We're going to need another class of airline to define Qatar. It's untraditional. It doesn't conform to the luxury mold. A new Upscale-Gulf-All Business-Economy Carrier for the A380 skies? It's a new model--one we can't quite put a label on yet, but suspect will do very well.
As the world’s press gathered for the delivery of Qatar Airways‘ first A380 aircraft, the airline’s CEO, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, made Qatar’s strategy for this aircraft clear right off the bat.
“We apologize that we have no residence, no suites, no butlers. But we have class,” he said.
Regardless of where you sit, Qatar’s A380 class is decidedly Business.
“Most customers have decided to go for Business Class,” Mr. Akbar Al Baker tells us. “It’s where we see our highest demand.”
The astute, straight-talking CEO assures us this is the case at all airlines (even those who compete on luxury) if they’ll just admit it. “The First Class seats are often given away to frequent flyers.”
When we walked through the A380, we got exactly what was promised. Economy Class fills the entire lower level and eight rows at the back of the second level of the aircraft. In all, fitting 461 passengers in seats which range from 16.9″-18.5″, with a 31″-32″ pitch. Up top, the seats are 2-4-2, and in the main deck they are 3-4-3. Every Economy passenger gets Thales IFE on a 10.6-inch screen, and somewhere to plug their devices. The B/E Aerospace seats are a comfortable trim design, with adjustable headrests.
Business Class dominates the second level, leaving room for a pleasant lounge, and eight token First class seats. The 48 nested B/E Aerospace Business class seats tick all the boxes: everyone gets aisle access, lay-flat beds, a state-of-the-art IFE system from Thales with 17″ screens, and power ports. The 1-2-1 Business Class cabin gives passengers an 80-inch long/30-inch wide bed, when flat. The seat is 22 inches between armrests.
One downside: the endlessness of the Business class cabin generates the feel of an Economy cabin on other aircraft: there are seats and seats and seats. The difference, of course, is that the seats are far more comfortable. This minor visual down-side might have been overcome by breaking up the cabin more effectively, perhaps by putting the lounge in the middle.
But the lay-out Qatar selected gives passengers two windows each–which makes the cabin feel light and airy. The pivoting luggage bins help by enhancing the overhead space in this section of the cabin. The objective is to make a lot Business Class passengers comfortable, in line with the airline’s all-Business strategy.
The First Class is there to please a very few. The seat places are comfortable, but not over the top. There are two rows of 1-2-1, with 23-inch wide seats, and a 81-inch long/33-inch wide fully-flat beds with a privacy screen. When upright the First Class seat features a place for a travel companion opposite, and 26″ IFE screen.
If you’re following the numbers, it’s only a couple of inches more in First than in Business. The secret sauce is in the intimacy, privacy, and of course, the personal service.
Everyone gets access to full OnAir connectivity, and a wealth of IFE content.
The theme of Qatar’s approach the A380 aircraft is optimized capacity for revenue. Qatar does this effectively. Where other airlines go lavish on the A380, Qatar goes value. The airline sends a clear message: it means Business. What Business needs most (connectivity, a place to rest up, good service, nice meals and entertainment), Qatar gives generously.
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Photo credit: The new Qatar Airways A380. Qatar Airways