ISTANBUL – “Why allocate resources to a subclass of an aircraft that already offers all the amenities found in first class?” questioned Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker during an exclusive hour-long interview in Istanbul on Saturday. “I fail to see the necessity.”
The world’s top-ranked airline is reconsidering the world’s most extravagant cabin seating. Qatar Airways (QR), a consistent winner at the Skytrax World Airline Awards, has announced that its next-generation long-haul aircraft will not feature first-class berths.
CEO Akbar Al Baker stated that the substantial investment in ultra-luxurious seats does not justify the returns, as Qatar’s business-class offering already provides many similar advantages.
Future of Air Travel Centers around Business Class
Qatar Airways CEO Al Baker envisions the future of air travel to revolve around their renowned “Q-suite” business class product. As a result, the airline has decided not to include first class on their upcoming next-generation Boeing Co. 777X aircraft. Qatar Airways will eventually replace its fleet of Airbus SE A380s, which currently feature 8 first-class seats, with these aircraft. QR plans to phase out the A380s in due course.
Eliminating first-class service on long-haul routes comes with strategic risks. This decision goes against Qatar’s prestigious five-star reputation and a prevailing industry trend where airlines like Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Qantas Airways Ltd, and Air France reinforce their premium offerings.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr has highlighted the growing demand from leisure travelers seeking exceptional experiences, resulting in increased occupancy at the front of their aircraft.
Qatar Airways CEO Over First Class
Qatar Airways remains deeply concerned about the state of the aviation supply chain as it grapples with part shortages and mounting production backlogs, resulting in delays in aircraft deliveries.
CEO Al Baker, speaking ahead of the annual International Air Transport Association gathering, revealed that the airline currently faces a shortfall of around 15 planes out of the expected 25 to be received this year.
He specifically highlighted challenges with Boeing 787, Airbus 321neo, and A350 aircraft.
Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun has cautioned that resolving supply chain constraints may not be swift, warning that the aerospace industry could endure several years of disruptions affecting crucial aircraft deliveries.
“What is happening is a vicious circle, and this is the industry’s biggest challenge,” said CEO Al Baker. “Our growth ambitions will have to be capped with the shortage of capacity.”
Qatar Airways anticipates that its delivery delays will persist until the conclusion of the following year.
Australia on the Radar
Qatar Airways Sets Sights on Australia: Expansion Plans and Support for Virgin Australia
Under CEO Al Baker’s leadership, Qatar Airways expressed its intentions to expand its presence in Australia while throwing support behind its new partner, Virgin Australia, in its competition against Qantas.
When asked about a potential investment in Virgin Australia, Al Baker responded with a smile, hinting at the possibility. Although no discussions have taken place yet, he stated that it depends on the circumstances.
The airline aims to add daily service to Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Presently, Qatar Airways operates daily flights to all cities except Melbourne, where it currently offers two flights a day.
Al Baker emphasized Qatar Airways’ confidence in the expansion, highlighting the airline’s uninterrupted international flight operations during the pandemic, in contrast to many national carriers that ceased flying altogether.
“I don’t think it is a very big ask to the authorities,” CEO Al Baker added.
Over the years, cabin classes have evolved to offer more flexibility. Premium economy finding its place between business and economy seating.
First class, on the other hand, has retained its status as a luxury feature. Being primarily utilized by corporate clients for top-level executives or by individuals seeking an extravagant and unforgettable travel adventure.
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