Transport Airlines

British Airways tries to prove it’s Europe’s premium airline by featuring fewer seats on its A380s

Dec 12, 2012 12:26 am

Skift Take

British Airways is clearly on a mission to be acknowledged as a high-end airline, whether it be by airing video ads that ridicule budget carriers’ fees or giving up revenue that’ll be lost with fewer (but roomier) seats.

— Samantha Shankman

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Airbus  / BritishAirways.com

An Airbus A380 in British Airways livery. Airbus / BritishAirways.com


British Airways’ fleet of 12 Airbus SAS A380s will feature a lower seating density than superjumbos operated by its biggest competitors as the U.K. carrier seeks to maximize its share of lucrative premium bookings.

The aircraft, due to be delivered starting in July, will have 469 seats in a four-class layout, London-based BA said in a statement. Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s A380s have the most berths at 526, while Air France’s planes can accommodate 516 passengers.

British Airways is also looking at providing a first-class cabin in the stretched version of Boeing Co.’s Dreamliner, the 787-9, of which the International Consolidated Airlines Group SA unit has 16 on order. The baseline 787-8, of which BA is taking eight starting in May, will have 214 seats in three classes.

“By next spring we will have finished installing our new first cabins,” Chief Executive Willy Walsh said in the release, adding that feedback from passengers on six 777-300ERs already fitted with the berths, which cost 100 million pounds ($161 million) to develop, has been its most-positive ever.

Korean Air Lines Co. has the lowest-density superjumbo layout, accommodating 407 passengers. The British Airways A380s will feature 14 seats in an enhanced version of its first-class cabin located on the superjumbo’s main deck.

French fleet

The plane will also have 97 Club World business berths, 44 of them on the main deck in a 2:4:2 layout and 53 on the upper deck, split 2:3:2. There will also be 55 premium economy seats on that deck, plus 303 in economy split across both levels.

Air France has ordered the same number of superjumbos as BA and had taken delivery of eight planes by the end of November. Lufthansa has 17 A380s on order and has received 10 to date.

French planes operating routes such as Paris to Washington DC have nine seats in first class, 80 in business, 38 in premium economy and 389 in coach.

Dubai-based Emirates, the biggest A380 customer with 90 planes on order, has two cabin configurations featuring 489 and 517 seats. All aircraft have 14 first-class berths and 76 in business class, with a variable number of economy seats.

BA’s 787-8s will feature 35 business seats, 25 in premium economy and 154 in coach.

All new jets will feature Thales SA inflight entertainment systems offering 50 percent more movies than Rockwell Collins Inc. technology fitted on the current fleet of Boeing 747s, 767s and most 777-200s. There will also be double the number of TV shows, audio programs and music tracks, plus bigger screens and links for personal devices in all cabins for the first time.

British Airways will take nine new long-haul planes during the year, becoming the first European carrier to operate both the A380 and 787. Deliveries will comprise four Dreamliners, three superjumbos and two 777-300ERs. The routes that they’ll operate will be announced in the spring.

With assistance from Andrea Rothman in Toulouse, France. Editors: Chris Jasper and Benedikt Kammel. 

To contact the reporters on this story: Kari Lundgren in London at klundgren2@bloomberg.net; Robert Wall in London at rwall6@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net; Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net.

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