British Airways' new business class is a suite with a privacy door

British Airways' new business class is a suite with a privacy door

  • New British Airways Club Suite business class offer sliding privacy doors, 1-2-1 layout
  • First BA Airbus A350 flights from August to Madrid, Toronto, Dubai
  • Club Suites business class refit program for Boeing 777s from Q4, other aircraft TBA

More space, more privacy, more posh – that’s the recipe for British Airways’ new Club Suites business class, which will begin flying from August 2019 on the airline’s factory-fresh Airbus A350 jets, with Boeing 777s and Boeing 787s to follow.

(Somewhat confusingly, BA is retaining Club World as its overall business class branding but using Club Suites to identify this specific seat.)

Hitting the suite spot 

Gone is the crowded dormitory-like cabin of British Airways’ current Club World business class, as well as the novel but sometimes awkward forwards-backwards seating layout.

The new business class Club Suites boast their own sliding doors – something that even BA’s first class suites lack – for near-total privacy.

Such doors remain a rare touch in business class, seen only on Qatar Airways’ superb Qsuite and Delta Air Lines’ Delta One Suite and China Eastern's latest business class.

And these ‘suites’ look the part: under the practised eye of British Airways’ Design Lead Peter Cook they’ve been dressed in a sophisticated palette of warm silver, grey and charcoal, with an inset woodgrain-patterned panel running along the side of the console plus trim in BA’s almost-signature bright anodised silver.

At 21 inches wide, the amply-padded Club Suite seat – which is finished in a quilted pattern and features a racing-style ‘three-point’ harness – offers an extra inch over the current Club World; travellers can lower the leather-clad armrest next to the seat to gain several more inches of useable space.

Customised, but not bespoke 

The Club Suite itself is based on the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond platform (seen below in its catalogue 'showcase' form), manufactured in Northern Ireland and customised by British Airways’ in-house design team.

Here is Collins Aerospace's Super Diamond business class seat in its standard (but 'dressed to impress') form

If the Club Suite seems familiar, that’s with good reason: the Super Diamond is also flown by Virgin Australia, American Airlines, Air Canada and Canada’s WestJet, China Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, KLM and Qatar Airways.

WestJet's Boeing 787 'Super Diamond' business class

Virgin Australia's Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 'Super Diamond' business class

Adopting the Super Diamond means British Airways is moving to the industry-standard 1-2-1 seating arrangement which gives every passenger direct access to the aisle.

All passengers now face forward, rather than the mixed forward-backward arrangement of today’s Club World (below).

Even if you’ve experienced the Super Diamond business class seat of another airline, you’ll notice some considerate tweaks made by the BA design team.

For example, the seat shell surrounding the passenger as well as the inside of the sliding door are lined with a soft noise-reducing material to help the transformation from seat to cocoon, while the tray table beneath the monitor is tucked away rather than protruding as much as on other versions of the same seat.

The Club Suite is the third generation of BA’s lie-flat Club World business class, which debuted in 2000 (below) and was reworked for the long-lived 2006-2019 product.

The original lie-flat Club World seat: can Club Suites repeat the revolution?

Also read: How British Airways created the world's first business class bed

In choosing to adapt an ‘off the shelf’ seat, British Airways has changed tack from its previous strategy of creating a bespoke business class seat from the ground up – which for a time included this leaked Club Work Mk III design, which updated the Club World 2006 concept.

BA's Club World Mk III design never made it past concept stage

British Airways began circling in on the Super Diamond in early 2017, after deciding that the triple-threat pressures of competition, cost and delivery weighted against a fully custom-built business class product.

Inside the Club Suites cabin

British Airways wants its new business class cabin to be as swish as the seats, so expect a subdued colour scheme which picks up the same key colours, accented by warm LED lighting which changes throughout the flight.

The first aircraft to sport the Club Suites will be BA’s Airbus A350-1000s, with 56 business class berths spread across two cabins (one with 11 rows and 44 seats, the other with just three rows of 12 seats) and the self-serve Club Kitchen stocked with snacks and drinks.

Behind this are 56 premium economy pews featuring BA’s 2018 World Traveller Plus seat, and 219 economy seats stretching to the back of the (Air)bus. 

Club Suites at the windows – the A and K seats – are steeply angled towards the view while those in the middle of the aircraft (D and G seats) tilt more gently towards the centre, in the same orientation as seen in this Virgin Australia Super Diamond business class cabin below.

A divider between the paired middle Club Suites slides back for sociability if you want to easily chat with a partner or friend – or keep it closed if you're flying solo.

Suite dreams

Club Suite seats lower themselves into a 79” (2 metre) flat bed and include BA’s latest ‘sleep service’ products from The White Company including a mattress cover, duvet and woven blanket.

One trade-off in the Club Suite’s modular shape is that passengers will have to swap the ‘open bed’ design of today’s Club World for a more constrained enclosed footwell at the end of the bed, which is tucked under your monitor and the shelf of the passenger in front of you.

Based on our experience with other Super Diamond seats such as Virgin Australia's business class, there should be ample space for even plus-sized pods – although don’t expect much wiggle-room to cross your feet at the ankles, for example.

A touchscreen controller just below the console shelf includes pre-set seating positions for snoozing, lounging and landing.

There’s a slight incline in what would usually be considered the 'upright' position, which is immediately more relaxing than actually sitting bolt upright; you can also kick back into a more leisurely ‘Z-bed mode’, go all the way to a fully-flat 2m bed, or find your own sweet spot anywhere between.

Space, the final frontier…

The Club Suites boast a riot of real estate – remedying one of the most bothersome shortcomings of the Club World seat it replaces. 

Home base is the large flat shelf next to each passenger: ideal for spreading out your stuff.

The Club Suite puts plenty of storage close at hand, which is right where you need it

This surface also contains two concealed panels. The smaller one flips open to reveal a remote for the seatback video screen, while the longer one – above the seat controller – covers a recessed pocket for oddments such as your smartphone and reading glasses.

That nook is also where you’ll find an AC socket plus two USB ports (one high-power, one standard-voltage) plus the three-pin headphone jack. A slight gap between the lid and the surrounding panel lets you run cables out to your tech yet close the hatch without pinching or snagging the cord, so that the entire surface of the table remains useful.

Another cubbyhole is tucked away in the vertical wall above this shelf, at shoulder-height to each passenger - here, a swing-out panel reveals room for your amenity kit and, mounted on the inside of the door, a small LED-lit mirror.

A recess below the footwell ottoman provides space for your shoes and is also used to store the bedding kit at take-off and landing.

Turning the Club Suite into your office suite

Take all that personal space, add a height-adjustable table large enough for a 17 inch laptop and log onto the inflight WiFi and the Club Suite becomes a sky-high office suite.

Each of the new Airbus A350s will also come equipped with satellite Internet, as will most of BA’s long-range international fleet by the end of 2020.

The basic Browse package – suitable for web, email, messaging and social media – starts from £4.99 for one hour, £10.99 for four hours or £14.99 for a 'flight pass' to stay online for the length of your entire journey.

If more speed is what you need, the faster Stream service begins at £7.99 for one hour, with four hours priced at £17.99 and a flight pass at £23.99.

BYO popcorn

After a dozen years putting up with the Club World seat’s tiny 10.4 screen, upgrading to Club Suites’ 18.5-inch high definition monitor is like jumping from a boxy 1970s telly to a slick wall-mounted flatscreen.

Having the main display fitted into the seat module means it doesn’t need to be switched off during taxi, take-off and landing – you can begin your video bingefest the moment you step on board, and catch the last few minutes of that boxed set marathon as the aircraft lands and pulls up to the gate.

However, some Club Suites destined for other aircraft types in the BA fleet will be decked out with smaller screens – down to 17 inches – presumably due to the differing cabin widths of particular jets.

Room for improvement?

While the new Club World Suite is a superlative seat, British Airways didn’t tick every box.

Some travellers will note the lack of a Do Not Disturb indicator on the outside of the suite, while others will suggest there should be a modern USB-C port alongside the popular USB-A socket.

But it would be churlish to suggest these seriously detract from what is easily the biggest upgrade to BA’s business class experience since the airline introduced the lie-flat business class bed in 2000

BA's original flat-bed Club World of 2000: how far we've come!

Flying BA’s new Club Suites business class

So when can BA passengers expect to experience the new Club Suite?

They’ll debut on the airline’s also-new Airbus A350-1000 jets, the first of which is due for delivery in July.

Across August and September it will begin short-hop ‘familiarisation’ runs on one of BA’s handful of daily flights between London Heathrow and Madrid (British Airways has yet to announce which flight will get the shiny bird).

October 1 will see the A350 move onto the London-Toronto route as BA92/BA93, while a second A350 will take on London-Dubai as BA107/BA108 from October 8.

British Airways will pick up the keys to two more A350s across the back end of 2019, and there’ll still be 14 yet to come over the next few years.

2020 will also see the arrival of BA’s first Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners – a dozen are due through to 2023 – sporting both the Club Suites in business class and eight first class suites in an updated design.

BA's first class is also getting a nip-and-tuck for 2020

Finally, BA is embarking on a sweeping upgrade of its existing fleet, starting with a pair of Boeing 777-200 jets which will have their Club World seats ripped out and replaced by Club Suites in the fourth quarter of 2019.

British Airways CEO Alex Cruz has confirmed that all Boeing 777s, Boeing 787s and Airbus A380s will eventually roll into the hangar for a Club Suite upgrade in “a two-and-a-half to three-year rollout."

For some aircraft, this will coincide with fitting an upgraded first class suite and reducing the size of the first class cabin from 14 berths to eight.

Read more: British Airways plans first class upgrade: new suites, but sans doors?

The only exception to the refrub program will be the Boeing 747 jumbo jets, which BA is putting out to pasture from 2020 to 2024 in favour of the A350s, Boeing 787s and Boeing 777-9s

Suite success

British Airways’ new Club Suite is the capstone in a hefty £600m investment in international business class.

To date this has seen revamped inflight dining – including new menus and meals from Do&Co on services from London Heathrow – plus a vastly improved bedding kit (in partnership with The White Company) featuring a padded mattress cover, oversized pillows, a super-soft duvet and woven blanket with satin trim.

Now that there’s a luxe business class seat to match, British Airways is back in the race as a serious contender for business travellers. All that’s left is for somebody to cue up the Chariots of Fire theme…

Take a video look of British Airways Club Suites...

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.
 

50 comments

  • Timothy Shears

    timothyshears

    18 Mar, 2019 09:16 pm

    Woohoo, I have been waiting for this day for ever. Well Done BA!!!
    Member who gave thanks

    Steen

  • Simon Frost

    SimonFrost

    18 Mar, 2019 09:19 pm

    Looks great - such a vast improvement! Like the finishes too - stylish.
    No member give thanks

  • Packetman21

    Packetman21

    18 Mar, 2019 09:19 pm

    About time. Long overdue. Good job BA, looks like a very solid product.
    No member give thanks

  • Blair Coull

    Notso Swift

    18 Mar, 2019 09:25 pm

    That definitely looks “the business” :)
    Really nice finishes,too. Look forward to sampling this as the cabin service has come up in the last couple of y
    Member who gave thanks

    jch

  • wanderingvan

    wanderingvan

    18 Mar, 2019 09:26 pm

    This is long over due but sound like it will be a while to see these suites en-route to Oz. Will we see similar improvement on our red roo? I doubt it will be anytime soon.
    No member give thanks

  • Graham Kinsella

    TheCelt

    18 Mar, 2019 11:34 pm

    You mean aside from the 787 and a330?
    No member give thanks

  • wanderingvan

    wanderingvan

    20 Mar, 2019 04:10 pm

    The current A380, 747 definitely. They are a decade or so behind the curve for both J & F. Even the 787 J can be improved with the privacy door.
    No member give thanks

  • Nick Anderson

    Nick Anderson

    18 Mar, 2019 09:29 pm

    Fantastic. Well done BA and great review
    No member give thanks

  • Otto Van De Velde

    OttoV

    18 Mar, 2019 09:35 pm

    Too bad, too late. Can anyone advise what to expect on the LHR to Barcelona trip inj in April this year on B A .... more 737 style crap for J prices?
    No member give thanks

  • Graham Kinsella

    TheCelt

    18 Mar, 2019 11:35 pm

    Economy seat with the seat vacant beside you most likely.
    No member give thanks

  • Scott Wilson

    Libertyscott

    19 Mar, 2019 12:11 am

    Same as you do for virtually all of European airlines on shorthaul, and for a premium over economy prices that reflects it. Go economy like almost everyone else, it's 2 hours.
    No member give thanks

  • Scott Wilson

    Libertyscott

    19 Mar, 2019 12:14 am

    Welcome back BA. Apparently 777-300ERs will be refurbished over the next couple of years, got to hope that the SYD route gets this sooner rather than later. There will be fewer seats, and the First cabin will shrink, because the difference in hard product is now minor. BA indicated the 787-9 First product will be retrofitted, but it would be astonishing to not give that a door as well now.
    No member give thanks

  • Joe

    Joe

    18 Mar, 2019 09:43 pm

    Looks great. Almost puts Qantas ‘first’ to shame. Now to get rid of the loud cramped prehistoric 777 from the Sydney route and we have another winner out of Australia. The A350 and this seat would win me over in a heartbeat back to BA. Well done BA.
    No member give thanks

  • Graham BLAMEX

    BLAMEX

    19 Mar, 2019 10:55 am

    Totally agree QF products even the new J is falling behind. They had an amazing opportunity with the 787 and did not deliver. BA will take time to have it across the fleet however it looks a leap above QF F product
    No member give thanks

  • Graham Kinsella

    TheCelt

    22 Mar, 2019 11:36 am

    Which part of the new QF J seat don't you like?
    No member give thanks

  • Mark McCullough

    pointyendmark

    18 Mar, 2019 09:46 pm

    Praise the Lord! At last! I'm so happy - not just because it gives me a new option for my flights, but also because it alleviates the shame I've had in recent years over my national carrier and former employer (back in "the good old days").
    No member give thanks

  • Lachlan Burnet

    Lachlan72

    18 Mar, 2019 09:46 pm

    Nice review, great detail and looks a lot better than I expected. (Noticed a small omission in the article too - China Eastern new A350 Biz Class product also features sliding doors).
    No member give thanks

  • oldfolky

    oldfolky

    18 Mar, 2019 09:47 pm

    Hardly innovative. The same as every other airline has. I’ll stick to the old seat.
    No member give thanks

  • John Phelan

    John Phelan

    18 Mar, 2019 10:07 pm

    Looks great. Very stylish and functional. Doors are completely unnecessary, but it seems that many people like them.
    No member give thanks

  • eminere

    eminere

    18 Mar, 2019 10:30 pm

    And welcome to the 21st century, BA.
    No member give thanks

  • Fqtv

    Zac

    18 Mar, 2019 10:34 pm

    Looks excellent - good choice BA. Hope we get this product on the Sydney flights soon.
    No member give thanks

  • James O'Mahony

    Ourmanin

    18 Mar, 2019 10:44 pm

    David, looks great. What an improvement. Is there any comment from BA as to the impact on cabin density. Will they get the same number of seats in the same space?
    No member give thanks

  • John Phelan

    John Phelan

    18 Mar, 2019 10:47 pm

    Can't see how they could. I would expect fewer J seats and higher ticket prices.
    No member give thanks

  • David Flynn

    David

    20 Mar, 2019 11:38 am

    John, I don't believe any airline is eager to raise its prices but you could certainly see the case for BA to increase fares on Club Suites flights due to the vastly superior product. If I recall, Delta did something similar with the rollout of its Delta One Suites.
    No member give thanks

  • David Flynn

    David

    20 Mar, 2019 11:30 am

    We asked that question of BA but received no response, and also tried to get Club Worlds seating numbers for the first-to-be-refurbished Boeing 777-200s so we could do a 'before and after' comparo - that info also was not made available.
    No member give thanks

  • Balta  Caceres

    Aircraft Lover

    18 Mar, 2019 11:17 pm

    I love it!
    I like the color palette, the wooden finishings, the seat fabric, the suite layout, and the door
    I think the Club Suite will provide a lot of privacy for a long-haul flight
    I am so happy, I am looking forward to try soon!
    No member give thanks

  • Mark Bennett

    Mabjsy

    18 Mar, 2019 11:34 pm

    Does anyone know when we can expect this product to be used in aircraft to/from Australia ? Thanks for a great article, finally BA offer a serious business class product. Can’t wait to use it.
    No member give thanks

  • Scott Wilson

    Libertyscott

    20 Mar, 2019 08:20 am

    I believe 777-300ERs wont be refurbished until 2020, so it is probably a year or so away. Nothing been said about A380s.
    No member give thanks

  • David Flynn

    David

    20 Mar, 2019 11:36 am

    BA hasn't laid down the refurb timetable for anything bar the first two Boeing 777-200s (both due Q4). BA CEO has said the process will take 2.5-3 years, which is understandable given the size of the fleet and the need to move aircraft around. I expect the incoming A350s and Boeing 787-10s will lead that shuffle, and the rest is likely to align with when each aircraft goes in for its major maintenance check (to reduce downtime). But realistically, Club Suites for Sydney could be as close as late 2020 or as far away as mid-2022.
    No member give thanks

  • billy_boy

    billy_boy

    19 Mar, 2019 12:57 am

    Nice but its still no Qatar Q suites
    No member give thanks

  • poopbunny

    poopbunny

    19 Mar, 2019 01:40 am

    This will now mean Air NZ will have the worst lie flat business configuration.
    Member who gave thanks

    kathkiwi

  • Scott Wilson

    Libertyscott

    19 Mar, 2019 09:32 am

    United's oldest business lie flat product is 2-4-2 (alternating) on 777s, so I think it wins the booby prize in the lie flat category now (not forgetting BA will have aircraft with the current product until 2023 when 747s are finally retired)
    No member give thanks

  • ECBB

    ECBB

    19 Mar, 2019 06:22 am

    This looks like an industry standard product with some exceptionally lovely BA finishes.
    I like CW, especially with BA’s recent soft products upgraded. This is welcome.
    Member who gave thanks

    kathkiwi

  • Trevor Warren

    twarren

    19 Mar, 2019 07:07 am

    Still the worst business class cabin service I have experienced. Didn't know if they could do a bloody mary and then plonked the vodka minature on the tray to pour myself.Amateur stuff.
    No member give thanks

  • Andrew Wakefield

    anwakefield71

    19 Mar, 2019 08:38 am

    Not the best but certainly not the worst. More than I was expecting. I don't know why everyone keeps going on about doors!!
    To deplane in Emergency takes longer with doors.
    BA's new First will have 4 or 8 suites (depending on route) with full height doors.
    Retro fitting other 773 will be on profitability of the route.
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    19 Mar, 2019 10:26 am

    Generally, aircraft seats with doors have a mechanism to lock the door in the open position for take-off and landing, and then also offer a form of emergency release should the door become dislodged from the locking position in an emergency.
    No member give thanks

  • Adam T

    AT

    19 Mar, 2019 09:51 am

    You do have to ask yourself, for better part of 20years most people have disliked the BA Club hard product most of the time yet BA have been defiant in face of negative customer feedback all these years. What’s it taken to listen to the customer now I wonder, increase competition or new team at BA? The product looks great by the way.
    No member give thanks

  • Jason Bird

    Speedbird

    19 Mar, 2019 05:58 pm

    Actually 20 years is an exaggeration as when the old hard product first launched 20 years ago, it was revolutionary!! It’s only in the last 10 so years that it’s been overtaken by newer and more advanced seats.

    Trust me I’m no fan of BA or their subpar services..
    No member give thanks

  • John Phelan

    John Phelan

    20 Mar, 2019 01:18 am

    Well, for the first 5 to 7 years of that 20 years, BA was the class leader as it had flat beds in Business before any other airline did. People raved about it when it was first introduced. I still prefer it over the QF Skybeds on the A380, though the QF J suites on the B787/A330 are superior. Why have they changed now? They've had the current config (with a small upgrade in 2006) for 20 years - time to update. They've made handsome profits out of the current seats. And probably tired of all the whining from people who don't like the config …..

    No member give thanks

  • Scott Wilson

    Libertyscott

    20 Mar, 2019 08:16 am

    and its main competitors on its key routes (US-UK) had already surpassed it (UA/DL) and AA was starting to become preferred to BA on the routes they codeshare. LHR-HKG was being hit because CX is clearly superior, and BAEC members can fly QR and earn the same status credits as on BA (so more than a few customers were choosing that).
    No member give thanks

  • Tony OBERON

    obi

    19 Mar, 2019 11:51 am

    No mention of soft product upgrades, which is currently possibly the worst there is. BA crews generally are not well-trained and vary from over-familiar to downright rude.
    No member give thanks

  • AsiaBizTraveller

    AsiaBizTraveller

    20 Mar, 2019 11:45 am

    Soft product has only recently been upgraded across the international fleet, that's covered at the article. I recently flew BA's A380 from Hong Kong to London, the bedding and meals are a quantum leap from what it used to be. Crews can be a bit of a mixed bag, I will give you that. Some are great and warm and fun, others very 'meh', and you get the odd one that's woken up on the wrong side of the bed, but that can be said of almost any airline.
    No member give thanks

  • Nate Webster

    Concorde1990

    19 Mar, 2019 07:05 pm

    About time! Pity it’ll only be flying to Toronto. I am stuck on a beat up 744 for LHR YVR. I feel like I’m in some kind of prison if I’m unlucky enough to be downstairs. I avoid BA J as much as possible.
    It is unfortunate that we won’t have the same foot space. I know many travelers that find the footwells on VA too small
    No member give thanks

  • RichardM

    RichardM

    19 Mar, 2019 10:49 pm

    What’s the fuss about? Big deal. So BA has met the standard of other Bus Class carriers. A long long overdue upgrade considering years of substandard BA bus class.
    No member give thanks

  • AsiaBizTraveller

    AsiaBizTraveller

    20 Mar, 2019 11:42 am

    'Met the standard'? More like far exceeded the standard! As the article says only three other airlines have business class suites, two of those are the same Vantage XL Suites product, ie Delta and China Eastern, the other is of course the QSuite. And looking at those I would say the BA Club Suite is better than the Delta and China Eastern product, which seem very boxy and not very premium. Either way BA is now far ahead of 'the standard of other business class carriers'.
    No member give thanks

  • BJ01

    BJ01

    20 Mar, 2019 03:45 pm

    The VA Business class product on the 777 is superb IMO so I am sure BA are on winner here. My only small gripe on VA was the table protruding under the screen (it does take up quite an amount of room particularly when you are in sleep mode) and it looks like BA are tweaking the config slightly to address that. I am neither here nor there on the privacy door. I find the privacy on the same VA seat is more than satisfactory and strikes the right balance
    No member give thanks

  • P Hanna

    14AspenDrive

    20 Mar, 2019 07:50 pm

    As the next GFC is picking up steam, BA couldn’t have picked a better time to introduce their Club World suites. With every corporate watching their spend, this will be the end of First Class. Compare BA Club World suites to Qantas First Class. That’s right...pocket $10k and buy a Rolex Daytona in Singapore.
    No member give thanks

  • Ratt Ruang

    CitizenF

    20 Mar, 2019 11:04 pm

    With that height of the seat frame - partition, with nearly 50 passengers in the same cabin, how significant experience can that sliding door offer?

    It is not like those First class suites equipped with proper 150 cm (or more) wall on EK or TG 747 or SQ etc.
    No member give thanks

  • Edward Stacey

    Fosseboy

    21 Mar, 2019 11:36 pm

    Great story and well done BA for catching up - what a shame you lost your lead in business class. So now we need you to get back to the Australian market with some commitmeny.
    No member give thanks

  • Whatever

    Whatever

    27 Mar, 2019 12:58 am

    That divider between the middle seats seems to be a straight copy of the VA one. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em I guess.
    No member give thanks

Guest

20 May, 2019 08:57 am

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