Qatar Airways All Business Class A319 Doha To London Heathrow

Qatar Airways made an interesting announcement today regarding their service to London Heathrow. As of May 15, 2014, Qatar Airways will be launching daily A319 service between Doha and London Heathrow.

The Qatar Airways all business class A319 configuration

The A319 will be in an all business class configuration, featuring a total of 40 seats. All the seats will be Qatar Airways “Diamond” seats, which are standard forward facing fully flat business class seats in a 2-2 configuration (meaning there will be 10 rows).

Qatar-Airways-Business-Class-3

Qatar-Airways-Business-Class-1

Qatar-Airways-Business-Class-2

These are very similar to the business class seats that American and United offer on their transcontinental flights between New York and Los Angeles, and also similar to the seats I had in Air China business class between Paris and Beijing.

The Qatar Airways all business class A319 schedule

The schedule for the new service will be as follows:

QR15 Doha to London departing 2:50PM arriving 8:25PM
QR16 London to Doha departing 9:55PM arriving 6:40AM (+1 day)

Obviously it wouldn’t be feasible for it to be a redeye in both directions (since it means the plane would sit on the ground at London Heathrow for 12+ hours), so I guess it makes sense that they chose to have the redeye between London and Doha, rather than in the other direction.

Qatar Airways already has five daily frequencies between Doha and London Heathrow, so this will be the sixth. Looking at the schedule for May, the other five frequencies are operated by the following aircraft:

  • 2x Airbus A330-200 (featuring first, business, and economy)
  • 1x Airbus A340-600 (featuring first, business, and economy)
  • 1x Boeing 787 (featuring business and economy)
  • 1x Boeing 777-300ER (featuring business and economy)

What makes the new service puzzling

Okay, so I really don’t get this. There are lots of airlines that have offered “premium” flights over the years. For example, British Airways offers a “Club World London City” service, which is operated by an all business class A318, and flies between London and New York. What makes it unique is that it flies out of London City Airport rather than London Heathrow, and that on westbound flights it has a fuel stop in Shannon that allows for US customs pre-clearance, so that the flight lands in New York as a domestic one (at least the earlier flight). So I can see the selling point of that service.

However, in this case the flight is operating to and from the same airports as the other five frequencies, and actually has an inferior business class product to what’s otherwise offered on the route. The 787 operating between Doha and London Heathrow features Qatar Airways’ Super Diamond business class seat, which is in a reverse herringbone configuration with direct aisle access for every seat.

Qatar-Airways-Super-Diamond-Business-Class

Via the press release:

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said: “Today’s announcement reaffirms Qatar Airways’ determination to continue its expansion drive by improving an already superior in-flight product.

Yeah, so I don’t really get how this will be “improving an already superior in-flight product,” unless they plan on offering some other special services on the new flight.

Am I missing something?

Award space in business class on the new A319 service

Award space on the new service is wide open. I see four business class award seats available on a vast majority of dates, including on the inaugural flight in both directions.

Qatar-Airways-Space-105 Qatar-Airways-Space-106

So that’s good news, at least. Then again, award space has always been pretty wide open in business class on this route.

What do you guys think? Am I missing the selling point here, or what makes the service so great?

Comments

  1. The boarding procedure may be more pleasant compared to boarding a widebody given the lack of jetways at DOH…

  2. I think the only selling point here is quiet. Less seats = less people = less noise and drama.

    I flew the BA LCY route once, and it’s very relaxing, especially when I flew with a half empty cabin.

  3. Hmm… Not sure how this makes sense either. Does anyone know where this A319 is coming from? If it’s not a new plane, perhaps they are kind of stuck with it and need to put it to some use.

  4. The concept of the all business class flight is that business customers will pay a premium (in cash) for a flight with a convienient schedule where a good seat, good service and a bit of an exclusive atmosphere are gauranteed. I think this is what drives the British Airways flight (selling “exclusivity”) and what drove the decision to offer the Singapore EWR-SIN flight in all business class. The issue is that airlines find they can’t consistently generate enough traffic or high enough ticket prices on the routes. EWR-SIN had this issue. I liked that flight but they couldn’t fill it with enough high paying customers to justify the cost. Maybe this service will work, but airlines tend to find they need to be able to fill coach cabins to make money on these longer flights.

  5. As I mentioned somewhere else too, Qatar airways is a state sponsored national flag carrier and profits do not matter. They can have this kind of service as long as they want. I seriously doubt if this service was added with profitability in mind

  6. The aircraft selection is due to terminal capacity restrictions for that slot time. They could either operate the slot with a narrowbody low-capacity aircraft or lose the slot. So they didn’t really have a choice in the matter. Product had nothing to do with it.

  7. I´ve read in Flyertalk that their three A380 are going to be delivered in june. I´d guess that two will fly to LHR and the other one to CDG. It´s kind of strange to add this flight given the capacity boost that the A380 will represent.

  8. Besides the narrow-body slot restriction, prestige may have something to do with it. None of the other Gulf carriers offer a similar experience, and premium demand to London is quite healthy from this area. This seat will be an easy pick over the A340/A330 offering (still deployed on the route). Perhaps Lucky will review it for us!

  9. @Arsalan

    Is this business class on the A319 really more “prestigious” than first class on a Emirates A380?

    I can’t imagine living in UAE and flying via DOH just to get this “prestigious” experience. I can maybe see *not* flying DOH-DXB-LHR, but I wouldn’t have done that anyway…

  10. i also don’t get Qatar Airways !! For 7 hours flying, I’d prefer a wide body aircraft with direct isle access where i can walk around, stand by a bar and stretch my legs, then a cramped small single isle aircraft. Also not sure it wld have made a difference if this flight was to and from LCY. It must be the prestige !!

  11. Is this product not superior to the A330? And not too dissimilar to the 777? So only the 787 is ahead of it at the moment?!

  12. @ Phillip — True. Qatar is in the process of retrofitting their A330s with reverse herringbone seats, but you’re correct that this product isn’t actually inferior to the rest of their fleet.

  13. I think they are preparing themselves for 2 major changes in air traffic:

    -World Cup work is going to be awarded this year; so more companies and high level employees coming;

    -Opening of the new airport in 2014; they expect more passengers fron Asia and Africa once they manage to get more routes. Thry want to position Doha as the gate for Europe.

    -The new airport itself will have 18 lounges of which 6 will be ‘Ultra-VIP’. I see this as probably part of the additional perks for the flight.

  14. Does it not also add backfill in business class on the evening A330 flights. The A330s with first only have around 20 business class seats, compared to over 40 in the 777 and 346s.

    Plus, it holds a slot at Heathrow until T2 opens and frees up some widebody parking spaces at T4.

  15. @Justin –

    You’re absolutely right, no one would prefer QR business on a tight A319 than Emirates first on an A380. But there’s the basic price difference for the classes, and you will often see Doha-based people fly via DXB on EK, or Dubai-based people fly via DOH on QR because it’s much cheaper for us to do so. There are many flights a day with both carriers and only about 45 minutes so not really a big inconvenience.

    The prestige is less to do with the actual product and more to do with QR’s insecurities where EK are concerned. They want to differentiate themselves as much as possible, and flying an all-biz shuttle to London everyday checks that box in their minds.

  16. What surprises me is that they’re cramming 10 rows in a 78 ft A319 cabin against 8 rows in BA’s 70ft transatlantic A318 – you’d have thought they’d have gone for a near-first-class configuration just to be ‘better’.

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