

    I seem to often be out of sync with other HFP readers, but am I the only one who doesn’t really care about the service in CW, or J class on any airline?

    The only reason I fly business is for a better seat so that I can sleep properly, and perhaps to get more TPs for status. Yes, having better food and an amenity kit is nice but not essential; the other benefits come with status anyway.

    Provided that I get lounge access etc with status, I would still pay for a J ticket (in sales or ex-EU of course) even if it was just the flat bed, and food/service/etc was of a Y standard. Such tickets might not include lounge access or extra baggage on their own… and would be a way to cut costs.

    Reading all the complaint threads on FT, it seems that where the service on BA is really failing is in F, not necessarily in CW. And if I want to be pampered and treated nicely I would choose to fly in first.

    As a single traveller, the CW seat is not ideal, but it is a flat bed and lets me sleep. When travelling as a couple the back and forth layout is all right. So personally I think BA should really be focusing on the service in F and the seat in J.

    • Leo says:

      I know what you mean. I’m mainly interested in lounge access and plenty of room to stretch out. As long as a crew isn’t actively grumpy I’m ok. Not really bothered about alcohol or food, specially overnight. I’m not saying a pleasant surprise isn’t welcome….

    • Daz says:

      John, I think you speak for a lot of people that can easily afford to regularly pay for First and Business class seats. Take away that ability and add more people to pay for, and you would maybe be more stringent on what quality is give for those many thousands of pounds paid.

      I’ve only have been able to enjoy flying in business thanks to this site and could never afford normal priced tickets for my family and I and I’m on a decent wage! The problem is once you try it, it’s really hard not fly it 🙂

    • Alan says:

      Eastbound flights from the US I’m very much just about the seat – best one ever was an MCO one where I got on, took the bottle of water they were handing out, reclined once we were at cruise with earplugs and eyeshade on then got frantically awoken by the stewardess as we were almost getting ready to land at LGW 😀

  • Peter says:

    Currently sitting in the business lounge at Doha flying back from Bangkok to Copenhagen with Qatar (then on to London tomorrow). Seats bought in the Qatar sale thanks to Rob.

    Can only echo Rob’s usual comments about the amazing seats and awesome staff. Plus the food is sensational. Blown away by the quality, quantity, flavour and of course the ‘dine when you want service’ which doesn’t seem to trouble the staff at all.

    Topped off by a visit to the bar at the back of the A380. Amazing.

    Had previously only flown business with BA on my yearly Amex 2 for 1 and the comparison is laughable.

    Finally, also received a beautiful amenity kit in a washbag with leather trim (they kept coming around and giving them out, forgetting that already done it, so I got four instead of one!). Better than the child’s shoe bag you get with BA!

  • Lady London says:

    If British Airways takes away the extra baggage at Silver/Gold on longhaul or if they take away or deteriorate RFS for shorthaul I’d not bother to select BA particularly. Removing just one of these means I stop bothering to choose BA at times where I definitely choose them over others now including professionally. Other perks of travelling with status or in Club I can live without. Of course, I’ll lap them up when they come anyway though :-).

    I’ve privatised my lounge access this year. So lounge is not a deciding factor for any OneWorld flight anymore although lounge access and facilities is really important to me. I’m happy to privatise (or pay for) wifi/network access when travelling as that’s what I’ve always do anyway. Trravelling internationally without wifi/network access is a pain. In some situations it can make you non-functional. So wifi is not a deciding factor for me in choosing an airline as I mostly have that already.

    I continue to use Star Alliance lounges on flights with Star Alliance airlines and Star Alliance gives me extra baggage when I need it. Right now I’m struggling to work out which Star Alliance airline I should book miles on Star Alliance flights to as I do enough for status with one airline, but am not sure if I’ve chosen the best programme in Star Alliance for me. Overall I find the Star Alliance experience better than the OneWorld experience. Especially since BA has led the way in OneWorld no longer checking luggage through across OneWorld flights not even their own which causes major inconvenience for passengers and last year I had a very nasty experience last year with LAN refusing to honour OneWorld privileges, So OneWorld alliance privileges are not selling for me right now.

    • Pawel says:

      I collect miles with Aegean If You rich gold is very easy to keep it, yesterday I flew WAW-ATH-LHR for 47pounds free proper food and wine, nice lounge in Warsaw with proper food in GOLD section and got 1867 miles for it on A3, only downside was 4h connection time at ATH but in my opinion worth it, for 21000/40000 miles You can flew between HKG HND Biznes/First with Thai Airways so amazing option, all SAS flights earn 100milea

  • Lewis Watson says:

    What do terms like mixed fleet mean? See them on here a lot but don’t know what they mean

    • Daz says:

      Mixed Fleet cabin crew change between Long and Short haul destinations.

    • the_real_a says:

      Legacy cabin crew on about £35-40k. Mixed Fleet cabin crew on £18-21k.

      You can make up your own mind what the pay should be.

    • Rob says:

      ‘Mixed Fleet’ refers to everyone recruited post 2011 (?) to work out of Heathrow. They have a contract which pays easyJet money and insists they mix long haul and short haul flying. Routes are given to EITHER mixed fleet or the other crew fleets – they do not mix day to day. As older crew leave, more and more routes are going to Mixed Fleet.

      For a couple of years Mixed Fleet even had a different uniform.

  • Kathy says:

    If they drop F they’ll lose their celeb VIP flyers. Can’t see movie stars etc being happy to fly in a dense Club World cabin. They are probably the only people paying the most expensive, last minute, First fares.

    • Lady London says:

      Er no, they seem to get ‘comp’d’ and I bet at least some of the time don’t actually pay… Or depending on who books it for them then there are deals.

      I’ll always remember seeing one, at that time quite well-known, British actress throw a ‘hissy fit’ when there wasn’t a seat available for her in First on a flight to UK. From the language used she was expecting to be comp’d

  • mark2 says:

    If the seats are different lengths will we have to declare our height on booking?

  • BA Club World dine-on-demand: recipe for disaster? - Runway GirlRunway Girl says:

    […] pulling off a dine on demand product offering in business class of the type outlined by Head for Points, which wrote about the news earlier today UK time, is complex and […]

  • Benj says:

    Personally all the hard product is missing for me is direct aisle access.

    I’d rather have decent prices than a little shelf to put nothing on.

    I also actually get more of a feeling of space of space from the current CW seat than I do from the foot coffin and fixed screen and plastic wall right in front of my face.

    Direct aisle access coupled with the privacy of the current widow seat would place the CW seat ahead of all other One World offerings ‘for me’.

    An improved soft product, same prices and BA will no longer be under par

    • Alex W says:

      Except the prices are not decent? BA more than double the price of Qatar…

      • TGLoyalty says:

        the direct ‘premium’

        People in Doha generally pay more to far eastern destinations that we do from AMS/CDG etc

    • Alex says:

      JAL business class already offers more privacy than CW with aisle access and no Ying yang

      • Ronster says:

        Hi Alex

        This is my favourite Business class seat at the moment.

        Its a fabulous design from B/E Aerospace called Apex and its really what BA needs to be looking at as a standard to match if not better

        Of course we will have to see what Qatar lunches in Germany in a month or so.

        But investment in the hard product for BA new J class, must be at the top of Sr Cruz list.


      • Richard says:

        The JAL seat is great (had it flying on a 787 HEL-NRT) but the bed length is far too short for me (shorter than the BA seat). The sense of privacy is really good though and they are well built – you are not bothered by the neighbour over the wall bouncing around like with the BA seat.

    • Will says:

      I hear what you’re saying. Perhaps BA get rightly slammed but if you strip it down to just the comfort of the seat itself I think it is one of the most comfortable. Certainly more comfortable than the way overrated cofin seat that Qatar operate with the narrow footwell.

      Sure almost everything else is superior on other airlines.

    • Alan says:

      I do hate the foot coffins/cubbys – flew Swiss business a few years back and couldn’t turnover when lying flat, felt almost claustrophobic! CW great for legroom.

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