Despite being early pioneers of flat-bed seats some 20 years ago, one thing British Airways has not been known for over the last decade or so is sought-after cabin products in its First and Business Class cabins.
The airline’s once-revolutionary yin-yang layout in the Club World cabin is more often mocked these days for requiring you to step over the legs of sleeping strangers in the night to reach the aisle!
BA has been stepping up its game though, with the introduction of a 1-2-1 direct aisle access Club Suites product on the Airbus A350-1000, with added privacy door, representing a big advance for the carrier in the competitive Business Class market.
With Business Class now a closed suite, First Class stood out as still lacking in privacy, so in BA’s latest design doors have been added to these seats too in the carrier’s newly configured Boeing 777-300ER aircraft (the A350s don’t have a First Class section).
The new Boeing 777-300ERs also have the Club Suite installed, for a much better Business Class experience compared to before.
The new seats just made their Singapore debut
Today is the first day these two new products have been flown on the airline’s Singapore route, with BA11 from London arriving this afternoon and set to depart as BA12 back to the UK capital at 11.15pm tonight.
G-STBM was the aircraft used, one of two brand new Boeing 777-300ERs recently delivered to the airline, with two more to follow soon.
The first newly configured Boeing 777-300ERs has been in service since early October 2020, while the second one (G-STBN) entered service earlier this month. They have been flying to and from a variety of British Airways destinations so far, most commonly to Malé, Hong Kong and Mumbai, but this is the first appearance on the Singapore route.
Latest First Class
The First Class cabin has just eight seats across two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration, a significant drop from the 14 seats installed previously.
It’s nothing revolutionary – the same seat complete with 23″ HD IFE screen is already installed on the carrier’s Boeing 787-9s, but the addition of the doors is currently unique to these new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
It looks like only one passenger from Singapore to London this evening will be enjoying the entire eight-seat First Class cabin to themselves. Here’s how the seat map looks on the newly configured aircraft.
This latest seat design with the doors included should progressively be refitted to older Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in due course, and may appear on BA’s Boeing 787-9s later.
Business Class gets a big capacity increase on the newer Boeing 777-300ERs, from 56 seats previously to 76 in the newer fit.
In the large cabin, which is split across three sections including a favourable three-row mini-cabin directly behind First Class, there look to be just eight passengers flying tonight.
British Airways has opted for a heavily customised version of the Collins Aerospace ‘Elements’ Business Class seat, previously known as the ‘Super Diamond’ seat. Gone is the 2-4-2 arrangement used on the majority of British Airways planes in this cabin, in favour of direct aisle access for all passengers in a 1-2-1 layout.
Although the product is already widely used by Qatar Airways (the model predating the Qsuite, see our review), Virgin Australia, China Airlines, Air Canada and American Airlines among others, British Airways was the first airline to install a privacy door at each seat.
See this review of the new product on a flight from Toronto to London.
When will more planes be fitted?
Before COVID-19, British Airways had an ambitious plan to refit its Boeing 777-300ERs with the latest cabin products, finishing the job on all 16 aircraft by the end of 2021.
|Boeing 777-300ER retrofit plan
As you can see by the end of 2020 there were set to be five Boeing 777-300ERs with Club Suites installed; four brand new aircraft deliveries from Boeing and one completed refit.
In reality two new aircraft have been delivered, with two more arriving soon, while the refit plan on existing aircraft has been put on the back burner for now.
It’s not clear how long COVID-19 will delay that process.
BA is reducing capacity to Singapore
As we highlighted in early December, British Airways will not be flying its Airbus A380s on the Singapore route in 2021 according to the latest schedules, with the carrier instead maintaining the Boeing 777-300ER on its daily BA11/12 service.
With four out of 16 of those aircraft boasting the new cabins by early 2021, that means Singapore will get used to seeing these newer cabin products from time to time.
Meanwhile BA’s second daily flight, which also continues to Sydney, will be downgauged to Boeing 787-9 operation next year. These aircraft are scheduled to get the Club Suite in 2022, however that timescale has also become uncertain.
It’s great to see British Airways flying its Club Suite Business Class and latest First Class cabin with closing doors to and from Singapore, though it’s far from a permanent fixture at this stage.
A handful of passengers heading from Singapore to London tonight will get an unexpected surprise once they board, especially if they’ve flown BA before in Club World with the old yin-yang layout replaced by a direct aisle access suite!
With 25% of the carrier’s 16-strong Boeing 777-300ER fleet having the new cabin products by early 2021, these seats should feature on the Singapore route at least some of the time on the BA11/12 service.
Unfortunately, until British Airways refits most if not all of its 12 older Boeing 777-300ERs to match these newer deliveries, it’s still likely to be a case of ‘pot luck’ which cabin product you’ll get on the Singapore route for some time to come.
(Cover Photo: British Airways)