A sofa in the sky? Here are the business class seats that BA rejected

By David Flynn, April 1 2019
A sofa in the sky? Here are the business class seats that BA rejected

British Airways' all-new Club Suites business class seat will debut in mid-2019, over a dozen years since the current Club World cubicles took to the sky.

But there were plenty of contenders for the Club World crown, including several patented and highly-bespoke designs which broke cover as BA began working on its next-gen business class.

Leaked from an internal BA presentation, the Club World Mark III seat was a clear evolution of the current seat and its unique forwards-backwards or 'yin-yang' layout.

This aimed to deliver on key areas such as direct aisle access for every passenger while modernising the overall concept, and for a time was considered the front-runner in BA's business class beauty pageant – but CEO Alex Cruz felt the underlying concept had reached its use-by date.

"The evolution of a yin-yang seat, we didn’t think it was the right thing to do,"  Cruz admits.

"We would have kept the density, and we could have addressed the aisle access by extending the gaps between the seats, but the IFE screen would have been too far away, and there were other considerations," he tells our UK counterpart Business Traveller. "So we looked at it and said, 'there’s no way we can consider this.'"

These illustrations from a related patent application show how the design would have retained the 2-4-2 club World layout...

... including partner-friendly and even family-friendly seats in the middle of the cabin.

Another variation of that yin-yang pattern added a column between the seats, with the fixture providing a footwell for sleeping, a passenger-facing video screen and a recessed storage area on the top.

This design repurposed the yin-yang seats as private suites.

Other concepts stepped away from the entrenched backwards-forwards ideology – including this more conventional angled seat, made especially noteworthy as the patent application was jointly filed by BA and design house Tangerine, which created BA's first- and second-generation Club World seats.

Literally a fresh slant on British Airways business class, the seats would have converted into a flat 1.9 metre bed by either fully reclining or having the rear of the seat flip over to form part of the bed.

BA's patent application suggested three-across arrangements for the likes of the Boeing 787...

... and a four-across layout suitable for a Boeing 777.

Most radical of all was this curvy sofa-seat, revealed in a patent filed by BA and high-end design gurus PriestmanGoode, which could easily have been imagined as delivering a touch of luxury in first class.

Passengers would have adopted a forward-facing position for the taxi, take-off and landing stages of the flight...

... but stretched out – with an infill section of the sofa creating a continuous surface between the seat and the ottoman – to relax or sleep.

A triangular table adapted the sofa into dining and work modes.

In the end, Cruz enjoyed no shortage of options and admits that "'bespoking’ a seat would have been very exciting."

"But if I’d ordered them in 2016 it would have taken six years, and I can’t wait until 2021 or 2022 before starting to install them."

Instead, having chosen to customise an 'off the shelf' design, Cruz hopes that the new Club Suites will roll out across most of BA's international fleet by the end of 2022.

Also read: How British Airways created the world's first business class bed


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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jul 2013

Total posts 35

I like the second version (that could accommodate a family of three). Looks more like a “lounge” than a cabin. Far too much circulation space for BA though. Possible option for their First Class offering though? Never a fan of the “back to the window” arrangements for the herringbone option too

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Aug 2011

Total posts 167

BA probably should have gone Mk III about 6-7 years ago to buy some time, address the aisle access, privacy and storage issues, and then could have done the sofa concept subsequently. However, business is business and the Club Suite seems very promising indeed.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 584

"but CEO Alex Cruz felt the underlying concept had reached its use-by date"

lol i'm pretty sure the entire population of business class travellers felt it had long surpassed it's use-by date

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 163

The sofa-seat concept is interesting and unusual. I wonder if passengers would have found it too bizarre. Looks like a combination of a jigsaw, modular lounge suite and sardine can.

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 261

I really like the sofa!

29 Jan 2015

Total posts 41

Sofa looks very dense though. I think the only thing that stoppés British Airways going for IT was it's fairly radical.

It seems "doors" are now the thing. I really dont understand why.

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