New Lounges, Seats, and AI Tech for British Airways: 5 Big Changes Coming Soon


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Rather than simply playing catch-up, British Airways says the $9 billion investment over the next two years will help it leapfrog the competition.

Once known as ‘The World’s Favorite Airline’, British Airways has slipped down the rankings in recent years. Underinvestment and outsourcing have left the UK flag carrier on the back foot.

Keen to make amends and restore its position among the world’s leading airlines, BA is on the offensive.

The company says it is spending £7 billion ($8.9 billion) over the next two years to overhaul its operation and enhance the passenger experience.

The program spans more than 600 different modernization initiatives and is said to “invest in every part of the business.”

But what exactly is in the pipeline and when will travelers actually see the changes? Here are five key areas to watch:

1. New First Class and Short-Haul Seats

There are major seating developments on two fronts for British Airways. The changes that will benefit the most customers are new seats coming to the short-haul fleet. 

BA is rolling out new-look cabins for its upcoming deliveries of Airbus A320neo and A321neo jets. These typically fly on short and medium-haul flights within the UK, Europe, and North Africa.

The first eight planes with the new cabins will be delivered from May this year. Enhancements will be made to both Euro Traveller (economy) and Club Europe (business class), in what BA describes as “reflecting a modern yet classic British interior.” 

British Airways new seats
Photo: British Airways

The new Club Europe seats (pictured above) will see the return of the leather tray that sits between the aisle and window seat. This was controversially removed from earlier deliveries of Airbus Neo planes.

All seats on the new-look jets will also be equipped with USB-A & USB-C power charging ports.

On a practical note, the airline is also promising extra-large bins for overhead luggage. This should reduce – but not eliminate – the risk of baggage being checked at the gate on busy flights. 

Big developments are also on the way for BA’s most exclusive cabin. The airline has confirmed that a “brand-new and exclusive” first-class suite is in the works. 

It is due to enter service in late 2025 or early 2026 and will form part of a wider refurbishment of the Airbus A380 fleet.

The changes should help widen the gap between the carrier’s Club Suite business class product and first-class offering. 

2. New Airport Lounges

For many business and premium leisure travelers, the airport experience is a key part of the overall value proposition. Although British Airways has an international network of dedicated lounges, some of these are starting to show their age.

To better compete on the global stage, BA is modernizing its facilities at Heathrow (Terminals 3 and 5), Seattle, Lagos, and Edinburgh. 

Alongside the overhauls, there are also brand-new spaces on the way. The airline’s lounge at Dubai International Airport will be the first to feature BA’s next-generation design concept when it opens early next year. This will be swiftly followed by a new Miami lounge later in 2025.

The upgrades follow the opening of three premium lounges shared with American Airlines at New York JFK Terminal 8 in late 2022 (pictured below).

 

BA/AA Lounge at JFK
Photo: British Airways

3. New App and Website

For the modern traveler, an unreliable airline app is almost unforgivable. Coupled with a glitchy website, it’s fair to say that British Airways’ current online presence is sub-par. 

It is therefore no surprise that some of the $9 billion investment will be focused on upgrading its passenger-facing digital experience. 

The airline has revealed that a mobile app is on the way, with greater personalization promised throughout. Final testing is also ongoing on a new website. 

BA says the overhauled platforms are designed to “empower customers to self-serve if they wish.” The idea is that passengers will be able to take greater control over any changes to their journeys and avoid the need to phone a call center. The airline says “initial changes” will begin before the end of the year. 

4. Free Onboard Messaging

Alongside the web and app improvements, BA is also enhancing its onboard connectivity proposition. From April 3, members of its Executive Club loyalty program will be able to use the aircraft’s Wi-Fi for messaging free of charge.

Applications such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Microsoft Teams, and Facebook Messenger are all included, however, they will be limited to text-only conversations.

The benefit is due to be available on every Wi-Fi-enabled plane by the middle of April. This includes all of the Gatwick fleet and more than 80% of its Heathrow-based aircraft. BA says all of its Heathrow planes will have Wi-Fi connectivity by the end of next year. 

Executive Club passengers traveling in any cabin class will be eligible to use the service for the full duration of the flight on a single device. 

5. Investment in AI Technology

Keeping with the digital theme, the airline announced Tuesday a major investment in AI and machine learning. British Airways has allocated £100 million ($127 million) for the new operation. 

The goal is to drive improvements at all stages of the travel process from booking to baggage handling. It is hoped that the AI system will help predict delays, allowing the airline to reduce overall disruption by taking pre-emptive action. There are also new tools to analyze real-time weather, aircraft capacity, and airport connections data. 

BA says it is encouraged by the initial trials of the technology, adding that they have delivered improvements to on-time departures. 

In further tech developments, the airline is also investing £750 million ($955 million) in its IT infrastructure. It says it will move 700 systems and thousands of servers to cloud-based platforms by early 2025. In recent years BA has been hit by several high-profile technology meltdowns. It is hoped these upgrades will reduce the likelihood of future problems.

As part of Tuesday’s wide-reaching company announcement, BA also confirmed it would return to two Asian capital cities from later this year.



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