British Airways antecedent, Imperial Airways, introduced a service that made the Silver Wing flights famous 92 years ago. In 1927, two seats were removed from the Argosy aircraft that flew between London and Paris to allow enough space for a steward to serve food.

Sue Petrie

It was a bold move, writes Sue Petrie, sacrificing potential revenue to gain a competitive edge, but it worked. Although the fare was simple: sandwiches or biscuits, beef tea and a choice of beer, whisky or mineral water – passengers considered the idea of an in-flight meal the height of luxury.

The lesson has not been forgotten and today significant changes are being made to BA’s onboard products and service as part of a £6.5bn investment for customers.

The much-anticipated new Club World seat is the third evolution of the award-winning first fully flat bed in business class introduced in 2000.

The new Club World seat on British Airways

The new Club Suite offers direct-aisle access, a door for increased privacy, and luxurious flat-seat beds in a 1-2-1 configuration. It provides 40% more storage and includes a vanity unit and a mirror.

There’s WiFi, gate-to-gate programming displayed on 18.5-inch inflight entertainment screens and PC/ USB power.

The Club Suite will first take to the skies onboard British Airways’ first A350 aircraft being delivered in July. After that it will be rolled out in phases.

During Phase Two three more A350 aircraft will join the fleet and two Boeing 777 aircraft will be retrofitted with the new cabin. At the start of 2020 the new cabin will be rolled out on other long-haul aircraft across the network.

The Club Suite reveal came after changes to the products and service in the flagship First cabin aimed at emulating customer experience in a five-star British hotel. These include a signature afternoon tea with sandwiches, pastries, and a range of tea infusions. New a la carte menus showcase seasonal British ingredients and are served on bone-china crockery designed exclusively for the airline by high-end tableware maestro William Edwards.

Sophisticated new loungewear by Temperley London, replaces the First sleeper suits and Temperley also provides the amenity bags filled with ELEMIS products.

Other touches include a day blanket, bolster cushion and turndown service. Plugging into the 1 000 hours of entertainment is done though Meridian high-performance headphones.

On the ground at Heathrow Terminal 5, First customers can speed through a private check-in and security area, called First Wing, which leads directly to the First Lounge.

It’s true that First is so good because it competes with an excellent business class offering. British Airways is the only carrier to offer a direct first-class service to London from South Africa.

Other innovations that all BA customers can anticipate this year are:

  • WiFi being rolled out across the fleet. It is already on 50 long-haul aircraft.
  • The BA app is adding Apple’s Siri voice service for iPhone users.
  • The only family check-in zone in the UK and;
  • Another 72 self-service baggage drops at Heathrow, tripling the number already in service.

Sue Petrie is British Airways commercial trade manager for Southern Africa