Status Of Qatar Airways’ New Business Class Seat

Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, is unarguably the most boisterous guy in the airline industry. Generally speaking I’d say Star Magazine is a more accurate reporter of what’s going on with celebrities than Akbar Al Baker is of what’s going on in the airline industry, or even at his airline.

Qatar-Airways-A350-Business-Class-96

Last January Al Baker said that Qatar Airways would be introducing a new “super business class” product, and that after we see it there is “really not need for first class.”

He also said that by 2016 the airline’s current business class seat would be obsolete. Well, unless my calendar is deceiving me, it’s 2016, and…

Via AusBT, Al Baker has done some more gloating about the new business class product this week:

The seat will feature sliding doors to convert it into a suite-like cabin.

Also on the cards for at least the middle seats is a ‘double bed’, according to Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, who promises it “will frankly be first class at a business class fare.”

“I really feel that private suites become a bit claustrophobic, so when we are designing our new business class product we are making sure it is not claustrophobic” Al Baker tells Australian Business Traveller.

“So we have decided to go for semi-privacy, in the cabin concept people slide the two doors and it becomes a cabin. It is already semi-closed and then it becomes fully closed, because people want additional privacy when they are sleeping.”

Now as usual I’d take what Al Baker says with a grain of salt. He also claims that Qatar Airways’ current economy product is so good that there’s no need for premium economy. Yes, this is at the same time that Qatar Airways is installing 10 seats per row in economy on the 777. I don’t have much confidence in the new business class product, if he’s using similar standards for calling the new business class product as good as first class.

So, when can we expect this new Qatar Airways super business class product? Al Baker is hoping to do a global media launch in November, and then is hoping to start installing them on newly delivered Boeing 777-300ER aircraft starting in December. The A350 should be the next plane to get the new product. Qatar Airways also plan on refitting existing planes at the rate of three planes per month.

It’s interesting that they plan on installing this new business class product on the A350 as well.

The Qatar Airways 777 has a really sub-par business class product, given that it’s in a 2-2-2 configuration with standard forward facing seats.

Qatar-Airways-777-1

However, the Qatar Airways A350 has a really solid business class product in a reverse herringbone configuration, and is one of my favorites. It seems unnecessary to install it on that plane.

Qatar-Airways-A350-Business-Class-30

So what do I make of this? Early last year Al Baker said the airline’s current business class product would be obsolete by 2016. At the time he was clearly suggesting the product would be finished sooner, because it’s 2016, and at the earliest we’ll start to see the new product is the last month of the year.

If I had to guess, I’d say they still don’t actually have a prototype for the product. That might sound crazy, but Al Baker is a special snowflake. He’s likely barking his commands to seat manufacturers —  “I want a business class product with doors and double beds in the middle, and I don’t want it to take up much more real estate than now.” And the seat manufacturers are probably like:

RH

Let’s keep in mind that over a year ago, Al Baker shared exactly the same vision for the seat, but we’re not actually any further along, it would seem. Like so many things at Qatar Airways, I suspect Al Baker is being aspirational rather than realistic. I think most of us would be thrilled if Qatar Airways installed reverse herringbone seats on the 777, but instead I’m guessing it’ll be a good while before this new “super business class” product comes to fruition… if it ever does.

Bottom line

Qatar Airways’ CEO says that their new business class product will feature suites with doors and double beds. We should see the product unveiled this November, and in service by December, starting with 777-300ER aircraft.

But I’d assume that’s about as accurate as Al Baker saying that their economy product is as good as premium economy…

When do you think we’ll see Qatar Airways’ new business class, and do you think it’ll be as good as Al Baker is promising?

Comments

  1. Ben, my husband and I both just completed a CMB-DOH-PHL-RDU. LOVED the a350 much better than our trip last year on the 77w.
    Question: when my miles posted I did not receive my status bonus miles.. American told me I don’t qualify because we flew QR is that correct. Spent an hour on the phone, should I have just hung up and called again? Can you clarify? They told me I didn’t qualify for longhaul bonus or my elite bonus miles. Thanks!

  2. I am considering taking Qatar Airways biz class from IAD-Singapore on their 777. Any idea if they will upgrade their seats then?

  3. You could get close to something like this if you found a way to stick some doors on the seat used by EY/AZ/AB etc., especially with the “double bed” aspect.

  4. Ben: You better be careful the next time you step foot in Qatar. The Baker might have a hit put on you for mocking him like this…

  5. I’d say it’s 99% bull ****.
    Don’t trust him, it’s not gonna happen like the way he describes.

  6. Does it come as a surprise that they’re announcing their new business class product at the same time Emirates is planning to announce their residence like cabin?

  7. I’d be more thrilled if the same amount of effort was put into the Y seats where most people sit…..

  8. He’s a bit of a Michael O’Leary, Gulf carrier style… Don’t believe what he says until it’s happened!

    (Lucky, aren’t you scared of being barred from Qatar Airways one day if you carry on like this??)

  9. He better fixes his A330 BC seats first. They are impossible to sleep in as they suffer from a construction flaw. In flat (not really) mode the middle part goes up when head and leg rest go down. The term ‘prostitute seats’ came to mind when I was tortured in it. To be avoided for any flight longer than 1 hour.

  10. Their Facebook page says the new seat will be revealed on 9th March at the ITB Berlin. So I guess it’ll be happening way before your sources say so!

  11. I actually think Qatar 777 Business Class seats are not that bad as Ben is saying, especially if you are travel with a companion.
    Their service is pretty good for Business Class and I would fly their current 777 Business Class anywhere, anytime. As much as I like herringbone seats, their advantage is mostly noted when we fly alone.

  12. Ben – I disagree with you on the 777 seats. While not the most private, the seat and the cabin certainly feel quite spacious, and that has some appeal over other products.

  13. I have flown business in Qatar’s 777 and 787 several times. I prefer the 777. Much more spacious. The 787 seats feel cramped to me even though they look a lot better.

  14. For the 777 fans, would it be safe to assume that they are preferable for traveling with a child (not a lap infant)? It seems from the pictures to be ideal to have the child in the window with the parent next to him/her as opposed to the herringbone setup. JFK-DOH have one flight of each style.

  15. Stannis – very much so. Their 777 is ideal when traveling with a companion. I fly solo and get one of the center seats since they both have aisle access. But the window and aisle seats on the side would be perfect for a parent and child.

  16. Another vote not to dismiss the 777 seats / cabin. A ton of space and anything but claustrophobic. Unless all I want to do is sleep I am not a huge fan of enclosed suites aka cubicles.

  17. Although the seats in the T7 look a bit dated, they make the cabin feel large and airy.
    The 2-2-2 arrangement is very good when travelling with a companion, but it does have its drawbacks when one orders a cheese board on a long MEL -DOH flight and you’re just about to tuck in when the wife wakes up ( I’m not allowed cheese)!
    The seats on the 380 with its reverse herring bone, no such problem as I was in the seat behind.

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