British Airways and the mystery of the missing super-thin seats

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We ran an article last week about the return to service of G-MEDN, the first British Airways A321 aircraft to be ‘densified’ with additional seating This was primarily due to the two loos being moved into the back wall of the aircraft.

The other change was meant to be the introduction of super-thin Recaro seating in two thirds of the aircraft, from row 12 or row 14 depending on aircraft type.

And yet, in an article published late on Friday night, British Airways spoke to Business Traveller to refute this.

This is a summary of what British Airways said:

All of the people writing about the new configuration online are confused

The new A320neo and A321neo aircraft, to be delivered from April, WILL have a mix of the current and super-thin seating

However, the existing A320 and A321 fleet is not changing.  All seats will be the current (‘Pinnacle’) seat, albeit reworked to include USB and power sockets. 

This creates as many questions as it answers.  This is what British Airways told the City:

How can British Airways have the same numbers of seats on an A321 with the current seating and the forthcoming A321neo aircraft with super-thin seating?  Has the seat pitch been reduced even though the seats are the same?

Here is the only picture I have seen so far of the new BA ‘spaceflex’ cabin on G-MEDN.  It doesn’t help much as it is taken from the front where the seats would be the same anyway:

To make things even more confusing, Iberia is definitely retro-fitting its super-thin seats onto its existing Airbus aircraft as well as on its new deliveries.  The article does not, admittedly, imply that BA was planning a retro-fit.

It is all a bit odd.  It is even odder than BA is telling Business Traveller that ourselves, Flyertalk, PPrune and various other sites have been printing incorrect information, when they could have contacted all of us directly.  If we have been sharing incorrect information about the new seats then, BA, we’re sorry ….. but you could just have rung us or even invited the media on the Glasgow flight on Thursday.   It probably didn’t help that the entire travel press, including ourselves, was in Berlin last week for the ITB trade show.

It seems that we may end up with two types of Airbus short-haul planes at Heathrow.  New neo ones with a mix of current and super-thin seats, and the older Airbus aircraft which just have the current seats.  All with have the new thin toilets built into the back wall.  Confusing …. and unhelpful if you want to avoid the new Recaro seats.

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  1. I wonder if they are keeping these planes for when club Europe is too busy for 8 rows…

    • The limit to 7 rows is due to galley space and these aircraft have limited galley space due to the reduction in the rear galley to fit those new mini toilets.

      I believe the row limitation is only for the longer flights as they have more extensive catering, although this is just as frustrating as the longer the flight the more likely you’re going to want to upgrade.

  2. Are there any European regional airlines with decent seats anymore? I was on Lufthansa business class flight from FRA to MUC on n A319 and the seat was pretty horrible and cramped.

    • Yes, Air France refitted its A320s a few years ago with a new seat. It’s quite thin and doesn’t recline (GOOD). I’ve only flown internal flights of 1 hour+ (where at least until recently you were still served a drink and biscuit) and found them quite comfortable. I’d probably choose Air France all the time for Paris-London flights if they didn’t use T4 at LHR.

      • And Iberia has bought one year ago one Airbus A319 from Air France which had the AF recaro seats.

        Iberia has not refitted anything and this plane is used by Iberia, with the Air France seats, probably not to LHR I guess.

        Just think about this.
        Ryannair said at the time, it will choose non reclining seats.
        And Air France, 10 years ago already now I think, was the launch customer of this recaro non reclining seat.
        Before Ryannair had started any roll-out of its non reclining seats.

        Now on a Orly-Toulouse flight, you have the choice of a 180 recaro seats A320 with Air France or a 180 recaro seats A320 with easyjet.
        Only the color changes.

  3. Mikeact says:

    A classic case of the left hand / right hand etc.

  4. For consistency I wonder why they don’t take the back rows from the existing fleet and put them at the front of the new aircraft. Then they’d only be buying the slimlines.

    • All the seats on this aircraft are new. It was a bmi midhaul aircraft which had proper lie flat business class seats and the economy seats had seat back screens therefore they needed to replace all the seats on here with the new style. That’s another reason why it’s odd they never added the slimline seats.

  5. Best not to try to avoid the new Recaro seats, just avoid BA!

  6. So does this mean that the pitch will be even less at the back of the refitted planes?

    • The new planes, definitely. We simply don’t know on the retrofits. Perhaps I try to fly G-MEDN this week, diary is very clear.

  7. What I don’t get is it says there’s 205 seats on the 321. Where’s the odd seat?

    • Ever flown on rather A321? It has a few rows of 2 seats near the emergency exits (currently – on BA at least – rows 8 and 20). On the left there’s a gap, on the right there’s crew jumpseats by the doors. Add a few of these in and you get an odd number.

      • There’s one non exit row which only has two seats too, which makes the odd number.

        On the a321 it’s better to avoid the 2 seat exit rows as they don’t seem to have any extra space than the normal seat. The other exit rows are great as you can get up from the window without disturbing the other two passengers

  8. OT.

    I have 4 seats in CW LGW-MCO late august booked with Avios and 241 voucher.

    How likely is it that the aircraft used for LGW-MCO will be re-fitted with the new seats before then?

    I’m concerened about a possible downgrade, especially with the rumours of avios 241 bookings being targetted. (The seat plan already shows 40 out of 48 seats taken).

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Not always the case, not sure if you’re good but seats are blocked for golds only until 24 hours before etc

    • How did you get the 4 seats?!

      • I booked at about 11.5 months out

        • I will be trying my luck later in the year!

        • wally1976 says:

          Late August is probably not too difficult to get redemption seats outbound once it’s too late for people to get away and back for the start of school term.

  9. Despite the confusion and hype, it does make sense. To me at least. The current Pinnacle seat can only be 3-4 yrs old so makes financial sense for BA to utilise this as it has already been paid for. The additional 12 seats on a A320 / 13 seats on a A321 equates to 2 extra rows. The space for which has been created by moving 2 toilets forward of the rear doors to behind the rear doors as well as to encroach on rear galley space. The 13th seat on the A321 will be an additional seat to a current row of 2 as mentioned further above but not sure which row. You now have to ask yourself whether BA will have paid to reinstate the windows in these newly created rows where the toilets once stood. My guess is highly unlikely.

    • I don’t think where the toilets were/are was designed to have a window so I think the last row definitely won’t have a window. Some Vueling planes have the new toilets and the last row is windowless

    • G-MEDK which was originally a midhaul A320 in bmi days never had the window reinstated next to seat 1F (which used to be a wardrobe in the midhaul configuration) what’s worse is the window is there, it’s just the wall panel that’s covering it and when it’s sunny you can see the light shine through the wall.

      Note: it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been on this aircraft so they may have reinstated the window by now. I doubt it though

  10. The retrofitted aircraft will have all pinnacle seats and will keep the table in the middle seat in CE. Pretty sure seats in ET on these aircraft will not recline. The NEOs will have the same pitch as the retrofitted aircraft, without the table in CE and Recaro seats in ET. The capping of club has also been vastly overstated as this is only due to the galley configuration on a few planes which be only be put on routes with lower numbers of CE pax – the selling of CE will not be capped.

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