British Airways has confirmed that its forthcoming Airbus A350-1000 jets won't feature a first class cabin.
The first of BA's 18 Airbus A350-1000s will arrive in July 2019 and mark the debut of an all-new business class seat – an long-awaited successor to the current 13 year old Club World design, which will offer direct aisle access, increased privacy and at-seat storage
However, that's as premium as A350s' pointy end will get. During its annual Capital Markets Day presentation to London's financial community, British Airways indicated that these A350s will have only three classes – Club World business, World Traveller Plus premium economy and World Traveller economy – with the first two seeing a new seat design.
A spokesperson for British Airways has since confirmed this to Australian Business Traveller, saying "At the moment all 18 A350s we have on order will be three class."
The A350-1000s are intended to provide an "efficient replacement" for BA's oldest Boeing 747s, which feature a first class cabin of 14 'open suites', although the Capital Markets Day presentation also revealed plans to extend the life of the jumbo jets by retaining an additional five more of the hump-backed planes through to 2020.
BA will embark on a 'product upgrade' to first class but this isn't seen as heralding a new suite as much as "new food, bedding and amenities from May (2019)", according to the airline.
Earlier this year, speaking at a UK business leaders event in London, BA chief executive office Alex Cruz confirmed that following the rollout of its new Club World business class seat, the airline will turn its attention to first class.
Cruz suggested the challenge will be "to conceive the new first class experience of the future” – but with less reliance on the 'hard product' of the seat and its surroundings and more on 'soft product' such as meals, drinks and overall service as a differentiator.
Meanwhile, BA's bête noire Virgin Atlantic will also pull back the covers on its own next-generation Airbus A350 business class seat in mid-2019 with plans for a new Upper Class design.
“We’ve seen it, I’ve sat in it, it’s a fantastic seat,” says Virgin Atlantic exec Oliver Byers. "It’s exactly what you would think Virgin Atlantic is in terms of the look and feel, the design, the feel of the cabin and the warmth of the environment."