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British Airways Upgrades First Class Service

February 8, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ British Airways PLC today introduced changes in its first class service that it said were designed to win a bigger share of the $1 billion market for first class passengers on long-haul flights.

The airline, recently privatized by the British government, said it is investing $40 million to upgrade its first class service, from which it earns nearly $400 million a year. The changes, detailed at a news conference in New York, include individual passenger video terminals at each seat.

″This investment is a bold and calculated bid for commercial supremacy in an intensely competitive market,″ Sir Colin Marshall, the airline’s chief executive, said.

″There are no indications of major growth in the first class market, so our objective is to take business from other airlines by offering the highest standard of passenger service in the world.″

In addition to the videos, other changes include redesigned cabin interiors in first class and improvements in sleeperseats, such as new swivel tables; improved menus that give passengers freedom to eat when they wish; and a new wine cellar.

The new service is scheduled to be introduced on long-haul flights starting March 1.

The videos, which British Airways called the world’s first individually- contr olled passenger units, are located in the armrest of the seats. The airline said it is testing two video systems in first class service on four of its Boeing 747s.

One system is made by Fieldtech, a British company, while the other comes from Avicom, a subsidiary of U.S. aircraft maker Lockheed Corp. Passengers will be able to choose a film from a library of nearly 50 video cassettes.

British Airways said the changes in first class service reflect two years of research, which has shown that first class passengers fall into two categories: the ″Patrician″ and the ″Achiever.″

The airline said its new service is aimed mainly at top business people from around the world, predominantly male, usually in their late 40s and holding the position of chairman or chief executive.

There are 18 first class seats in British Airways’ cabins.

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