Last night I went along to the very exclusive and plush Halcyon Gallery in London’s Mayfair – not to look at the art I may add (although it was lovely) but that was where British Airways chose to hold its VIP press reception and launch its new first class cabin. With a glass of Taittinger champagne in hand (the same champagne that first class passengers get to enjoy onboard) guests and journalists were invited to have a nose around the new cabin, which had been installed in its entirety as it would be in the aircraft.
Willie Walsh, BA’s CEO, then took to the stage looking a great deal more relaxed than what he has in the press recently and introduced the key design features of the cabin, which include a fully flat bed that is 60 per cent wider at the shoulders than the previous version, a 15-inch TV screen with each suite offering a USB charging point and RCA jack, personal electronic blinds, noise-cancelling headsets and personal wardrobe complete with shoe stowage. “When the team showed me the mock-up of this cabin for the first time I can say that I was genuinely impressed and I am a difficult person to impress,” smiled Walsh. “I think it’s a beautiful design.”
However, this wasn’t a cheap endeavour and was a rather substantial investment on the part of BA. “It’s a £100 million pound investment demonstrating yet again not just our commitment to investing in our products and in our service but our confidence in our products and service that we offer,” said Walsh. “It builds on a rich heritage in British Airways – I think it can best be described as understated British luxury and there are no gimmicks, you won’t find those at BA. It has really surpassed our expectations and we believe that it will be yet another great winner of British Airways.”
Bill Nighy (left in photo next to Willie Walsh), a British actor and comedian as well as a BA frequent flyer, was also there sipping champagne and lending his support. “When I travel, BA is my first choice every time. The new First cabin is fabulous – classic and understated,” said Nighy.
The seat is a collaboration between BA’s in-house design team, which is headed up by Peter Cooke, and two British design consultancies – Tangerine and Forpeople. Look out for an article in an upcoming issue of DEVELOP3D where I will be delving into the design and development behind this seat and looking at exactly how the designers fulfilled the brief of accommodating 14 premium customers in ultimate luxury for up to 24 hours providing them with a space where they can work, sleep, eat and be entertained.
Meanwhile, I left the event without having won a first class trip to New York (all those attending put their business cards in a hat with the winner being drawn at random by Nighy) but I was able to walk away with a small part of the first class experience as our press goodie bag contained some of the items that first class passengers receive onboard. The Anya Hindmarch washbag was full of all sorts of intriguing lotions and potions, a posh leather luggage tag as well as a large pair of long sleeved black cotton pyjamas. Considering I am a short size 8, I looked a bit like a shrunken ninja when I tried them on at home later (but they were very comfortable).