British Airways' Airbus A380 Club Suite upgrade won't begin until 2023

Business class passengers on BA's flagship A380 routes are in for a long wait before they can enjoy the impressive Club Suites.

By David Flynn, November 9 2019
British Airways' Airbus A380 Club Suite upgrade won't begin until 2023

British Airways will kickstart a business class refit of its Boeing 777 fleet over the next three years but doesn't plan for the Airbus A380 to see the new Club Suites until 2023, with the superjumbo upgrades not being completed until the end of 2025.

British Airways will ramp up the rollout of its new Club Suite in 2020.
British Airways will ramp up the rollout of its new Club Suite in 2020.

That's bound to be a long wait for passengers on flagship A380 routes, who will be making do with BA's current decades-old Club World seat – which debuted in 2006 and has seen only minor revisions over successive years – for as many as six years to come.

BA's current and rather 'cosy' Club World business class seat.
BA's current and rather 'cosy' Club World business class seat.

The airline's parent IAG revealed the Club Suite rollout timetable at its annual Capital Markets Day, held overnight at BA's London headquarters. The timeline is specific to BA's flights from London/Heathrow, but the smaller fleet based at London/Gatwick (about eight aircraft) won't make much of a dent in this overall.

BA's impressive Club Suite brings direct aisle access for every passenger, a sliding privacy door, increased personal stowage and working space plus a larger video screen offering gate-to-gate entertainment.

BA's Club Suite: more space, more privacy and more screen for your inflight movies.
BA's Club Suite: more space, more privacy and more screen for your inflight movies.

Also read: The little things you'll love about BA's new Club Suites business class

It's arriving on all newly-delivered aircraft such as the Airbus A350-1000 and, from very early 2020, the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner. In addition to its Club Suites business class, BA's Boeing 787-10 is expected to see a refreshed first class design.

British Airways CEO Alex Cruz has previously indicated a refresh of the airline's current Boeing 787-9 First suites, which the airline internally refers to as the 'Prime' product, saying "This will be our best, current first class, upgraded".

BA's first class refresh will refine the already-quite-refined Boeing 787-9 suite
BA's first class refresh will refine the already-quite-refined Boeing 787-9 suite

Speaking with Executive Traveller, BA Design Lead Peter Cooke wouldn't be drawn on the details, saying only that "we’re constantly looking at what our next products are going to look like, at the constant evolution of the Prime seat."

By the end of 2020, a third of BA's Heathrow-based aircraft will be flying the Club Suite, with Boeing 777-200 and 777-300ER jets in line for the refit.

By the end of 2020, you'll have a one-in-three chance of travelling in Club Suites business class.
By the end of 2020, you'll have a one-in-three chance of travelling in Club Suites business class.

Upgrades to the Boeing 777s continue apace in 2021, and will be joined by the first Boeing 787-8 jets, with the aim of BA's Club Suite being on just over half of the Oneworld member's long-range fleet.

2022 sees the Club Suite retrofit program extended to the Boeing 787-9, while the first of the Boeing 777-9 jetliners will also arrive in BA strip; the year will close out with four out of every five Heathrow flights sporting the Club Suite.

The Boeing 777-9 will join BA's fleet in 2022.
The Boeing 777-9 will join BA's fleet in 2022.

That ratio rises to nine out of ten flights by the end of 2023, with the A380s taking their turn to go under the knife. By the end of 2024 there'll be just a few hold-outs left, and stepping onto a BA flight with the old Club World instead of the new Club Suite will be reduced to a small but disappointing exception to the 97% rule.

By the end of 2025 – which is six years away, but still closer to today than 2012 was – British Airways expects to have ripped out the last Club World seat.

British Airways CEO Alex Cruz: balancing speed with safety in BA's Club Suite upgrade program
British Airways CEO Alex Cruz: balancing speed with safety in BA's Club Suite upgrade program

"No airline of the size of BA has been able to do a programme roll-out like this in less than three or four years," says British Airways CEO Alex Cruz. "And this has been, and continues to be, the biggest concern I have. We are working as hard as we can to roll it out as quickly as we can, but this is the airline industry. Everything gets quadruple-checked and no sizeable airline in the world has been able to do this quickly."

More Executive Traveller stories on British Airways business class

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

24 Feb 2012

Total posts 53

By 2025 this “new” Club World Suite will be outdated and BA will be back behind the 8 ball once again. There's nothing revolutionary about this new product offering and with the likes of (amongst others) Singapore Airlines forecasting new Suites by 2023, it will be just like now where majority of their aircraft have an outdated business class product. I'm sure the only reason BA are still going is because of British legacy flyers and monopolies of routes where they make majority of their profits. Given they were the pioneers of the flat-bed business class concept it's all rather sad!

British Airways - Executive Club

23 Mar 2018

Total posts 15

You could say the same about Qantas. They brought in the business suite in 2015 and are still rolling it out to the A380s nearly 5 years later. BA are a much bigger airline than Qantas.

It's impossible to expect that a major airline can retrofit all their aircraft with new seats in a short space of time. The 777 is the workhorse of BA's long haul fleet and they are quite rightly fitting the new seats to these aircraft first. There are very few A380s in the BA fleet comparatively and all the routes that have them have a second daily service that is serviced by a different aircraft.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Sep 2018

Total posts 144

I think the late start date is a combination of 2 things.

1. A380 Retrofits are expensive and given the undercertainty in cost and of maintanence of the aircraft, they want to hold off to see if they can just retire them early and not retrofit them at all.

2. The routes that the A380 operates on most often have a second frequency on another aircraft type like a 777 or 787 so the need for a good product isn't that pressing.

BA Gold

01 Apr 2012

Total posts 160

rwSydney exactly. BA has around 200 longhaul aircraft. Qantas has about a third of that and as you point out the installation of new seats is taking around the same amount of time.

18 Oct 2019

Total posts 16

My last flight on a BA 360 was not memorable. Food and service was way below Singapore and Emirates standards

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jan 2014

Total posts 317

Here is hoping that BA will be sensible and move First Class and the lower deck Biz class cabins to the upper deck, creating an all premium layout up there. This will free up the lower deck for economy seating and thereby increase the profitability of the A380's in their fleet.

It's what SQ did with their referbs and the smart money is on such a move.

That said, this is BA we talking about, so the term “smart” is relative.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jan 2014

Total posts 317

I would also like to seem them bring a whole new First Class Seat and experience to the table now that the current First Class Seat and the new Club World Seat as practically identical.


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