British Airways receives its first A350. But is it all it’s cracked up to be?

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Today saw the official arrival of the British Airways A350. The aircraft which was meant to arrive on Friday was delayed due to the air traffic control and weather issues at Heathrow. However, today saw no sign of either of those. Under perfectly blue skies, British Airways wheeled out the new aircraft which in reality arrived to Heathrow two days prior.


In front of the media, the airline opened the doors for the first official time, with a full compliment of crew descending the stairs to greet the arrival party.

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Once the crew, who brought the aircraft from Toulouse departed, we were allowed onboard this very shiny new aircraft with a small group of journalists.

Economy ‘World Traveller’

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Situated across two cabins, the economy cabin features 219 Recaro seats in a 3 x 3 x 3 configuration, with the best seats in the house being the front row of the first cabin which have just 2 seats by the window and 4 in the middle with heaps of legroom.

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The cabin features a sea of blue seats which mirror those found on the 787 and upgraded 777s with a bi-fold table and gate-to-gate IFE, with the system powered by Panasonic Aerospace. There is Wi-Fi Connectivity on board too for those who need to be connected at 35,000ft.

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Another hidden bonus on the A350 is that every single seat has a window. There are no missing windows throughout the entire aircraft meaning that no one will be tweeting this window view of a wall anymore.

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Premium Economy ‘World Traveller Plus’

The A350 has 56 World Traveller Plus premium economy seats in a 2 x 4 x 2 configuration, which mirrors the same narrower Premium Economy seats found in Virgin’s A350 Premium Economy.

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These seats feature calf rests across the entire cabin, with full leg rests found on the front row. The seats are incredibly comfortable, with a deep recline and sturdy headrest that cradles the head during sleep.

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Once again the front row is certainly the best, offering the largest legroom and hard literature pockets that will quickly become the foot rest of choice for the long-haul flights the A350 will eventually fly.

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The seats also feature large TV screens, a really deep recline and cocktail tables, which will be a beneficial upgrade on the World Traveller product, but unlike other carriers, British Airways still doesn’t offer some of the ground product enhancements that this cabin class is given by other carriers, such as priority airport services, lounge access and priority boarding.

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The seats are situated in a smart, grey bulkheaded cabin which has a hard partition between it and both economy and the new Club Suite cabins which makes it feel a lot more private, but with it comes one drawback. The cabin doesn’t benefit from its own toilets, meaning they are shared with the rest of the economy cabin situated towards the rear of the aircraft.

The New Club World Suite

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However at the front of the aircraft, things are very different. For the first time in two decades the airline has brought a totally new Business Class product to the skies. The enhanced Super Diamond seat, featuring privacy door means the carrier for the first time is offering a competitive business class product, matching the expectations of an international business class passenger.

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Let us get our first and only gripe out of the way. It’s sad to see British Airways – that used to invest heavily into a bespoke inflight hard product – take the route of an off-the-shelf product, and taking many years to come to this conclusion, instead of investing in a bespoke, new product that truly showcases and celebrates Britain’s craftsmanship when it comes to the aviation sphere.

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The cabin, featuring 56 seats in a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration is bright and airy, but the airline has opted for the centre overhead bins, a savvy decision considering the airline’s demographic. There have been countless times we’ve seen business class travellers utilising the carry on bag allowance to allow them to get through the airport quicker even on short stopovers on long-haul routes.

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The seat on first impressions is lightyears ahead of its previous incarnation, and anyone who has flown on several business class cabins have probably already enjoyed the same hard product (with it already appearing on the likes of China Airlines, Air Canada and even American Airlines.

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This seat however, features a door for added privacy. It doesn’t really offer any privacy to anyone walking past, but from those seated, it’s certainly an added bit of seclusion that mirrors the current Club World product.

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The added benefit is that the seat is cocooned by a felt fabric which helps towards noise cancelling, making the cabin that little bit quieter. Although how this fabric performs through frequent use will be proved over the coming months.

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In comparison to the press photos there is a clear ‘cooler’ and blue-er tone to the cabin, with a distinct, slate colour running throughout the seats, carpet and surfaces.

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The seat features the Super diamond’s traditional slide-down table which allows for a bi-fold table and an intermediate table position, great for holding drinks or snacks pre or post a full dining service, while allowing for better egress.

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The seat also features both hard button and touchscreen seat controls as well as an 18 inch Panasonic touchscreen monitor, supported by a handheld controller, found in one of the storage holes.

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Perhaps one of the biggest changes from the pre-existing Club World seats is the addition of a footwell, which may not please every passenger, but the overwhelming benefits far outweigh this simple and easy-to-live-with compromise.

Other nice design touches include the mirror in the side storage unit, seat numbering by the door and dividing screens between the centre pairs, although the use of the older striped-pattern BA brand palette seems at odds with an otherwise modern interior.

Another great addition, separating the two Club World cabins, is a walk up Club World bar, which allows for a small self-service galley, perfect for a quick snack or drink between services. Although, we question how much this will be used, considering, for at least a little while, the seclusion, and privacy will mean most passengers will enjoy settling in to their private cocoons for the majority of their flight.

Well done BA, on a modern aircraft product which can hold its own through the international market, however it would have been great to see just a little more innovation and personalisation of an otherwise tried-and-tested industry standard Business Class product. The question is what does this man for First. As we’ve been told, both this, and the existing First Class cabin will be on retro-fitted 777s and 787-10s that will enter in to service soon.

The Big BA Picture

 

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