LONDON: British Airways is confident that strong premium demand from its London Heathrow base will justify its decision to configure its Airbus A380s with a stronger emphasis on the upper end of the market than most other operators of the type.
The carrier, which took delivery of its first A380 yesterday, has chosen to configure the aircraft with a total of 469 seats in a four-class cabin layout.
BA’s A380s feature 14 first class seats on the main deck, 97 Club World (or business class) seats – 44 on the main deck and 53 on the upper deck – 55 World Traveller Plus (or premium economy) seats on the upper deck only, and 303 World Traveller (economy class) seats, located across both decks.
Speaking to the APEX Editor’s Blog yesterday on board the airline’s first A380, BA managing director of brands and customer experience Frank van der Post said: “London is one of the most premium markets in the world from a demand perspective, so that being our home base gives us a great starting point. Our heritage is based around offering four cabins.”
BA has “evolved” its A380 first class cabin to provide passengers with 30% more personal space and 60% more stowage room than the first class cabins on the carrier’s other aircraft types, including an individual wardrobe for each passenger. The design and layout of the first class seats required that passenger airbags were built in to protect passengers in the event of an impact.
The seats convert into fully-flat beds, measuring 6ft6in in length, which will be made up by cabin crew through a turndown service. business class seats also convert into 6ft fully-flat beds. Seat pitches in premium economy and economy offer a 38in and 31in pitch, respectively.
The airline’s decision not to offer some of the more elaborate features adopted by other A380 operators, such as personal cabins and onboard showers, was based on “quite a lot of research”, which concluded that “in our market, that wasn’t a primary consideration”, says Van der Post.
On the entertainment side, passengers travelling on BA’s A380s “will never get bored”, the carrier’s inflight entertainment and technology manager, Richard D’Cruze, assures the APEX Editor’s Blog. The Thales i5000 seatback IFE system “will increase content choice by 75%”, offering 130 movies, 600 TV shows and 500 audio channels. Screen sizes range from 15.4in in first class to 8.9in in the economy cabin.
The IFE system will also feature a GeoFusion interactive moving map. “People underestimate how important the map is,” says D’Cruze, adding that the new map will enable passengers to zoom in on 50 cities to find high-resolution points of interest to read up on.
In response to feedback from passengers, the IFE system on the A380 will place a strong emphasis on box sets of TV shows. “TV box sets and long-haul flying are a good match,” says D’Cruze. He also notes that with the new system, BA is “trying to change the typical passenger’s IFE habits”, which have traditionally included watching “a movie and then an episode of Friends or Frasier”.
Instead, a “Hidden Gems” section (for a taste, check out this link) and a “Best of British” section will point passengers in the direction of “stuff that’s critically acclaimed”, says D’Cruze, pointing to BA’s “good partnerships” with BAFTA and the BBC.
Passengers will also be able to use a “seat-to-seat chat” function, enabling them to converse with people in other parts of the aircraft through the IFE system.
BA has ordered 12 A380s to be delivered by 2016. Following an entry-into-service programme, which will include deploying the aircraft on short-haul routes, the carrier’s first long-haul destination will be Los Angeles on 24 September. A380 flights to Hong Kong will follow on 22nd October.