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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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