The i360 Brighton First Years

The i360 Brighton First Years

As the city celebrates another birthday of this now iconic landmark that stands proud on Brighton’s historic promenade, Sussex Visitor takes a look at the magic moments of the first few years and what the future holds.

In it’s first few years,  the team behind the i360 have welcomed more than 500,000 visitors, all keen to ride 450ft high above the city in the glass viewing pod, sharing magical moments together pointing out city landmarks, artwork on the rooftops, windfarms out at sea and the rolling coastline stretching away to the horizon.  The i360 has offered inspiration and delight to hundreds of thousands of people and it’s provided some important benefits to this wonderful city.  Most of the attraction’s funding came from central Government’s Public Works Loan Board – but did you know that Brighton & Hove City Council earns around £1m a year from brokering that loan, plus additional income from business rates and ticket sales?  The company have now paid £2.6m to Brighton & Hove City Council in loan repayments; and this is in addition to £1m set-up fees paid during the construction period.

The council is using the £1.8m profits from these payments to regenerate the seafront, with £1.1m earmarked to help restore Madeira Terraces and £700,000 to fund the elegant landscaping work that is now finished on either side of British Airways i360.

A year after British Airways i360 opened, the effects of this regeneration can be seen all around us. Visitors to the city are now seen to be enjoying the new 2,500 sq m public spaces and the new monument that’s been created using the columns from the old West Pier, which looks particularly striking when viewed from the pod at night. New businesses are moving into the restored West Pier Arches and the increased footfall is creating a real buzz on this part of the seafront.

In this bumper year, there have been many highlights, but the i360 team have especially delighted in being rated as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ in almost 80% of TripAdvisor reviews.  BA have created 150 new jobs, all paying at least the Brighton & Hove Living Wage, plus many more in the wider city as a result of business partnerships, local supply chains and additional visitors to this part of the seafront.

39,000 free tickets have been given to the city’s children – one for every child in a state school in Brighton & Hove 192 free school trips have been facilitated.

British Airways i360 was conceived and designed by Marks Barfield Architects, creators of the London Eye and the landmark has already won 9 awards for design and innovation, including a RIBA National Award, received 1 royal visitor, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, who officially opened the attraction in October 2016 and supported 7 charities, including Trust for Developing Communities, their local charity partner.

For the first five years, operating profits after loan repayments will be ploughed back into the business, as BA continue to improve the customer experience and work with other attractions to draw more visitors to our beautiful city.

To raise a glass to mark the first birthday, a private party was held in the British Airways i360 beachfront event spaces and was attended by almost 150 people including city councillors, senior members of the council administration, funders, partners and members of the project’s design and construction team.

Summing up the achievements of the year, Mayor Marsh said: “Tourism is really important to the economy of Brighton and Hove and British Airways i360 is bringing visitors from all over the world. It’s unique – just like our city!”

She also praised the attraction’s free school ticket programme, speaking “as governor of two schools”, saying: “In the first year of operations you have given 39,000 free tickets to the city’s children, one for every child in a state school in Brighton & Hove, and that makes me very proud indeed.”

Brighton & Hove City Council Chief Executive Geoff Raw also spoke at the event, saying: “What’s fantastic about British Airways i360 is that it is a beacon for Brighton and a real positive statement of confidence that we are a place which continues to try and get international profile and bring investment into the city.”

Speeches were also delivered by David Marks, chairman of British Airways i360, and Steve Bax, executive director. Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus performed at the event, and guests enjoyed a special British Airways i360 birthday cake which was a model of the attraction made by Brighton Cakes, complete with tower, pod and two tollbooths.

So what does the future hold for British Airway’s i360?  It is certainly going to be a busy and exciting year ahead from the looks of things.  Visitors will of course continue to be whisked off their feet by taking a now infamous ‘Flight.’  If you haven’t experienced this already, you will not be disappointed! The glass viewing pod is fully enclosed and spacious – it’s 10 times the size of a London Eye capsule. There is room for up to 175 visitors to stand at the edge of the pod and look out, or to move around and see the view from different angles. The Sky Bar on board the pod serves Nyetimber sparkling wine and other drinks from Sussex, including Rosé MV, Harvey’s Brewery Gold Bier, Brighton Gin and Folkington’s tonic, Wobblegate apple juice, and South Downs still and sparkling water.  You can raise a glass of something special while taking in the views.  In fact, one year down the line, 55,000 people have already done just that!  The friendly in-flight crew will welcome you on board, point out landmarks and answer any questions. Plus as the weather takes a turn, the pod is heated ensuring year-round comfort and it is fully accessible for wheelchair users.

A viewing map is available and a multi-lingual app can be download before you board. The app has ‘pre-flight’ information about how British Airways i360 was built, as well as an in-app viewing map and a children’s section with fun facts and a treasure hunt. At the end of your flight, the pod descends into the beach building.

This year will see a whole host of special events taking place within the hallowed pod, starting with ‘Live @ The Sky Bar, on the 5pm, 5.30pm, 6pm and 6.30pm flights every Friday evening.  Start your Friday night on a high, gather your friends and bring them down to Brighton seafront to enjoy breathtaking city views, fabulous drinks from the on-board Sky Bar and chilled jazz and soul music – all 450 ft above the city!  While the singers hit the high notes, enjoy a drink from our on-board Sky Bar.  Normal flight prices apply, including the half-price tickets for Resident Members.

Perhaps the most unique dining experience in the city, ‘Sky Dining’ has been launched to rave reviews and will continue throughout the forthcoming year, with the next date being the 25th October.  Enjoy a magical three-course meal on the British Airways i360 pod, with the sparkling lights of Brighton & Hove spread out like a carpet beneath you.  Start your evening with a drink from the bar in the exhibition space at ground level before boarding the observation pod, which will be laid for fine dining and decked with romantic white lights.

As the evening unfolds, relax at your table over a glass of wine as the pod glides slowly from ground level to 450ft and back again, watching as the sky darkens, the sun sinks into the sea and the stars appear overhead.

Your delicious starter will be served during the first 25-minute flight, followed by the main course during the second flight, and desserts and coffee during the final flight. There will be a break between each flight to use the facilities at ground level.  Tickets are £85 per person, including a three-course meal, half a bottle of wine at the table and coffee. Book an intimate table for two, right up to a jovial party of ten (over 18s only).

With Halloween lurking sinisterly around the corner, the i360 is inviting brave adventurers for their Halloween Fright Flights.  Join actors and storytellers from spook-specialists ‘Ghost Walk of the Lanes’ for a ghoulish flight above Brighton & Hove in the British Airways i360 pod. Your blood will run cold as you hear chilling tales of the hideous apparitions that haunt the backstreets, buildings and beaches below.  Soar high in a ghoulish flight above the city and hear chilling stories about the hideous apparitions that haunt the streets and beaches below.

The pod-encased merriment continues into the festive period with Glitterball Christmas Parties running from 30th November to 21st December, which involve a three-course meal, half bottle of wine per person and a festive pod flight on arrival.  Come 31st December 18’ you can see in the new year on a high with a glorious evening, including a six-course dinner, wine and entertainment beside Brighton beach.

When it comes to feeding their visitors, the team behind the i360 have it all on a plate ready for you to enjoy.  Situated right next to the i360, West Beach Bar & Kitchen opened this year and offers a fun and unique dining experience that celebrates the spirit of this vibrant city by the sea.

Inspired by Brighton & Hove, with its distinctive, incomparable character, the chefs at West Beach Bar & Kitchen are passionate about showcasing local ingredients to create delicious dishes that can be enjoyed together while savouring the stunning views of the sea and the hauntingly beautiful West Pier.

The eclectic mix of interesting people and alternative lifestyles provides an endless source of inspiration, encouraging the chefs to be playful with their creations and not be constrained by any single style, just like the city’s inhabitants!  Expect to find comfort in traditional seaside favourites such as Crumbed Catch of the Day and Chips, alongside joyful sharing dishes such as Seafood Buckets with mussels and langoustines, followed by a spectacular feast for the eyes with the Melting Jaffa Pudding.  The bar serves delicious cocktails and a range of locally sourced drinks including Nyetimber award winning sparkling wine, Harvey’s ale, Brighton Gin and Wobblegate juices.

With an interior designed by award winning Marks Barfield Architects and a backdrop of local art from, including a sensational large-scale piece by local neon artist Andy Doig, West Beach Bar & Kitchen will leave you with a unique flavour of this great city.

For a more casual affair, enjoy some of Brighton’s most delicious artisan coffee and tea, deli-style sandwiches and mouth-watering cakes at the award-winning West Beach Café & Bar. Wrap your hands around a hot drink in the cosy interior or take a table on the private terrace to enjoy sweeping views of the sea, the original West Pier to the south and Regency Square to the north.

The tea room is housed in a reconstructed 1866 West Pier toll booth; one of a pair which was returned to the seafront as part of British Airways i360. The chefs pride themselves on using the best ingredients from Sussex and everything is made from scratch on site.

With so many successes under their belts, the celebrated i360 team have made no secret of the key to their successes over the past year; they attribute it solely down to the people of Brighton and Hove and the unfaltering support they have shown.  So join Absolute in a toast to the British Airways i360 dream team and you, the community that has kept it soaring in it’s first year.  Cheers!