Fine Furnishings

The re-fitted B777-200s now have BA’s current First class cabin, which was launched in January 2011. (All images – British Airways)

Refits have begun on the cabins of BA’s Boeing 777-200 fleet – offering a new experience in sound and seating.  Tom Allett reports.

The re-fitted B777-200s now have BA’s current First class cabin, which was launched in January 2011. (All images – British Airways)

The first of British Airways’ (BA) 18 Boeing 777-200s to be given all new interiors – featuring the very latest cabins and in-flight entertainment system – re-entered service on the London/Heathrow to New York/Newark route in January.
The airline took delivery of its first B777-200 in 1995, so the cabins in this segment of its 229-strong fleet of aircraft were lagging behind much of the competition.  The refit programme began in October 2011.
The B777-200’s upgrade involved fitting the airline’s recently launched First cabin plus its new World Traveller and World Traveller Plus cabins, along with the latest Thales in-flight entertainment system.  The Club World section also features bigger widescreen video monitors.
The multi-million pound refurbishment gives the 18 Boeing 777-200s the same contemporary interiors as BA’s six brand new Boeing 777-300ERs.
The Club World cabin has had new widescreen video monitors fitted.

Frank van der Post, BA’s Managing Director, Brands and Customer Experience, said: “This exciting and ambitious refit now brings our 777s right up to date, with new interiors and the very latest in-flight entertainment system.
“We have had fantastic customer reaction to our new fleet of Boeing 777-300ERs, which originally showcased our new cabins, and we know those who travel on these 18 aircraft will be equally impressed with our investment.
“Customers will be able to enjoy the very best travel experience British Airways has to offer, with more comfortable seats and brighter, more contemporary cabins.”
Over the next five years British Airways will be investing more than £5billion (US$7.8bn) in new aircraft and what is described as, “smarter cabins, elegant lounges”, and new technologies to make life more comfortable in the air and on the ground.
The company says that its Cardiff-based engineers, at the airline’s Welsh maintenance base, took approximately a month, or 5,700 hours, to carefully remove a 777’s old seats and interiors and replace them with the airline’s latest cabins.
Each aircraft will also have a staggering 13km of wiring removed and new fibre-optic cables installed to power the new in-flight entertainment system.
Widescreens will be fitted in Club World and customers flying on the refitted Boeing 777-200s will also be able to experience the airline’s sophisticated new First cabin.
New seats and cabins in World Traveller Plus and World Traveller feature the latest cushioning technology and in-seat power sockets.
For passengers who have flown on one of BA’s B777-200s with the old-style GMIS in-flight entertainment system (IFES) recently, perhaps the most welcome change is the introduction of the Thales IFES.  It offers over 700 hours of movies, TV and music options on demand; that’s more than 230 TV programmes, 70 films and 400 CDs – providing customers with 50% more choice on movies and doubling the range of TV and music options, as well as plug and play technology.
Each cabin also gets bigger, high-resolution widescreens.  Passengers in World Traveller will be able to watch TV and films on 35% larger video touchscreens (now 8.9in); in World Traveller Plus they are 60% larger (now 10.6in); Club World widescreens increase by 16.3% (now 12.1in) while the new First screens increase by 27% (now 15.4in).
The airline’s Consumer PR Manager, Michael Johnson, told Airports International: “The design vision for the new cabin was to create an atmosphere of calm and wellbeing by increasing the perception of light and space.  Cool, contrasting neutrals create a clean, contemporary understated look and feel, using quality materials and finishes for a brighter and more premium-looking cabin.
“The seat selected is an existing design that is already proven in service with a number of other premium long-haul airlines.  However, our customer experience and design management teams worked closely together with Recaro to enhance the seat by adding additional features such as a hammock-style headrest, softer seat foams and laminated seat backs to improve the overall comfort of the seat.
“The fabric design and seat colours are also bespoke to BA and have been designed in conjunction with our creative agency forpeople.”
British Airways designers say they have used “the same cool, contrasting colours” as on the B777-300ER to create “more contemporary and brighter cabins” for the B777-200.

Forpeople is a London-based creative design consultancy that has worked with BA since 2005.  Its team comprises industry product designers and trend forecasters with experience covering transportation, furniture and graphic design as well as luxury product and high-end fashion.
To date its clients include Boeing, Dunhill, Nokia, Nike and Panasonic and, more recently, it worked with BA to create the airline’s new First cabin.
Mr Johnson said that Recaro seats were chosen for World Traveller and World Traveller Plus because, of the five major aircraft seat suppliers, Germany’s Recaro, perhaps primarily known for its premium sports car seats that can be seen inside Porsche, BMW and Audi vehicles, won the seat contract because it scored highly during customer comfort trials.
A BA press statement said that this, “combined with improved reliability and lower maintenance cost over competing seats”, led to the contract win, adding:  “Recaro aircraft seating has a proven track record of high build quality standards together with strong environmental credentials.”
They are also well established in the aircraft seating industry with over 400 million passengers flying in Recaro seats in 2009.
Other airline customers include Iberia, Qantas, JAL, Lufthansa, SWISS, Air France and Jet Airways.
BA’s B777-200 refit programme will run through until the spring of 2013.