BA gets up to snoozing altitude again

CHRISTIAN WOLMAR

Transport Correspondent

British Airways has turned back the clock 50 years by introducing beds for first-class travellers for the first time since the 1940s.

The 6ft 6in beds, which are part of a relaunched first-class accommodation on long-haul flights, convert from the airline seat which itself is to be sectioned off from the aisle, creating an individual compartment.

However, the airline has shied away from creating the kind of separate individual compartment which was available in the 1940s, because according to market research, this would have been too claustrophobic.

Richard Ayling, British Airways' managing director, said: "Air travel is a bit lonely. People in the survey said they would like to remain as part of the air cabin and not be cut off completely from it."

First-class passengers may have to pay more for this upgrade in facilities, which will be introduced during the next 15 months throughout the whole long-haul fleet. Mr Ayling said: "Our pricing policy is based on what the market can bear. If we see an opportunity for premium pricing, we will take it."

Details of fares will not be announced until the service begins to be introduced early next year. Current first-class fares to Tokyo are pounds 5,136, compared to pounds 3,372 for business and pounds 993 for the cheapest economy seat. The New York fare is pounds 4,188 compared to pounds 2,362 and pounds 288.

The new arrangements are part of a pounds 500m investment by BA spread over three years in an effort to capture extra market share in the lucrative premium travel market which accounts for 15 per cent of BA's passengers, but more than 30 per cent of its revenue.

The service for business travellers is also being improved, with more leg room, a personal video screen, and a new more comfortable seat incorporating an improved tilt mechanism. Improvements in economy class are also in the pipeline, but details will not be announced until late next year.

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