British Airways is pushing ahead with an upgrade of its Airbus A380s, replacing the dorm-like business class with its vastly-superior Club Suite, as well as rolling out an all-new first class – and a deadline has now been set.
Speaking with The Sunday Times in July, British Airways CEO Sean Doyle revealed not only were the A380s here to stay but the airline planned to spend hundreds of millions of pounds bringing the superjumbos up to modern spec.
And thanks to the 2023 Capital Markets Day presentation released by BA’s parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) this week, we now know when that upgrade is likely to take place.
In the presentation IAG confirmed it would be investing in the airline’s onboard premium service, stating there would be “100% Club Suite at Heathrow by end 2026”.
British Airways flies multiple aircraft into Heathrow, including Boeing 777 and 787s, both of which now – or soon will – feature the improved Club Suite. This leaves the A380s also jetting into the busy hub as the next cab off the rank.
On the cards is replacing the outdated Club World business class with current Club Suites, which offer direct aisle access, more space and privacy for travellers and sliding doors.
There’ll also be a fresh take on first class, with the primo cabin possibly relocated to the upper deck in the process.
Doyle says the Oneworld member is “really committed to First, it’s an important part of the proposition,” adding “British Airways will be one of the few carriers to retain first on the scale that we do. It will be on about 65 per cent of all our long-haul flights.”
Approached by Executive Traveller earlier this year, British Airways declined to comment but noted the airline was always looking towards the next iteration of any seat or suite.
Given the superjumbos will be entering the hangar for upgrades to business class, it would make sense to introduce the new first class cabin at the same time.
The superjumbo refresh was originally slated to commence in 2023 and run through to 2025, until the global pandemic not only scuppered those plans – while also pushing back the Boeing 787 refurbs – but saw all twelve A380s grounded.
British Airways has long planned a new first class for its Boeing 777-9 jets, which were initially due in 2022 but are now unlikely to be delivered until 2026 at the earliest.
British Airways’ most recent changes to first class involved a refresh of the current Dreamliner First suite to add a sliding door, which has since debuted on the Boeing 777.
However, Doyle could push BA into dramatic new directions, even if it means cutting down on the current lower-deck count of 14 First suites in the name of more space and luxury for high flyers.
Relocating first class to the nose of the upper deck could then see the entire floor become a ‘premium’ cabin, with the lower or main deck dedicated to premium economy and economy.
Additional reporting by Chris Ashton.