Gulf carrier Qatar Airways will place its new Qsuite business class concept into commercial service later this month, just days after unveiling the product onboard one of its aircraft for the first time. After launching the design at ITB Berlin in March this year, the airline has now fully retrofitted the four-seat design into the first of its Boeing 777-300ERs and displayed the aircraft at this week’s Paris Air Show.
The aircraft will depart the show and immediately enter passenger service on the airline’s Doha – London Heathrow route from June 24, 2017. Further 777s will be retrofitted at the rate of one aircraft per month and will also be introduced on routes to both Paris and New York.
Speaking at the official unveiling of the first Boeing 777-300ER to be fitted with the product during the Paris Air Show, Akbar Al Baker, chief executive officer, Qatar Airways Group, says the product “will transform premium travel by bringing a First Class experience to the Business Class cabin”.
The Qsuite features the industry’s first-ever double bed in Business Class, with privacy panels that stow away, allowing passengers in adjoining seats to create their own private room. Adjustable panels and movable TV monitors on the centre four seats allow colleagues, friends or families travelling together to transform their space into a private suite, allowing them to work, dine and socialise together. In a development for corporate travel, these new features provide a customisable experience that enables passengers to create an environment that suits their own unique needs.
The selection of Doha – London Heathrow to debut the new product comes as no surprise as the route is one of its strongest for business class demand with almost 7,500 travellers using the premium cabin on Qatar Airways flights in April 2017, according to MIDT data from OAG. This compares to approximately 4,725 and 3,400 business class passengers on flights between Doha and Singapore and Dammam, the second and third largest markets in the premium cabin the same month.
Qatar Airways’ global operations continue to be impacted by the diplomatic row that has closed its land border with Saudi Arabia and resulted in the suspension of all flights to Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Mr Al Baker says its operations continue to “run smoothly,” with the vast majority of its network “unaffected by the current circumstances,” with 90% of flights this past week departing within 15 minutes of scheduled departure time.
“This blockade is unprecedented, and it is in direct contradiction to the convention that guarantees rights to civil overflight. We call upon the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to declare this an illegal act. We are not a political body, we are an airline, and this blockade has stripped us of the rights which are guaranteed to us,” he says.
Despite the current operational challenges the airline is facing, Mr Al Baker remains positive about short-term developments at the carrier and says it will continue its ambitious development plans and significant network expansion. “As far as we are concerned, it is business as usual,” he says.
This month the airline has already launched flights to Dublin, Republic of Ireland and services to Nice, France, will commence on July 4, 2017, and a link to Skopje, Republic of Macedonia, will commence on July 17, 2017. Other new destinations planned for the remainder of this year and 2018 include Las Vegas (USA), Canberra (Australia), Douala (Cameroon), Libreville (Gabon), Medan (Indonesia), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Santiago (Chile) and Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), as well as many others.
Earlier this week the airline released its annual report for the fiscal year 2017, revealing a net profit of $541 million, a 21.7% year-on-year increase. The results also show an annual revenue increase of 10.4%.