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Despite stalled growth in China, Brazil and Russia, a wave of newly middle-class travelers from the BRICs and beyond will start visiting international destinations in the coming decades — dwarfing the numbers we’ve seen thus far.
First among the big Gulf region airlines, and seventh in the world, the Qatar Dreamliner underlines the region growing significance in aviation.
Qatar Airways, the Middle East’s second-largest carrier after Emirates, on Monday added a new chapter to “Stories of the Arabian Nights” after becoming the first aviation company in the region to acquire the ultimate flying machine so far from Boeing — the 787 Dreamliner.
The carrier — which has a wide-ranging portfolio of 110 planes and more than 250 aircraft on order, including Boeing’s 777 and 787, and Airbus’ A380 and A350 (launch customer) — officially joined the Dreamliner club at a delivery ceremony held at one of the Boeing hangars in Seattle.
The event, attended by international media, diplomats, and jubilant executives from both the airline and plane maker — people who made the 787 dream come true — marked a milestone in the 15-year history of the Qatari flag carrier.
Qatar Airways, one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, has placed 30 firm Dreamliner orders with an option for 30 more and selected a General Electric engine. It completed the title transfer of 787 registration A7-BCB (MSN 38320) on October 5 and sent the carbon-composite jet to install the airline’s connectivity modifications in California, despite a threat by chief executive Akbar Al Baker to put the delivery on hold until some “material defect” on the GE engines was sorted out. Sources said GE had since acted quickly to rectify the defects.
Addressing a Press conference before the delivery ceremony, Al Baker said the newest aircraft to join the airline’s fleet since 2007 represented a momentous occasion on its march to success.
“Five years ago, Boeing delivered its first-ever aircraft to us, a 777 in 2007. We celebrated another milestone as Qatar Airways entered the American market with the launch of scheduled flights to New York and Washington, DC,” he said.
Al Baker heaped praise on the growing relations between the US and Qatar. “Today, we are witnesses to stronger ties with the United States and Boeing as we become the first Middle East customer to take delivery of the 787 Dreamliner.”
“Boeing has crafted a state-of-the-art aeroplane, designed to be yet another asset to excel our signature five-star service in the sky to all our passengers across the Middle East and around the world,” he added.
Ray Conner, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said there is no doubt in his mind that Qatar Airways is one of the most remarkable airline success stories of and “it is only fitting that it has taken delivery of the most technologically advanced jetliner of our time”.
“The 787, with its unmatched fuel efficiency and passenger comfort, is certain to enable Qatar Airways’ plans to continue to deliver on its promise of quality and profitability. Today’s delivery marks the beginning of a new chapter in Boeing’s partnership with Qatar Airways, which is based on a mutual commitment to excellence,” the Boeing CEO said.
Qatar Airways’ first 787 will initially operate with commercial passengers on services to Dubai to familiarise the aircraft’s crew before making its maiden long-haul service between Doha and London’s Heathrow. Officials said as more Dreamliners join the fleet, they will be deployed on other key routes, including Zurich, Delhi and Frankfurt.
“We are delighted to receive our first Dreamliner, an aircraft which we expect will establish new benchmarks for reliability and comfort, when combined with Qatar Airways’ signature passenger experience,” said Al Baker.
“Our decision to invest in this game-changing airplane, which represents the future of air travel, reflects our firm belief in its unrivalled capabilities and the value it will add to our fleet and network expansion plans,” he said.
Made from composite materials, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the first mid-size aircraft capable of flying long-range routes and will allow airlines such as Qatar Airways to open new, non-stop routes preferred by the travelling public, Boeing said in a Press release.
Qatar Airways said it has pushed the boundaries in air travel to create a unique onboard travel experience. It has worked closely with Boeing to create revolutionary seat designs with emphasis on space, comfort and luxury.
The airline said the aircraft features a total of 254 seats in a two-class configuration of 22 in Business Class and 232 in Economy. With a 121 configuration in Business Class, the layout features two less seats than competitors, offering each passenger direct aisle access.
The seat offers considerable personal space — almost double than existing business cabins, allowing passengers to relax in a 22-inch wide armchair that converts at a touch of a button into different cradle positions before reaching an extremely generous 80-inch long, 30-inch wide flat bed offering exceptional legroom.
Armrests can be fully adjusted to different heights to complement different body positions while dining, reading, working or resting. There is ample storage space such as a drawer and side compartment for personal belongings. The seats, produced by B/E Aerospace, also feature generous 17-inch personal touchscreen TV monitors.
The aircraft is the world’s first 787 to be fully connected with wireless facilities enabling all passengers in both business and economy cabins to stay connected with the ground through Wi-Fi and GSM telephony options.
In Economy Class, the airline said the configured 333 arrangement embodies the very latest in design technology and materials, assuring all passengers a high degree of comfort and personal space, Qatar Airways said. The economy cabin has one less seat per row than competitors on other wide body aircraft. The adjustable hammock-style headrest allows passengers to comfortably support their head while resting.
Each Economy Class seat is fitted with 10.6-inch TV monitors with touchscreen Android-technology control units, allowing passengers to navigate through a fully-interactive system, just like the latest smartphones.
The touchscreen control unit has a unique dual-screen interface allowing passengers to play games on their handheld device while enjoying a movie on their personal screen. The entertainment system offers more than 1,000 video and audio options.
Personal power, USB, MP3 ports are also available in every seat. While the USB ports enable pictures from digital cameras to be viewed on the personal screens, iPort connectors enable iPod and iPhone content to be displayed on the mini TVs.
A team of culinary ambassadors, including award-winning chefs Ramzi Choueiri, Tom Aikens and Nobu Matsuhisa, have collaborated exclusively with Qatar Airways to create a new range of onboard signature dishes.
At a celebratory dinner hosted on Monday at the mesmerising Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition showcasing the works of internationally-acclaimed artist Dale Chihuly, employees from Boeing and Qatar Airways were honoured for their dedication and commitment in making the Gulf nation’s 787 dream come true. ___
(c)2012 the Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
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