British Airways’ recent upgrade to its Club World with the new Club World Suite has given the carrier a bit of a conundrum. As the airline has started the retrofit of its fleet with the new Business Class product, it’s left the First Class cabin, even the latest incarnation offering very little difference on paper.
The reason this became an issue was BA’s addition of a door to its Business Class proposition, a smart move in helping it leapfrog its competition, finally surpassing its strategic partner – American Airlines’ hard product. Something that savvy travellers going cross-Atlantic were aware of, especially when needing some sleep on the quick East Coast overnight hops.
First, at the pointy end of BA’s fleet – especially on the Dreamliner – is a fantastic product when it came out, and we actually really like the hard product. It is spacious and the design details are really exceptional. But with the advent of the Club World Suite, on paper and from a comfort level it’s difficult to differentiate the seat. That’s why BA decided to opt to place a door on its First Suite, with the first appearing on a 777, to help enhance the offering and provide it with a little more luxury for its most discerning travellers.
But here lies the issue. In our opinion, British Airways First Class and Business Class products from hard to soft products are too similar. When you compare other carriers that still offer a First and Business Class product, the differences are more marked. Whether it’s lounges, chauffeur services, amenities, dining or the seat itself. British Airways’ differences blur the lines. Yes the Concorde Room is lovely, but does it really feel that different from its other lounges? Dining is a large factor too, now that Club World’s dining concept (pre-Covid) had been elevated, there was little difference between what we had experienced in First to the new Club World dining proposition. (Even more so now with current Covid food offerings)
But even the seat – and while BA’s First seat certainly gives more space without the need to tuck your legs in to a footwell – there’s the bigger TV but that’s about it, but there are no showers, no bars, no chauffeur service to reflect the increased price tag that goes with it.
We’ve never wanted to see a carrier terminate its First Class product, as it has a halo effect on the rest of the cabins, but it seems in BA’s case, those very cabins have caught up with BA’s ultimate product, perhaps making this mini-cabin surplus to requirement, which seems to only really make sense to those wanting upgrades, those on staff travel, or in those rare instances when a last minute ticket means that First is cheaper than Club World.
Does it take more than a door? Certainly, but in this current climate, and with new management, the question remains if British Airways will invest in the other elements to lift its First Class product to international standards, or whether like Mr. Cruz, face the chop.