British Airways Details Changes to First and Business Class, Beginning in July

British Airways doesn’t have a competitive business class product. On their Boeing 777s seating is eight across, middle seats are especially intimate and passengers in the window climb over the feet of their seat opponents.

BA business lags United, Delta, and American. It lags Lufthansa, and it’s way behind Air France 777s (although it beats Air France A380s).

British Airways Business Class

British Airways Business Class

So far they’ve focused on very slowly rolling out improvements to food and to bedding, but they still don’t have a new seat.

However during their Capital Markets Day on Friday they finally shared some details about changes to their premium products which will begin to roll out in the middle of next year.

Here are several key things we learn:

  • British Airways offers a lot of premium seats on most of their aircraft and it will stay that way (“High premium configured aircraft delivering ahead of expectations”).

  • North America is the largest British Airways market by far, double the size of intra-Europe and three times the size of both Asia Pacific and Mideast.

  • BA will have wifi 80% installed in their long haul fleet by the end of 2019

  • As I wrote in April we can expect to see fewer first class seats. There will be improvements to the product (since if business gets better, first needs to maintain a differentiation) but no promise of a better seat

    British Airways First Class

  • Business class will get a new seat. It will be larger and have aisle access. Gate-to-gate entertainment suggests it could be similar to the existing Iberia seat.

    You won’t see much of the new seat soon — it will be offered first on the Airbus A350 that comes in July (which will not offer first class). At the end of 2019 there will be 4 A350s with the seat and 2 Boeing 777s retrofitted.

  • They’re going to grow the premium economy cabin too. You might think this has to mean fewer coach seats, but it won’t, they’ll squeeze more seats into coach by giving each coach passenger less room (“competitive configuration”).

In addition British Airways will continue the slow roll out of soft product improvements they’ve been talking up for some time.

In a 174 page slide deck there’s no discussion of the group’s frequent flyer program. That stands out.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The new business seat could also be the B/E Super Diamond seat. That seat also has gate-to-gate entertainment and aisle access.

  2. I want to go on record as predicting the frequent flyer program will get worse. I know, I’m psychic, I can’t help it.

  3. @Gary: “North America is the largest British Airways market by far, double the size of intra-Europe …”

    That is because all the Europeans are flying Ryanair. Brand does not matter, only price and schedule. Ryanair is the end state.

  4. Seems like BA gets beat up quite a bit on this blog. Some maybe deserving but here to tell you about my experience flying first from Denver to London in July of this year. It was probably one of the best flights I have ever had. Certainly not on par with Emirates or other Gulf carriers, but far superior to any US legacy carrier I have flown. Food and cabin service were excellent. Was so refreshing to have a flight attendant actually attend to passengers and not act like they were doing you a favor every time you were given a drink or served some indescribable meal of something that you were not sure you should eat. There was not enough he could do for us throughout the entire flight. What else impressed me about the flight was the first cabin was spotless and pristeen. Looked like it was the first flight for this particular airplane.
    So yes, maybe an exception but just wanted to say that BA still has lots of class when flying their airline. Not all has been lost.

  5. Too little too late. With the latest deval (is bogus fees) on C/F award tix I expect most customers who aren’t tied to will be in burn baby burn mode.
    Also the fake C for infra Europe flights is pathetic.

  6. I just flew BA LAXLHR on an overnight flight and was surprised the cabin crew did not help to “make up” the beds. All we got were thin pads to help alleviate the bumps, a pillow and a blanket. When I asked for assistance, I was told they don’t do that. I also asked for pajamas and was told they only give those out in First Class.

    The Cabin Crew did go through quite frequently and were very pleasant but the whole experience was tainted by their attitude about the beds. It’s not like there were rows and rows of seats.

    I was recently on Air Serbia and they made up the beds for passengers in Business and also handed out pajamas if you asked for them. What a difference in attitude!

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