Speaking at an event to celebrate its inaugural scheduled London-Doha service using the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (see online news December 13), Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker ran the collected media through the carrier’s future fleet plans.
Al Baker confirmed that the upper deck of the A380 will be fitted with eight seats in first class - the only aircraft in the next three years that Qatar will fit with first class - and 52 business class seats, along with a lounge area and a small economy section.
The entire main deck will be economy class, meaning there will be a very desirable economy section in the nose section, where the aircraft is quietest, making a total of 517 seats on the aircraft. Qatar Airways has ten A380s on order with a further three options, but Al Baker said that ten should be sufficient.
Speaking about the A380 layout of future Oneworld partner British Airways, Al Baker said: “British Airways has a different strategy. They serve different markets and our passenger requirements are different. BA has a very nice interior on their airplane. We do not require that large a number of business class passengers. Britain is a very important trading country so there is a big demand for business travel, which is not the case with us.”
Al Baker also said that due to the delays to the B787 programme Qatar has invested in an extensive upgrade programme to its A330s in order to extend their time in the fleet by at least three more years. Both cabins will be fitted with new seats and an upgraded Panasonic in-flight entertainment system will be installed.
Qatar Airways is also scheduled to receive its first A350-900 aircraft between the end of 2014 to the beginning of 2015.
Speaking about the carrier’s growth policy, Al Baker said:
“As far as Qatar Airways is concerned we will continuously keep on upgrading our product regardless of the economic situation around the world, because we never want to be left behind.”
“At the same time whatever developments we do it takes time, it doesn’t just happen. Just giving the example of revamping our A330s, we started the programme nearly a year ago and we will not get the first refurbished A330 until the last quarter of next year.”
Qatar will also fit the majority of its existing A320 aircraft and the forthcoming A320neo aircraft with 12 newly developed 180 degree sleeper seats in the front of the cabin, to cater for flights within a five-hour radius of Doha.
This is an attempt to maintain a consistent product across the Qatar fleet, even when passengers are transferring from wide-body to narrow-body aircraft, says Al Baker. The A320s will be upgraded in terms of connectivity, an upgraded Panasonic in-flight entertainment system and the seats.
Qatar operates its A320s on routes of around five hours to destinations throughout eastern and central Europe and east Africa, such as Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia, Nairobi and Kigali.
Qatar Airways plans to open at least 14 new routes over the next year, including regional UK destinations, although this depends on future aircraft deliveries.
Qatar Airways currently has orders worth over US$50 billion for more than 250 aircraft, including Boeing 787s, 777s, Airbus A350s, A380s and A320 family of aircraft.
For more information, visit qatarairways.com.
Report by Scott Carey