The State of Qatar is home to one of the world’s most luxurious super-connector airlines. Based at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar Airways is known for flying the world’s newest commercial airline jets, including the Airbus A350-1000 XWB, state-of-the-art cabin products, and more recently, being the first airline in the world to launch double-bed suites…in Business Class.
At the airlines’ home in Doha, in an exclusive sit-down with Aviation Analyst, His Excellency CEO of Qatar Airways, Mr Akbar Al Baker exclusively revealed the carrier is set to introduce yet more new cabin products, on a variety of aircraft across the fleet. Al Baker also highlighted potential destinations for incoming aircraft such as the Airbus A321LR, and Boeing 777X — both due to be delivered to the airline over the next few years.
Al Baker confirmed that next month, Qatar Airways will unveil its brand new Economy Class seat at the ITB Berlin travel trade event — the same event QSuite was unveiled at in 2017. “We are on track to unveil the new seat” Al Baker told me while remaining tight-lipped on details concerning what passengers could expect. “I don’t want to ruin the surprise, and so I think you should wait and see it, and then let me know what you think. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts” he added. Al Baker previously told me the seat would be ‘revolutionary’ — an adjective not often associated with Economy Class, whereby many airlines aim to install as many seats as possible, often at the expense of passenger comfort.
However, there are a variety of seat models on the market that would significantly change the Economy Class experience for passengers. For example, Qatar Airways could opt for Thompson Aero’s Cozy Suite, a staggered Economy seat design that integrates side-on headrests.
Not only does it improve access to the aisle for every passenger, but the new seat design means passengers are never completely next to each other when seated, adding an element of privacy not often felt in Economy.
For airlines, this seat model is also attractive, as the staggered design means carriers are not obligated to reduce seating capacity to increase passenger comfort.
While this seat model is by no means new (it’s been around for almost ten years), airlines such as Qatar Airways are looking for innovative new ways to improve the passenger experience in Economy Class — and with a growing trend of ultra-long-haul flights, a staggered, and private new design could significantly boost the comfort level for Economy Class passengers.
Furthermore, Qatar Airways will begin taking deliveries of the A321neo later this year, and Al Baker revealed to Aviation Analyst that every new NEO jet will feature a brand new, never seen before [in Qatar Airways fleet] Business Class seat, and Economy Class seat.
Al Baker told me: “These new A321neos will have an all-new Business Class seat, and a brand new Economy Class seat too. For Business Class, it’s a seat model that’s not in Qatar Airways fleet. It’ll debut on the first A321neos, and all 50 aircraft (made up of A321neo and A321LR) will have the brand new seats.”
The airline currently flies A321 aircraft (as well as A320s, A319s) with a variety of Business Class cabins. Some have an old, padded arm-chair business class seat, while others have lie-flat seats arranged in a 2-2 configuration.
When I asked Al Baker for hints on what the new A321neo/A321LR Business Class cabin product could look like, Al Baker hinted: “There will be lots of privacy.” While a narrow body fuselage can present some design constraints with regards to the flexibility of the overall cabin design, there are a variety of examples of airlines who have installed great Business Class products on jets like the A321.
JetBlue, in the US, has ‘Mint’ Suites, with closing doors, and lie-flat seats on its A321 cabins.
Al Baker could not confirm the exact seating configuration on the A321neo & A321LR jets, but it’s very likely the airline will opt for a 1-1 seat layout in Business Class, offering passengers direct aisle access in suite-like seats.
The A321neo and A321LR will be deployed on several routes across the network. Not only will these jets replace older A320 family aircraft in the Qatar Airways fleet, but they’ll also take on some routes currently served by the A330. Al Baker told me: “We will go to Phuket in low season, also to Krabi, and new destinations to Africa which are thin, intercontinental routes. We could also go to new destinations in Europe where the destination does not really have the volume for a widebody aircraft”
Airbus’ A321LR is the largest and heaviest member of the A320neo family and is widely considered the ‘middle-of-market’ aircraft, a jet able to serve longer-range routes, efficiently. The aircraft has already entered service with launch-customer Arkia Airlines and will be delivered to airlines including TAP Air Portugal, and Aer Lingus. The aircraft has a range of over 4,000 nautical miles based on seating capacity of 206 seats.
Al Baker added: “The A321LR will give us the flexibility to change aircraft on routes seasonally, and to keep intercontinental routes with tailor-made capacity”
Once again, Qatar Airways is set to introduce new products that will this time include changing the Economy Class experience for passengers across its route network. The added good news is that the Qatari airline will invest in brand new cabins for the A321neo and A321LR cabins too — where we can expect a ‘Q-suite like’ mini suite, given Al Baker’s hints about privacy. Qatar’s QSuite is my most flown Business Class cabin, and I’m still in awe of the design decisions behind a truly unique product.
Stay tuned for more exclusives from a lengthy conversation with CEO of Qatar Airways.