British Airways New Business Class Suite Product Leaves Us Feeling Mixed Emotions

britishairways_21686326819237

Unless you have been living under a rock today you will already have seen the new business class product for British Airways, dubbed the ‘Club Suite.’ The new suite brings a range of improvements to the passenger experience including all-aisle access, more storage, larger IFE screens and even doors, offering even more privacy, similar to Qatar’s QSuite product.

britishairways_21686597865680

The seat, which will make its debut on the new A350s which will start flying for the carrier in July, initially on its Heathrow-Madrid route for familiarisation before becoming regular long-haul stalwarts starting with Toronto and Dubai. The new cabin will also be fitted out on two 777s before year’s end, bringing the total to 4.

britishairways_21686115725337

At the start of 2020 the final phase will see British Airways rolling out its Club Suite on further long-haul aircraft across the network. Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said: “The arrival of our first A350 featuring our new Club Suite is one of the most exciting developments in our £6.5 billion investment programme.

britishairways_216861670122336

“Each new suite has direct aisle access and comes with a personal door – design features which were incorporated as a direct result of the feedback we’ve had from our customers. We’ve worked hard to ensure every aspect of the Club World experience from the lounges we’ve refreshed, to the new gourmet menus from Do&Co on flights from Heathrow, and the luxurious bedding we’ve introduced from The White Company exudes the very British style and quality customers expect from us.”

britishairways_216861516615173

But why aren’t we waxing lyrical?

Sure, it’s been two decades since British Airways had substantially updated their business class cabin and today’s result is a huge leap forward for passenger comfort and a long time coming. However, the airline has been keeping us speculating on this reveal for a couple of years now.

britishairways_2168624488338

Several patents were released back in 2015, including completely new seats and updated Apex-Suite style versions of the existing Club World. Yet, even with all this time and financial investment in bespoke seat designs, the airline opted for a re-skinned off the rack seat design, namely the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seat, as found on China Airlines, Virgin Australia, Hong Kong Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, American Airlines… well the list goes on…

britishairways_216861889038722

British Airways, like Virgin Atlantic are both bastions of conceptual seat design, and both were market leaders with their innovative seats when they were released. The original Club World seat was an industry changer, and Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Suite was the first all-aisle access seat in business class, and both were bespoke seat concepts.

britishairways_216861465591468

However, with our guesstimate that Virgin Atlantic will opt for an off-the-rack seat product and British Airways also now seemingly opting for an industry standard (and now slightly aged) business class shell, has all creativity now gone from the industry? Is brand now only enforced through trim and finish.

britishairways_216861743831200

Could it be that the cycle of seat design has come full circle? Originally British Airways and Virgin took the sea of blue seats as a challenge to be overcome, bringing new seats to market that fundamentally shook the approach to cabin design. Yet now these design firms that created difference within the market have also created seats that can be seen across the globe, fundamentally re-creating a sea of blue seats without realising.

britishairways_216861572009489

With fuel prices high and the race to profit prevalent right now, R&D and innovation will be one of the first areas to be placed on the chopping block. When tried-and-tested seats off the rack have high customer satisfaction, why risk developing a new product that could be filled with delays, heavy development costs and engineering complexities.

britishairways_21686811518381

This said, we give it six months until passengers, who see these new seats as the holy grail of passenger comfort start to find fault in the fact their once unobstructed sleep now includes a footwell and limited knee clearance when turning over. Let us remind you once again, we’re thrilled that British Airways has updated its hard product to be on par with the competitive landscape, and would highly recommend this new hard product, as we are huge fans of the Super Diamond seat. We just wish that there was a little more innovation, and a little less procrastination, as it’s taken the airline approximately 4 years to come up with a seat that can be found on multiple other carriers… but has a door.

Advertisements

7 comments

  1. Esteban

    If you bring a not so new and revolutionary product to the market, by the time the entire fleet is in-sync, this sane product will be outdated ( which in a way it was from the very beginning).

  2. Brad

    Interesting…too bad i wont be able to try the new business product on my flights from Vancouver to Johannesburg/Cape town later this year.
    I am finding that many airlines are going for ‘good enough’ and leaving innovation to the Mideast and Asian carriers who have the drive and funds to continue to be industry leaders.
    I flew AC on their long Vancouver – Delhi business class service earlier this month and while the inflight staff were fantastic and the 787 new and sparkly, their business seat and food service were adequate but nothing to write home about. Disappointed because at one time, AC had a decent product.

  3. Has all creativity now gone from the industry?

    I think it has shifted to the Middle East and Asia.
    Unfortunately North America and Europa are not leaders of creativity in the industry. Or they don’t have the financials to do so.
    I think only Lufthansa will release a new business class that is purposely their own, right?

  4. Aircraft Lover

    I personally like the symmetrical “herringbone” Business Class layouts

    I find the new British Airways Club Suite, wooden finishings very nice, I also like the seat fabric, and of course, I love the door

  5. I too am struggling with this product announcement. I recognize this is a significant upgrade to their current product, but aside from a door, this is really not that much better than their competitors like the likes of Air Canada, Westjet, United, etc.

    At the same time, perhaps we have reached a point in the industry where the “stock products” available on the market place are well designed to the point where the added cost of customization just is not worth it. Back in the introduction of the first generation Club World, there was nothing like they wanted in the market, and the densities that were required necessitated a custom design. Nowadays, it seems that there are just only so many ways one can arrange a lie-flat seat while still maintaining all-aisle access (which creates “dead space” something the Yin Yang configuration eliminates). Perhaps this was realized when British Airways conducted their research and development and decided to go with an off-the-rack solution.

    Brad, I’m not sure if the Middle East or Asian carriers are really innovating either with the exception of Qatar. Emirates does not have a competitive Business Class product and all the Asian carriers have simply went with off-the-rack solutions, with perhaps Cathay Pacific and Qantas investing much more on customizing their off-the-rack reverse herringbone configuration.

    Perhaps what is next in the Business Class product development are different services and facilities that can be offered to customers. If airlines are able to utilize their cargo spaces in future fleets for amenities like lounges and gyms (and not at the expense of revenue-generating spaces like the bars on most A380s),

  6. IH

    The creativity that you’re asking for is indeed long gone from most European airlines, replaced by economic considerations. That’s also a reflection of where airline profitability is highest– the Middle East. So as the fortunes of airlines shift to the east, so are the dollars that fund innovation. Furthermore, business class is converging to a relative common seating layout, which drives economies of scale for the seat manufacturers.

  7. Chris

    This is the first review I have read that is honest, most others seem to be brown nosing BA. There was a level of over promising and under delivering. An off the rack solution may make sense financially, but the airline should no boast about a product that has been on the market already for almost a decade to which all they did was add a door!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: