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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.