After first debuting its QSuite ‘First in Business Class’ concept on the Doha – London route onboard the Boeing 777-300ER in Jun-2017, it is no surprise to learn that the Gulf carrier will initially deploy its new Airbus A350-1000 – also fitted with the modern cabin and part of a renewed Business Class product – on the same route from later this month.
The airline, the launch customer for the new stretched version of the A350, celebrated the formal delivery of the world’s first A350-1000 at a ceremony at the Airbus delivery centre at its Toulouse production facility in France on 20-Feb-2018.
The aircraft is the first of 42 of the type on order and which will complement the smaller -900 version of the aircraft that has flown with Qatar Airways since 2014. It now operates 21 of the type, according to the CAPA – Centre for Aviation Fleet Database.
The A350-100 is 23 feet longer than the -900 version and in Qatar Airways configuration will seat an extra 44 passengers to the smaller aircraft – 46 passengers in Business Class and 281 in Economy – and will enable it to boost capacity as well as the customer experience on the routes it will be deployed.
The airline was expected to receive its first aircraft late last year after the Nov-2017 type certification of the aircraft, but issues though to be linked to the installation of the QSuite premium cabin delayed its arrival by around six to seven weeks and could delay future deliveries. However, Airbus is contractually obligated to deliver eight aircraft in 2018 after which time the delivery schedule is expected to be ramped up.
Qatar Airways says it will debut on one of its six daily flights between its Hamad International Airport hub in Doha and London Heathrow “this month”, but The Blue Swan Daily understands that 24-Feb-2018 is planned for its first scheduled passenger service operating the QR015/016 rotation.
The airline’s six daily rotations depart Doha at 01:55, 06:35, 08:00, 13:00, 15:55 and 17:25 and London at 08:00, 09:00, 14:15, 15:05, 20:30 and 21:55. Two flights a day are currently scheduled to be flown by Airbus A380-800s, two using the 777-300ER (already using the QSuite in the market) and one with the 787-8 Dreaminer. The QR015/016 rotation on which the A350-1000 is expected to debut is normally operated by a mix of aircraft (A330-300, 777-300ER and A350-900), but according to OAG schedules was due to be flown using an A350-900 on this date.
London is a key market for Qatar Airways and the A350-1000 will enable it to enhance its offer – especially in the premium cabin – in the competitive sixth freedom market via the Gulf hubs. The route is one of its strongest for business class demand and sector time allows the aircraft to comfortably operate a daily schedule. The medium-haul route will enable Qatar Airways to monitor the performance of the aircraft before it is deployed on longer sector routes to the US East Coast as additional units are delivered.