Sitting at the back of cattle-class is never pleasant. However, new information has just emerged about British Airways’ A320neo aircraft which might make you even more uncomfortable.
As The Sun reported on Tuesday, “A new report has found, due to the addition of more seats on the Airbus A320neo, the aircraft could be too heavy at the back with passengers.”
This problem affects both British Airways and German airline Lufthansa (who have both purchased the refitted A320neos in recent years), leaving the two carriers no choice but to make the back two rows of these jets unavailable for purchase.
As travel website Head for Points revealed on Monday, British Airways and Lufthansa had managed to keep this information quiet for about two months, after concerns were raised in a July European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) report.
The report detailed how “the toilet was removed from the back of [these jets] to fit in an additional row of seats, and replaced with micro-toilets built into the back wall of the galley,” as well as how “the seats behind the emergency exit door were replaced with ‘no recline’ ultra-thin Recaro seats to allow a second additional extra row of seats to be fitted in.”
Unfortunately for the space and money maximising ambitions of the aircraft designers, not only have duty free sales dropped “because there [is now] no space in galley for the trolley” but computer testing has revealed this centre-of-gravity shift could be “a problem” in the case of an aborted landing “when the nose of the aircraft needs to be raised quickly,” (Head for Points).
“To summarise a major engineering problem in one line, this has caused a problem. There is now too much weight at the very back of the aircraft.”
While the EASA document stated this flaw was “never encountered during operations,” it was still deemed unsafe, resulting in the forced reduction of seat sales, Head for Points reports.
While there were almost 50 airlines flying the A320neo when this issue was identified, the presence of Club Europe causes an additional problem for BA compared to ‘one class’ airlines flying the same aircraft because in Club Europe “the empty middle seat makes it difficult to move weight to the front of the aircraft,” (Head for Points).
“In order to address this, it appears that BA is often having to block the last one or two rows of the aircraft. This is dependent on the number of rows of Club Europe and other factors such as cargo and baggage loading. As well as not allowing passengers to select seats in those rows, cabin crew will also announce that passengers may not move to them after take-off.”
Head for Points also reports that Lufthansa has this problem as well on its “densified” A320neo aircraft, although in their case it only applies to one row (as their business section is smaller than BA’s).
In response to this now public issue, a British Airways spokesperson told The Sun, “Like all airlines around the world, we work closely with regulators to ensure the safety of our fleet and fully comply with all recommendations.”
Lufthansa likewise confirmed in a statement: “Lufthansa will block the last row of seats on all of its 20 A320neo aircraft. As of 12 September, row 32 will therefore no longer be assigned to passengers – not even to staff travelling with ID tickets.”
So even though sitting at the back of the plane may get you better service (the theory being flight attendants are more likely to slip you extra food on the sly, as the rest of the cabin can’t see), if you’re travelling around Europe on an A320neo you’ll have to give this strategy a miss – for now.