Qatar Airways scraps plans for Boeing 777X first class

The compact luxury cabin was intended to feature on a handful of Boeing 777-9 jets on premium routes such as London and Paris.

By David Flynn, June 5 2023
Qatar Airways scraps plans for Boeing 777X first class

Qatar Airways is betting big on the future of business class, and in particular its highly-regarded Qsuites – to the point where first class appears to no longer fit into the airline’s plans.

Instead, its forthcoming Boeing 777X fleet will be crowned by a new Qsuite which CEO Akbar Al Baker has described to Executive Traveller as “a huge enhancement of the current Qsuite.”

“People now are all booking on QR because of the Qsuite,” Al Baker added, saying “it’s a brand that is now really known to everybody.”

But Al Baker appears to have set aside plans for a small number of the Boeing 777-9 jets to have a luxed-up “very exclusive first class cabin of just four seats,” which Al Baker previously described to Executive Traveller as a deliberately “very niche product” aimed at well-heeled Qatari travellers headed to the likes of London and Paris.

As business class continues to evolve it makes first class harder to justify, says Qatar Airways' CEO.
As business class continues to evolve it makes first class harder to justify, says Qatar Airways' CEO.

Speaking with Bloomberg in Istanbul, prior to this week’s annual International Air Transport Association gathering, Al Baker said the Qsuite had closed the gap between business and first class to the point where spacious first suites were no longer needed.

“Why should you invest in a subclass of an aeroplane that already gives you all the amenities that first class gives you,” Al Baker posed: “I don’t see the necessity.”

Qatar Airways currently offers first class only on the handful of Airbus A380s which it has reluctantly returned to the skies, with eight open suites adoring the front of the upper deck – and those superjumbos are still slated for retirement as the Doha-based carrier brings the rest of its long-range fleet back up to strength over the coming years.

Qatar Airways' current open-plan A380 first class cabin.
Qatar Airways' current open-plan A380 first class cabin.

Al Baker considers that the expansive and expensive floorspace typically assigned to first class suites will become harder to justify as demand for superior business class suites increases.

“I think eventually, first class will keep shrinking on airlines,” he previously told Executive Traveller.

“An aeroplane is very expensive real estate, and occupying a big portion with so few seats as first class, which (on Qatar’s A380) had a load factor of averaging never more than 55-60%” in pre-pandemic times.

Al Baker had earlier said the airline was “studying the possibility” of a Boeing 777-9 first class product, although “it will not be on the initial 777X because we want to have a product that is really very unique, so we need time to develop it.”

At the time, the thinking was  that the 777-9’s first class suites would cater for “huge demand here in Qatar to two or three European destinations” such as London and Paris, Al Baker explains, “so we may introduce a very small first class cabin for our local passengers who want a very exclusive first class product.”

The Qatari flag-carrier has signed a firm order for 50 of Boeing’s debutante 777-9 model to replace the current Boeing 777-300ER workhorses, although first delivered of the 777-9 to launch customer and regional rival Emirates have been delayed to at least 2025.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1192

It probably makes sense.  The top F suite products such as SQ use a lot of space so you need to get a lot of incremental revenue to justify the product.  Using them as reward seats is not sustainable.  

Without being a suite, the product difference between F & J is just not sufficient particularly for those airlines with top notch J products such as QR. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Nov 2011

Total posts 25

By stating: CEO Akbar Al Baker has described to Executive Traveller as “a huge enhancement of the current Qsuite.”  What is this likely to entail?  Something even wider or somehow having a bigger footwell?  A huge enhancement sounds like more than tech upgrades or a taller door but I cannot see them reducing the seat count in the business cabin unless they are certain they can charge a serious premium for it.  Emirates' offering is decent but not amazing, Etihad's new suites with doors are great but they are really only catching up to Qsuite Mach 1.0.  

Will be interesting to see what they come up with.

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