British Airways doubles down on premium-heavy trend

by John Walton
394
December 02, 2019
British Airways premium
First class is little changed from previously. Photo: British Airways

British Airways is continuing its aircraft transition strategy with the arrival of its first stretched Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner, which will join the airline’s American composite twinjet fleet alongside the smaller 787-8 and -9 series jets flying from London Heathrow.

This is a remarkably premium-heavy aircraft in terms of floor space, proportionally more so than the airline’s most recent comparison, the A350-1000 — although the Airbus aircraft does not offer a first-class cabin — but relatively similar to its smaller sibling, the 787-9.

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On the 787-10, British Airways has just 165 economy seats filling only one-third of the plane, from doors three to four, in the usual tight Dreamliner 3-3-3 configuration.

Interestingly, the airline has not taken the opportunity to introduce a further market segmentation of extra-legroom economy class seats along the lines of United’s Economy Plus or indeed Virgin Atlantic’s Economy Delight.

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Ahead of economy sits a large premium economy cabin with 35 of the airline’s World Traveller Plus seats in the 787’s standard (and, indeed, relatively spacious) 2-3-2 layout.

Premium economy seating is continuing to grow in terms of popularity with airlines and indeed passengers, and the number of seats on aircraft is also growing.

Business-class on this aircraft is massive, with 48 of the new Club Suite outward-facing herringbone seats, the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond model with doors that the airline débuted on its Airbus A350-1000 earlier this year.

British Airways premium
The Club Suite, like first, is an outward-facing herringbone. Photo: British Airways

 

Five and a half rows stretch behind doors two, with six and a half rows ahead. This neatly splits up the cabin and avoids the rather dormitory-like feeling of seeing a dozen rows of seating stretching forward from the last row.

The split, around the doors two galley, should also help to create an efficient meal service, with the doors one galley likely to be used for first-class and the doors two galley for business.

And indeed, first class is on board: BA is installing eight seats immediately behind doors one, which helps to push up the real estate given over to the premium cabins on the aircraft.

But the airline’s first-class conundrum is not resolved with the 787-10: it has decided to retain the simple outward-facing herringbone seating format that it has used on its first-class seats since it introduced the modern fully flat bed in the cabin in 1995.

British Airways presently offers first class on its Airbus A380 and Boeing 747, 777-200 (and some -200ERs), 777-300ER and 787-9 aircraft, and plans to do so on its forthcoming yet delayed 777-9 aircraft when they are eventually delivered.

This 787-10 version is the same as the airline introduced with its 787-9, which is notable given the noises coming out of the airline that it planned upgrades to first class. One might have expected at the very least to see a privacy door.

While the new Club Suite is certainly by no means a perfect seat — it feels particularly constricted in sleeping positions, more so than earlier versions of the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seat — there is little clear blue water between the new business and the new first.

The first of British Airways’ 12 787-10 aircraft will arrive in January 2020 and will commence operations on the Atlanta route in February. Once all are delivered, the airline will operate a total of 42 Dreamliners, making that aircraft its second-largest longhaul fleet after the Boeing 777 as it continues to draw down its historically large fleet of Boeing 747-400s.