British Airways has confessed that the layout of its flagship Airbus A350 aircraft is being reconsidered because it is so difficult for cabin crews to work on.
The airline chose a cabin configuration for its A350s that was exceptionally dense, and it was disclosed just before the pandemic that the plane might not have enough space to fly to ultra-long-haul locations as planned.
The information was revealed during a question-and-answer session with BA’s Director of Brand and Customer Experience Tom Stevens, who was responding to a question on how the Heathrow-based carrier planned to regain the trust of its passengers and crew.
Stevens noted that the cutting-edge A350 posed a “special difficulty,” and that his team was constantly looking for solutions.
He did say, though, that making changes to planes currently in operation might not be possible, therefore they were looking into other options.
British Airways has placed an order for 18 Airbus A350 aircraft and has received eight of them so far, each for $355 million at list price.
The airline aimed to improve the customer experience by introducing new-generation World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) and World Traveller (Economy) seats, as well as the much-lauded Club Suite Business Class seat. However, in order to make the economics work, BA crammed as many seats as possible onto the plane.
British Airways chose a new style of galley at the rear of the plane called the ICE Rear Galley, with the acronym ICE standing for Increased Cabin Efficiency, to make place for just six additional Economy seats.
Two ultra-slim restrooms are located on either side of the galley in the new galley design.
The conventional galley was likewise removed at the second set of doors, however, a walkthrough through was not removed at the third set of doors.
Stevens stated that the cabin design, or LOPA (Layout of passenger accommodations), was causing significant concerns in the Business Class cabin and that BA was contemplating adjustments to the LOPA with Airbus for future deliveries of the plane.
“It’s fair to say that some of the aircraft we have today were not designed to be crew friendly or service-centric,” Stevens told employees in the internal Q&A session.
“We can’t readily retrofit those planes,” he continued, “but we can make tweaks when we perform cabin upgrades.”
“We can’t go back and retrofit those aircraft easily, but we can make tweaks when we do cabin upgrades,” he continued.
Stevens described the current onboard product as “quite outdated,” and said the A380s would be refreshed soon, with an update to the Club Suite and new First Class seats probably.
Cabin crews were involved in the new design in the hopes that the layout would be arranged in such a way that it would eliminate some of the service issues that have plagued other aircraft.
Employees reported in January 2020 that there was “barely enough space” onboard the A350 to offer one full dinner service, let alone two on ultra-long-haul journeys.
A representative for the airline flatly refuted the report at the time, claiming that the A350 had “enough space to accommodate catering for the duration of any of our trips.”