BA fuels bed war with Club World revamp

British Airways has upped the stakes in the business class cabin refurbishment war by unveiling its £100 million (US $190 million) Club World revamp.

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By  Gemma Greenwood Published  December 11, 2006

British Airways has upped the stakes in the business class cabin refurbishment war by unveiling its £100 million (US $190 million) Club World revamp. Following two years of intense in-house research, the UK’s flag carrier has introduced a “next generation business class flat bed”, a six-foot long fully flat bed that is 25% wider at 25.5 inches and adapts into a ‘z’ position, allowing the body to assume a position similar to that in zero gravity, which is ideal for watching movies, BA claims. At the global launch of the new bed in London last month, BA’s CEO, Willy Walsh, said the airline would re-configure its aircraft to increase capacity in Club World – its most profitable market segment – by 8%, moving from 38 to 52 business class seats on some of its Boeing 747 aircraft. Walsh said the investment was “within budget” and proved the airline was “looking to the future and not backwards”. “This seat will be sustainable for another five to seven years and will be the best total business class cabin in any aircraft in the world”, he added confidently. Due to be rolled out over 18 months across its 114-strong fleet, 5000 new flatbeds will be installed in 57 Boeing 747s and 43 Boeing 777s, with the first newly furnished aircraft due to fly this month. Additional features will include a laptop locker where customers can stow electronic items, a small bag and shoes; an enhanced in-flight entertainment system that allows customers to pause, stop, fast-forward or rewind up to 100 films and TV programmes on larger 10-inch digital screens; and an onboard Club Kitchen where customers can enjoy hot and cold snacks whenever they want in between meals. First class enhancements include a ‘turn-down’ service on flights departing after 7.30pm, new sleeper suits and slippers, and an Anya Hindmarch washbag. When questioned whether BA would impose fare hikes to foot the revamp bill, Walsh said that there would be “no change”. Instead, he stressed BA would remain “very competitive”, and expected to witness a significant rise in passengers. He added that 2006 would have produced spectacular financial results if the foiled terrorist plot in August earlier this year and the ensuing baggage restrictions, which cost the airline £100 million ($190 million) in lost revenues, had been averted. British Airways currently flies the following routes: Muscat-Abu Dhabi-London Heathrow (LHR), daily; Dubai-LHR, 17 times weekly, Qatar-Bahrain-LHR, daily; and Kuwait-LHR, daily.

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