british airways business class flat sleep bed seat
british airways business class flat sleep bed seat

If you have not travelled on British Airways’ (BA) business class, this may be a little difficult to understand, as the pictures do not do the issues justice. But for those of you that have, it may be even more difficult to understand.

Difficult to understand how this design was allowed to make it to production…

The first issue is the alternating directions that people sit in. As you can see in the photo, the window passenger and the aisle passenger face each other. Now unless you are travelling with somebody you know, and you sit together, then there is no problem. But what if you do not know the other person? It can be quite uncomfortable. I flew Tokyo to London on BA, that’s a 12.5hr flight. Imagine I did not know the other person? That would be 12.5hrs of controlling my gaze, trying not to make eye contact with a total stranger, having to look the other way whenever possible, staring hard at my screen, making sure I ate without making a mess or leaving food on my face, falling a sleep without letting my mouth fall open, without drooling, etc etc etc. That’s a lot to have to think about when I’m supposed to be enjoying this experience.

How much did I pay for this seat again?

The second issue, which as bad as I think the first issue is, this one takes the cake, is how the widow passenger gets in and out of their space. Check out this next photo, so you can understand how it works.

citizenrod bad design british airways business class flat sleep bed seat

If passengers wish to put their feet up, or want to sleep, they need to drop down the footstool (A-red). The footstool forms part of the bed, therefore it needs to be down so the passenger can have a fully flat bed experience. Great.

But, as I have noted in the photo, window passenger B’s only means of access to his seat is via that space which the footstool now blocks. That’s right, putting the footstool down blocks the path of entry/exit for the window passenger.


This design just blows my mind. What the hell were they thinking? I just don’t understand how a multi-million dollar businesses, with a multi-million dollar design department, can let this slide.

So, what are the issues? (just in case you can’t see them)

On my flight, there was an elderly lady in the window seat. She was stunned when she tried to get out and found that my legs were in her way. I apologised and asked her to give me a second while I got out of the way. But she said not to worry, and she proceeded to climb over my legs. Poor lady, where’s the dignity? She was quite agile for her age, but after she returned to her seat, she never got up again. She was “stuck”. She was embarrassed. She was uncomfortable. She did not want to put me out….She paid how much for this seat again??

Not only was she uncomfortable, but so was I. I knew I was putting her in a predicament. But the reason I bought a business class ticket was so I could sleep…and now I’m having conscience issues. Should I put my feet down? Should I not use the bed option? Poor lady, I hope she doesn’t pee herself… all of this because British Airways let it slide.

Designers, and especially companies, need to understand,

there is more to bad design than simply inconvenience.

Bad design can stir up psychological and emotional issues. These issues are more uncomfortable than the physical ones and must not be forgotten when designing. User experience must be considered in all design, from apps to flights.

Come on BA, lift your game.

Oh, I didn’t even mention my fire or emergency concerns regarding this design…maybe another time.

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