Qatar Airways has officially confirmed the debut of its new 'super business class' seat on March 8th 2017, the opening day of the annual ITB Berlin travel trade show.
Alongside Singapore Airlines' new Airbus A380 business class seats, due to be revealed mid-year (next to SQ's new A380 first class suites), Qatar Airways' next-gen seat will be the most highly-anticipated business class launch of 2017.
Here's what we know so far...
Suite-like doors create "a business class bedroom"
The Oneworld member's new business class seat will have suite-like doors for greater privacy.
This is touted as the next wave for the upper edge of the business class market, with US carrier Delta Air Lines already showcasing a similar approach for its forthcoming Delta One Airbus 350 business class (below).
“I really feel that private suites become a bit claustrophobic, so when we are designing our new business class product we are making sure it is not claustrophobic” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker told Australian Business Traveller last year.
“So we have decided to go for semi-privacy, in the cabin concept people slide the two doors and it becomes a cabin."
"It is already semi-closed and then it becomes fully closed, because people want additional privacy when they are sleeping.”
As you'd expect for this deep-pocketed and high-striving airline, the design of the 'super business class' seat will be exclusive to Qatar Airways.
The result will be both "proprietary and patented” Al Baker has confirmed to Australian Business Traveller.
“The seat designer will not be able to (offer) this product to anybody else, and if any airline mimics this design we have patent protection.”
First on the Airbus A350, Boeing 777-300ER
Expect to see the airline's new flagship business class seat debut on both the Airbus A350 – including the A350-1000, for which Qatar Airways is the global launch customer – and the Boeing 777-300ER.
While the A350 already sports a 1-2-1 seat layout in business class, the Boeing 777-300ER is fitted with a more dated 2-2-2 business class (below).
Moving to the 1-2-1 configuration of the 'super business class' design will prove far more private and convenient for travellers, so a rapid rollout onto Qatar Airways' Boeing 777-300ER jets is on the cards.
The long-range Boeing 777-200LR is also on that list, and eventually the Airbus A380, with Al Baker previously flagging a fleet-wide upgrade "where we will retrofit every aircraft in the fleet” at a rate of “three aircraft a month."
Business class is the new first class
In common with many other airlines, Qatar Airways sees that pushing the upper boundaries of business class will diminish the appeal of first class, with that luxe cabin to be restricted to its Airbus A380 superjumbos.
“Our premium travel is business travel, mostly, so we will keep a very limited number of first class seats only in the A380, and all the other airplanes will only have a business class product" Al Baker forecasts.