Why British Airways’ New High Density 777s Offend Me

British Airways is densifying many of their planes, in an effort to compete with ultra low cost carriers. In addition to reducing pitch on their shorthaul aircraft, British Airways is also adding more seats to their London Gatwick based 777s. Many of British Airways’ leisure routes are operated out of Gatwick, which is why reconfiguring these planes is a priority.

Surprisingly, up until now British Airways has only had nine seats per row in economy on the 777, making them one of the few airlines where that’s the case. Even many of the world’s best airlines have 10 seats per row in 777 economy.

Many of British Airways’ Gatwick based 777-200s will go from having 280 seats to having 336 seats, which represents an increase in capacity of 56 seats. The layout will be changing as follows:

  • Business class is decreasing from 40 seats to 32 seats
  • Premium economy is increasing from 24 seats to 52 seats
  • Economy is increasing from 216 seats to 252 seats

Today British Airways has revealed their new World Traveller (economy) and World Traveller Plus (premium economy), which they call a “complete revamp” of both cabins.

These new cabins will be installed on the 10 Boeing 777s based at Gatwick, and will feature entertainment screens that are 50% larger than they are now. The six three-cabin 777s will be retrofitted by this winter, while the four four-cabin 777s will be retrofitted by next summer.

Here’s how British Airways describes the new economy cabin, premium economy cabin, and entertainment system:

The new seats have been developed by the airline’s in-house design teams, in collaboration with a leading seat supplier. Great attention to detail has also been paid to how the customer uses their seat, with the World Traveller Plus design featuring a new leg and footrest, as well as an improved fully adjustable six-way headrest to suit customers of all heights. The new seat also has a cocktail table at the front and in-arm tray tables. In response to customer demand the size of the World Traveller Plus cabin will double.

The World Traveller cabins have also been fitted with the newest, most enhanced seating, which feature a six-way headrest with adjustable ears for added comfort and movable middle arm rests, which is particularly useful for customers travelling with children.

The new in-flight Panasonic entertainment system – which has the capacity to offer four times as many films, TV and audio – has been updated with larger HD screens and gesture control to navigate the interface like using a tablet. The screen size will double from six to 12 inches in World Traveller Plus, and increase from six to 10 inches in World Traveller. New USB sockets are available at every single seat allowing all customers to charge a range of different electronic devices during their flight and World Traveller Plus seats also have an additional power outlet socket for UK, US and EU plugs.

As someone who likes to work on planes, I find it terrible that they won’t have traditional power outlets in economy, but rather only USB outlets, which certainly won’t charge a laptop, for example. Seriously?

Here are some pictures of the new economy cabin:

Here are some pictures of the new premium economy cabin:

As the headline suggests, let me get to the part of this development that offends me. It’s not that the press release talks about how customers will be able to “enjoy the new cabins” or about how this is “enhanced seating.” Rather it’s the headline of the press release.

Make no mistake, British Airways is increasing the capacity of this plane by 56 seats. Economy seats will be narrower and significantly less comfortable, even if they have bigger entertainment screens. But what did British Airways title the press release about these new cabins?

PLUS-SIZED MAKE OVER FOR WORLD TRAVELLER AND WORLD TRAVELLER PLUS

It’s one thing to spin something as an “enhancement,” but to suggest that squeezing more seats onto a plane and making seats narrower is a “plus-sized enhancement?” Really?! I’d be less offended if they just ignored the fact that the seats are getting smaller and called the new cabin high tech, or more comfortable (which it isn’t, but I’d see where they’re coming from, as they could argue the headrests make a difference, or something), or whatever. But to suggest that reducing the size of seats is a “plus-sized make over?”

I can’t decide what’s more ridiculous — this, or Scott Kirby suggesting that eliminating employee bonuses in favor of raffles for luxury cars is a positive development.

(Tip of the hat to @jmmccarthy2002)

Comments

  1. Time and again, airline marketing folks think we’re all fools who will fall for fancy verbiage in a press release.

  2. To be fair, after reading most of your reviews, there’s not much about BA that doesn’t seem to offend you…

  3. Is offended really the right word? You’re just pointing out an item of newsspeak, which is everywhere today.

  4. Bravo Michael, hardly a new take from Lucky on BA. His beloved AA have had 3-4-3 seats in Economy for years and you can’t even have a G&T without being stung $8. As for flight delays ex-USA, you’re on your own if flying American.

    Ultimately unsurprising that airlines attempt to market “enhancements” favourably, they are running a commercial business and are hardly likely to brand them as “new skinny seats in ultra high density config”. The seats will still be wider than anything on a 787 (with the exception of JAL who have 2-4-2 in dreamliner eco)

  5. If that’s the only thing that offends you about this, then I’d say BA has done bloody well.

    Fascinating that you throw in “Surprisingly, up until now British Airways has only had nine seats per row in economy on the 777, making them one of the few airlines where that’s the case. Even many of the world’s best airlines have 10 seats per row in 777 economy”

    … because I don’t remember you spending much time praising BA for having such a relatively low density offering, let alone one that is even better than “many of the worl’d best airlines”, apparently. No, not a phrase I remember you using until right now – when you can smack them over the head with it because BA is finally catching up with the scummy layout offered by everyone else.

    It’s a bit like your reviews of Qatar: until now, every single one that I’ve read has mentioned how you found their F/As “cold” before speculating it was because they were in fear of their jobs. In your latest Qsuites trip, on 3 out of 4 legs the staff were apparently stellar and world-beating: no mention of your previous position, or even a suggestion that things may have changed and, presumably, the staff were no longer in fear for their jobs?

    I actually enjoy your reviews; I share many of your geeky-isms. But these irrational hatreds against one or two airlines are a bit odd.

  6. Is that USB-A and USB-C under the monitor? Incredibly forward thinking move by BA if so.

  7. “But to suggest that reducing the size of seats is a “plus-sized make over?””

    I’m not sure why you are so offended. The plus-sized make over means they are just adding more and more seats 😉

  8. @Alan Costello: that’s what I was thinking. USB-C would be a welcome addition, especially if there’s enough power on there (it could even power a notebook).

    @The nice Paul: I think it’s more about BA’s race to the bottom than about anything else.

  9. Reading those descriptions for the “enhancements” on those seats… a legrest! A moving armrest! A headrest that moves! they’re trying so hard to find good things about these seats!

  10. So you’re offended by a little bit of marketing spiel.

    Look past it and British Airways are, IMHO, enhancing the experience on these tired old 777s.

    Ok, the seats are slightly narrower, becoming the same as virtually every other 777 operator, but on board, the aircraft looks like a new build after this makeover.

    Bottom line is, BA Gatwick has to, must, can not avoid, respond(ing) to the predatory competition from Norwegian.

    This makeover brings BA in line with the competition and, if there’s going to be a battle based on price, it doesn’t bode well for Norwegian now that everything else becomes a level playing field.

  11. @mpkossen I would assume it maxes out at 15W for fast charging phones, or perhaps just the same 10W as the USB-A port, will be interested to see either way, if it could power my MacBook it’d get me over the narrower seat!

  12. You get offended because it’s BA.
    If your favourite EVER Qatar flies 10 abreast in economy (which I know you’d never fly in) you wouldn’t mention any offence. Press release or not.

  13. @Michael

    Lol and Lucky is right. BA is a horrible carrier who hasn’t done a single thing right for decades. I can’t think of one positive thing about the airline. In all classes of service they are inferior.

  14. I’m curious as to why you would be offended by no full sized power outlets on an economy seat in that density? It’s not like you could get a laptop out to work on in any comfort in that cabin. Add to that this is specifically for leisure routes out of Gatwick and I’m sure the demand for anything but a USB port to charge phones/tablets is overkill.

    Would a full power port be nice? Sure, but so would seats that aren’t narrow enough to leave me with shoulder pains for a couple of days after. In truth it’s not a huge issue.

  15. @ Rain — Power outlets in economy are becoming a standard amenity. Even Norwegian and WOW Air have them in economy.

  16. @ brad — As explained, I’m offended by the way in which they’re trying to lie to people.

  17. @ mpkossen

    “A race to the bottom”. Yes, exactly – one where BA is lagging behind the “works class carriers” but gets no credit for putting it off for as long as possible.

  18. What’s there to be offended about? “Plus-sized” is literally true.

    The capacity (“size”) of the cabin is being increased (“plus”ed up).

    This is an improvement – the Gatwick 777s were in deplorable cabin condition.

  19. Interesting perspective from someone who doesn’t even fly economy
    We should challenge you to fly several carriers’ economy and write a few trip reports
    People want the cheapest fare and expect a premium seat
    This is the way forward And it won’t bother 99% of the travelling public
    It can also depend very much on your own configuration. If you are slim and not very tall it will probably be comfortable , provided you are not seated beside a person of size

  20. duh it’s calling Marketing 101. “enjoy” and “enhancements” are subjective anyway. it’s only when they purposely misstate actual facts (like pitch or screen size) before you can call them a “lie”

    instead of this faux anger, put yourself in their shoes, and tell us what type of release you would have written that wouldn’t have constituted “lying” (in your definition) while still getting senior management sign off.

  21. As someone who likes the OAK-LGW route I’m pleased to hear they’ll be upgrading the WTP & CW cabins – the old PE seat is particularly poor

  22. @Icarus

    People who read this blog generally aren’t looking to find out how uncomfortable economy is. This blog has literally never been about economy in general. You guys always sound so bitter.

  23. The airline sucks. It’s first class product is dense in comparison to anyone else – though it looks beautiful. It’s business class product was state of the art for 2000 but is now substandard compared to, well, everyone else. It’s European business class is pathetic with horrible seat pitch. European coach is also now a low-cost airline model, without the low costs. International coach has cut back food, etc., and made behind it’s alliance partners and major competitors across the Atlantic.

    My most recent BA flight (an LHR to BOS flight) was on an ancient 747 in a too hot coach cabin, with skimpy food, no second service, and uncaring flight attendants. Heathrow is a disorganized dumpy mess of an airport where a transfer of 3 hours may be too short.

    Are there worse airlines? Sure there are, but none of the US3 is worse at this moment. More to the point, is Air France/KLM or Lufthansa better? I’m thinking that they are, even if they might end up on the same path. Why would you pick BA over Ryanair, Norwegian, WOW, EasyJet, etc., as a leisure traveler? I’m not sure I would.

    What is it about these BA posts that bring out the Lucky critics? He’s been unkind to AA, United, and Delta but nothing will bring out the Lucky-haters like a BA post. It doesn’t happen with other airlines. Are y’all BA employees? Don’t blame Lucky that this Airline that used to be great is now Bloody Awful!

  24. My last unfortunate experience with BA was in economy 5 years ago on a cruise relocation (could not change to a better cabin). At that time the seat pitch and width were unbearable. This new configuration makes me absolutely determined never to fly BA again even though I loved their Club World when it came out in the 90’s.

    First to worst in just less than two decades. Well done BA!

    I guess BA Executive Club never bothered to wonder why a Silver member would now have no status now at all yet still a bucket of points to redeem. (at 4500 point short haul levels only)

  25. @ Brian

    I guess what irritates me is the same hyperbolic nonsense that you have just written: “It’s [sic] business class product was state of the art for 2000 but is now substandard compared to, well, everyone else”. Really? Substandard to all those airlines (including your beloved US3) who are STILL offering longhaul angled seats in some of their J cabins? How is BA’s whole fleet offering lie-flat beds worse than that?

    The best offered by these other airlines is undoubtedly better – and many of them are in a different league of betterness. But the worst of these other airlines is much, much worse than BA.

    It’s certainly not about being a BA fanboy. My God, who would defend an airline not offering direct aisle access in J? Equally, we know BA has (finally!) announced it is going there, starting with the new A350 being delivered this summer.

    Is BA’s standard product even in the same league as Qatar’s Qsuite? Of course not. Then again, nor is any other airline’s best J class product as good; including all those US3 cabins offered on some of their planes (how many United planes now have Polaris seats…?).

  26. On the plus… side, at least these cabins are getting a refresh, as they are seriously out of date! Hopefully their okd Heathrow-based 777s will also get makeovers too as they are in desperate need.

    But I agree this seems cramped and lacks ambition in terms of seat accessories. I hope I don’t ever end up sitting the depths of that crammed cabin… yikes!

  27. Using a laptop to work in economy? It’s not 1999 anymore. There hasn’t been room to open a laptop and work properly in most econ cabins in years. Power is the least of the problem. And yes it is offensive to make the seats too small.

  28. As much as the densification of the 777 is bad, it is good to see an improved world traveller plus seat which is going to be fitted to the Heathrow fleet, probably at the same time as the new club world. It’s also great to see BA (finally!) investing in Gatwick because during the mid 2000’s BA retreated to Heathrow and lost much of their space to Easyjet and Norwegian. Since then there has been little to no investment in Gatwick even if it’s not for the best. I just hope that if Gatwick is expanded BA will increase their presence at Gatwick instead of just fortifying their place at Heathrow

  29. Throughout his posts, I do think Lucky has an unfair favouritism towards Middle Eastern carriers. Even when his experiences on ME3 are bad, he usually finds an excuse to cover-up poor service/food/seat etc. And I am aware that Lucky was critical towards Emirates’ new 777 biz.
    On the other hand, he seems to criticise anything thats American and British.

    When it comes to BA’s new 777 seats, I do think BA did their best to delay densifying their fleet. Pretty much most of the airlines have or are in process to adopt 3-4-3 for their 777 fleet. Few exceptions that I can think of are few world-class Asian carriers (JAL ANA Cathay Korean Asiana) and Air India.

    I still like and appreciate posts here, but I think he needs to be a bit more objective.

  30. I have to say I haven’t had a bad flight on BA – they may not have the best service but it is very consistent unlike some of the Asian/Middle East carriers where the service can be excellent one day but woeful the next dependent on the crew.

    Yes their 747s look old but overall but otherwise considering the competitive environment in which they operate they are pretty good – certainly a lot better than any North American carrier.

  31. @lucky

    If you have a USB-C based computer (pretty much any new machine), you can indeed charge it from a simply USB port (though how fast it will charge depends on what quality of port they install).

  32. I feel safe flying with them though – and that’s down to their flight crew, cabin crew and the CAA.

  33. Oh dear, what have I done! On Wednesday, I and my partner will be flying BA Economy from LHR to PRG on a BA ‘City Break’ package deal, which includes check-in baggage and 3 nights B&B in a good city-centre hotel, for a total cost of £303 (about $400). At that price, I’ll be happy to have any type of seat – even a narrow one!

  34. Flew BA’s 9 across 777 LGW to JFK. Plane had not been refurbished obviously. The aircraft looked like it had not been cleaned since 1993. Service was awful. Surly cabin crew. The second meal had at the time, been eliminated. Instead, the pre-landing snack consisted of a passed around basket featuring energy bars. The airline is a shadow of its former self when it comes to a service offering, whether the planes are LGW or LHR based.

  35. Wow! Thought this was clickbait but no power outlets is pretty bad. Granted, some UA birds only have power period in E+ IIRC so it wouldn’t be the first class war!

  36. Totally agree with Lucky, marketing=OK but trying to sell this as an improvement is insulting the intelligence of the passengers.
    AF/KLM is doing the same with the future Flyingblue program as from 1.04.2018, pretending it will be better is insulting while in reality it is just to reduce the number of Elite Plus passengers.

  37. Why have you quoted “PLUS-SIZED MAKE OVER” then claimed a sentence later that it actually says “PLUS-SIZED ENHANCEMENT”? That’s a completely different phrase with a completely different meaning.

    A make-over does not mean an improvement, it means change – which has happened. No lying and the exaggerated marketing is no worse than what every other airline on the planet does…

  38. Yes callum ……… we all immediately noticed that but lets try and remember that Daisy has to write zillions of words a week (forget the exact number even though we’re being constantly told) so ridiculous mistakes can obviously happen.

  39. This BA “make-over / enhancement” or whatever is all very interesting but what Lucky has (surprisingly) failed to mention is that many passengers select British Airways purely on account of their outstanding stewards and the exceptional travel experience that they provide.

    Once, when struggling to get my bag in the overhead compartment, a very kind BA crew member rushed to my assistance and suggested that “we try putting it in the other way…it always works with me”.

    Perhaps Lucky should consider making this site even more interesting and informative by giving more attention and personal evaluation of the cabin crew experience. BA is my favourite but Qantas doesn’t come far up behind.

  40. sad how critical of BA and other airlines you can be yet have nothing but high praise when it comes to Emirates.

    Emirates’ latest First product was a cosmetic change, at best, yet you could not stop praising it yet all we read it dismissals and put-downs when it comes to most other airlines.
    To be honest, I no longer read your Emirates blogs as I know for a fact they are just biased for, and I don’t read your BA blogs either (above blog included) as I know you’ll be biased against.

    Careful Lucky: your tantrums are becoming just too common, repetitive and quite frankly, boring,.

  41. If the price is the same, would you rather fly on 15-20 year old BA plane that has been refitted or a brand new plane operated by a LCC ? BA needs to do this quickly and refresh its fleet much quicker

  42. “why are you offended? you never travel long-haul economy.”

    Oh man, wouldn’t that be the most hilarious trip report ever? Imagine a JFK-LHR-HKG or an LAX-FRA-BKK trip report from Lucky or Tiffany in economy…

  43. @ The Nice Paul – I really want to thank you for proving my point. You call the US3 my “beloved US3”. That’s exactly what I was talking about in my post. You are trying to set up a straw man. But I think these airlines suck too and they are no one’s beloved. Think about it, do you even want BA to be compared to those three? And unfavorably at that?

    Healing can only start once you stop the denial. Embrace the truth, BA sucks.

  44. @777 @J Dee also at least Turkish Airlines, Air China, Vietnam Airlines and EgyptAir if we speak about 3-3-3 in Economy on a B777.
    Quite a lot of ailrines, when put together with @777’s list, actually, and not all of them are the premium ones.

  45. Shouldn’t Lucky be as offended with the “enhancements” rolled out across various airline products and frequent flyer programs.
    Sadly don’t recollect seeing such strong language where he calls them out on their “lies”.
    Anyhoo. It’s his blog and he can write what he wants, just as I can laugh at the duplicity of it all.

  46. @ Brian

    Completely agree with you on the suckiness of the US3.

    Completely disagree with this nonsense from your original post:

    “It’s [sic] business class product was state of the art for 2000 but is now substandard compared to, well, everyone else”.

    If you’re now also agreeing that what you wrote was wrong, then world peace can break out. I’m sure we can all agree we’d rather fly everywhere in Qsuites.

  47. Sorry but this is ridiculous – the press release is annoying as hell but no different from the “enhancements” spun by every other airline.

    The bitterness on here towards that airline just exceeds all logic. Air France still offers angled flat seats in business on some aircraft but they apparently are a “premium airline”. United has one of the least private and comfortable layouts (also 8-across) but BA (which I would pick over United literally without ever even needing to pause for thought) is apparently “the worst on earth”, according to the hyperbolic commenters here.

    It’s worth noting that the Gatwick subfleet is a small part of the 777 fleet, and has been the oldest, crappiest part for a long time since they fly only to leisure destinations. Therefore BA has chosen to refurbish but densify the smallest, oldest part of their widebody fleet to leisure destinations, while consciously choosing to leave the majority of their fleet in the same 9 across layout that “even some of the world’s best airlines use” (although Qatar and Emirates have both been 10-acaross for years and Cathay has recently announced they’re moving 10-across).

    Sorry but people on here need to get some perspective. BA will certainly not win a world’s best airline award anytime soon, but it’s solidly middle ground, so please stop criticising them for making identical moves to every other global airline.

  48. I’m retired from Generous Electric back when GE always booked us in Business Class and put us in 5 Star hotels. Back then we were known as Road Warriors and we were constantly traveling.

    Now retired, I take Amtrak since I’ve more time than money. Otherwise we drive. In fact, this Spring we’re driving cross country again. What today’s automobiles may lack in speed, they make up in luxury, comfort, AI, and safety.

    My point? Ever since 9/11, the quality of our lives — by necessity — has changed for the worst. Things are much more stressful. And I don’t see things getting much better anytime soon, marketing hyperbole notwithstanding.

    As an indicator of my advanced years, the first plane that we flew in was the Pan Am Yankee Clipper — aka Boeing 314 Clipper , though I was too young to remember it except that we had to step on the sponsons to exit from the plane to the boat that took us to shore.

    Then there was the Pan Am Stratocruiser — aka Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. Now THAT I remember as a teenager. Luxury included fine china, white table cloth service, plush seats, only single/first class cabin, the excitement of flying in a double decker.

    To replicate that today at an affordable price is to book a suite on a luxury cruise ship. Again, time should not be a consideration.

  49. Yeah, well, back in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s, GE Aerospace was known as Generous Electric for their pay, pensions, and fringe benefits. If you did your job well, you could count on it being a cradle to the grave job. Probably your parents, your uncles and aunts and cousins and siblings worked there too.

    ‘Course, that’s all gone; never to return…

    What I cautioned my sons to consider was that if they thought that they were so damned smart, that they should aim to become Employers rather than employees. Which is what they did. Thus they also became millionaires.

    But I digress.

  50. The most hilarious bit is that travelupdate actually is positive about this whole thing. And they fly economy much more than HE Lucky.
    Lucky would have more credibility if he actually flew long haul economy.
    Also plug points at seats seem to be a standard amenity. When Lucky starts flying Norwegian and Wow on a regular basis, his outrage might be more understandable.
    But hey ho, let’s delay trip reports and post drivel like this. It increases engagement on the page.

  51. @Luis Quite simple really & they’re in service already. They have 8 First seats instead of the normal 14 as on most of their other 4 class aircraft.

  52. Having flown world traveler on the 9 abreast 777s, I can safely say that BA’s seats were one of the most uncomfortable. In fact I would say KLM and Ek on a 10 abreast 777 offer a far more comfortable experience. The reason for this is the slim line new seats that maximise knee room unlike BA. Also Ba although 9 abreast has wider asiles. Their seats are not as wide as other 9 abreast Operators. Frankly, if they have managed to install modern slim line seats, it may actually be a better experience.

  53. And when was the last time you flew long haul BA WT? Face reality, someone who needs to do work inflight will either be booked by their employer in business or premium economy, or hold elite status and use their miles/certs to upgrade into the next class of service. The vast majority of those sitting in the back will only need power to recharge their phones or perhaps tablet, though the enhanced IFE will provide enough entertainment choices neither device will be needed to pass the time. It’s economics and it’s the future. If there’s anything to complain about on BA (and most UA long haul flights) is the 2-4-2 tight business class “coffins”. I still fly in the back cabin and still have an inch or two on either side of me…the biggest issue is coming to agreement with the person next to you about who gets the front or the back of the arm rest!

  54. WTF!!!!!
    No power ports on “leisure” routes.
    Lucky you should come out of your silo. I’m not even sure if most ppl on these planes really care/understand 3-3-3 over 3-4-3 without you pointing out. And yes BIGGER screen is tangibly PLUS SIZE changes.

    BTW, it’s funny in USA uses the word plus size that way. Rest of world use the word FAT.

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