Qatar Airways To Introduce Super Business Class — First Class Obsolete

I’ve gotta say, there aren’t many things in life that bring me as much joy as the drama between the big three Gulf carriers (Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar). It combines my two greatest passions in life — aviation and bad reality TV. And the drama between the Gulf carriers is like a hybrid between The Real Housewives of Atlanta and My Super Sweet 16. It’s what you get when you have three of the strongest personalities in the airline industry with virtually unlimited funds.

The perfect example is what Emirates recently did in Dallas. They fly a 777 right now between Dallas and Dubai, and both Etihad and Qatar are launching service to Dallas this year. So capacity between Dallas and the Middle East is literally tripling over the course of a few months. So what’s Emirates’ response? To put an A380 on the route and increase capacity even further, just to send Etihad and Qatar a message!

Earlier in the week Etihad Airways announced their new A380s, including their new Residence Class, which really makes first class second class. It’s innovative and over the top, and regardless of whether it’s ever profitable, it does allow Etihad to thumb their nose at Emirates and Qatar and say “we have the best product, so take that.”

Or in Real Housewives of Atlanta speak:

hi-haters

Of course Emirates wasn’t just going to let Etihad steal the spotlight, so the next day Emirates’ CEO totally played it off as if they were also planning private bedrooms on their planes. Emirates wouldn’t reveal the product or the cost of a ticket, since at this point it’s entirely a figment of their imagination, no matter how they try to spin it.

Or in Real Housewives of Atlanta speak:

kenya-moore

But quite possibly the most “vibrant” guy in the Middle Eastern aviation industry is His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways. This is the same guy that denied Qatar Airways was even in talks with oneworld regarding possibly joining until the day it happened.

So with Etihad having shown their new bedroom product and Emirates claiming to have a bedroom product on the way, Al Baker had two options:

  • Announce a six bedroom villa with infinity pool and falcon quarters on their A380s
  • Call Emirates and Etihad out, claim first class is dead, and instead emphasize their business class

And while Al Baker is a bit eccentric, he’s also a smart guy, so naturally he went with the latter. Now, admittedly Qatar Airways isn’t as focused on a first class product as Emirates or Etihad. As it stands they only offer a longhaul first class product to London and Paris, so first class isn’t a focus for them.

So a couple of days later Al Baker claims that first class is basically obsolete, and that they’re working on developing a “super business class”… within 24 months.

Via a Business Week article:

Qatar Airways Ltd., which markets itself as a luxury carrier, will remove most first-class seats from its fleet and reserve them for the Airbus A380 slated for delivery within weeks as ultra-premium travel demand shrinks.

Qatar Airways is working on a new berth it calls “super business class” that it will introduce within 24 months, Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker told journalists in Dubai today. The new model will replace the current herring-bone layout and will provide aisle access, he said

“I don’t think there will be a return to first-class travel,” Al Baker said. “The chunk of our premium occupation is business travel. There is very little leisure travel in the front cabin, except when there’s point-to-point local traffic that we generate within our community.”

Or in Real Housewives of Beverly Hills speak:

brandi-real-housewives

Bottom line

To sum up the industry according to the “big three” Gulf carriers…

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em… and by join ’em I mean pretend you were planning exactly the same thing when you were totally caught by surprise. And if that’s not practical, just tell ’em their idea sucks and that you’re working on another new great idea, which clearly hasn’t been started on yet either.

I love this industry!

Comments

  1. You are a genius, Lucky….funny too! I am envious that you get to do all that front end travel. Could you please offer seminars!?

  2. And in related news, Lucky is gets a world scoop on Qatar’s new environmentally friendly power source.

    (See the paragraph before the Business Week quote)
    😉

  3. I thought Etihad was revolutionizing commercial air travel? Meanwhile Qatar removes F class.

  4. They’re all basically thinking: “I don’t keep up with the Joneses, I am the Joneses.” – Ms. Leakes If Your Nasty #Bloop!

  5. Gulf Arab carriers only receive criticism because they are the best i flew American Airline business last week london chicago,well its worse than any gulf carriers cattle class,as for their lounge 1 drink voucher i just asked them to keep it.

  6. The GCC Big 3 airlines serving DFW Is great for those with family and/or business connections in parts of Africa and/or Asia (including SW/Central/South Asia). The GCC Big 3 are going to bite into the revenue of the US/Canadian/European TATL cartel kingpins whose transit traffic to Asia and Africa is going to get distributed and free up some seats on the US-Europe flights.

  7. Dallas seems to be the center of hubris in many things. Back in 1979, shortly after deregulation, another airline accused of hubris, Braniff International, ran a Concorde, yes Concorde! from Dallas to London via Washington. It lasted about a year and a half.

  8. While the GCC ruling families have a love affair for the Bush family and Bush’s Texas, the reason Texas is of such great interest to the GCC Big 3 airlines has everything to do with demographic chance: Texas is a growing state, has a lot more people with family or business ties in Africa and SW/S Asia now than in the 1970s and there is a lot more cargo flowing (in both directions) than ever before.

    Where in Africa and Asia did Braniff airline fly? Not a lot of places there in 1979. Now look at the GCC Big 3’s network of cities in Africa and Asia today, and there is a lot more Asian and African coverage.

  9. In other news, Ben have you heard SQ will be:
    1. Introducing Y+ on some aircraft, and
    2. Refurbishing their entire B77W fleet with the new F and J products?

  10. I’m all for a super business class!!! I flew QR 787 back in February and found its business class one of the best in the industry (I liked it more than Oman Air’s mainly due to the service!)
    What I’ve noticed is it’s most likely a lot easier to redeem miles for a flight in business class than it is for a super first class like Etihad’s The Residence. So if the Qatar CEO wants to make a super business class, let him! I love the competition amongst the GCC airlines!

  11. so will they have a regular and a “super” business class? or the “super” business class will be the new standard business class?

  12. Its official, you need to spend some time in Atlanta (Including at least one night at the Hyatt Regency, the first atrium hotel ever built) and find the Housewives (I know the gay bar where a few have been known to show up)

  13. So disappointed to learn you have the knowledge to quote anything from any “Real Housewives …” 🙁
    🙂

  14. This is pretty hilarious! Qatar doesn’t seem to be in as good of the financial shape as the other two airlines though, so perhaps that’s the real reason they can’t splurge on first class. And have they actually finished the airport in Doha?

  15. @Ivan Y
    Qatar is the first world producer of GAZ,the income per head is the first so saying it doesnt have the financial shape as the 2 others is not the fact.

  16. @Mohammed – Gulf Arab carriers only receive criticism because they are the best

    No, they receive criticism because they think they are the best, but they aren’t…Singapore, ANA, Asiana, Cathay, and Swiss are all just as good (if not better).

    Lucky, why do I think this was just a series of Real Housewives memes disguised as an article? 😉

  17. There is a viable market for these Residences; although who knows how big it is.
    Remember that trip report you did on an Etihad flight to the States – where you talked about a young woman ensconced in her suite – with great effort made to keep the door shut at all times??
    Possibly this product is aimed at Middle Eastern Women who wish to travel ‘modestly’. And certainly it would be a huge upgrade to the flying experience to be able to move about freely – and possibly the 50% upgrade on 2 first class tickets would be justifiable for those seemingly unlimited funds.

  18. I like the story, but I’ve no idea what all this real housewives stuff is, but please please can you stop it?? It seems to be on at least one post per day just now!

  19. Hi Lucky,

    I have been searching 2 QF business seats from shanghai to Sydney for a while. It seems that QF only release one business seat per flight based on the information from AA and BA website. Is that possible for me to call and ask AA agent to contact Qatar airways, requesting another business seat for me via long sale or something like that?

    Thanks

  20. @ Yang — Unfortunately not, there’s no way they can request more award space from partner airlines. Best you can do is monitor and hope for more space to open up, or otherwise look at a different routing. Sorry.

  21. Thanks for your reply, Lucky.

    One more question, if I use AA miles to book an economic seat now, am I allowed to pay extra miles to upgrade the seat to business class if I see more space open up later. Any additional fee will be involved?

    Thanks

  22. @ Yang — There would be a change fee of $150 for the first passenger and $25 for each additional passenger for such a change.

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