British Airways has brought more good news to first class travellers heading to Europe from the UAE.
Since Etihad’s A380 launch last year on the prestigious Abu Dhabi to London route, the carrier has ruled the skies with its generous first class suites. Now BA is attempting to level the playing field with the new first class suites on its 787-9 fleet, which will be introduced to Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Delhi later this year.
In a bid to offer a more exclusive cabin, the carrier has opted for just eight seats at the front of the plane in a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration across two rows instead of the 14 it offers on other aircraft.
The new first class seat has been painstakingly created by the London design team Forpeople based on feedback from regular customers, with comfort at the heart of the experience.
There are also hints at a new design direction for the carrier, with a celebration of quintessential British style. Quilted seats, chrome finishes, leather in abundance and a sleek warm-toned interior mimic the recent interior design trend found in luxury hotels across the UK.
There are several automotive style details too – the seat controls, contrast leather stitching and elegant curves mirror the aesthetic found in Aston Martins or Bentley Continentals.
The carrier has, however, opted against enclosing its first-class seats – there are no sliding doors that Etihad and Emirates supply to their first-class guests.
While the herringbone seat provides travellers with more legroom, they are of a similar configuration and size to the business-class seats found on other international carriers.
As to the bed – it is fully flat, 6’6” long, spacious, and 22” wide with a variety of seat settings. This compares to Etihad’s 6’8” long bed and 29.5” seat width and Emirates 6’6” long bed and 23” seat width.
However, the suites do include four new storage areas. A new ottoman next to the adjustable footstool can hold shoes, handbags and personal items, while a personal wardrobe for jackets and coats is accessible without the traveller having to move from their seat.
A new locker positioned at eye level is ideal for smaller personal effects such as tablets, spectacles, passport and washbags. And a mirror has been fitted to the inside of the locker door for personal grooming. Customers needing to charge devices will have a discreet stowage area next to their armrest.
The new first-class service from BA may not be as stylish or dynamic as Etihad, (there is no butler) and usually the cabin crew are somewhat older, but there is certainly some British charm in it.
When will the flights start to Abu Dhabi?
The flights on the 787-9 to Abu Dhabi and Muscat will start later this year. The official date is yet to be announced, but will come after the Delhi launch on October 25.
Where else will the carrier’s new 787-9 aircraft fly?
As well as Abu Dhabi (and its connecting flight to Muscat) the new Dreamliner will initially also fly to Delhi, San Jose, Austin and Kuala Lumpur.
How much will the flights cost?
British Airways fares are currently on sale. First-class seats start from Dh22,585 from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow return, valid for travel between October 1 and November 30.
Any other notable upgrades in the new cabin?
The in-flight entertainment console has a new handset, much like a smartphone, integrated into the seat. And the new 23-inch screen is a huge improvement; it is fixed in front of the passenger, meaning they will be able to enjoy gate-to-gate entertainment without having to stow their television for take-off and landing.
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