British Airways will roll out a new seat for its Club World business cabin in 2019 as part of a wider £400 million ($500 million) revamp of the product, the first results of which will be implemented later this year.

"We're investing in Club World, focusing now on improved catering and sleep, and in the future on a new seat," said BA chief executive Alex Cruz, signalling the launch of the investment programme at a media event on 5 April.

"We have made a decision to move away from the [current] Club seats," he confirms. "The time has come for us to change. This has been a tremendously innovative product, but we are falling behind some of our competitors. So the decision has been made we are going to move to a different seat. It is going to take a little bit of time, and unlike some other competitors of ours, we are not going to oversell.

"But if there is one attribute we are absolutely committed to as part of the Club World proposition from British Airways, [it] will be to have full aisle access. We must have aisle access for all passengers. At the moment we have these middle seats which require you to go by."

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows BA operates a long-haul fleet of 137 aircraft including Boeing 747, 767, 777, 787-9 and Airbus A380 jets. It will also be adding Airbus A350s and 787-10s from 2019, and Cruz says these will be equipped with the new seat.

"I think it's safe to say any new [Club] product will be coming into those aeroplanes," says Cruz. "The question is still outstanding, how deep we would refurbish existing aircraft with the new product. Ultimately, we do believe we have to consider some retrofitting, but we don't know the scale of the retrofitting or the type of aircraft or ultimately the type of markets."

Cruz remains coy around timings, pointing to recent challenges other carriers have had in "over-promising" on business seats. "I think it would be a disaster to talk about what we would like to do and then have to wait a really long time," he says.

"The main point today is... we do believe we have to evolve. When we introduced this seat 20 years ago, this was the best around in Club class in the world and was still like that for many years," he says. "Well, the markets have caught up. And now we are going to catch up and more, ourselves. That's the spirit of where we are. We don't want to over-promise, but we are committed and we will make it happen."

However, BA will roll out the first fruits of investment into its Club product later this year. "We are going to change the overall quality and presentation of food and drink to begin with," he says.

That includes moving from a trolley-and-tray service to a restaurant-style one. This will begin in September on BA's London Heathrow-New York JFK service, before rolling out to other services during 2018.

BA will also adjust its service routine in a bid to create longer blocks for sleeping. "We have been getting a lot of feedback about sleeping, and this is something we can address immediately. What we are trying to do is change the service routine to try maximise the number of hours [for sleep]," Cruz explains.

The investment will also this summer include new linen on board and a change in catering at BA's Heathrow business lounge. As part of its investment in airport lounges, a new London Gatwick lounge was opened in January, following the airline's move into the south terminal. BA has also invested in its Boston lounge.

Further investment is under way at its lounge facilities in New York JFK, while upgrades at Aberdeen, Rome and Geneva will follow. It is also beginning work on the longer-term task of revamping its Heathrow lounges.

BA also at the start of this month introduced its European business-class product, Club Europe, on UK domestic flights.

Source: Cirium Dashboard