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Club Suite rollout: has your chance of getting the new British Airways business class seat improved?

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Last year, British Airways revealed its plans for the rollout of its new Club Suite business class seat at its Capital Markets Day.  How has this plan survived coronavirus?

What was the original Club Suite roll-out plan?

The original British Airways plan was for 33% of the long haul Heathrow fleet to feature the new Club Suite business class seat by the end of 2020, increasing incrementally until all Heathrow-based aircraft had it by 2025:

British Airways Club Suite rollout

As far as we know, there has been no substantial delay to the Boeing 777 refurbishment programme.  The 2020 delivery schedule is also continuing as usual, and we recently saw the first Boeing 787-10 arrive.  This came with Club Suite installed on Day 1, the first time this has happened on a 787.

Your chances of Club Suite have increased substantially

Things have moved on since the Capital Markets Day presentation, with the biggest change being the retirement of all 31 Boeing 747s in BA’s fleet.  As none of these aircraft have Club Suite, removing 30% of BA’s long-haul aircraft will immediately increase the proportion of Club Suite-outfitted aircraft, even though the number of aircraft with the seat isn’t changing.

British Airways has also announced that none of its A380 fleet, which does not have Club Suite, will fly again in the short term.

British Airways Club Suite rollout

Let’s take a look at BA’s projected long haul fleet at the end of 2020:

A350 – British Airways currently has six A350s in its fleet and at least two more are currently in the final stages of construction and likely to be delivered this year.  BA’s A350s were the first to get Club Suite. Assuming no change, nine should be in service by the end of 2020.

A380 – British Airways currently has twelve A380s in its fleet, although the majority are currently parked due to Covid-19. It is not clear if and when BA will return these to active service soon, although it is hard to see them returning this year. The first A380 was due to be refurbished with Club Suite in 2022, with the final aircraft due in 2025.

Boeing 787-8 – British Airways has twelve of the smaller 787-8 Dreamliner in its fleet. The first of these is due to be refurbished with Club Suite in 2021 with the fleet completed in 2024.

Boeing 787-9 – British Airways has eighteen of the mid-sized 787-9 in its fleet. These are due to be refurbished with Club Suite between 2022 and 2024.

Boeing 787-10 – British Airways currently has two of the largest 787 variant in its fleet, with plans for six to arrive by the end of the year. Like the A350s, these are fitted with Club Suite on the factory line.

Boeing 777-200ER – There are approximately 29 777-200ERs in BA’s Heathrow fleet, with the remaining 14 at Gatwick. Two of the oldest are due to be retired by the end of 2020, taking the fleet down to 27. British Airways has already started the process of refitting these aircraft with Club Suite. Eight are complete with a further eight originally due by the end of the year. This process appears to be a couple of months behind schedule, so we are likely to see between ten and sixteen completed.

Boeing 777-300ER –  British Airways currently has twelve 777-300ERs in its fleet, with a further four arriving this year. The first aircraft is due for refurbishment in October with a total of three scheduled for this year. These are experiencing some delays as with the refurbishment program on the 777-200ERs, so we may see between zero and three complete. The new arrivals will come with Club Suite line-fitted.

British Airways Club Suite rollout

In total, we are looking at around 88 active long-haul aircraft in BA’s fleet by the end of 2020, if we exclude the A380 fleet which is temporarily grounded. Assuming nothing changes (a big assumption to make in the current climate!) we can expect between 29 and 38 aircraft fitted with Club Suite.

This suggests that between 32% and 43% of the active Heathrow fleet will feature the new business class product by the end of the year.  This is not bad progress given the first A350 with Club Suite was only launched this time last year.

Looking further into the future we are likely to see the original Club Suite rollout plan optimised. Whilst there is likely to have been some disruption to the supply and manufacture of the seats themselves, the bigger issue will be Airbus and Boeing choosing to reduce the rate of production on key aircraft such as the A350, 787-10 and upcoming 777X.  These are all aircraft British Airways is supposed to take delivery of in the next two to three years and will likely see a significant slowdown of delivery schedules.

You can read more about Club Suite, including which routes you are likely to find it on, in our comprehensive Club Suite guide here.

British Airways BA Amex American Express

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Comments (41)

  • Wollhouse says:

    Would Sir like a Kit Kat with his Club Suite?…..

    • mr_jetlag says:

      I’m feeling peckish Jeeves. Fetch me that ludicrously tiny bag of pretzels.

      • Anna says:

        The real kicker is that apparently COVID means that Feuillatte is safer to serve than LPGS 😥

      • Wollhouse says:

        Well, now a moot point as BA just cancelled our flights. Very handy in that they’ve now cancelled the London/Bangkok return and the return London to Edinburgh but seem very happy that they’re still providing the Edinburgh to London flight! Ha ha. So I won’t have to worry about the rubbish food:(

        • mr_jetlag says:

          cancellation of any leg means full refund, if you can get on the phone I’d do it soon as… otherwise if you wanted a voucher I’d wait till 24h before.

  • ChrisC says:

    Just thought I’d mention that the speed of the roll out is down to how many seats the manufacturer can make in a day which is (as per A Cruz) is 3 and assumes no supply chain issues at the best of times.

    It’s also why BA aren’t able to fit the seats whilst many planes are still on the ground due to covid – because there isn’t a warehouse full of them ready to be installed.

    • Journeying John says:

      No doubt the fire and rehire / sackings in BA engineering haven’t speeded up the process

  • James says:

    They could be fitting plush leather armchairs for all I care, while they’re handing out boxes of salad I’ll be taking my business elsewhere.

  • MadeUpName says:

    Is there any changes to the short haul operation? Am I more likely to get a 320 neo as they are more fuel efficient?

    • Doug M says:

      I’ve wondered about this. But is fuel so cheap they’d rather put cycles into old planes to wear them out before they’re dumped? If the frame is due that bigger more expensive (D?) check would they moth ball those?

      • MadeUpName says:

        Hadn’t thought of that angle. Keep using them until they wear out. I’m also not sure how much more efficient they are. I’m sure it’s not as big a % difference as a long haul 747 vs a 350 or 787.

        • Rhys says:

          About 15% vs the A320ceo

          • MadeUpName says:

            That’s more than I thought – some complex calculations to be done somewhere with a load of assumptions on current and future use!

      • Will says:

        If storage were free you’d think that the sensible choice would be to put the hours into the old airframes when fuel is cheap as they have next to no resale value and if you don’t use the new planes now they will last further into the future.

        Lots of factors at play though.

        Suspect it would be a great time to acquire a cheap 747 for your own personal transport if you were in the market for such a thing.

        HfP private charter plane Rob 🙂

        • Rhys says:

          Fuel is cheap but it’s cheaper if you need 15% less of it, especially in the middle of a pandemic 😉

        • Simon Barlow says:

          OOH!! Great idea – I can be just like Austen Powers!!

    • Rhys says:

      Probably yes, but I don’t have the data

  • Troll Basher says:

    As an ever fluid data point, I have a number of trips booked for the first Q of 2021, all scheduled for the 777-300ER, currently split roughly 40:60 between the current configuration and the refurbished 8F and Club Suites.

  • Colin JE says:

    Dumb question probably, but how can you tell what configuration is on a flight you are considering BEFORE booking it? I know you can tell once you’ve booked, when you look at the seating, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to spot a aircraft with new club suite or, for that matter, whether it’s an A320neo or an old one with seats that don’t wreck your back.

    • MadeUpName says:

      If you go most of the way to paying for a cash fare and checkout (as a guest is easier) you get an option to choose (and pay for) seats. From those seat maps you should be able to work it out.

      Though obviously might change between booking and flying

    • meta says:

      You can also check on Expertflyer, but it’s a paid service.

    • Alex says:

      For Club Suite if you go all the way to seat selection during the booking process, you will see all the club seats facing forwards only. The old Yin-Yang configuration has arrows showing which way you’re facing. Another hint is 4 seats per row instead of 8.

      Expertflyer is also an option, but a paid option indeed. Seatguru also had a search feature by date to let you check, but it wasn’t always accurate, and I haven’t used it since I’ve my EF subscription.

    • Journeying John says:

      Book with a quality airline instead of BA and you won’t have the conundrum of whether you’ll get the advertised seating or not.
      Short/mid haul even Ryanair have a better seat pitch and longhaul no other major airline has such antiquated cabins in 60—70% of it’s fleet. In either case the catering is more likely to be available and of better quality than on Below Average and the fares are likely to be lower too.

  • memesweeper says:

    ‘This suggests that between 32% and 43% of the active Heathrow fleet‘

    … and presumably 0% of Gatwick’s 777s then? will they be last?

    • Rhys says:

      The Gatwick fleet went through a refurbishment (and densification to 10 abreast in economy) in the last few years. BA never announced if or when they get Club Suite – I imagine they will get retired towards the end of this decade, as they are already 20 years old, so no Club Suite.

      • Lady London says:

        Gatwick=Cinderella, for BA. Poorer everything in the offering (not sure about Barbados).

        The trend has always been for major international airlines stuck at LGW to do their best to get into the El Dorado that is LHR, as soon as they could.

    • Rob says:

      That’s the plan (or non-plan).

    • TGLoyalty says:

      a couple of the LGW were planned to move over to LHR and will be converted to CS

      I think a couple go the other way. probably to do with age of fleet

  • Scottdogg says:

    Im flying to Vancouver in March, was originally on a 747 , keeping my fingers crossed for an aircraft with Club Suites

    • Lady London says:

      I’d keep my fingers crossed for Vancouver if I were you. Cancellations reported in the early part of the season already.

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