Qatar Airways Discontinuing All Business Class A319 Flight To London

A little over a year ago — in May 2014 — Qatar Airways launched an all business class flight between Doha and London.

Qatar-A319

The “Business One” flight, as it’s called, is operated by an Airbus A319 with just 40 business class seats, spread across 10 rows in a 2-2 configuration.

Qatar-Airways-Business-Class-3

It’s a unique service for sure, and not the first time we’ve seen a legacy carrier do something of the like between major markets. For example, British Airways offers their Club World London City service between New York and London City Airport, which is operated by an all business class configured A318.

But what made it a bit funny is that it arguably wasn’t even Qatar Airways’ best product in the market. They also have a Doha to London flight operated by an Airbus A380. It features a first class cabin…

Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class-001

And also a business class cabin consisting of reverse herringbone seats, which are almost unarguably better than the seats on the A319.

Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class-039

In terms of not really surprising news, Qatar Airways has announced that they’ll be discontinuing their A319 all business class flight between Doha and London as of October 25, 2015.

Per airlineroute.net, the current QR15/16 flight (which is presently operated by the A319) will instead be operated by a Boeing 787, which features a business class and economy class cabin.

Qatar-Airways-787-Business-Class-1

You would assume Qatar Airways is just increasing capacity between Doha and London given that it’s their biggest market, but that’s not the case. Instead, the same day Qatar Airways be downgrading the QR1/2 flight from an A380 to an A330. So that doesn’t really represent much of a capacity increase, at least short term.

So what’s Qatar Airways’ logic for discontinuing the A319 all business class flight?

  • Qatar Airways never had the intention of keeping this service long term. On the A350 inaugural flight from Doha to Frankfurt in January, Qatar’s CEO already told us they were planning on discontinuing it.
  • The flight was intended primarily for Qatar Airways to maintain one of their Heathrow slots without having to add much capacity, while still offering something “unique,” and it accomplished that trick for a while.
  • Long term Qatar Airways is ready to increase capacity to Heathrow. So short term there’s not much capacity increase given the A380 swap, but that likely just accounts for decreased demand during the winter months.

The next logical question is what will happen to the all business class A319. The way I see it, there are three possible outcomes:

  • Qatar could reconfigure it in the “standard” narrowbody Airbus layout, and use it for shorthaul flying
  • Qatar could try a similar service in another market, in particular to an airport which isn’t as expensive or slot restricted as Heathrow — for example, they’re presently also flying the A319 between Doha and Jeddah
  • Qatar could simply use it for charters, as presumably there’s at least some demand for such a service, and the plane is already paid off

Bottom line

It’s hardly surprising that this route is being discontinued. Not just because it’s extremely unprofitable, but also because it’s almost irresponsible to operate such a flight to a heavily capacity controlled and highly taxed airport as Heathrow.

What I’m most curious about is what Qatar Airways will do with the A319 once it’s off the Heathrow route, and where they’re sending the extra A380 (one can certainly dream that they send it to New York, though that seems highly unlikely).

Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class-113

Comments

  1. Seems like the bigger story here is about destination of the A380 they are taking off this route. Atlanta?

  2. The bit about A380 > A330 downgrade is incorrect.

    As per BTUK: “Qatar Airways told Business Traveller that reports one of its two daily A380 services will be downgraded to an A330-300 are incorrect.”

  3. @ Greg — Qatar currently has 2 daily A380 flights to London, so they will still have once daily A380 service to LHR after the switch. Still surprising though!

    @ Lucky — I’m curious why you think it’s unlikely they would use the A380 for New York. Could make sense if they want to truly compete with Emirates and Etihad at JFK. It’s kind of shocking to me that QR doesn’t offer a first-class product at JFK!

  4. @Lucky : quick question. I am taking QR A380 (LHR->DOH) biz this month and am looking forward to it. This winter I would have to take the same route again in biz and I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to try a new product so am considering to take QR A350 (FRA->DOH) In that case I have to fly separately from LHR->FRA though. Is it really worth doing that? lol. What’s the biggest difference between two aircrafts? Or just taking the same A380 Biz again avoiding this hassle?

  5. QR just announced all first class service between Doha and Jeddah. Perhaps they will use this aircraft for that route.

  6. I wish Qatar Airways would just go away! Honestly I am more on the ME than US side in the big battle, but with Qatar’s ridiculous management, unpleasant HR policies and ‘all over the place’ aura (exelplified by the large number of different aircraft and products they use between LHR & DOH), this is one carrier I will always avoid however superior their soft product may be. Basically it is a brand which gives off very strong bad vibes, however strong its service offer may be on paper. I would much rather be in the hands of British Airways, KLM, Air France etc despite inferior onboard product than these weirdos.

  7. AvGeek: This a319 isn’t configured in First Class

    Ben: How do you know the plane is already paid off?

  8. @Jonathan Chen – AvGeek is right, all business class seats intra-Middle East are marketed as First Class.

  9. These changes to LHR widely reported on Flyertalk over the past couple of days…Clearly a lot of annoyance at the 380 being replaced by the old 330. 2 x 330 and 1 x 340 makes more QR uncompetitive in my view. But Ben – excellent article highlighting the ridiculousness of having that service! 20 seats from the World’s most congested airport was a nonsense and LHR should have prevented it in the first place.

  10. I can’t help but think there’s a real benefit to being one of forty on arrival, assuming you’re not arriving at the same time as a couple A380s.

  11. It seems to be definitely true that QR1/2 is downgrading A380>A330. Or at least… I received a schedule change for my F booking on QR1, downgrading me to J and listing an A330 as the new aircraft type. Looking at seats the QR website confirmed this. They were kind enough to reaccommodate me on QR3.

  12. Had an email today saying my QR09 flight on 18th February to London has been changed from a340 to a380. Haven’t checked if this is a one off or a total change.

  13. First a319 goes to Jeddah not Riyadh

    Second the a319 will be a privet jet to rent like emirates.

  14. @ Jessie — Unless you really want to fly the A350 as such, I’d do the A380. It’s the same seat, and the A380 has an onboard bar. Not worth the hassle of going through Frankfurt, in my opinion.

  15. @ BrooklynBoy — First of all because they don’t have a gate at which they park the A380. Right now they use T8, which isn’t A380 ready. So they’d have to move terminals, which would be significantly more inconvenient for those connecting to/from American. Second of all, they’re already adding a second daily JFK flight next year, so capacity will already go up a lot. Lastly, they only have a few more A380s on order, and a JFK flight would use up two of those A380s.

  16. @ John — It’s already doing that, and that’s simply while it would otherwise be on the ground at DOH (since operating DOH-LHR-DOH leaves some extra time in the schedule for the plane).

  17. @lucky

    LHR will still have two A380s per day (QR003/4 and QR009/10). The second A380 flight was moved to a different time slot.

    Regarding the A340-600 and A330-300, they started being reconfigured to a 2-class configuration with fully flat seats.

  18. Maybe they could transfer the A319’s to their new Al Maha Airways subsidiary once it begins operations. Al Maha already has 4 A320’s so it would make sense to transfer them or make a swap.

  19. @ Max — That’s being operated in addition to the LHR service. In other words, the plane is flying DOH-LHR-DOH-JED-DOH in a 24 hour period.

  20. Ben: I realize this is both late and off-topic but . . . his Excellency had said that by 2016 Qatar would be rolling out an all-new “super” business class. Have you heard any updates? We have a flight booked next summer from LAX-DOH and would be fantastic if it were out by then . . .

  21. It’d be nice if QR could put it on the DOH-LAX route, since it’s currently operated by a 777-300ER which doesn’t exactly have the best hard product for a 16 hr flight, and the planes flown to LAX from middle eastern carriers are somewhat lacking, Emirates flies their A380s, that’s okay, but Emirates flies A380s to every major city, so that’s an exception, Etihad flies 777s, where they could be flying a 787 or maybe even an A380, since they are receiving more in the future, and QR is flying a 777, so I think it might be time for the middle east to upgrade its west coast services.

  22. I’m not with you Andy…I would be perfectly happy with the 777 for 16hrs. In my opinion it’s the best QR product by a mile and ife has a similar range to the 380 for those bored hrs.

    Keep with it QR. Probably beats the Emirates monster with all those business pax to serve.

  23. And I’ve experienced the super business and, trust me, you do not want to be on that for 16hrs!! Far too cramped.

  24. Two weeks ago the UK Government gave the go-ahead to London City Airport (LCY) to expand. The expansion will see the creation of 7 new aircraft stands, a parallel taxiway, and a long awaited expansion to the terminal.

    LCY hopes that airlines will take the chance to expand routes to the East Coast of the USA and to The Gulf, Middle East, Turkey and Russia.

    British Airways currently operate an all-business class service to New York JFK twice a day using an A318. It will be interesting to see if Qatar Airways test the waters with an all-business class flight to Doha.

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