British Airways Unveils New Tighter Coach Seats Without Power Outlets

A little over a year ago British Airways laid out their plans to offer a product that’s a close as possible to economy on Norwegian’s Boeing 787s. Their London Gatwick-based 777s would get 10-across seating in coach and in total add 52 seats.

The plan is to offer a product that won’t be better than a low cost carrier, so they don’t appear to be going for a revenue premium. (More seats is hardly the only way they’ve been cost cutting.) Instead they want to push cost per seat as low as possible and just compete on price.

That’s consistent with the plan for intra-Europe flights where they’ll offer less legroom than Ryanair.

Now we have our first look at the ‘densified’ British Airways product.

  • Premium economy gets a new leg and footrest and a six-way adjustable headrest. Premium economy also gets both USB power and an outlet for UK, US and EU plugs.

  • Coach seats “a six-way headrest with adjustable ears” and movable middle armrests. It get USB power and not traditional power ports which is insane.

  • Both seats get bigger tv screens and more video on demand.

Credit: British Airways

Premium economy has been selling at least based on what joint venture partner American Airlines says. BA is increasing that cabin from 24 to 52 seats and reducing business class from 40 to 32 seats in three cabin aircraft. The four-cabin 777s “will see an additional 12 seats added.”

Six Boeing 777s with business, premium economy and coach are expected to be done this winter, and four-cabin planes that also offer first class are targeted for summer 2019 completion. The planes go to Punta Cana, Cancun and Kingston, Jamaica first and then eventually to all BA long haul routes from Gatwick.

Credit: British Airways

The new premium economy seats will be added to BA’s London Heathrow Boeing 777 fleet starting in fall 2019.

Ironically where British Airways most needs attention is in business class but that’s not where they’re fast tracking a new seat.

And incidentally American Airlines made the argument that joint ventures systematically bias airlines towards growing capacity because their percentage split of total revenue from the partners is based on the number of seats they deploy. They insinuate this means more flights but it can just as easily mean more seats on the same flights which is hardly a customer benefit. British Airways, of course, is also a joint venture partner.

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 »

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  1. Just had 2 people this weekend mention how cheap Norwegian Air is and how it would induce them to take a trip to Europe.

    Not sure how sustainable their business model is, but there has to be a better way to compete. At this point there is no reason to tell those people that they should step up to more comfort with BA.

  2. Wait, they’re increasing and improving seats in the class that is selling (Premium Economy) and not investing in hard product / service quality in the class (Economy) that is almost solely drive by price competition? Shocking!

  3. We returned from London to the East Coast last month in British Airways business class and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of service, if not by the seats. Over the past few years, British Airways crew members seem to have become increasingly harried and dispirited. This experienced crew were uniformly engaging, pleasant and even interesting, not jaded or dispirited at all. There was a slightly new elegance to the service, with something like a tea cart having replaced the awkward bin-like ones that used to come down the aisle. A pot of sweet butter and a small metal basket holding the dinner roll were new to me. The selection of main courses was another matter: “braised beef cheek,” “pan fried hake,” “mushroom ravioli,” and some kind of vegetarian casserole. Being neither familiar with “braised beef cheek” nor tempted, we asked for the mushroom ravioli, only to be told that there was none left. (Not a surprise.) I asked if there were any leftover seafood or kosher meals by any chance, or if the stewardess could go down into economy and bring me whatever was being served there. At that two servings of mushroom ravioli appeared, and I must say they were quite good. All of which goes to prove that you can dress up lower quality food like braised beef cheek with fancy porcelain and cutlery, but that hardly makes it what you might expect to be fed in business class.

    Our flight went without incident–unlike a recent British Airways flight on which we arrived in London only to be told that the cargo doors were frozen shut (“third time this week!”) By the time we got to the head of the line to report where to send our luggage (a process that took well over an hour and a half), the luggage had been liberated, but many of our fellow travelers had left.

    As I have told them in some of their surveys, flying BA used to be like getting to England ahead of time. Now the steady erosion of the brand is becoming like Chinese water torture, and with all of their taxes and fees, the miles are hardly worth accruing. All of that being the case, this elite flyer BA is wondering what his options might be.

  4. If they really are going to match a Norwegian on service and price, then it’s not a bad deal for the budget traveler – the one who simply can’t afford to fly at the usual prices, or the one who would perhaps rather spend more on doing things upon arrival at destinations. More bargain seats across the Atlantic opens up the option to more people. I have friends who have never traveled to Europe, but when they see fares that are now available, they suddenly realize it’s within their means. What I don’t want to see is a product like the “basic economy” option on domestic flights that’s for the most part just a price increase in disguise.

  5. @DaveS. If are going to Match Norwegian, then BA is not needed. The BA decisions of the last decade is mind blowing and will probably end up in some MBA marketing 101 class.

  6. @ Edward Lane; braised beef cheeks are actually a very good option as the nature of the meat holds up very well both to aeroplane heating methods and eating at altitude. Some of the best meals I’ve had on both BA and AA were braised beef cheek. I would strongly recommend you try it on your next flight.

    I would question the severity of a lack of standard power ports on the LGW Economy long-haul routes. That market serves primarily bucket and spade destinations and the proportion of passengers who would need to avail of those as oppose to standard USB outlets I imagine would be significantly smaller than on LHR routes so it seems to make relatively sound business sense. Like everyone I do not like the idea of cabin densification, however this appears to be where the general industry is going. Fewer bathrooms though, especially to bucket and spade destinations (think boozey Brits), definitely a bad move.

  7. Gary I think the headline is slightly misleading. Many bloggers on Boarding Area seem to have such a deep hatred of BA that everything they do is spun in a negative light.

    This is their smallest/oldest/crappiest longhaul subfleet and they are doing a comprehensive refurb on the planes (which people have been crying out for fore years). Hey are massively expanding their (very good) premium economy product and putting new screens in coach, along with power ports (just not outlets). Yes, for their leisure fleet hey are going to 10-across which every other major airline now uses with the exception of a JL and SQ basically (even CX moving to 10 across). Many airlines (like AA) still have substantial portions of their widebody international fleets lacking any power ports at all in coach.

    They’ve also made the conscious decision (for now) to kee their vastly larger Heathrow 777 fleet 9-abreast, luring then ahead of most other major transatlantic carriers in seat size, but no one ever mentions that…

  8. A colleague recently flew from Orlando to Gatwick Business Class on BA 777 – They plane took off with no water – Can you imagine this, It’s an embarrassment what has happened to this brand.

    I refused to fly with them ever again after a supercilious FA said to me on a flight from SEA to LHR that my choice of food was out in BC, it’s ok sir you are a Scot you can just drink more. Really !!!!! Fortunately the business class products in USA are excellent.

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