With first class travel appearing to be on the nose with many airlines, British Airways is bucking the trend and spending US$176 million upgrading its premier seating area.
British Airways‘ new Boeing 777-300ER jets will include first class suites with sliding doors for privacy, a spokesperson for British Airways told Executive Traveller.
The suite will debut on selected factory-fresh Boeing 777-300ER jets due for delivery from October this year, and will be a modification of the first class seat of the Boeing 787-9 and 787-10 fleet – which BA refers to internally as ‘Prime’ – to add a privacy door.
The first class seats fold into a lie-flat bed, with 60% extra room at the shoulders. Other new features include a leather-bound writing desk that converts into a dining table, a USB port, electronic blinds and a personal wardrobe.
“The new Club Suite has been so popular with our customers that we made the decision at the start of the year to adjust the First seat on the new 777-300 aircraft to include a door for additional privacy,” the spokesperson told Executive Traveller.
“We are always listening to customer and colleague feedback about ways to improve our products. The response to our Club Suite has been great, and we are now applying some of the same thinking to a slightly modified version of the First seat on a few of our new 777 aircraft, creating even more privacy for our premium customers,” stated an internal email to British Airways staff.
“Starting in October, we will welcome two new variants to our 777 fleet: the 77L and 77H. The 77H variant will offer the modified First seat experience, which includes a privacy door and a three-point seat belt.
“It’s important to note that these new aircraft were ordered well in advance of the Covid-19 crisis, but we could not defer their delivery.”
We’re excited to be launching our new 4-times weekly service to Lahore, Pakistan on 12th October 2020. The route will be operated by a 787-8 and is available to book now at https://t.co/2Ty8CEO0Dq. pic.twitter.com/ATHkVftEGf
— British Airways (@British_Airways) September 15, 2020
The improvement of business class which includes fully flat beds, direct aisle access, a high degree of personal space and even privacy doors has forced airlines to reconsider the future of first class in their fleet.
Qatar Airways is reported to have settled on its business class suites as its flagship product, although it is studying the possibility of a very exclusive first class cabin of just four seats in its forthcoming Boeing 777X jets. Qatar Airways Group CEO His Excellency Akbar Al Baker said the luxury cocoons would appear on “just a handful” of Qatar Airways’ Boeing 777-9 aircraft serving popular and premium-heavy European routes such as London and Paris.
Qantas, which has spent millions of dollars revamping the first class cabins on its 12 A380s, grounded them “for the foreseeable future” due to the coronavirus pandemic and suggested that they may never return to service, since the planes will be out of action for “a significant percentage of their remaining useful life”.
Singapore Airlines, which grounded more than 95% of its capacity in March, won’t sell tickets for its lavish 50-sq-ft first class cabins until at least November across any of its key services between Asia, London, the US and Australia.
Lufthansa, which only a year ago said it was committed to keeping its first class offering, has removed the option across almost its entire fleet; its A380s will be grounded at least until 2021.