Qatar Airways reveals its new enhanced economy class cabin, but it is more evolution than revolution

Two years ago, Qatar Airways grabbed the attention when it unveiled its new QSuite ‘First in Business’ concept at ITB Berlin. This year it chose the annual gathering to detail developments in its Economy cabin, and while these were never going to gain the same attention as its premium upgrades, many were still left a little underwhelmed by what they saw.

In what is an evolution, rather than the “revolutionary” change that had been suggested, Qatar Airways has delivered a product that looks not dissimilar from any other Economy layout, but which incorporates latest design and technological developments to enhance customer comfort and experience. The seats will initially debut on the airline’s Airbus A321neos from later this year, but will be incorporated across other fleet types through retrofit and new aircraft deliveries.

Described as the “next generation of Economy Class” the seat will have a semi-fixed back shell that will allow an up to 19 degree recline. In its fixed position for take-off and landing the seat will offer a 6 degree recline, offer extra legroom, include an adjustable, lightweight headrest and have dual multi-functional tables for maximum adaptability and table space, and will include a 1.3 inch 4K widescreen monitor, according to the airline.

Other enhancements within the cabin will see passengers able to take advantage of faster broadband Wi-Fi connectivity and access to USB Type-C plugs with fast charging capabilities for their own devices. Meanwhile, a new onboard service concept, dubbed ‘Quisine’, will redefine the airline’s food offering with more choice, retail style products and tableware and more generous portions – appetisers will grow 20%, main courses 25% and deserts 50%.

The developments represent a clear improvement on the airline’s existing economy offering, but many had expected further innovations when it was revealed that Qatar Airways was making this unveiling in Berlin. Qatar Airways has always attempted to push the boundaries in terms of passenger comforts, but like so many other airlines it appears such investment in the economy cabin may not be sustainable.

There are numerous ideas floating around about the future of economy flying. Ideas such as staggered seating designs to allow faster boarding and disembarking; revised designs to deliver a little extra space and comfort to middle seat passengers, even tipping seats have been floating around, but it appears they are all a step to far for the airline sector.

Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker is proud of the airline’s economy offering and touts its comfort and service levels as the reason why the company is not following many others down the route of adding a premium economy cabin onaboard its aircraft. Speaking to The Blue Swan Daily at last month’s CAPA – Centre for Aviation Qatar Aviation Aeropolitical and Regulatory Summit in Doha, he once again highlighted his lack of interest in a premium economy offer.

“I assure you that passengers will feel more comfortable sitting in the Qatar Airways economy cabin than in a premium economy cabin with another airline,” he said. Now, with the new enhanced offer soon to be introduced he adds the new economy class seat, with its redesigned recline system and additional leg room, will ensure “passengers in Economy Class arrive at their destinations feeling rested and refreshed”.

As has become normal practice, Qatar Airways used the ITB Berlin platform to confirm its network growth plans for the year ahead. New direct services to be introduced in 2019 comprises flights to Lisbon, Portugal; Malta; Rabat, Morocco; Langkawi, Malaysia; Davao, Philippines; Izmir, Turkey and Mogadishu, Somalia.

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