Rumor: British Airways Ditching Plans for New Custom Business Class Seat

You choose to fly British Airways business class when they have the best non-stop schedule to Heathrow and that’s where you need to go, or for connecting destinations when they’re the cheapest.

While they were a leader in introducing fully flat business class seating, today they offer one of the worst flat business class products in the industry. Their Boeing 777s, for instance, are so dense they seat eight-across.

British Airways has made several cosmetic changes to their business class recently including new food and bedding, but they’ve been stuck with the same seat. However they’ve said they plan to introduce a new business class seat on their new A350s starting in 2019 (with no word on to what extent the existing fleet will be retrofit with the new seat). It’s supposed to be a custom seat designed for British Airways.

However Paddle Your Own Kanoo says those plans have been ditched and British Airways is going to use an off-the-shelf seat instead — seats that Emirates has had on their A380s for years.

Yet two sources who are familiar with the matter have confirmed that Cruz has knocked an expensive in-house R&D project on the head. Instead, British Airways will be tailoring an “off the shelf” product to meet its own requirements.

Several months ago, a source told us BA had chosen the same seat currently used by Emirates on its Airbus A380 fleet. Since then, a second source has verified the accuracy of this statement, saying the airline would “BA-ify” the Zodiac SKYLounge Core Business Class seat – currently in service with Emirates, ANA and others.

Zodiac’s recent history of production problems aside — American sued them over their inability to deliver seats and they’ve delayed United’s Polaris roll-out — an existing product saves time and money and reduces risk of certification challenges.

Here’s the current Emirates A380 seat:

This isn’t a great business class seat. It’s a staggered layout that’s fully flat with direct aisle access but not a ton of personal space. It is, however, clearly better than the current BA seat:

(HT: One Mile at a Time)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Far be it from me to praise British Airways, given how lousy it is in so many respects. But if, like Emirates, this is a 1-2-1 lay-out as opposed to BA’s current 2-4-2 in its larger cabins, this does seem to be a significant improvement despite the fact that BA is not being very innovative in its approach and seems content to play catch-up with a decent but not great product.

    That being said, I’d still expect BA to scrimp and save in whichever ways it can so that it may not even be as good as Emirates’ J product, to roll it out very slowly and to undertake continuing cutbacks in other aspects of its service wherever it can (as its done with the intra-Europe business class seats that have even less legroom than most U.S. carriers’ economy class sardine cans).

    Any guesses on when its long-haul business class will be all-aisle access? Mine is 2026.

  2. Yawn. BA’s 2-4-2 takes the same space as two rows of 1-2-1.

    Count the heads lined up in Club World… it’s 1-2-1.

    If BA numbered rear facing seats as odd rows and forward facing as even… it’s 1-2-1.

    Yes, the product is due for an update!

  3. I also used to think that BA has the worst Business Class seats (because I fly on SQ, CX, and JAL Business Class regularly), until AA flew me on one of their old, dirty, and obsolete planes. After that experience, BA was not so bad after all and I would choose them any day over the garbage plane that AA flew me on. I know that AA has some newer planes with better seats than BA, but unless AA can guarantee me that they will not fly me in one of their garbage planes, I will actually choose BA over AA.

    Since I always fly to Europe with my wife, a few months ago we flew in the center seats that were next to each other. We actually really enjoyed it. Once the privacy dividers were raised, we had so much privacy and it felt like we had own private “suite”. So now my wife and I actually love the center, side by side business class seats on BA.

  4. Having just returned on BA 787-9 LHR to SJC their biz is better than their FC seats, having said that I would suppose it’s better than flying UA

  5. Say what you will about BA, but, at least they have a consistent product across all their planes. You know what you are going to get, each and every time.

    But, love it or hate it, Heathrow is a strong market and they have no need to get more competitive. I even choose BA when flying to India for work – which I know, is shocking since I could fly the ME3. But a red-eye followed by a long daytime flight is so much easier than one long 15 hour flight that ruins your entire sleep cycle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *