Club World Investment
British Airways (BA) has announced a series of enhancements to both its ground and inflight service, primarily for premium cabin passengers.
The moves will widen the gulf between the front of the aircraft and the economy cabin; BA scrapped complimentary food and drink on short-haul services at the start of this year, opting for a buy-on-board system. It is also embarking on a “densification” program on some of its aircraft fleets.
The carrier announced April 6 that it plans to invest £400 million ($500 million) in its long-haul business class (known as Club World). This will cover improvements to catering in its business lounges at London Heathrow Airport from June, new bed linen for its lie-flat seats (July) and inflight premium dining (September), which will feature onboard display carts from which passengers can choose freshly prepared starters and desserts, served on new crockery.
These changes will be debuted on the heavily trafficked route between London Heathrow-New York JFK before being rolled out across the rest of the long-haul network throughout 2018.
BA added it was developing options for a new Club World seat with direct aisle access in 2019; it did not release further details.
In the short-haul Club Europe cabin, new crockery and improved menus will be introduced.
On the ground, business and first-class passengers will also have improvements in their lounges, starting with a new complex at London Gatwick’s South Terminal, to which the airline moved earlier this year and which will be 40% bigger than its predecessor in the North Terminal.
The airline plans to invest £88 million in its US lounge facilities, with refurbishment of first and business-class lounges, plus improvements to check-in, security and boarding procedures. A new lounge in Boston has recently opened, with San Francisco and Chicago also slated for improvements.
In Europe, the initial business lounges to be upgraded will be at Aberdeen and Rome Fiumicino in 2018.
On April 6, BA also launched its new First Wing check-in area for first-class customers at Heathrow Terminal 5, with a dedicated security channel and direct access to its Galleries first-class lounge and Concorde Room.
First Wing will also give increased privacy and exclusivity to first-class and its highest-tier Gold Executive Club passengers, with a dedicated check-in.
Meanwhile, customers in all cabins will be given access to improved Wi-Fi facilities, initially in the long-haul fleet later this year, with short-haul following. This will feature what the airline describes as Europe’s first 4G high-speed inflight network, to which it aims to have connected 90% of the fleet by 2019.
Customers will be able to use their own devices to browse the internet, with BA offering two levels of service—Simply Connect, which gives sufficient bandwidth for basic web functions such as email and web browsing; and Connect Plus, which is suitable for streaming video. However, BA will charge for both services.
“We will invest and innovate where our customers value it most and differentiate ourselves with a unique onboard experience and service,” BA chairman and CEO Alex Cruz said.
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