Qatar Air Plans Double Beds in Business Class to Top Gulf RivalsDeena Kamel Yousef
Qatar Airways will roll out a new seat in its business-class cabins next year that Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said will feature double beds and be more than a match for rivals’ costlier first-class products.
The seat, over which Qatar Air will have proprietary rights, would extend a three-way race between the Doha-based company, Dubai-based Emirates and Etihad Airways PJSC of Abu Dhabi to offer the most luxurious berths to premium customers.
“We always raise the bar for our dear friends around the area to try to copy us,” Al Baker said in Doha. “We will have a double bed with only a business-class fare.”
Qatar Air is making business seats the key battleground in its premium push, with the product offered across the fleet, unlike its first-class berths, which though the widest in the industry will be restricted to 10 Airbus Group NV A380s. The carrier is the only non-Asian operator among eight that have the top five-star rating from airline-review service Skytrax, with Emirates holding four stars and Etihad boycotting the process.
“This will be a product that will be unrivaled in our industry,” Al Baker said of the seat, which replaces so-called super-business-class berths. “When you introduce that into the aeroplane, I really don’t think you need a first class.”
The latest upgrade comes as Etihad rolls out the Residence cabin -- featuring a bedroom, shower and sitting area and the services of a butler -- one of which will feature in each of 10 A380s on order, and as Emirates works on a new bedroom concept.
Al Baker said the delayed Hamad International Airport in Doha, which opened fully in April and which was built to the specifications of Qatar Air, will also provide free perks for economy-class passengers that go beyond those usually available.
The terminal features so-called Airport Nodes open to all travelers and providing child-play, family and sleeping areas, a television room and an Internet zone with free access to Apple Inc. computers and charging plugs.
“Most airports will not provide quality amenities because you’re in economy,” Al Baker said. “You’re paying next to nothing as a fare and you want everything. But we provide you.”
The airport, where passengers can spend several hours as they change between planes during the inter-continental journeys in which Gulf carriers have come to specialize, also features a spa, swimming pool, squash courts and gym.