What Will British Airways’ New First Class Look Like?

by Chris Dong

Several months ago, British Airways announced their new business class Club Suites that will be launching on the Airbus A350. It was pretty revolutionary with enclosed doors — and a massive improvement over the 2-4-2 yin-yang configuration that’s currently the Club World business class.

That plane and new business class will be starting to fly long-haul in September from London-Heathrow to both Dubai and Toronto.

However, the A350 doesn’t have first class and will only be equipped with business (Club Suites), premium economy (World Traveler Plus), and economy (World Traveler).

First Retrofitted Boeing 777 Announced 

Thanks to our friends over at God Save The Points, we also know what routes will operate the first retrofitted Boeing 777 with British Airways’ new Club Suites (and first class). Starting October 27, 2019, the refit planes will begin flying once daily between New York-JFK and London-Heathrow.

BA177: London (LHR) to New York (JFK), departing 1:00pm and arriving 5:10pm
BA174: New York (JFK) to London (LHR) departing 7:50pm and arriving 6:50am (+1 day)

Only two planes are planned to be retrofitted in 2019 and the second plane will also join the lucrative JFK-LHR route once ready.

Interestingly, there is a net capacity increase of one business class seat (48 seats in the new 777 vs. 49 in the old 777).

Fewer Seats In British Airways First Class

That means there has to be a reduction somewhere. And that somewhere is in first class. Unlike the Airbus A350, the Boeing 777 will have first class onboard for British Airways. However, there will be a significant reduction in the number of first class seats available.

Old 777 (14 First Class Seats)

Retrofitted 777 (8 First Class Seats)

I can’t help but wonder what the proposed changes to first class will be. Back in 2018 at an investor presentation, BA announced that, in addition to introducing the Club Suites, they will also be updating their first class cabins.

Now that we know this new first class (and Club Suites) will be flying in a few months with the 777, it’s interesting that we still don’t know anything about what the first class updates will be. 

New British Airways First Class: Wish List

british airways first class

Image by British Airways

With the Club Suites such a massive improvement over the current Club World, BA’s first class needs to see a significant hard product improvement so a gap remains between the cabins. At the very least, there should be doors to remain on par with the privacy that the Club Suites would provide. More storage would be nice too.

It would be seriously disappointing if British Airways decided just to have a few nip and tucks, and call it a day for first class. There wouldn’t seem to be any reason to upgrade from business to first, unless the soft product changes were massive.

If BA’s first class updates are minor, it would remind me of Qatar Airways current configuration. Qatar first class (on the A380 only) isn’t very competitive, especially when compared to their business class Qsuite product. Qatar’s Qsuite is arguably better (at the very least, more private) than Qatar first class.

However, the difference in that case is that the A380 doesn’t have Qsuite in business class (it’s a reverse herringbone product), and also Qatar plans to phase out the A380 in a few years. Still, Qatar first class is probably worse than the airline’s best business class.

The Upshot

There has been a trend to shrink or eliminate first class cabins so it’s not a surprise that British Airways is going that route. However, I do hope that the airline will invest in changes to first class, especially since they have a now-awesome looking business class suite.

If BA doesn’t make major first class updates, it’s not like they would be the first airline to offer a similar (or even slightly worse) product than business class. Besides the Qatar example, American’s Boeing 777-300s have less privacy in first vs business and some of Korean Air’s planes have virtually the same product in first vs. business.

Related: British Airways New Club Lounge JFK 

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