BA opts for ‘understated British luxury’ in its new First Class

British Airways has just unveiled its new First cabin on a B777 aircraft enroute from London Heathrow to Chicago. The airline has invested GBP100 million (EUR110, USD150 million) in its new flagship product, and says the first class design is inspired by classic British luxury car brands Aston Martin and Jaguar. For example, the leather seat is fitted in a shade of dark blue called Naval Barathea, with cream leather trim around the headboard, and a silver-coloured knob, that looks as as if it should be on the dashboard of a Bentley, gives the customer precision control over the seat position. 

BA says it is emphasising simplicity with its new First product, and sought to create an air of calm understated British luxury, which harks back to the 1920s and dismisses gimmicks innovations such as onboard bars, showers and private cabins.  The amount of First Class seats (14 on a B777) will remain unchanged and the refit will take two years to complete (in total 73 aircraft will be refitted). BA will introduce the new First cabin on Dubai and Mumbai routes in the coming weeks. 

The first class seats fold into a 6ft 6in (2m) lie-flat bed, with 60 per cent more room at the shoulders than the previous seat. Other features include a leather-bound writing desk that converts into a dining table with a buddy seat that let passengers dine together, a personal wardrobe, an IFE system with a 15” screen with USB, noise-cancelling headsets and the first electronic blinds on a commercial airliner. The beds will incorporate a sprung mattress that moulds to the body and 400- thread Egyptian cotton sheets, quilts and pillows. Passengers will also get an Anya Hindmarch washbag and toiletries from 200-year-old London pharmacist D.R. Harris & Co. 

With the makeover of its first class cabin, the first in ten years, BA seeks to close the gap to the standards of luxury set by competitors in the Middle East and Asia. Carriers such as Singapore Airlines and Emirates have introduced their A380 flagships on routes from Heathrow, with private suites and onboard showers and lounges. Lufthansa will also unveil a new first-class design in May 2010, when it takes delivery of its first A380. The overhaul will be the first since 1998 for Lufthansa and will take four years.

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