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What could the new British Airways First Class seat look like?

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Over the weekend, Sean Doyle, CEO of British Airways, reconfirmed via The Sunday Times that the airline would be launching a new First Class cabin and that its existing fleet of 12 A380 aircraft would get it.

This isn’t new news. BA was talking about a next-generation First Class seat back in 2019, when it had just launched its Club Suite business class seat on the A350.

When I spoke to Alex Cruz about it at the time, he said “I’m sure we’ll come out with something significant” and that it would arrive on the Boeing 777X. At that point this was scheduled to arrive in 2022.

What could the new British Airways First Class seat look like?

That never happened, of course. A global pandemic got in the way and airlines paused all non-essential spending. Not that it mattered – Boeing was already dealing with headwinds on the 777X program and announcing delay after delay. The latest update is that British Airways is unlikely to see the first of its 777X until 2026 fleet at the earliest.

In the meantime, BA rolled out an updated version of its existing First Class seat with a door, in part because the introduction of Club Suite left the door-less First in an awkward spot. You can read a reader review of that product here.

What could the new British Airways First Class seat look like?

Was that the long-vaunted new First Class that Alex had teased back in 2019? Or was this merely a opportunistic update enabled by the full refurbishment of the 777 fleet? It wasn’t clear – until now.

In his recent interview with Sean Doyle in The Sunday Times, John Arlidge writes that “Hundreds of millions of pounds will be spent refitting BA’s 12 A380 double-decker superjumbos ….. It will have a new first class — perhaps on the upper deck for the first time — the popular new business-class Club Suite, also upstairs, and new premium economy and economy cabins.”

Although not a direct quote from Sean, we can be pretty sure this has been paraphrased from his words.

What sort of First Class does British Airways want to offer?

Before we look at what other airlines have been doing recently, it is worth asking what kind of First Class British Airways wants to offer.

First Class is, arguably, the cabin with the most diversity and range in terms of what can be done. It can range from a conventional business class seat with a bit more personal space and privacy to full-blown mini-suites such as those found on Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Etihad.

What could the new British Airways First Class seat look like?

Historically, BA’s First Class has been more of a mass-market offering. This comes down to a number of factors, including:

  • Cabin size: although it is starting to downsize, BA’s A380s and even some of its 777 and 747s featured First Class cabins with 12-14 seats. Most airlines install eight seats or fewer – Air France now only has four.
  • Seat size: BA’s current First Class seat is fundamentally a business class seat with more privacy and personal space, rather than an enclosed mini-suite found on some airlines
  • Service levels: unlike other airlines, BA doesn’t offer chauffeur drive, serve caviar or some of the other luxurious touches you’ll find on other airlines.

All of those factors meant that First Class on British Airways was typically a cheaper, more affordable offering than other First Class cabins, and is why you can often find return tickets in First for around £2,500 during sales.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it just means that BA’s First Class offering is pitched at a different market to other airlines. It’s in good company, with a number of airlines offering First Class cabins that aren’t as ludicrously luxurious as Etihad’s Apartment, Emirates’ new First Class on the Boeing 777s or Singapore Airlines’ impressive A380 suites.

British Airways will have to decide whether it continues with an improved but still mass-affluent cabin or whether it wants to move to an increasingly exclusive, uber-luxurious model spearheaded by the Middle Eastern airlines.

Let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of both approaches:

Option 1: an improved but still ‘traditional’ First Class

This is, in my opinion, the more likely of the two scenarios. Although it’s not as flashy, I still think there are a lot of exciting opportunities here for British Airways to deliver a really solid First Class experience.

Let’s start with the seat. In this scenario, BA sticks with a business class style seat with improved personal space and privacy and a larger in-flight entertainment screen.

Probably the best example of a new seat in this category is ANA’s ‘THE Suite’, which it launched on Boeing 777-300ER services back in 2019. ANA installs this in a 1-2-1 configuration with eight seats in total:

ANA first class the suite

What you get is a full-width seat from head to toe. One key differentiator from business class seats is that there is no tessellation – or overlap – of passengers in the seat layout, with one passenger’s foot cubby making up the side console of the passenger in front. In this scenario the entire 34-inch, 86cm width is yours, from window to aisle.

This is also similar to the ‘rebranded First Class’ Business Suite offered by Malaysia Airlines on its A350s:

Malaysia Airlines business suite

In both cases, the seats are in fully-enclosed shells. These do not feature ceiling-high walls but they do offer doors and a high level of privacy.

A more conventional seat design will necessitate a greater focus on service to distinguish itself from business class. This would require improved crew training and a continued focus on food and drinks service, branded amenity partnerships and an eye for detail.

Option 2: an ultra-luxurious, exclusive First Class suite

In the second scenario, BA goes all-out to create an ultra-luxury product to rival the best of the Middle Eastern and Asian airlines. For reasons I’m about to explain, I think this is unlikely.

Instead of a seat, each passenger gets their own mini-suite/cabin, with virtually floor-to-ceiling high walls and doors for unparalleled privacy. Think of the Emirates ‘Game Changer’ First Class Suite which Rob reviewed here:

Emirates 777 First class suite

…. or Singapore Airlines’ A380 Suites, which can be converted into a double bed if two passengers are travelling together:

Singapore Airlines A380 first class suite

Interestingly, we’ve also seen Lufthansa move in this direction for its new First Class suites coming early next year:

Lufthansa Allegris First class seat

Whilst these seats are impressive, they aren’t without their downsides:

  • The increased size of each individual suite means there are fewer available, restricting demand and creating a more exclusive (but also less attainable) experience. Emirates only has six suites on their 777 fleet whilst Singapore Airlines installs just six suites on the much larger A380, too. Lufthansa is planning to put just three suites on its aircraft.
  • As a result of their increased footprint, you can also expect them to be significantly more expensive versus a conventional First Class seat
  • Redemption opportunities are likely to be extremely limited: for example, Emirates used to only open redemptions three days in advance whilst Air France restricts First Class redemptions to Flying Blue Platinum members. Of course, some airlines with less impressive products also have redemption restrictions – SWISS only allows HON Circle and Senator (BA Gold Guest List and Gold equivalent) to redeem in First Class whilst Lufthansa blocks redemptions via partner airline programmes until 14 days before departure.

Whilst these suites are a boon for YouTubers and influencers, their limited availability and price means that far fewer passengers are able to experience them. British Airways would be likely to block Avios redemptions entirely or restrict them to top tier members, and even then you would be unlikely to see more than one seat per flight.

Of course, these suites would also need to be matched by equally luxurious amenities and service. Caviar, £200+ bottles of champagne and even £800+ bottles of Cognac (see Rob’s Emirates review) are often the benefits of these ultra-luxurious cabins.

You would also need to upgrade the ground experience. Airport chauffeuring, private lounge-to-plane transfers and stand-alone First Class terminals are common features. Making your way on foot from the Concorde Room to a flight at Terminal 5C won’t cut it.


There’s a lot to think about here. There are, of course, other alternatives. Air France’s current First Class cabin (it is about to introduce a new one) features conventional seats but with a full-height privacy curtain. Part of the appeal here is an outstanding ground experience for departures from Paris.

Qantas, meanwhile, has just unveiled its own next-generation First Class cabin: in this case, a separate seat-and-bed but without full-height walls for a more open cabin.

Qantas new First class seat

It will be interesting to see which path British Airways takes, although I suspect it will be the mass affluent, more conventional option. This makes more sense for BA’s high-volume transatlantic focus with average flight lengths between six and twelve hours.

(It is also worth remembering that BA has historically used large First cabins as a carrot to fly with the airline, with regular pre-covid promotions offering a free one way First Class upgrade to anyone booking a fully flexible return business class ticket.)

One thing I do hope to see is a greater focus on texture and detail than we saw on Club Suite which I think looks a bit drab and grey compared to some of its competitors. With any luck, BA will pull on the UK’s rich design heritage to create a seat that may not be bespoke but feels uniquely BA.

Either way, it will likely be another couple of years until we see what British Airways has been cooking up. With the arrival of the Boeing 777Xs delayed until at least 2026 and the refurbishment of the A380s likely to start in 2025 at the earliest, BA still has a few years to perfect its plans. In the meantime, you can read more about BA’s existing First Class in our guide here.


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As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

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There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

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You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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The Platinum Card from American Express

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We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

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You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

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Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (92)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Kevin says:

    I’ve now had a problem with Club Suite electronics on 3 occasions, out of about 14 flights. No power so no adjustment, the no IFE and last night the panel kept resetting and took about 3-4 minutes to go into lie flat mode. The lack of USB-C and positioning of the power socket is also problematic for me as it doesn’t allow me to plug in an Apple laptop charger as the storage area is too shallow.

    It easy for us to question the “Alex Cruz” decisions and complain that BA has been knocked off their perch at the top of the jet age tree. No one takes up a job and deliberately makes bad decisions and it ain’t an easy business to be in trying to make as much money for shareholders and keep customers happy whilst fighting against the ME3.

    Good luck to Sean and his team but no doubt whichever direction they choose for the new F cabin they will face a barrage of criticism.

  • Jimmy says:

    BA doesn’t want to do aspirational – it wants to be able to do “just enough”.
    They dont need to as they have a great monopoly on some of the best slots.

  • Bagoly says:

    Regarding the privacy aspect – the question is not what most of us want, but what is wanted by the people who pay cash for BA First?
    On average, they are less anonymous to the world than most of us.
    With the greater ubiquity of small cameras than decades ago, perhaps a significant proportion of those business and creative celebrities who can afford First, but cannot afford Private, do want to be able to seclude themselves.

    If BA is being rational, they should have surveyed those people who pay cash for First to ask them for their priorities.

    • Rob says:

      You don’t need privacy in the F cabin. You may need privacy on the long trawl from the CCR to T5C and the public boarding scrum ….

      You make a common error though. People tend to be rich or famous. The crossover between those 2 Venn diagram circles – which is the group in F who may want privacy – is small. Get out the Sunday Times Rich List and see how many you’d recognise.

      If ever offered the choice between fame or money, take the money. You’ll be happier.

  • Ironside says:

    I’m curious why you don’t think BA will go with one of the “other alternatives”? Call it Option 1.5.

    With Club Suites, BA surprised us (well, some of us) with something better than expected. In contrast to some of the naysayers, I could see a Qantas-style seat-and-bed arrangement making an appearance in First.

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