From Sucky to Suckier – Intra-European Business Class

British Airways announced some time back that it was reconfiguring its Club Europe (aka European Business Class) seats to remove 4″ of legroom. Actually, that isn’t quite how they put it. From the BA website:

the bulky blue banquettes have been replaced by lightweight, slim Pinnacle seats by B/E Aerospace. The innovative design maximises space and comfort, fitting in six extra seats, without compromising space or comfort.

You see what they did there? They actually added an entire row “without compromising space or comfort”.

Rather a miraculous accomplishment if it is to be believed. Of course, it is not to be believed – at least not by members of the Business Traveller forums:

Think of it as nothing more than brilliant targetting by the ever sharp BA marketing team. They have spotted a gap in the market for flights catering for the needs of customers under 5′ 6”, and are intent of exploiting the untapped demand. ~esselle

Same config as the economy seats….and monstrous fares! … Very confusing. ~openfly

No doubt there is a fair bit of whinging expressed in this thread. But in between the complaints travelers also engage in a terrifically enlightening dialogue on topics such as:

  • Why is the intra-European business class product so much suckier than domestic business class products in the U.S. and Australia?
  • What does BA hope to achieve with this change? What is its end game?

Thoughts regarding the differences in domestic business class products between Europe, the U.S. and Australia:

Contrast CE/Euro business classes to US domestic First or moreso, Australian domestic Business, and it looks far from compelling. After some time of it being an almost entirely upgrade based product, US carriers are evolving towards using the front cabin to boost yields (witness American’s new ultra low density 3 class A321s with first, business and economy for the long coast-coast route).

 

In the US, LCCs abound, but legacy carriers still have premium traffic and their FF programmes engender loyalty, and all three US legacy carriers tend to face vigorous competition from at least one of the other at most of their hubs. ~ScottWilson

I think the low cost airline revolution hasn’t penetrated Australia to the same degree as europe. There is Jetstar although we know as part of the Qantas group it’s routes are very much at the behest of the mother company and it is ensured it doesn’t directly impact Qantas too much. Tiger has a horrendous image amongst australians and it wasn’t helped when it lost it’s air operators certificate for a time. It still only competes on a few routes with a much slimmer schedule on those routes than QF or Virgin. ~rferguson

I wish we had a true premium product in Europe, but there seem to be no market for it so this is what we are left with. ~Senator

Thoughts regarding BA’s objectives/end game when it comes to Club Europe:

So how many of these extra 6 seats will they sell at paid Y fares on flights that actually operate at 100% load factor in Y versus the number they will lose the total fare for CE/CW connecting passengers who can have a wide choice and regional CE passengers who may downgrade to Y. I am not sure I would like to take that gamble if I was them unless the end game is to justify getting rid of CE altogether. ~PegasusAir

I suspect BA are doing this in the full knowledge their Club Europe passenger number will fall. The airline would then claim there is no demand for Club Europe and ditch it altogether. This would leave the entire short haul fleet to be operated in ‘low cost’ model. ~drflight

I strongly encourage you to click through and enjoy this full and lively discussion – which is somewhere around 150 posts strong at the time of this writing. This is a great example of the type of thread that motivated me to launch ThreadTripping in the first place. The discussion abounds with wit and insight, composed in a way that you just would never be able to find in a blog post or opinion article. It reads like a great book, where you can’t wait to learn what will be said next, and you feel a strange combination of accomplishment and sadness when you reach the end.

Enjoy the juiciness of this thread in its entirety: BA’s new short haul Club Europe product

Image: “Ping Pong Sucks” by Erica Zabowski. CC BY-ND 2.0.

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  1. The US is a big country where the premium F/J class is for longer routes (NYC-SF/LA). For short inter-Europe routes, Y+ service is acceptable.

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