a plane on the tarmac

British Airways took delivery of brand new Airbus A350-1000 aircraft this year, ushering in a new era of seats in all cabins. For the most part, the plane has been extremely well received, but one lesser known fact, is that the full potential of the aircraft has been plagued by a modification chosen by British Airways, and only British Airways.

I may be one of the nutters that thinks British Airways has actually seriously improved in the last two years, but one area I’ve held my breath on has been their insatiable passion for “densification”. While I agree to a certain degree that butts in seats helps drive down prices and more people on each plane journey is actually better for the climate, there’s still the premium element to the airline.

a plane on the tarmac

When you’re shuffling politicians, business leaders, celebs, well heeled people and informed consumers around the world, who buy flights after some digging around at the dimensions, too much densification can sometimes come at a cost.

Guess why British Airways A350-1000’s haven’t been doing much flying long haul, to destinations where passengers would best benefit from the excellent new Club Suites with privacy doors?

Because British Airways chose to limit the meal stowage areas typically necessary for flights that would require a full scale second service. Despite this, the airline is still apparently sending the A350 to Tokyo from this summer, and claims it’ll all be ok. Perhaps passengers won’t get as hungry? Some say this is down to the size of the food offering growing from the time that the aircraft was designed and signed off by BA.

Update: it appears BA has reversed course and taken the A350-1000 off Tokyo this summer? There’s also been a follow up from BA, and my response to their follow up here

In any case, BA factually has less space for meals than any other airline flying the A350 as a full service carrier. Again, British Airways still maintains that it’s enough space, so maybe everyone else are idiots…

In other words: mainline destinations which would typically offer a full second meal service, will see less of the BA A350 initially, because there’s nowhere to put the food, even if BA insists there is! The A350 has always been regarded as wonderful from a passenger perspective, but challenging due to space for crew to operate, but BA went a bit further than others.

Numerous sources have stated that the BA configuration is so rammed, there’s hardly anywhere to put… anything, even for one service, so I’ll be really intrigued to see how they manage two…

a row of seats with a television screen

Speaking with various operators of the Airbus A350-1000, British Airways appears to be the only airline to buck this essential meal service space, in favour of added areas to plonk extra passengers down. If the airlines view was always that it would only service shorter long haul services, that’s no biggie – but believing that they do have higher, longer aspirations, it’s a vital flaw.

The other explainer of course, was that British Airways was perhaps hoping that other airlines would continue the trend of reducing meal service across cabins, which has actually gone the other way in recent years. With a lead time of years from conception to delivery, this is a fair possibility.

The airline maintains that the plane does have the space to actually do a second meal service, but those with more intimate knowledge of service elements and goings on of actual events in the air tend to disagree entirely.

To some extent, the interiors of airplanes are a bit like lego building blocks, and a retrofit of even these current birds into a more sizeable storage and/or galley area could be possible with just a few snaps and pops, but at the moment – it’s not the case. Being that it takes quite a bit of time to snap these lego pieces in and out, and BA is trying to keep these planes flying all day every day, that’s also highly unlikely.

british airways 787

British Airways is expecting imminent delivery of its first stretched out Boeing 787-10 aircraft, which already appears scheduled for select mid-long haul routes, so it’s not out of the question to think that British Airways was entirely pre-meditated in its route mapping of each aircraft, to some extent.

To limit a brand new planes capabilities right out of the factory just seems highly odd, even if that was *potentially* the case that it had more niche expectations than others. It will be fascinating to see how quickly British Airways plug the cabin inconsistencies (and deficiencies) on long haul routes such as Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong as new aircraft roll in. Let’s hope we find out sooner than later.

One thing we likely won’t be seeing sooner than later on most of these routes however, is an Airbus A350-1000, at least not from BA. And if you do, pack some crisps…

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I have flown twice on BA’s A350-1000. Both times they ran out of food. Nice plane but what’s the point of flying premium with BA? Should you bring your own food so you don’t go hungry? Silly carrier.

  2. It’s surprising it they didn’t configure the 350-1000 for long haul and the 787-10 for medium-haul, given the range of each aircraft.

    1. I believe the 350-1000 is supposed to do long haul, but it’s ability to do so effectively will be extremely hampered by the space that’s been taken away from purpose.

      1. BA and AA are twins!!! What else would you expect? They are going down the same drain together! I would rather walk than fly either one. Too much competition to put up with any of thir crap!
        If they both went out of business tomorrow, I would not shed one tear!
        Furthermore, they are only still in business because there are too many idiots willing to pay for crap!

  3. British Airways is a joke as a supposed national carrier. Had a flight from London to Cyprus which was over 4 hours long and still had to buy my own water and food on board. Might as well have flown Ryanair. The only difference was that at least the BA flight had reclining seats.

    I only ever fly Ba when my work forces me to.

  4. Meal service takes ages in Club World ‘cos of narrow aisles…. On BA163 LHR-TLV a couple of weeks ago (flight time about four hours and departure at 2110) dinner took around 2:30 to serve. Not ideal when one really wants to just sleep! Note to self – eat at home or in lounge!

      1. It’s a lot better than the sorry old 777’s.

        In my experience they didn’t run out of food, but the service was always very slow. Lots of apologies from the crew.

        Biggest issue isn’t the food it’s the extortionate price of Wi-fi!

  5. I fly regularly on ba to the Caribbean in club and they always run out of lager. Their attitude is it free but mine is I have pre-paid.

  6. The problem is that BA feels that the main competition is Ryanair, which does indeed offer a similar product, albeit with better leg room. That mentality of squeezing the customer at every turn drives away higher revenue customers because they want a quality product, which is very much not BA. It’s a superb example of a fabulous airline turned into a dumpster fire. Such a shame.

  7. Err and the non reclining seats?
    The absence of air vents, external cameras and any airbus option that improves the passenger experience?

    Consumer and delivering the service marketed no longer relevant to BA.

  8. It seems Qatar Airways will be doing the same with the 787-9. From what I heard the galleys are not going to be big enough for ultra long haul flights and therefore the airplane will be basically flying to routes the same profile as the 787-8 is currently flying (5-9h long).

  9. BA has already reversed the decision to deploy the A350 on Tokyo services. Tokyo (NRT) will have an increase capacity from B787 to B777-300 for the Olympic games and then back to the B787. A350 not to serve Tokyo any time soon.

  10. Arent we missig a point here, namely less space because BA positioning to remove full meal in economy in lieu of paid for sandwiches ike they have done on shorthaul

  11. And more BA modification; the BA 787-10 is being delivered without Cabin Crew bunks, BA is having them removed.
    This will limit the destinations due to rest issues.
    There isn’t enough crew on the flights anymore to give a premium service, not the Cabin Crews fault the meal services take hours to complete.
    Thank you Alex Cruz for making BA budget and trashy.

  12. This is a very interesting discussion. I live in Canada and often fly to Italy, and my wife and I find BA the best every time. That said, I’ve not been on the A350, but my wife has , and she found it excellent. Interesting…

  13. Are all the incoming A350s the same layout? BA has commonly had subfleets within its long-haul setup – is it not possible that some will be delivered to a less dense configuration for longer routes? The move makes sense on the 787-10 given its shorter range.

  14. I think that BA might be taking 2 separate configurations of this plane, if you remember it was stated that only the initial planes will have no first class. So maybe they are having this denser config for East Coast/ME/India and then will have a less dense one with first class for far east and west coast.

  15. Well what would you expect with Alex Cruise in charge, he wants to drive it down to the similar config of a charter operating aircraft, long gone is the luxury, comfort and premium travel it’s all about the £££££.

    And seriously! Would you expect any other response from BA management other than denial, they’re all yes people, even the crew that trial it are yes people, most are ex charter or BMI managers who don’t have a clue about customer quality and comfort the BA brand is being hammered to the ground by a bunch of overpaid office dwelling Monkeys who have no idea about premium travel.

  16. The 787-10 won’t be flying 11 hour sectors anyway, at least not without significant cargo restrictions. So there is some logic to omitting crew bunks from those aircraft, even if they will push the length of sector on which the use them…. These are not the only long haul BA aircraft to be missing them – they’ve operated a number of 777s for 20 years without them, with plenty of shorter routes in the network for which they are fine.

  17. What it comes down to is this. No matter what the industry, whenever there’s a new Boss, no matter what he says the plan is, in this day and age CEO’s have only one solution, no matter the problem: Cut all costs (whether they’re a necessity or not) “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap, at one time CEO of Sunbeam Products, lived up to his name and cut so much there was little left. They never recovered.

    I wouldn’t be surprised is BA, AA and Delta all folded within the next 5 to 8 years. Quite frankly they jut don’t deserve to be in business anymore.

  18. Regular BA long haul flyer in all cabins, flew A350 to Toronto last week.

    As always, can’t fault fantastic BA cabin crew.

    With the exception of the club suites, cabin was similar to BAs densified 777s from Gatwick. The issues were:

    – Not enough overhead bins for the number of seats. They had to do 2 announcements and threaten to put cabin bags in the hold. Eventually moved bags from Economy to empty bins in Club.

    – I was in WTP which didn’t have its own galley. Cabin crew were constantly trudging back and forth from the front galley and carrying things all the way through the plane to Economy. Meal service was fast and efficient, but looked like a CRAZY amount of work for cabin crew who never stopped having to walk the entire length of the plane with a stream of items. (1 full meal service + mid-flight ice cream + a slightly odd pizza in a box before landing).

    – I would be shocked if on time performance was great on A350s. Loading took forever. We left late. I think the storage issue and super narrow aisles in WT caused massive problems with loading time. BAs 747s, with similar number of passengers load much faster.

    – Like the densified 777s, always a queue for the shrunken number of loos.

    – Like the densified 777s, WT cabin looked very uncomfortable, and premium seats in the front align with loos.

  19. Flew a 3.5 hour flight with BA in economy. The water wasn’t even free. Seriously it’s water. A common human need. Refused to fly them since.

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