Qatar Airways plans "exclusive" Boeing 777X first class suites

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

By David Flynn, June 24 2020
Qatar Airways plans

Qatar Airways is developing a first class cabin for its forthcoming Boeing 777X jets to fill a gap in the high-end travel market once its Airbus A380s are retired.

However, the luxury cocoons would appear on “just a handful” of the Gulf carrier’s Boeing 777-9 aircraft, Qatar Airways Group CEO His Excellency Akbar Al Baker tells Executive Traveller.

In turn, that first class sub-fleet would feature on only a few premium-heavy European routes.

“We are studying the possibility of having a very exclusive first class cabin of just four seats, for example,” Al Baker says, describing it as a deliberately “very niche product” aimed at well-heeled Qatari travellers.

“We have 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.”

An exclusive suite for an exclusive fleet

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, and ten Boeing 777-8s to substitute for the long-legged Boeing 777-200LRs – but those first class suites would not appear in the first tranche of Boeing 777-9 deliveries, which will be delayed until at least 2022 as part of a broader push-back on all new Airbus and Boeing jets.

“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.”

Qatar’s super-premium Boeing 777-9 fleet is more likely to land from 2028, when the last of its ten Airbus A380s – currently the only jet in the Doha hangers with first class – is likely to be put out to pasture.

Qatar Airways will retire its Airbus A380s from 2024 to 2028.
Qatar Airways will retire its Airbus A380s from 2024 to 2028.

“I'm going to retire my A380s on their 10th anniversary,” Al Baker states.

The Qatar Airways superjumbos arrived between September 2014 and April 2018, so “starting from the next four years, our first A380s will start going to the desert, because there is no point keeping these expensive gas guzzlers with very little return on our investment.” 

The high price of first class floorspace

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 explains.

“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%.”

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

Qatar’s Boeing 777X first class suites would go up against those of the Emirates Boeing 777X fleet, which will be modelled along the same lines as Emirates’ latest fully-private Boeing 777-300ER offering.

Qatar Airways was originally ranked among the first wave of Boeing 777-9 launch customers, alongside Emirates, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines – all of which will use the next-generation jetliner to launch new-design business class seats and, in the case of Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, new first class suites.

Also read: Boeing 777X business class – here's what five top airlines are planning

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

28 Sep 2017

Total posts 8

Extremely underwhelming. Four abreast with this fuselage width is on par with American Airlines.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jan 2014

Total posts 316

You never know with Qatar AADFW.. they could do a single aisle with two seats each side just like the First Class concept ET showcased awhile ago.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 521

Also underwhelming it's on a prehistoric 777 frame. That thing better equal the A350-1000 in atmospherics, lower cabin altitude, humidity and be whisper quiet. If it's merely lipstick on a current 777 pig I won't be wasting my money flying Qatar on long and ultra long haul from Sydney-life's too short. With the loss of the unrivalled A380 passenger experience Boeing better not stuff the 777x up as with previous problem plagued 'new' models.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 349

Totally agree Joe, the pressure is on Boeing to exceed expectations and get it perfect (not just 'right') the very first time. Suggest Boeing puts a non-American in charge of that with a direct reporting line to David Calhoun (CEO & President) and Lawrence Kellner (Board Chairman). Another debacle like the 737 MAX and the brand will acquire 'junk stock' status.

Seriously speaking I don't know if Boeing will catch up with Airbus when it comes to making quieter aeroplanes, as for myself I've never flown in a 777 but was hoping to one day to just get the feel of it. I have been in a Dreamliner both Scoot and Singapore Airlines, yes was a very nice plane but against a Airbus A350 I don't know cause I haven't been in a A350 one day I'm hoping. I've head that the Airbus A350 is much better than the Dreamliner due to its quietness. Boeing 737 worse plane ever I've been in, noisy, loud etc.

04 Dec 2017

Total posts 57

The 777 and the 737 are arguably the worst in terms of current loud aircraft. Bakar can spend all the money he wants on in-flight product but if the 777X turns out to be 'meh' not sure what's been achieved ditching the current 777 fleet. Perhaps maybe 50 extra LED cabin lighting options to justify the new 'X' status? ;)

29 Jan 2020

Total posts 21

I have flown on a 787 and 350 same day, and the 350 is the quieter Aeroplane.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 61

My experiences on the 777-300ER Air France La Premiere 1-2-1 F have been consistently stellar; it can be achieved.


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