In Conversation Transcribed: Business class with Virgin and BA

John Walton: Hello and welcome to Runway Girl Network, In Conversation, a deep dive into aviation and the passenger experience. I’m RGN contributing editor, John Walton and today I am in conversation with Joanna Bailey and Thomas Boon from Simple Flying as we compare and contrast the new Airbus A350 business class seats from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. But first thanks to our sponsor. In Conversation is brought to you by Boltaron, a SIMONA company, purveyor of high performances thermoplastics for tomorrow’s aircraft interiors. With new and groundbreaking innovations in design capabilities, Boltaron offers airlines the ability to customize the cabin with lightweight materials with metallic effects, translucent textured panels with unique embedded patterns, dynamic textures, vibrant pearleseants and much more. Learn more at Boltaron.com. Now Jo, Tom, welcome to In Conversation.

Joanna Bailey: Hello.

Thomas Boon: Thanks for having me.

Walton: Delighted to have you here. Now when it comes to business class, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have been real innovators in their time. So Virgin had the first angled lie flat business class seat, the J2000, in 1999. BA followed swiftly with the first fully flat seat, the Club World product, with its manufacturer Contour, which is now Safran Seats, called the Mohawk, that’s the one with the flappy fan, which later evolved into the current product, well I guess the previous product. That forwards/ backwards one with the translucent divider, manufactured by Collins, previously B/E Aerospace. And they have been refreshing that slightly over the last decade and half basically. But now we have got new seats on new planes. So BA has the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond with a door and Virgin has the Safran Cirrus NG. These are both outward facing Herringbones. Now Virgin’s of course is a double outwards facing herringbone, the center seats point towards the windows as to the outboard seats, whereas BA’s center seats point together. Jo, you are the Virgin Atlantic expert here, what’s your take on this? How much of a change is it for Virgin Atlantic?

Bailey: Well I think it’s a massive improvement, John, to be honest. It’s the old configuration where you have kind of the seats facing into the middle, that wasn’t popular with passengers. It wasn’t very private. Didn’t offer a lot of space. It was comfortable, but in terms of kind of modern day requirements for privacy and a bit of personal space, I think the new product really sets the bar a bit higher.

Walton: Yeah, absolutely. Now you and I have both flown it on a special media flight that Virgin put on.

Bailey: We did.

Walton: How did you find the seat when you were on the plane?

Bailey: Honestly I was completely comfortable. I am not a large lady. I am only 5 foot 4 but I found it super comfortable. I had a lovely sleep on the way back from America. There were a few niggles, which I sure we are going to get into shortly. But how did you find it yourself, John?

Walton: Well look I really liked it. I am a large lady as it were so I am 6 foot 3 or 1 meter 90 in metric money and one of the things I was worried about is with the newer generation of seats, there is often a bit of constraint there. So those old seats did of course have their flaws, one of which is they all pointed towards the aisle so you were sort of kind of looking over the edge of the seat of whoever was sort of facing you. But what they didn’t have was any constriction around the feet and ankles. And they were nice and wide at the shoulders as well and I was delighted to see that this seat was equally as good and not just in the front row. So Virgin Atlantic were very clever, they put me in the front row which has a bit more space on the way out but I actually swapped with one of our mutual friends on the way back, just so I could have a sleep in the smallest one, just to see what that was like and I was super impressed. I found there was a lot of space at the knees. I found that I could sleep on my side or on my back or even on my front which is very unusual in the business class because I end of sleeping with my elbows out and my head on my hands kind of thing. I also I particularly thought that the amount of cushioning in sleeping mode was very comfortable.

Bailey: Yeah.

Walton: Virgin also has a little bit of a massage pad, massage pad? Mattress pad.

Bailey: Although a massage pad would be lovely.

Walton: Absolutely! Note to self airlines. But they have got the mattress pad, which is a plus. But I actually wasn’t expecting the new seat to be as comfortable sleeping as the old one. That old one I always thought was great. You know I did that straight through from London to Auckland once and I thought it’s a great seat for sleeping. So I am delighted to see the new one is good. I wasn’t, however, as persuaded, Tom, and I don’t know what are your thoughts here. I wasn’t as persuaded by the sleeping part of the BA seat. I found that a bit constricted around the ankles and around the knees, particularly with the table and also just the general shape of the seat without any of the space carve outs of some of those earlier models of Super Diamond. Even on the A350, like that Qatar Airways seat.

Boon: I think it’s a really interesting point that you have raised about the knee room because when I was on the media flight for the British Airways A350, the cabin crew made a point of telling me that they’ve intentionally placed the table high so that you can roll it over without knocking against parts of the chair and disturbing your sleep. I mean when I laid in it I didn’t find I had a problem but then again whereas you guys were put up for the overnight flight, BA operated the flight to Madrid so I haven’t had the chance to have the full sleep yet.

Walton: Yeah I went to and from Toronto and yeah it was, I was actually quite surprised. There’s a metal lip on the table that faces you and I definitely felt my shorts-clad leg brushing up against that cold metal lip. And I think it’s, there was also a thing I could sleep on my side in one direction but not the other.

Boon: Yeah I think it’s very much, I think the way it’s designed it kind of leads you to sleep facing outwards away from the side, towards the door because it just seems there is a little bit more spacious with armrest that drops down.

Walton: Yeah absolutely. And I think what was really interesting to me is this, look there is a huge improvement between that and the previous seat of course.

Boon: Yeah for sure.

Walton: Right? I mean that previous seat, you know on the

Boon: Needed a refresh.

Walton: Oh god absolutely. I mean that to me is the best part, well depending on what way you start from it’s between 13-18 years old kind of thing. But so you know, a huge improvement for British Airways, don’t get me wrong but there were a few things like that. I really liked the table for example. I liked how that comes down in that usual Super Diamond way but on my return flight, the retaining latch didn’t click in. So you had to sort of have it all the way down or it clicked back. So yeah it will be interesting to see how they change that.

Boon: Yeah I think there has been a couple of teething problems on it. I heard most recently actually that the door handles will be replaced.

Walton: Yes, well this is one of those deeply nerdy things that I am really enjoying following is how the certification for these new doored mini suites is changing.

Boon: Yeah.

Walton: So one of the things that you have to have when you have one of these doored mini suites, in otherwards a business class style suite rather than a first class style suite with the double doors. So one of the things you have to have is a secondary exit mechanism of some form. So on the Qatar Airways QSuite, which is the first one of these – that is a pull out door. Right? So basically there is handle and an emergency latch behind the handle and you pull out the door panel, throw the door panel behind you and you walk out through the door when it’s stuck in close position. This one is actually very interesting and I suggest that to any listeners who aren’t familiar do check out the article on Runway Girl Network, what happens is normally the door just slides backwards and forwards and you don’t need to turn a handle or pull a switch or anything to make the door move backwards and forwards, it just slides. The problem is, basically at eye level there is a big red handle which too many people are assuming is a handle that they need to pull just to open the door, just to pop out to the loo or whatever. This is one of those unfortunate things that it looks like got too far down the proverbial rabbit hole of passenger experience before anyone tried it with real passengers. Rather than either a bunch of airline reps or seatmaker people or even frequent flyers. I think that while a lot of airlines use frequent fliers as their test guinea pigs I guess, part of the problem with that is I guess those people really know how planes work and how the passenger experience in business class should work and so they are like oh that is an emergency thing, I shouldn’t pull it. So despite having double placards now that say “in emergency only”, the airline is indeed going to be working with Collins and one assumes Airbus and of course EASA to really have a go at seeing how they can make that a little bit less, less prominent for everyday use. Because the problem is that when you pull that, the door – I am not entirely sure how it works because for some reason they wouldn’t let me take their seat apart and figure it out.

Boon: Do they know who you are?

Walton: Actually yeah, the BA press team did tell them so that’s fair enough. So there is some sort of mechanism when you pull this door, it seems like it falls onto a second set of tracks or something or sort of falls free and then there is a second handle which is hidden quite a ways down and in that pulls it back onto these tracks or reseats it somehow. The problem is that while that only takes you know 15-20 seconds, it’s a bit of a faff, and these doors have to be locked and so at the moment there is very much a series of announcements around “so that red handle, don’t pull the red handle. The door does just slide. Please don’t pull the red handle. If you do pull the red handle, please come and talk to us.”

Bailey: That is hilarious.

Walton: You know I am sure that normal humans, people who are not us, like oh okay they didn’t realize that’s the “don’t break the door” speil but yeah it’s interesting. And look all credit to the Collins, this is a mechanism that I spotted them looking at earlier this year on their new Elements seat, which is the sort of next generation Super Diamond. So you know they’ve been thinking about this methodology for quite some time and you know it will be interesting how it evolves. Now speaking of things that needed some rework, Jo.

Bailey: I knew you were going to bring this up.

Walton: Right.

Bailey: They didn’t think very hard about those tray tables did they?

Walton: They [Virgin] did not. They did not. Now, Jo do you want to explain how these tray tables work for people who haven’t read either the Runway Girl Network piece or been on this aircraft.

Bailey: Sure, I think, so you have got this enormous tray table which is great because you kind of need the big table to, you know, it’s a big solid table. You can do your work on it. They can lay it out all nicely for your dinner. The trouble is it is just one solid piece. It slots into the back of the seat in front and when you want to bring it down, you kind of press the button and down it comes. But it is absolutely enormous and because of the lack of space, if you like, between the tray table and the seat, even the most slender of fliers will find that it is pressing against their tummy. If you like your food, a bit like me, and you have a little bumpy tummy, it actually doesn’t fit. It just doesn’t work, But if you are in anything but the most upright position in your seat you have got no chance. So I mean I managed to get it down when I was sitting perfectly upright, which was fine for dinner. But you know when you are kind of relaxing and maybe you want to, I don’t know, put your iPad on there or just have some bits in front of you, you really sort of couldn’t lay the seat back or recline at all and still have the tray table there. It’s just too big, so clearly they either tested it with really small people who didn’t really want to lay down or they just failed to really put it to the test with real people at all. Which seems like a bit of a gaff on Virgin’s part. But all credit to the Virgin team, they know that this is an issue, they have recognized it from day one that this really wasn’t working for everyone and they are already in the process of retrofitting folding tables. So from what I understand, and you probably know more about this than I do, John, the new retrofitted tables will still slot into the back of the seats in front but they will come down in two parts. A bit like the tables in economy. So you can either have it fully unfolded for your dinner or you can kind of fold it in half so you can just have a small place to put your bits and pieces and still recline your table.

Walton: Yeah so as I understand it, instead of this large, look it’s a really big table and that’s great but the problem is you don’t really need a really big table because even my massive 15 inch laptop fit on it with oodles of space to spare. And you know Virgin does a plated service so you don’t need the entire space for the, for any trays, right? So this whole thing sort of pivots on its bottom edge down towards you and then slides sideways to rotate so you are looking at it as your, in the herringbone angled seat. Now as I understand it and I haven’t seen any of the drawings etc or any of the mock ups for this. Instead of the whole thing folding down, it will be a half size fold down and then as I understand it, the half size part will slide horizontally and then unfold in the other direction so that you do get that extra space. So that you can enjoy the thoroughly delightful, I have to say, afternoon tea service while not sort of sitting up prim and proper like Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey.

Bailey: That’s good but it’s a bit of a disaster for Virgin that it managed to make it onto the plane, don’t you think?

Walton: Yeah I do. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for Virgin of course. The lead time that you need to do in terms of getting the seats on the plane, they chose this product before Safran or well Zodiac as was fell apart in terms of production quality. It terms of timing. In terms of design availability. So they had a choice to either stick with it or abandon ship and they chose to stick with it and you know, I’m not sure I’d have made another decision other than that even with all the benefit of hindsight. Now what’s very clear is there is quite a bit of that seat that they have worked very hard on. Virgin with Safran to avoid the sort of situation that Cathay had with their Cirrus seats on the A350 where, you know, huge problems around build quality. You know bits of the seat falling off and trim that’s been detached. Lavatory walls held together with packing tape. So, if you look very closely you can see that Virgin has obviously had a sort of set of fillers applied here. There are still problems. Some of the shrouding for example doesn’t line up properly. So there is very, very attractive orangy brown fabric shroud around the back of the seat which does a pretty good job of cutting down some of the external noise when you are asleep, that should line up neatly but it doesn’t. So all in all yes not I’m sure what Virgin wanted, but at the same time, not only are they fixing it but also they figured out a soft product semi-fix for it. So what’s interesting is the front row where I was on the way out, that table is another 6 inches or so further away from you. So I found that just fine but on the, in row, I think it was in row 2 on the way back, it was just uncomfortable. You know I didn’t want my tummy being pressed on while I was trying to eat. So what I actually ended up doing was the crew, very cleverly set everything upon the little bit of a side table. You know that little bit of triangular side table that is the extension of the sort foot box/cubby hole next to you. And they served that very nicely and very low key, very easy on there.

Bailey: Which is very flexible of them, but you know in essence they shouldn’t have needed to in the first place. They should have had a tray table that worked. Funny that you are mentioning the cubby because that’s literally the only bit of storage space. I am supposed to be the Virgin cheerleader here, I don’t know what I am doing. I did find that there was hardly any storage space on the seat as much as the seat was comfortable, the screen was amazing where do I put my stuff?

Boon: The BA has so much storage space on their new seat I didn’t know what to do with it.

Walton: Well yeah, yes so I agree with both of you there. So on the Virgin seat yeah it’s, that was a bit of an oversight. I feel like I would probably have tried to somehow certify at least the more of the footwell area to put things because there really is nowhere to store your stuff.

Bailey: And it is very frustrating when the flight attendants come around before landing or just as you are taking off and you have to put every single thing in the overhead locker. Everything. You know you can hold onto a phone if you are very lucky but your pillow, your bag, your iPod, your computer, everything has to go at the top. Which is kind of inconvenient if you are just kind of relaxing and in most other premium cabins there would be somewhere to stash a few little bits and bobs, wouldn’t there?

Walton: Yeah absolutely and I think this is probably one of the problems with going with, so they are the first customer for the Cirrus NG product and I suspect that subsequent customers they’ll figure out some way to create extra storage. What somewhere I think is an obvious answer to that is in that armrest that comes up and down or even below the armrest comes up and down right. I have seen a lot of examples, including Virgin’s old seat, where one of the storage spaces is inside armrests and that sort of a natural not locking but it’s a hideaway and it’s a safe place when you are sleeping to put your wallet, your phone and your glasses and stuff.

Bailey: Yeah

Walton: Now on the BA side, Tom, yeah I absolutely agree with you. BA has a great set of spaces to put things. So they have got the, it’s the usually Super Diamond double cubby. And the double cubby gives you, first of all there is one that will fit your wallet and your glasses and your boarding pass and passport. The contents of your pockets basically. And the other one which is the charging and its got the, the chargers are in there, it’s the remote for the IFE. The headphone jacks. The one with all the wires poking out of it basically. But what I find was interesting and I am not sure if they have this on the Madrid flights – that had to be completely, that had to be verified by a crew member that nothing was charging inside during takeoff or landing.

Boon: Yes, I had every time something happened they came around and said oh sir please unplug your thing and but they weren’t checking inside, they saw that I still had the cable coming out, so whether you could have got away with it inside at that point I don’t know.

Walton: Yeah no on the way back from Toronto they were literally saying “could you just pop that open so I could check it please” and you know look I’m in favor of the plane not burning down because there has been some sort of surge and someone’s phone has blown up. Entirely in favor of safety. But yeah that was tricky. And what I didn’t know … but both of these airlines kept the center overhead bins. Now this is an interesting and controversial thing and I don’t know where you guys sit. I’m very much on “team keep the center bins”. I don’t find that the A350 or really any aircraft these days is so claustrophobic I gain a huge amount by having this expansive center section with just a roof.

Boon: Yeah well I mean you’ve got plenty of space still in the cabin with them there. If you want to take a bag on with you that’s not going to fit under the seat in front of you where the ottomon is. You need. It doesn’t hurt, in my opinion it’s not detrimental to the experience on the aircraft that they are there.

Rotation
Bailey: No I agree Thomas, I didn’t even notice they were there to be honest. I think particularly on the A350 with the extra widebody it’s such a spacious feeling aircraft anyway it wouldn’t add anything to take them away. In fact it would probably feel a bit weird. A bit like you are flying in some sort of church.

Walton: Yeah well I see exactly what you mean because I’ve heard of a couple of airlines that have done that and so part of the problem is it actually gets quite echoey in there. And the other thing is that okay you’ve got let’s say each business class traveler comes with one-and-a-half bags and we are being generous here. Like it’s going to be two, they are going to be the larger type of bags. You additionally have all of the airline bedding. You’ve got a pillow, you’ve got an amenity kit to throw up there.You might have a sleep set. Maybe you brought an extra pair of shoes or something with you. Perhaps you pick up some duty free. It involves a bit of Tetris if you are trying to fit two people into one bin, whereas one person per bin you are swimming in space and that’s great.

Boon: You can never have too much storage on an airplane.

Walton: Yeah no I agree. So I’m very much anti this idea that we take the bins out of the center section. And you know even with these new bigger bins on the new aircraft, I am firmly there. So Tom what was your overall take on the BA seat? How did you find the CMF, the color, materials and finish?

Boon: So I mean with the color materials, there’s a couple of sort of minor issues that I have overall with the seat and they are sort of stuff that it’s they are niggles, they are not like things that would say make me say “I’m not going to fly it”. I think one of those could be the colors you know. It’s very dark and grey and I don’t like the inside of the privacy door. Looks like it’s just got carpet on it and that to me was a bit weird.

Walton: Yeah and it’s not nice carpet. It’s sort of industrial carpet I remember from boarding school. The stuff that it doesn’t matter if the kids try and set it on fire kind of carpet.

Boon: Yeah that is exactly it. But I mean that’s sort of like the feet area was quite grey but then obviously you have got the white panels around elsewhere and the big windows bring in a lot of light. So overall I think it’s fine you know. It’s just other than that carpet on the door. But it’s not, I mean at the end of the day if that’s the difference between me flying Club Suite and somewhere else then you know.

Walton: Yeah I am not going to not fly it because I don’t like the material on the door. But at the same time you know airlines and the supplier industry spend a huge amount of money on creating this experience and as part of the gestalt of flying British Airways rather than Virgin, it’s in there. You know if you come into the seat and you are like “oh that looks beige and grey.”

Boon: I think it’s got sort of a very premium feel about it. Like having the black iPhone, for example. It’s not black, it’s space grey, you know that’s kind of the feeling I get walking into the British Airways business class suite. It seems like quite a premium sort of color set.

Walton: Yeah so it does I am just not sure. I mean look BA doesn’t really have a premium color set itself right? I think if you compared it to some of the other products, not necessarily the Virgin products, although I am sure we will talk about that in a minute. If you look at the difference between that and United Polaris, for example, with the set of premium materials there and the way that they used different textures and colors and types of material to break up that, the tunnel of thermoplastic that you see. Same with the DeltaOne suite, right? There is a whole bunch of different materials, different colors, different textures. Yeah it does feel premium but in a very boring way.

Boon: Yeah.

Walton: It doesn’t feel like a Merc, it feels like a nice Ford Mondao.

Bailey: But that’s British Airways all over really isn’t it?

*Laughter*

Bailey: Premium but boring.

Boon: I mean it does what it says on the tin, what more do you need?

Walton: Right the problem is the tin is now sort of 5,000-6000 pounds and I think the people who are flying business class are more likely to be expecting, certainly from the competition a bit of a car class upgrade as it were. Now Jo what did you think about the way the Virgin cabin looks?

Bailey: Do you know what I really liked it. It was light. It was bright. When you get on, they tend to set the mood lighting just sort Virgin aubergine, which was a really nice touch, I thought. You know it kind of made it a bit fun. Love the leather seats. They were really comfortable. Loved the little accents of gold here and there. I think that gives it a really kind of fun and luxurious thing. The only bit I wasn’t too sure about was the fabric that kind of goes around the back of upper class pod. It’s a woven fabric and if you look at it closely it’s actually got all of Virgin’s colors in there and sort of a, the overall appearance is like salmony pink and it’s just a bit, I think my grandma used to have a sofa in that color when I was a little girl and it was just a little bit like … But overall I think it was lovely. There is lots of white, like I say lots of gold, there is a real glass shelf in the little cubby and the plastic panelling that you are kind of facing when you are in the seat looks white but if you look closely it’s actually like that sort of pearlescent white that they paint their planes in. So it’s like, it’s kind of in keeping with the livery of the aircraft as well which I thought was a really nice touch. What did you think, John?

Walton: Oh look I really liked it. I thought it felt, it felt very Virgin and here we have you know clear blue branding water between the two airlines. Virgin is probably more of an Italian luxury car where you know, yes, sometimes the basics aren’t there like it breaks down but actually when it’s good, it’s amazing and it looks beautiful. Sometimes the hand brake is on the ceiling and the thing to open the fueling tank is in the center console hidden behind a lever or something but it does look amazing. Virgin did a great job in terms of their mood lighting as you say. Both in daytime and nighttime. Whereas BA didn’t. BA didn’t make much use of that at all. I loved that, as you said, that sort of pearlescent mica kind of feel to that, to the thermoplastics that you are basically staring at.

Bailey: Yeah that’s it. It’s not just white plastic, it’s kind of interesting to look at. And it really reflects all the light from your nice big window as well, which I love.

Walton: Exactly. Now BA has done something slightly similar but different in a way. So that big curve of thermoplastic that you look at, they’ve textured that with that signature Rockwell Collins sort of ripple wave that’s on the front panel in the cabin but writ very small and I thought that that was a really nice touch to do that side differently. Now let’s talk about doors too. So as a main entrance door for the aircraft. British Airways has the club kitchen which is essentially a medium gray thermoplastic wall with two fridges and a little display area. Whereas Virgin have The Loft, which is, I believe it is a 6 or 8 seater set of sofas with a great big window, a great big screen. There is lots of interesting roof texture. It’s lovely space. Jo, did you have a chance to sit down there during the flight?

Bailey: Not very often because on the way there as you know there were lots of interviews and stuff going on in that area but on the way back I did get to spend a bit of time in there all by myself because everyone else had gone to sleep and I tell you what it really does have the wow factor. You know there is a gold plated chandelier on the ceiling. There is all these little kind of twinkling LED lights like you are looking at the stars you know all around the area. The sofa is super comfortable and then you have got this massive 32-inch touch screen monitor in front which you can link up to, I think several people can link up to with your bluetooth headsets. So you can sit and watch a movie you know with your friends and family if you are all privileged enough to be traveling in upper class together. And I think the big change here is the fact that they’ve now certified that area for seatbelts. So if there is a bit of turbulence or the seatbelt sign goes on for some reason, you don’t have to get up and go back to your seat. You can stay there, carry on having your movie night or as someone suggested a silent disco. I was really hoping that would happen on our flight and it didn’t dammit. You know but you can stay in that area and you can carry on enjoying you experience rather than having to hop up and go back to your seat so I think it’s an incredible thing and I think it’s much more appropriate than a bar in this day and age where you can still get a drink but it’s not like perching on stools around a bar. Which not many of us do in our spare time anymore anyway.

Walton: Right. Exactly. I had a chance to chill out there in the morning. I got up after breakfast and had my fourth and fifth cups of tea. Just sort of chatting with the crew and chatting with other people on the flight and it was a really great space. They have done a smart thing that the galley is immediately behind it. And that’s really clever because that means that the crew are still there, you can still sort of chat with the crew and they can see whether you need a drink on the way past etc, etc. but you are not sort of in a space that’s going to be needed for the service. And that was part of the problem with the Club Kitchen. Particularly on the overnight where there was just some stuff left out and not enough glasses, and the wrong, not all the right sort of glasses. So there were water glasses left out but no wine glasses even though there was wine out there and wine in the fridge. The snack selection on BA was a bit of Cadbury’s chocolate and some crisps, not the sort of innovative thoughtful snack experience as with other airlines, a lot of other airlines use. And just a bit grey. And I hate coming back to this sort of and whinging about the CMF but actually CMF is important and that wow factor that you are talking about Jo is equally important because you have got to have that something to say “you are on this airline.”

Bailey: Yeah and everyone passes through that area, you know, whether you are upper, premium economy, economy, as you are boarding everybody gets that wow factor, which I think is really clever of Virgin actually.

Walton: Yeah, no, totally. Now having said that it’s true of course that these aircraft are also potentially intended to go on to work for Iberia. I don’t know if you noticed, Tom, all the BA planes outside the seating area, all of the placards are in both English and Spanish.

Boon: Yeah you know I didn’t actually notice that myself, I noticed a lot of other things but that was not on the list unfortunately.

Walton: Yeah so yeah all of the placards and stuff they are all Spanish and English so I guess they could also go off to Aer Lingus because you know IAG is one big happy family. Or I mean potentially even LEVEL, who knows? But yeah I thought that was interesting in terms of the way IAG is potentially thinking about its future fleet flexibility. So okay I am going to put you to the test now. Each of you marks out of 10 for the new seat, Jo?

Bailey: So just for the seat itself, and the sleeping experience?

Walton: The new Upper Class product.

Bailey: Yeah I mean as I said in my review on Simple Flying, I think you have got to look at Upper Class as being more than just a seat and it’s kind of about the whole experience. You know the catering, the staff that are helping you, it’s the whole thing. And my overall opinion it’s really fun, it’s very engaging, it was comfortable. I really loved it so for me, it is an 8 out 10.

Walton: Tom what’s your thought?

Boon: So comparing it to the previous generation of the British Airways business suite, it’s a huge step up obviously. It’s got to have a fairly high number in my opinion. There was a couple of little issues here and there but again it was nothing that would make me say “I’d rather pick another carrier.” I found personally for me everything was more than enough and I take on board it’s not for everyone but for me I would probably say 8 as well.

Walton: Yeah it’s fascinating. I feel like I basically agree with both of you. I think I would probably do, if it was me I would probably give the BA seat a 7.5 and not just the seat but the BA product a 7.5 partly because of the sleeping problems and also partly because of the missed opportunity with the Club Kitchen. I think I give the, I would normally give the Virgin an 8.5 but I would probably dock a good half mark for this table. And only a half mark rather than 2 full marks because they are already fixing it.

Bailey: Yeah.

Walton: So I think that if I am comparing these two products overall I would much rather fly the Virgin product again than the BA one. And because the Virgin, the problems with the Virgin product are problems that are being fixed or that are fixable. The problems with the BA products I think are products that you can’t really fix at this point. Right? Ignoring the door thing because that’s a very specific set of questions, but you know just the fewer number of sleeping positions that I found myself comfortable in, yeah I feel that that knocked it off.

Bailey: Also, no tail cam on BA. Let’s just point that out. And for AvGeeks that’s so important.

Boon: I mean there is so much on the inflight entertainment system that you wouldn’t even have time to look at the tail cam.

Bailey: Why wouldn’t you want to, though? Come on.

Walton: I miss the tail cam. Because none of the cameras and I don’t know why this is none of the cameras have been integrated for the IFE system on British Airways. And that’s sad, I mean right? It was really interesting, I was on the flight back, on the Virgin flight back from the New York. They actually had another aircraft go tech, so the economy and premium economy cabins were full. And what I found was fascinating as I did a walk through, the number of people looking at the tail cam in the morning with their cup of tea, that sort of thing where you are just staring and you are not staring at a wall but you are staring at the, you are staring into the sunrise over the UK.

Bailey: Yeah I think it is a beautiful thing. It’s amazing and it’s all HD and it works perfectly and you have got a bellycam as well so you can literally be flying across London as you are taking off. It’s just gorgeous, I love it. I love it. I would never not install a tailcam if I was the owner of an airline.

Walton: Well exactly and of course just as a last little aside, the fact that you have got a forward facing cam under the aircraft also helps when, if you remember when we arrived in New York, they were parking this A350 in a new spot and the ground people gave them the wrong place to park in. Like the wrong little line on the ground as it were, I mean it’s all digital now, but they basically, the ground staff parked the plane too far forwards for the jetway to get to the front door and too far back for the jetway to get to the second door and so the funny thing was it after the 10 minutes of them trying to get the jetway on that the captain was like “no everyone please sit down again we are going to be here for awhile while they figure out this and get us a tug” but we could see the sort of 15 people clustered around the the nose wheel sort of looking at it going oh that is in fact not in the right place.

Bailey: It was hilarious watching all the shenanigans and normally you’d just be kind of sat there, the IFE would have gone off, you’d just be getting frustrated but we were actually having a really good laugh, weren’t we John?

Walton: We were. It was pretty funny. Well we will end today’s conversation on that. Listeners we hope you enjoyed it and we are always keen to find out what you think. Please feel free to email me at Info@runwaygirlnetwork.com with any suggestions. Thanks to our guests, Jo where can people continue the conversation with you online?

Bailey: Okay so find me at Simple Flying of course. People can email me at Joanna@Simpleflying.com or I am on Twitter @ohjobails.

Walton: Super, and Tom what about you?

Boon: So again you can always find me on Simple Flying I live there now. So my email is Tom@simplyflying.com or on Twitter I am @Thomas_boon

Walton: Super and as ever you can find me on Twitter @thatjohn and everything from RGN on Twitter @runwaygirl and Runwaygirlnetwork.com. If you are enjoying these conversations please leave a rating and review wherever you get your podcasts and thanks for listening.

1 Comment

  1. Jake

    Nice chat/article, thanks. However I am firmly in the camp of Qatar Airways: center bins don’t belong in a premium cabin and the ceilings should be high. There’s no need for them for storage, they’re just in the way and completely cheapen the cabin by squashing it.

    Qatar — unlike you — understand architecture: high ceilings prevent spaces from feeling “stuffy”, are are elegant and luxurious, and according to various scientific experiments benefit the physical and emotional health of people experiencing them.