British Airways has opted for evolution rather than revolution when it comes to the new Club World business class seat for its forthcoming Airbus A350 fleet.
Designs for what the airline describes as its Club World Mark III seat – detailed in leaked internal BA documentation seen by Australian Business Traveller – indicate the British flag-carrier will keep the alternating foward-backward layout of its current business class.
However, improvements to key aspects of the seat should boost its appeal to high flyers.
Foremost among them: all passengers will now enjoy direct access to the aisle, instead of having to gingerly step over or around their neighbour.
Australian Business Traveller understands that the seats convert into a fully flat bed measuring from 6'1" (185cm) to 6'4" (193cm) depending on if they are located at a window, aisle or middle pair, with a press-button recline into a relaxing 'lazy Z' position.
A new storage cubby lurks beneath the armrest of each seat, in addition to a slightly larger storage drawer, while manually-operated screens provide privacy or sociability between seat pairs.
The inflight video screen is almost 50% larger, having been upsized from 10.4 inches to a high-definition 15.3 inch display.
The new seat design, which plays up BA's palette of blue and silver, is both more stylish and spacious than the current second-gen Club World seat (shown below).
The leaked design matches up against a UK patent application lodged by British Airways and credited to BA Design Lead Peter Cooke and Paul Grader from London design firm Forpeople, which most recently worked on British Airways' Boeing 787-9 first class cabin and suites (seen below).
Video, photos: British Airways' new Boeing 787-9 first class
Mockup illustrations and diagrams from that patent application – while based on an earlier, less-refined seat concept – give a better idea of how this all comes together in the cabin of the Airbus A350.
British Airways is also retaining a 2-4-2 'high density' layout, although this benefits from the wider cabin footprint of the A350.
BA's patent application also illustrates two possible ClubWorld layouts for the A350's business class cabin...
... using a different mix of orientations for the paired seats.
British Airways will begin flying the long-range Airbus A350-1000 from 2018, with 18 of the advanced jets on order and options for 18 more.
Approached by Australian Business Traveller for comment, a British Airways spokesperson said “we regularly see speculation around what the next generation of our seats will look like, as we develop a lot of ideas with a range of design agencies. We often patent these ideas which is one driver of that speculation."
"As and when we’re ready to announce the seats for the A350s, which are not due to arrive until 2018, we’ll do so."
Earlier this year British Airways CEO Alex Cruz began tamping down expectations for the A350's Club World seat, saying it is not "ultra-revolutionary" and the design would focus more on incremental changes.
Speaking with UK media, Cruz added the seat would not be retrofitted across BA's long-range international fleet – such as the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-300ER and 787 Dreamliner fleets – because "it doesn't appear to be sufficiently revolutionary."
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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.