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Is this British Airways' next-gen Club World business class seat?

By David Flynn     Filed under: business class, British Airways, design

Is this the Club World business class seat we'll see across British Airways' new Airbus A350 fleet?

If so, then BA is set to ditch the current forward-backward layout of Club World for a new 'herringbone' design which gives each passenger direct aisle access plus an oversized seat that's closer to a one-person couch.

BA reckons the design is sufficiently unique to have applied for a UK patent (GB2510765A) which was filed on May 19, 2014 but surfaced only last week.

That patent application provides a sneak peek of what could be the airline's next-generation Club World seat, which has been created for BA by London firm PriestmanGoode (company director Nigel Goode is listed on the patent as the design's inventor).

It's not a sure thing, of course: this may be one of several concepts which BA is considering, and this particular design might never see light of day.

All the same, it's worthy of close examination. So what does BA have up its tailored sleeve?

Update: we now have photos of BA's new concept Club World sofa-seat – here's one to whet your whistle, click the link for more!

Photos: British Airways' Airbus A350 Club World business class prototype

In detail: British Airway's new Club World concept

The new design sees each passenger ensconced in a slightly curved cubicle, seated close to the window with their feet facing towards the aisle.

It's a familiar starting point: Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class and Business Premier on Air New Zealand follow similar lines, while Cathay Pacific business class has also popularised this angled 'herringbone' layout.

However, the relatively high wall and wide bench-like seat are more akin to Singapore Airlines' latest Boeing 777-300ER business class.

That's intended to allow the passenger to sit, sleep or spread out as they choose.

Here's the standard forward-facing mode for eating, working or just gazing out the window.

You can swing around to nestle into the corner of the seat – notice that this 'dining service' illustration also shows an alternative position for the meal tray. 

Finally, stretch out and grab some sleep. 

A swing-up portion of the seat, marked in the diagram below as 3, fills the gap between the seat and the ottoman to create the fully-flat bed.

While the individual window seats are angled towards the centre of the plane, the two seats in the middle face out towards the aisle.

(BA's patent application includes seating layouts for not only the Airbus A350 but also the Airbus A380 superjumbo, Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Boeing 777 and even the venerable Boeing 747, although we doubt the ageing jumbo will ever see this upgrade.)

Here's an entire whole Club World business class cabin showing the 1-2-1 herringbone layout.

Naturally, the airline proposes a slide-up privacy screen between the middle seats, but it allows that these paired seats are often booked by two people travelling together.

In a nod to this, BA suggests that the bulkhead facing the first row of middle seats could contain a super-sized video screen of around 40 inches (100 cm) "to provide a larger viewing screen or private cinema for the occupants of the double seat."

Seat pitch in the proposed cabin layouts varies between 42- 43 inches, while bed length is listed as 74.5 inches (1.88 metres) with a total width of 26.3 inches (66.8 cm).

The inflight entertainment screen is built into the wall of the seat enclosure and faces the passenger so you can continue to watch movies or TV shows during the taxi, take-off and landing stages of your flight.

However, the screen swivels out from the wall and also tilts up or down...

 ... so that passengers can find the 'optimum viewing angle' no matter what position they're in.

One of the main criticisms of BA's current Club World seat is the lack of stowage for inflight odds and ends – there's just one slide-out drawer down near the floor, which is largely out of reach of the passenger.

This new design aims to turn that around with plenty of cleverly-designed storage space.

First up, each set has a small side table which doubles as a cocktail tray. Under that is a hanger for noise-cancelling headphones plus a recess for a bottle of water.

Under the ottoman (marked as in the diagram below) contains a large slide-out drawer (labelled as 8) which has been divided into several different-sized compartments.

These are handy for phones and tablets, books and reading glasses and even what appears to be a deeper recess suitable for an amenity kit or small purse.

If you'd like to persude the patent application for yourself, we've made it available for direct download: click here [1.6MB PDF]

In all, it's a fascinating look at where British Airways business class could be headed: shifting from a measured evolution of the current design towards what would be an outright revolution – and probably a very welcome one – for current Club World travellers.

It's also a significant step away from the current 'high density' Club World layout, which provides an eight-across array on the airline's Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A380 flagships.

As BA notes in the patent application, "there is intense competition to provide ever-greater comfort and space for aircraft passengers." And for British Airways, this could be the seat which delivers it.

Click below to see our full set of mock-up photos of BA's new concept Club World sofa-seat.

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About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 24/8/14 by fxdxdy

They need to do something because their current business class seats have sweet stuff all storage and what storage there is is unaccesable when you're laying out.

And isle access is a pain when you are trapped next to a window and have to step over the legs of some sleeping in the isle seat. It's worse with the BA seats because the foot thing blocks you access where as with Qantas at least the feet of the isle person are low to the ground and there is a little gap.

I'm not sure they have learnt all their lessons from looking at those diagrmas - storage still seems light-on and awkward. BA sure likes to pack in their business class customers. 

2 on 24/8/14 by Serg

Looks interesting - lets see if it real design

3 on 24/8/14 by davar98

Travelled in BA business last year, and other than the cosyness of the double seat in the middle, the setup is a nightmare. FA's clacking down the privacy dividers every time they serve you something. Not to mention having to step over other passengers feet all the time. Oh, and No menu's on one leg - had to order off a printout of an excel spreadsheet, and on the 2nd leg from London, out of Singapore, told we couldn't have an amenity pack, because we should have held onto ours from the first leg! (and the FA was too young to remember he Blitz) Silly us, we disposed of our disposable tooth brushes. Anything would be an improvement.

4 on 24/8/14 by TheRealBabushka

It would appear you can sit both at a right angle or diagonally. That makes me wonder about the seat back and how comfortable it might be. It doesn't seem very practical...

5 on 25/8/14 by Jason

Finally BA are playing catch up with the rest of the world airlines in offering direct aisle access.

They should of launched this seats with their A380 and B787's... BUT I guess better late than never (and it was starting to look like never when it came to ditching that forward/backward layout of theirs).

1 on 25/8/14 by paa

Flew BA A380 J upstairs this week, HKG-LHR. For my money still the best J seat for sleeping. Have flown all versions of this seat layout over the years and other than storage issues find it great. Dont understand the criticism. BA LHR lounges another story -dreadful.

1 on 25/8/14 by Jason

You obviously easily pleased... That or you haven't flown with CX recently.

1 on 25/8/14 by paa

Have flown latest CX. Great seat for solo travel only, not if travelling with companions. Their food remains below par, but service excellent.

6 on 25/8/14 by Phil

The devil will be in the detail, and how well they implement the design.

One thing that doesn't look good in the diagrams is when sitting in the forward-facing mode, the distance between the seat and the barrier in front is quite short, and is likely to be quite claustrophobic.

1 on 27/8/14 by hkflyer

Completely agree. With a pitch of 42" this will be a real PEY experience when forward facing, which means to get any feeling of space you will have to twsit your body and lift your legs on to the sofa part. Not sure how appealing that will be if you want to work at a desk or eat. Also, I can't imagine the lack of a reclining seat being compensated for by a few cushions. Finally the bed length is 74.5". most premium JCL lie flat beds are 79-80. Pretty underwhelming overall. 

7 on 22/9/14 by ezihose

Looks like BA will get onto the do not fly list! Might be ok for a slim attractive lady 5ft 2 but being nearly 6FT and on the beafy side like 80% of the rest of the world, it would feel like being jammed in a jam jar for 5 hours!

The designers need to understand that Openess is the key not some zig zag pattern, Basic weat that lays flat or reclines well, basic seat that is wide, opening to the seat needs to be wide


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