Qatar Airways, which regularly wins top prize at the Skytrax World Airline Awards, will not have first-class sleepers on its next-generation long-haul planes, according to chief executive Akbar Al Baker. Al Baker said investing in the most luxurious seats does not justify returns, given that Qatar’s business class offering offers many of the same benefits.
“Why should you invest in a subclass of an aircraft that already gives you all the amenities first class gives you,” Al Baker said in an exclusive hour-long interview in Istanbul on Saturday. “I don’t see the need.”
The phasing out of first class on long-haul routes is not without strategic risk. The move goes against both Qatar’s five-star image and an industry trend that has seen airlines from Deutsche Lufthansa AG to Qantas Airways Ltd to Air France double their top deals. of range. Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said more and more leisure travelers are looking for special treatment and the front of his plane has never been so full.
For Al Baker, however, the future lies in business class, which Qatar has dubbed its “Q-suite” product. This is why there will be no first class on its future next-generation Boeing Co. 777X. These jets will become the largest the airline operates once it finally retires its 10 Airbus SE A380s, which still contain 8 first class seats.
Cabin classes have become more elastic over the years, with carriers tightening into premium economy class between business and economy seat rows. First class has remained more of a gimmick that corporate customers limit to senior executives, or that attracts ordinary passengers who splurge on a unique travel experience.
The aviation supply chain remains a big concern for Qatar Airways as parts shortages and production chain snowball backlogs have hit aircraft deliveries.
Al Baker, speaking ahead of the International Air Transport Association’s annual gathering of some 300 airlines, said his airline was short of around 15 planes out of the 25 it planned to take over this year – highlighting issues on the Boeing 787, Airbus 321neo and A350 aircraft.
Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun has sought to temper expectations of a quick fix to supply constraints, warning the aerospace industry could face a half-decade hiatus in all major aircraft deliveries .
“What’s happening is a vicious cycle and it’s the industry’s biggest challenge,” Al Baker said. “Our growth ambitions will have to be capped with the lack of capacity.”
Qatar Airways said it did not expect its own delivery delays to be resolved until late next year.
Expansion in Australia
In terms of expansion, the Gulf carrier has its sights set on Australia, Al Baker said. Qatar Airways is offering to expand its flights and also plans to back new partner Virgin Australia against rival Qantas. Al Baker responded with a smile when asked about an investment in Virgin Australia. While no discussion had taken place, he said “it depends, we’ll see”.
The carrier is looking to add additional daily service to Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane. It currently operates a daily flight to all cities except Melbourne, which is twice daily.
Qatar Airways is confident the expansion will be viewed favourably, Al Baker said, pointing out that it has continued to operate international flights to most countries during the pandemic – while many domestic airlines have stopped operating altogether. fly.
“I don’t think that’s a very big ask of the authorities,” Al Baker said.