The world’s second best airline is moving away from the world’s fanciest cabin seat.
Qatar Airways won’t have first-class berths on its next-generation long-haul aircraft, chief executive Akbar Al Baker said during an interview in Istanbul on Saturday. He claims that investment in the most luxurious seats doesn’t justify the returns, given that Qatar’s business-class offering provides many of the same perks.
“Why should you invest in a subclass of an aeroplane that already gives you all the amenities that first class gives you,” said Al Baker. “I don’t see the necessity.”
Phasing out first class on long-haul routes isn’t without risk. The move runs counter both to Qatar’s five-star image and an industry trend that has seen airlines from Deutsche Lufthansa AG to Qantas Airways to Air France doubling down on their high-end offerings.
Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr has said more leisure travellers are looking for a special treat, and that the front of his aircraft has never been so full.
For Al Baker, however, the future lies in business class, which Qatar has branded its “Q-suite” product.
Qatar Airways will not provide first-class seating on its future Boeing Co 777X aircraft. These jets will be the biggest that the airline operates once it eventually retires all 10 of its Airbus SE A380s, which still contain eight first-class seats.
Cabin classes have become more elastic over the years, with carriers squeezing in premium economy between business and budget seat rows. First class has remained more of a gimmick that corporate clients limit to top executives, or that attracts ordinary passengers splurging on a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience.