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BA’s £7bn transformation has begun-Report

BA’s £7bn transformation has begun-Report | It was the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, reputedly, who offered the sage remark that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. But in the case of British Airways, this week saw a journey of seven billion pounds begin with… a single aircraft, The Telegraph Reports.

From the outside, G-TNED is not much to look at – in that it seems no different to any other short-haul plane in the BA fleet; that classic white livery, those semi-symmetrical splotches of red and blue on the tailfin. But inside, quietly, this A321neo is at the vanguard of a huge (and, some might say, overdue) overhaul of our national flag carrier.

This process was announced at the start of March; the airline’s CEO Sean Doyle talking of “a journey to a better BA for our people and for our customers, underpinned by a transformation programme that will see us invest £7 billion over the next two years, to revolutionise our business”. To put this in less boardroom-inflected language, this gentle revolution will equate to a new website, a new app, a whole new lounge at Dubai International Airport, and fully refurbished ones in Seattle, Lagos, Edinburgh and Heathrow. It will also make for 350 new jobs at said London hub, a phasing in of artificial-intelligence technology that will (supposedly) “help flights depart on time”, stylish new “suites” in the first-class cabins of long-haul planes (which should start to appear in the airline’s A380 behemoths by the end of next year) – and redesigned interiors and seats on their short-haul siblings.

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These latter bells and whistles are where G-TNED takes the stage. While another seven brand-new A320neos and A321neos – fitted out in the same manner – will be slotted into the hangar by the end of the year, for now, G-TNED is the sole British Airways plane in service boasting this fresh blueprint. Only delivered to the airline by Airbus at the start of this month, it has been going about its duties – without much in the way of fanfare – since last Friday (May 3), via flights to the likes of Brussels, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Stockholm, Athens and Marrakech. Come Tuesday morning, it was Rome – and my turn.

Even amid the grogginess of an early boarding time, in the cautious daylight of 7 am, the crispness of the reworked cabin was obvious. If such a thing as “new car smell” exists – and the general thrust of most car adverts suggests that it does – then so does “new plane smell”; that vague aroma of metal, plastic and fibreglass with no previous careful owners. And the seats added to the general gleam of it all – as a pleasing combination of red (the outer edges of the headrest), white (the seatback), and (dark) blue (the main upholstery).

“We have been working on this project for two years,” explained Calum Laming, BA’s Chief Customer Officer. “We’re updating the interior, so we brought in the new colours.”

The redesign has been, he continued, a far-reaching collaboration between a diverse selection of companies and creative minds from across the UK. The seat itself was shaped in Northern Ireland, by Collins Aerospace. The leather used in it is Scottish. Specialists in Manchester, London and High Wycombe (and Dublin) were involved. “It really is a British seat,” Laming added. “The colour scheme feels very British Airways”.

Of course, soft relaunches and behind-the-scenes musings are one thing; the basic procedure of clambering onto a plane and flying somewhere in real life is quite another.

So will any of this have a palpable impact on your flight? Well, perhaps. The seat was certainly comfortable during my two-hour hop to the Italian capital. The business cabin (Club Europe) is note-worthy for the in-built tray table which supplies a further element of space while blocking out what would ordinarily be the middle seat. But the seating is identical throughout the aircraft, albeit with greater pitch – the distance between the rows – at the very front of the aircraft (on the A321neo, this is 31” and 30” in the premium cabin, 29” in the economy section). The headrest, adjustable, is a nice touch; the USB charging port has been moved to a more accessible spot, at head height on the seat-back (having been lower down before). And there is the extra convenience of the overhead luggage bins, which have been expanded in all compartments – providing added storage.

A promising beginning, in other words. But what are your chances of experiencing these changes first-hand? For now, with only one such plane in the air, a crossing of paths is unlikely. That said, at the time of writing, G-TNED‘s diary includes scheduled departures to Venice, Glasgow and Cairo. None of these very different cities is even close to an exact 1,000 miles from London, but as Lao Tzu observed, every journey must start somewhere. BA’s £7bn transformation has begun-Report

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