British Airways Seats to Shrink as Airline Squeezes More Passengers Into Boeing 777s

Airplane cabin with passengers
Photo by AlxeyPnferov/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

by Sarah Knapton and Science Editor, The Telegraph, March 7, 2018

British Airways passengers will be squeezed into narrower seats, after the beleaguered airline said it will add an extra passenger space into economy rows on some aircraft.

This week the company unveiled its ‘make-over’ for World Traveller section on its Boeing 777 long haul fleet flying from Gatwick Airport.


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But although BA announced ‘elegant new seats’ with entertainment screens that are 50 per cent larger, they failed to mention that economy passengers will be sitting in spaces that are nearly 10 per cent smaller.

The World Traveller section will now contain 10 seats per row, instead of nine, moving from a 3-3-3 formation to a 3-4-3 design, which according to industry experts, will bring the size of long haul seats down by 1.5 inches.

British Airways refused to say what the new size of seats would be, but when its part-owner Qatar Airways ‘densified’ its own 777 economy seats, their width shrank from 18.5 inches to 17.

Experts said the move, which adds 12 more seats into the World Traveller cabin, would make lengthy trips of up to 11 hours more uncomfortable and leave passengers feeling hemmed-in.

“The drawback is a combination of physical discomfort and a sense of overcrowding,” said travel writer Simon Calder.

The revamped aircraft, which are scheduled to be in operation by this winter, will be flying on routes to Cancun in Mexico, the Dominican Republic resort of Punta Cana and the Jamaican capital, Kingston.

But from next year, all British Airways long haul flights from Gatwick will use the new layout.

The announcement is the latest in a series of changes at the airline which is struggling to compete with budget rivals. In January 2017, BA stopped free food on short-haul flights and introduced a range of paid-for Marks & Spencer sandwiches and snacks, to the consternation of passengers.

The following March the airline announced it was reducing legroom from 30 inches to 20 inches on its A320 and A321 Airbus aircraft. Fresh flowers were also scrapped in the First Class Toilets as well as a complimentary amuse-bouche on boarding.

However the company was forced to reintroduce a second hot meal and free snacks on long-haul flights after customer uproar when they removed them last year. Alex Cruz, the head of BA who was brought in from budget airline Vueling to cut costs, admitted that ‘mistakes had been made’

On Tuesday the carrier announced that it was planning to launch no-frills “basic economy” fares on its long-haul flights.

The tickets which are expected to be between 10 and 20 per cent cheaper, do not include checked luggage or seat selection and are designed to compete with Norwegian on popular routes to North America.

It could mean that the cost of a return flight from London to New York could fall from £468 to between £375 and £420. Travellers can already fly from London to New York over the same dates for as little as £265 with Norwegian.

British Airways budget travel

“In April 2018, we will be introducing a new long-haul basic economy fare on selected transatlantic routes,” said BA in a statement.

“The new fare will give customers a lower price point and more choice.”

The airline also announced that travellers in the new 777 World Traveller Plus would enjoy new bespoke lighting to reflect the time of day, helping to lull travellers to sleep at night and wake them in the morning to combat jet-lag.

Six hundred million pounds is also to be spent on Club World to improve catering and introduce bedding from The White Company.

British Airways has also promised that wi-fi will be available on all flights within the next two years.


This article was written by Sarah Knapton and Science Editor from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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