Will British Airways Unveil A Suite As Its New Business Class Seat?


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Over the past few days there have been some interesting rumors spreading across the internet suggesting that British Airways may be planning to unveil a huge upgrade to its current Business Class product when it eventually introduces the world to its new Business Class seat later this year.

The rumors appear to have started thanks to a leaked questionnaire that British Airways presented to its Future Lab customer focus group in which the airline provided the group with example names for its new seat.

The suggestions were:

  • Club Suite
  • Club World Suite
  • Club World Space

You can see where the idea that a suite may be on the way could come from 🙂

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

The rumors that British Airways may reveal a suite-style seat for its new Business Class cabin have been given further impetus by a suggestion from a Head For Points reader that British Airways may install a version of the American Airlines 777-300ER Business Class seat that can now be ordered with a door for added privacy (this Runway Girl Network article shows the seat – it’s the 4th image in the article including the featured image).

But I’m not convinced…..not at all….

Yes, it would be fantastic if British Airways finally joined the modern world and installed a seat that would compete with the best Business Class seats available but I simply can see this happening.

Here are just a few reasons why:

Alex Cruz Said The New Seat Is Nothing Special

Alex Cruz (CEO of British Airways) is on record as saying that the new British Airways seat will not be retrofitted to its existing fleet because it “it doesn’t appear to be sufficiently revolutionary”. 

Admittedly that was from an interview in 2016 and the final decision on the new British Airways Business Class seat wasn’t due to be taken until early 2017 (so things could have changed) but, as far as I know, we haven’t heard Alex Cruz walk back that remark since then.

A Business Class suite would be a revolutionary move for just about every airline in the world so it’s unlikely that BA had a suite in mind when Cruz made his comment.

British Airways Would Have To Offer A Noticeably Less Dense Cabin

The current British Airways Business Class seat allows the airline to pack the cabin a lot tighter than an all-aisle-access suite would ever allow.

British Airways 787-9 Business Class seat map courtesy of ExpertFlyer

The new A350 aircraft that British Airways will use to debut the new Business Class seat will not offer a First Class cabin so one could argue that there would be more room to install suites….but I can’t see BA giving up that much real estate in its Business Class cabin when it really doesn’t have to.

BA First Class Would Become Almost Pointless

British Airways makes a lot of money from its First Class and Business Class cabins but by introducing a suite into Business Class the airline’s First Class offering would instantly become a less desirable seat.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner First Class

British Airways First Class is generally considered to be of the same level as a very good Business Class product so why would anyone pay a substantial premium for First Class if they cold book a private suite in Business Class?

Yes, you could argue that the new Business Class seat may not be available on a lot of routes on which First Class is offered but that still leaves the airline with a Business Class seat that’s better than its First Class seat and I can’t see First Class customers liking that very much.

You could also argue that Qatar Airways has successfully integrated the fantastic Qsuite into its fleet while still offering a viable First Class cabin….but that misses a major point.

Qatar Airways First Class seats are a lot better than the First Class seats you get onboard BA.

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

I’m not a big fan of Qatar Airways First Class but it offers a lot more space than a BA First Class seat and it forms a bigger bed than a BA First Class seat too.

I can see why someone may choose to book Qatar Airways First Class over the Qsuite but I can’t see why someone would book the current British Airways First Class over a British Airways Business Class suite.

Just Because Something Is Called A Suite Doesn’t Make It A Suite

BA may well have suggested a few names for its new seat that include the word “suite” but that word gets misused quite a bit.

I’ve been upgraded to a room called a suite at the London Marriott Canary Wharf but it failed the test of what defines a suite on all counts.

Virgin Atlantic have been know to call their Upper Class seats “suites”….

…but there’s really nothing suite-like about them:

Virgin Atlantic A330 Upper Class

Just because some marketing guys have added the word “suite” to a focus group questionnaire doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

The Competition Issue

London Heathrow is a huge world hub and British Airways rules the airport.

No other airline comes close to having as many slots at Heathrow as BA and when you throw in BA’s JV partners as well (AA, Finnair, Aer Lingus etc..) the dominance over the competition is staggering. The fact is that there’s really very little competition to BA on a lot of its routes.

All the airline really needs to do is to offer a Business Class seat that is no better/no worse than what most other airlines that it competes against offer and it will be just fine….so why would BA go out of its way to install something expensive and revolutionary?

That would go against the very DNA of the airline (in its current guise)and against most things we’ve seen the airline do over the past decade (or longer).

Bottom Line

When British Airways brought out its current Club World seat in the 1990s it was a truly revolutionary product…but that’s because it had to be.

In the market in which British Airways currently operates I don’t see its management believing that it needs to introduce something amazing, something fantastic or something revolutionary.

When BA can almost certainly continue making as much money as it’s making right now (or possibly even more) by simply providing a reasonable seat in Business Class (like the Iberia Business Class seat) I don’t see Cruz and co. splashing out on a Qsuite-esque product…but I really hope I’m wrong.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Good analysis, sadly. With what constitutes a near monopoly, BA has little need to offer a decent product, let alone a great one. Add in an airline head who is so tight-fisted that he would squeeze a silver dollar until the eagle screamed, and you have an airline actively striving for mediocrity. Such a shame to see a glorious airline brought so low.

  2. I do believe that there is a chance of a revolutionary seat. With the Heathrow expansion on the horizon and the chances that Virgin Atlantic may be given a large number of slots in order to more effectively compete with BA. They are also planning a revolutionary business class next year and with their acquisition of Flybe they are now more of a threat than ever before. BA have also invested £6.5 billion in improving their on service on the ground and in the air. A large amount will go to a new Club World seat (could be revolutionary). Finally next year a new First Class product is due to be introduced meaning that only for a short while will their business class be better than first class, if any time at all

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