No, the main picture above is not the new Club World seat and nor will the latest iteration of British Airways’ business class seat be based on the B/E Aerospace-produced product that debuted in its current form back in 2006. We’ve known for some time that British Airways will use an off the shelf product for its new product and since then, small nuggets of information released by the airline (most recently at the parent company’s Capital Markets Day) have given a clearer idea of what the new seat will look like.
The seat will debut on BA’s new Airbus A350 aircraft – the first of which is slated for delivery in the second quarter of 2019. We now know the product will feature a wider seat with direct aisle access for every passenger, gate-to-gate seatback entertainment, increased storage, and more privacy. That certainly narrows down the potential contenders but there are nonetheless different products which boast all those features.
For a time, our sources believed the Zodiac SKYLounge Core Business Class seat – used by the likes of Emirates on its Airbus A380 fleet, as well as All Nippon Airways had been picked by BA’s senior leadership team. That, though, now seems to be slightly wide of the mark – rather, the Zodiac product was shortlisted but product development didn’t eventually go anywhere.
In that case, what product did British Airways choose? It turns out that the airline has decided to support British industry and has opted for the VantageXL business class seat made by Northern Ireland-based Thomson Aerospace. The seat should prove a popular choice and is already widely used by a number of premium full-service airlines, including with SAS, South African Airways and Delta Air Lines, as well as on the Qantas Dreamliner fleet.
At it’s most basic, the seat ticks all the boxes that customers have been demanding – direct aisle access and increased storage being the two most common items on frequent flyers wish lists. But what British Airways intends to do with its new seat means there are still plenty of unanswered questions.
Several sources familiar with the project have previously said British Airways will be customising its new biz class seat – if that’s the case, the VantageXL certainly gives them plenty of scope to do exactly that.
At the most extreme end of the modification spectrum, we could see BA follow the lead of Delta by heavily modifying the Vantage XL with sliding doors for the ultimate in privacy. This would have the added benefit of bringing British Airways more in line with parent company stakeholder, Qatar Airways and their market leading QSuite product.
There are some stumbling blocks with this idea though. Admittedly, while the new Club World seat is set to be installed on aircraft without a First Class cabin, it does still rather call into the question the value of BA’s current FIRST product which would have significantly less privacy than the VantageXL.
Having said that, a licensed version of the QSuite specifically for British Airways has long been rumoured and there’s just the possibility that a biz class suite with doors is on the way for the carrier.
At the other end of the spectrum are simple customisation options such as the colour palette, material finishes, and smaller privacy dividers – more in keeping with the approach taken by the likes of Qantas and SAS.
Even if British Airways goes down this route, then there are still ways to make the BA brand resonate while offering a popular product that is sure to be a winner with passengers.
While British Airways has promised a significant investment in its product and services over the next few years, the new seat will initially only be fitted to a handful of brand new A350’s and a small number of retrofitted Boeing 777’s – the ‘basic’ VantageXL would at least prevent too much of a gulf in comfort between the current Club World seat and its replacement.
With 2019 nearly upon us, it shouldn’t be too long until we finally get to set our sights on the new look seat. It will certainly be interesting to see what direction British Airways has taken.