British Airways' new Boeing 777-300ER jets will include upgraded first class suites with sliding doors, a spokesperson for the airline has confirmed to Executive Traveller.
The suite will debut on selected factory-fresh Boeing 777-300ER jets due for delivery from October this year, and will be a modification of the first class seat of the Boeing 787-9 and 787-10 fleet - which BA refers to internally as 'Prime' - to add a privacy door.
"The new Club Suite has been so popular with our customers that we made the decision at the start of the year to adjust the First seat on the new 777-300 aircraft to include a door for additional privacy," the spokesperson told Executive Traveller.
An internal email to BA staff, sighted by Executive Traveller, provides a little more detail.
"We are always listening to customer and colleague feedback about ways to improve our products. The response to our Club Suite has been great, and we are now applying some of the same thinking to a slightly modified version of the First seat on a few of our new 777 aircraft, creating even more privacy for our premium customers."
"Starting in October, we will welcome two new variants to our 777 fleet: the 77L and 77H. The 77H variant will offer the modified First seat experience, which includes a privacy door and a three-point seat belt."
"It’s important to note that these new aircraft were ordered well in advance of the Covid-19 crisis, but we could not defer their delivery," the email advises.
The British flag-carrier is steadily working its way through the refit of selected Boeing 777-300ERs, which are the workhorse of its long-range international fleet, to add the Club Suites business class, although it's not clear if this revamped First seat will be part of that project.
Development of the refreshed First 'suite' was underway well before COVID-19 came to town.
"We're constantly looking at the evolution of the Prime seat and what our next products are going to look like," British Airways' Design Lead Peter Cooke told Executive Traveller in August 2019 during a briefing on the creation of the Club Suites.
Those suites replaced the crowded dormitory-like Club World with private havens for the long haul – so while BA's 'open' first class berths remain clearly more posh than their business classs counterparts, they're also ironically less private.
The continued improvement of business class to encroach on the once-rarified realms of first class – such as fully flat beds, direct aisle access, a high degree of personal space and lately privacy doors – has push airlines to reconsider not only the shape of first class but if it has any future in their fleet.
Qatar Airways, for example, expects to retire first class along with its Airbus A380s, having settled on the Qsuite business class suites as its flagship product – although there's a chance that some of its forthcoming Boeing 777X jets could feature a new and "very exclusive" first class to cater for the high-end travel market.
“We are studying the possibility of having a very exclusive first class cabin of just four seats, for example,” Qatar Airways Group CEO His Excellency Akbar Al Baker revealed to Executive Traveller in June.
Al Baker said it would be a deliberately “very niche product” aimed at well-heeled Qatari travellers, although the luxury cocoons would appear on “just a handful” of the Gulf carrier’s Boeing 777-9 aircraft serving popular and premium-heavy European routes such as London and Paris.