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Who won ‘Best New Business Class Seat 2019’ at the Head for Points Awards?

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Over Christmas and New Year, we are unveiling the winners of the inaugural Head for Points Travel & Loyalty Awards.  For Boxing Day we are on Category 2 – “Best New Business Class Seat”.

The Head for Points Travel & Loyalty Awards 2019 are a great opportunity to recognise the cream of the crop when it comes to UK premium business and leisure travel. A lot of the areas we are covering, such as airport lounges and travel credit cards, are ignored by other awards because they are too niche – but for our readers, they are very important and appreciated.

Over 4,500 HFP readers voted over three weeks in November. There were 12 categories in total. As well as giving an award to each category winner, we are also giving out a number of ‘Editor’s Choice’ awards for products and services which we personally admire.

Each winner will receive a trophy which we will be presenting at a special dinner in January. You can catch up with all of the winners we have announced to date by clicking here.

What is the best new business class seat?

Today we are announcing the winner of ‘Best New Business Class Seat’. And the winner is….

British Airways

British Airways beat three other short-listed airlines to the top slot, trumping Virgin Atlantic’s new Upper Class Suite, ANA’s The Room and Turkish Airlines’ new Aurora seat.

The British Airways Club Suite was a long time coming and, after an initial reveal this Spring, finally went on to commercial flights in August.  It wasn’t just a brand new seat – it was first launched on a brand new aircraft, the A350, although you can now find it on a handful of Boeing 777 and, in recent weeks, the first deliveries of the new Boeing 787-10.

Here is my review of the initial Club Suite flight to New York.

British Airways A350 Club Suite

I wouldn’t say that expectations were low when it came to the new British Airways seat.  What is fair to say is that Club World had fallen so far off the pace that pretty much anything would have been an improvement.  There was a risk that BA would settle for something that was ‘good enough’, given that BA is also supported by its strong position at Heathrow, without raising the bar.

We were wrong.  We were amongst the first to experience Club Suite and were surprised just how good it was.  Despite being an off-the-shelf product, British Airways has done some excellent modifications to customise the seat and improve it even further – most obviously by adding a door, but also by adjusting the tray table mechanism for additional flexibility.

Best New Business Class Seat 2019

What British Airways has now is a very competitive seat which finally means that Club World will have all-aisle access, increased storage and a bigger and better TV screen. The uniformity of the cabin is an additional bonus, with all seats virtually identical.  You won’t be caught out if you don’t reserve seats in advance, and indeed I don’t see any need to pay to reserve specific seats if you do not have British Airways status.

Coupled with the new improved Do&Co catering, as well as a relatively fast roll out (30% of the long-haul Heathrow fleet will be Club Suite by next Christmas), BA is in with a real chance of changing customer perceptions over how ‘premium’ it actually is.

Best New Business Class Seat 2019

We should say a few words about the new Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Suite, pictured below.  As with Club Suite, this is a huge improvement on the old seat which it is replacing.  Taken as an entirity – including ‘The Loft’ social space on the new A350 aircraft (more on that to come as the awards unfold) and the warm and welcoming colour scheme – it is great.  The airline has been forced to modify the tables, however, due to negative feedback and there are still issues over storage space.  The jury is out on whether the half-closing door adds much.

At the end of the day, I think it was the shock of seeing British Airways taking such a major leap forward which made so many readers reward them with their vote.   I don’t blame them.  Club Suite could well be the best business class seat offered by any European airline at the moment.

Best New Business Class Seat 2019

We also decided to award an ‘Editor’s Choice’ award in this category.

The winner of the ‘Editor’s Choice’ award is …….

ANA

Although ANA’s route between London and Tokyo is a niche one for most UK flyers, their new business class product, “THE Room” is exceptionally good.

“THE Room” is a brand new custom designed seat. What will strike you first is just how wide the seat is. Rob tried it out recently on the ground at the media launch and was even able to sit in the seat comfortably with an extra person!  “THE Room” still tapers into a foot well but it is nonetheless a new and innovative seat that rethinks how personal space is allocated on an aircraft.

ANA business class the room

“THE Room” is complemented by 24″ 4k screens as well as retractable privacy screens and doors that allow for full privacy if raised.  There is even a second opening which allows the crew to pass you your meal without having to open the suite door.

The ANA London-Tokyo route is also one of the best value redemptions you can make from the UK using your Virgin Flying Club Miles. Coupled with the new seat, flying to Japan has never looked so good!

The aim of the ‘Editor’s Choice’ awards is to highlight products or services which the Head for Points team believe are excellent and which deserve wider recognition.  We can’t think of a better example than ‘THE Room’, which shows yet again how the Asian and Middle East carriers are still setting the pace in innovative seat design.  If you are flying to Tokyo in 2020 in Business Class, we recommend giving it a try.

Congratulations to both British Airways and ANA on their success.  They will be picking up their awards at our winner’s dinner on 13th January.

Tomorrow we will announce the winner of ‘Best Airline or Rail Loyalty Scheme’.

Comments (99)

  • Harry T says:

    OT, no bits (apologies):
    I’ve never achieved BA status before.

    I’m having a long weekend in Helsinki in May. My membership year starts again from 8th July. I’ve realised that if I upgrade a BA domestic flight to business between now and then, I will just manage to achieve Bronze (currently should earn about 280 tier points, so accepting an upgrade offer should give me an extra 40 tier points for flying from London to Newcastle and push me over the 300 threshold).

    My question is, am I best to upgrade a flight in March, May or July? Which would extend my status the longest? If I upgrade my March or May flights, I will attain Bronze in early May, after my Helsinki flights.

    • Doug M says:

      You get the new status as soon as the TP post. So if you hit 300 today, you’d become Bronze, and it would last until 31st August 2021. You collection year runs until the 8th of the month, your status lasts for the year you achieve it, and the following year, until the end of the following month following your collection year end.
      So if you upgrade the March flight, you’ll be Bronze for at least 17 months.

    • Lady London says:

      Why not shoot for Silver?
      Other than, I think, being able to check in at Business checkin desks, are there any useful benefits of Bronze?

      • Lady London says:

        Translating Doug M’s comment above, I think that he’s also saying is that if your tier year ends on 8th July then it’s worth thinking about can you accrue next level tier points on 9th July. because under current rules that then adds up to having the gained status for 23 months+.

        A plan to do this for Silver would appear to have advantages however I am not really grabbed by Bronze but up to you. I personally wouldn’t invest anything at all in BA unless it was going to get me at least Silver.

        • Harry T says:

          So you’re saying that hitting the tier points for Silver on July 9th would give me it for longest? If I was planning Silver, I would have to do a tier run or two, whereas my normal planner travel would get me to Bronze with essentially no extra effort.

          I don’t fly for work, so I’m unsure if it’s worth spending extra to get Silver. Bronze will pretty much be an accident!

          • Doug M says:

            This Harry is very sensible. Silver is nice because it brings lounge access. But that’s entirely pointless if you don’t fly much. Spending a few hundred for TP to gain access to some poor to average free food and drink doesn’t make sense to me. Most airports have some options in the terminal, and often business lounges are crowded and nothing premium. The last few years I’ve gained BA gold through some creative routings, but I’m not flying whole trips just for TP. Each to their own, but some people that fly business class anyway really miss the point. For me status brings a lot of extra Avios, access to extra availability on Avios, and the ability to book exit rows, which I think are the best BA short haul seats. To be honest, RFS short haul with emergency exit row, and lounge beats CE every time.

          • Lady London says:

            Silver gets extra luggage too. Useful if …ahem…bringing pressies back from Australia.

            Silver may or may not show you a better selection of award seats than Bronze. I know for sure Gold does (eg if available , shows better timed flights and Y seats on flights, not just J award seats).

            It’s a pity Gold is out of the question in the time you’ve got because QF First Class Lounge in SYD is most definitely worth a visit whereas the QF Business lounge is relatively speaking, ordinary. Its been refurbed but if I’d had anything better to do on the day I was there and no longer Gold, I’d have been happy to have missed it. Coffee and ice cream OK though.

            Also Gold gets a distinctly better experience in lounges in places like SIN and HKG (,particularly the latter).

        • Doug M says:

          Actually it can be for just over 2 years. Because if you hit 600 on the 9th July, you’re silver until end August two years later. So if you hit 600TP on 9th July 20, you remain silver until 31st August 2022, this assumes for collection year end is 8th July. I think realistically it takes more than one day to get 600, but if you do it in a few days the 2+ years holds.

          • Harry T says:

            @Doug M
            Thanks again for all your advice. I’m flying from Newcastle to London and back from 9th to 12th July, which should just push me up to above 300 tier points. Does that mean I would then hold Bronze until August 2022, as my tier point year ends on 8th July? If so, I may just stay with that instead of trying to hit Bronze before 8th July.

          • Lady London says:

            Your tier points turn into a pumpkin at midnight on 8th July Harry. I.e.they reset to zero. So you’d be starting again whether you hadn’t yet attained Bronze, or Silver. If you’d qualified this year then of course whichever status you did attain you would keep to the end of next tier year.

            At the end of next tier year if your new earnings have not got you Silver then you would drop in the following year to Blue. If during next tier year (starting from scratch, remember) you did obtain silver then 2 things would happen : your silver obtained in tier year ending 2021 will also be valid for whole tier year 2022 and – more interesting – even if you earned zero in 2022 you would drop to Bronze for your tier year ending 2023.

            Rob’s done basic info articles that cover this. Some useful strategies can be devised though. Noting that if you’re using earned Avios to buy Avios tickets or Avios+cash tickets then on those tickets you are not earning Avios or tier points. I am sure you will work out your best strategy.

      • Lady London says:

        PS if you take an upgrade offer from BA (the sort that sometimes pops up when you;re looking at your booking), I’ve got a feeling you don’t get the tier points and avios from the higher class? Only if you book it for full price cash or cash+avios?

        • Doug M says:

          @LL. I think you get full TP on paid upgrades with BA. Upgrades using Avios you get TP based on the paid for class.

          • Lady London says:

            Cheers. Makes (unfortunate) sense.

            Upgrades purchased at airports on the day even for cash apparently are not supposed to get you the higher Avios and tier points but some people apparently occasionally get them

          • Doug M says:

            @LL. I think that’s wrong. Both what are called AUP and POUG on FT give TP of upgraded class I think. Upgrade using Avios used to do this too, but the meanies that are BA fixed their IT in that respect.
            But this is a BA thing, and I think no other OW airlines do this. I think in the case of Malaysian it may even cost you the original TP.

      • Lyn says:

        Bronze lets you choose seats 7 days ahead on BA, which an be really useful. You can sometimes then swap to seats that open up at T-72, and of course you are ahead of the crowd at online check-in.

        I think it may also let you choose seats at any time on Qantas, and you have a chance of getting an upstairs economy seat on their A380.if you call.

        Earning bonus avios and a better spot in the priority boarding queue are helpful as well.

        So there is something to be said for earning it as soon as possible. Agreed it is not siver, but it is still worth having, especially if you fly in economy,

        • Harry T says:

          @Lyn thanks.

          As Bronze, would I be able to get upstairs economy seats for both my partner and I, or would it just be me? She won’t have status.

          • Doug M says:

            I believe only restriction on bronze 7 day seat selection is no exit rows. Assuming same booking it’s all those on the booking.

          • Lyn says:

            @Harry T – please see my reply in the newer comments. I must just commented rather than replying.

  • @mkcol says:

    Re: ANA seats
    Husband & I thankfully have enough Virgin miles for First in ANA but cannot decide whether it’s worthwhile splashing the extra compared to their great looking business class – any thoughts or experience?

    • Yan says:

      main difference in food and drinks (Krug & Hibiki 21)
      It is possible to mix J and F in one redemption (i.e. 107500 return), if you could really find any seats (let alone two) on the new 77W routes (LHR, JFK & FRA NH203/4)

      • FlyingChris says:

        How are people searching for ANA redemptions with Virgin Miles? ANAs website reward search gives false positives with ‘waitlisted’ availability. United is better but slow and cumbersome. Would love to book an ANA redemption but availability (even ex EU) seems so sparse especially when tied to a limited set of dates. Can’t even easily book a year out when the schedule opens as the need to book a return means by the time the return seat has opened up the outbound has been taken. If anyone has any tips…

  • Benilyn says:

    HNY all. My 25k Avios from Barclays Premier posted. Happy days.

  • Lyn says:

    Starting with the rules themselves – Once you have bronze, you should be able to choose your own seat free on Qantas and also for your partner if you are on the same booking, even if she doesn’t have status. See below (Qantas Silver = OW Ruby = BA Bronze)

    https://www.qantas.com/au/en/travel-info/seat-selection.html

    Now in practice, in terms of what will happen if you call Qantas once you have Bronze. First, they may be able to assign a seat for your partner even if she isn’t on the same booking. They have done this for my husband when we were on separate bookings, but the situation was different, in that mine was a revenue booking and his an award booking. I’ve usually had the equivalent of BA silver status when they have done this, but I think it also happened when I had the equivalent of BA bronze.

    Second, if you ask for seats upstairs on the A380, and you are both on the same booking, they will try to assign them for both of you. Success will depend on how many other status passengers, and especially higher status passengers, have already asked and how many seats they have blocked “just in case”. It is also possible they give preference to Qantas frequent flyer passengers, but I simply don’t know.

    One thing that may be tricky is using your BA account number vs Qantas account number in your booking in terms of getting status benefits vs actually earning avios. I seem to remember that the special Qantas birthday fare wouldn’t earn BA avios, whereas it would earn Qantas points?

    • Lyn says:

      Sorry, this was supposed to be a reply to @HarryT on the previous page.

    • Harry T says:

      @Lyn
      Thanks, really appreciate the advice.

      On the seat selection map, all the seats on the economy upper deck are showing as unavailable aside from a single extra legroom seat. Extra legroom seats are £110 per person per leg which is ironically higher for a return journey than our actual ticket costs!

      Yes, the Qantas golden tickets earn nothing on BA so I’ve set up a QFF account to use.

      • Lyn says:

        They always show unavailable because they are blocked for frequent flyers with status. You have to call. Hope you can earn bronze in time to take advantage of it for your trip.

        That’s what I thought. You would need to put in your BA number for status, but then you’d need your QF number to earn points. You would have to explain the situation to Qantas. I think they have a way around this. It will be easier for your partner, since she will only need her Qantas number in the booking,

  • Mohammed Khan says:

    OT: doesn’t one know when the new suite will arrive on Asia routes? Ideally KL or Singapore

  • Globe trotter says:

    The general theme of dark blue on grey is reminiscent of a grey drizzly day in Britain – generally depressing and half hearted. Could they not have chosen some brighter tones? Oh of course not, that would require some cleaning. They barely clean the plane between flights as it is – even in Club. Ground staff in the US are particularly bad – with bits of litter in the plane, virtually empty soap containers, and dried food smudges on seats and on the touch screen.

    • Shoestring says:

      indeed, darker colours don’t show up the dirt so much – and we all feel cleaner? not sure it is a ‘bad’ choice of colour

      & BA did do their intensive cleaning program…

      not sure every airline deserves orange, yellow, pink etc just because it’s brighter

      • Globe trotter says:

        Agree florid pink or shock orange or gold rimmed a la Emirates would be a bit of a headache – but slightly lighter stylishly assembled tones would have been less depressing. They do a half decent job with Concorde bar colour themes – would have been good to import inflight if the cleaning budget wasnt to horribly slashed. 🙄

    • Lady London says:

      I was frightened to touch my touchscreen in PY on the way back from the US second-to-last time – it had so many layers of fingerprints on it, it looked alive. Absolutely filthy.

      BA has a long way to go if they can’;t get the basic right like actually providing a cleaned environment and not running out of food at Row 2 which we see reported too often.

      I know I said I’d go back to being horrible in the New Year, but I can’t wait.

  • James says:

    Can’t believe BA beat ANA but fair enough most readers have probably not experienced the Room but have experienced both the old/current BA J seat and the new Club Suite and are delighted that VA now has a product equivalent to what Qatar was installing 8+ years ago (and has now moved on from !).