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Alex Cruz speaks about the new British Airways Club World and First Class seats

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Alex Cruz, the Chairman and CEO of British Airways, gave a speech at a UK Israel Business event yesterday morning.  I went along and I know a few other readers were there too.

The main speech itself did not contain any surprises in terms of strategy announcements – not surprising, since UK Israel Business is not the platform you pick to announce big news.

During the questions – which were very polite and, coming mainly from UK Israel Business members and not members of the frequent flyer community, slightly bizarre in places – he did reveal some interesting information about the future of Club World and First Class.

The new British Airways Club World seat

It is well known that a new Club World seat will be introduced next year on the A350-1000 fleet as they come into service.  We also know that this will have aisle access for every seat and, via a comment made at World Travel Market last year, will have a lower seat density than the current cabin (ie fewer seats).

Cruz joked that 23 years ago British Airways unveiled the world’s first flat-bed business class seat – “but the bad news is that we still have it”.

He said that ‘2-4-2’ is no longer competitive.  This means, almost certainly, a move to some form of 1-2-1.  Remember that even little Aer Lingus has a mix of 1-2-1 and 1-2-2.

There is a mock-up cabin now built, containing test seats.  British Airways has drawn up 11 ‘red lines’ of features which it insists are included, down to proper storage for water bottles and spectacles.  “More privacy” is also a key consideration.

“It really is something else” he said.

There is an implication here that this will not be a fully off-the-shelf product.  This would also fit with a comment that (to paraphrase) “the delay in rolling out the new seat quickly will be entirely down to the inability to get them made fast enough”.

Club World

The new British Airways First Class seat

BA has stated numerous times that the current 14-seat First Class cabin on the 777 fleet is no longer relevant, but that there is definitely a long-term future for First Class.

Cruz said that (to paraphrase) “the new Club World seat will be so fantastic that we will have a serious problem with First Class”.

The answer is “to conceive the new First Class experience of the future”.  As the seat itself will no longer be a key differentiator between the cabins – because the new Club World seat is so good – there will need to be a full revinvention of First Class.  The implication is that this will only be partly about the seat and partly about everything else in the process such as food and service.

(It is fair to say that some of the most respected First Class offerings, such as Air France and Lufthansa, do not – by any standards – have the best seats in the air.  They make up for it in other ways.)

This will be a slow process unfortunately.  He talked about the long process of getting certification for a new product which implies that it will be something totally different and not a tweaked version of someone else’s seat.

Conclusion

As I have written before, Cruz – in person – comes across very well.  He has no entourage, he is willing to stop and chat to everyone and he is open and convincing about what he wants to do.  That doesn’t mean that he is always right, of course, but you can see where he is coming from.

Let’s dig this article out again in 12 months time, when we should be able to compare the reality of new Club World with the rhetoric.


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Comments (46)

  • God says:

    The problem is this man (Cruz) comes from a low cost environment. He even managed to cock that up !!!! He’s basically Walsh’s henchman. The product is trashed, the front line staff are demotivated and the Co have even managed to alienate Mixed Fleet (who were its bright and shiny new future ‘ albeit on the cheap)
    The race to the bottom has been well underway for years (imho) It can’t all be entirely blamed on Cruz but he’s doing a great job at accelerating it

  • Catalan says:

    The fact that IAG have installed decent business class seats on Aer Lingus and Iberia it bodes well for Club World.
    I’m hopeful it will be as good as the new Iberia A350 seats and some.

  • shd says:

    Isn’t it just over 12 months since BAinvestment4U?

    • Rob says:

      Yes

      • shd says:

        (to paraphrase):

        ““the delay in rolling out the new PILLOWS quickly will be entirely down to the inability to get them made fast enough”

        😉

        • Fenny says:

          There will be a short delay, there are no lemon soaked paper napkins.

  • Will says:

    This looks quite exciting. I know the usual head banging from much more seasoned travellers than me but let’s see. Imagine it will be a “catch-up” product rather than a game changer but always think we shouldn’t be measuring them against state sponsored oil airlines but rather the rest. They should at least be on a par with the likes of Air France, Lufthansa & AA.

    Reasonably hopeful.

  • Paul says:

    Yawn………

    BA and jam tomorrow or the day after or the day after that.

  • Nigel says:

    Get down to the East end markets and chat to any Cockney market trader; they will come across as chatty and affable……..if they think they can get your money!
    The trouble with BA now since being trashed by Walsh, is that it is all ill conceived planning resulting in too little too late. You watch, Qatar will have moved on by the time BA decide their seat job is complete for the next 2 decades!

  • Ziggy says:

    Cruz confuses me. Didn’t he say (around 18 months ago) that BA wouldn’t retro fit the new A350 Club World seat into the rest of fleet because it wasn’t different (revolutionary?) enough?

    Now this same seat is “so fantastic that [BA] will have a problem with First Class”

    Those two statements don’t appear to go together

  • Yuff says:

    I got the impression from Rob’s article that Cruz implies it is a bespoke seat not a seat they already had\ve, therefore what Cruz said 18 months ago still applies 🙂

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