The delivery of the world’s first Airbus A350-900 XWB to Qatar Airways was exciting news, but at the Doha event on January 7th, it was quickly eclipsed by a show-stopping revelation by the airline’s group CEO Akbar Al Baker concerning the A350-1000s entering service next year.
‘Super Business’ is obselete – behold the business bedroom!
Qatar Airways has 43 A350-1000s on order, which are currently in development and are scheduled for entry into service mid-2017. Asked about his plans for the aircraft, Al Baker revealed that from 2016, the airline’s current ‘super business class’ seat, as found on its B787s and A380s – and indeed the freshly delivered A350-900 – “will be obselete”.
The current product (pictured right), which is based on the B/E Aerospace Diamond platform, is a high-quality product, but Al Baker has even grander plans. “We are developing a new seat that will have proprietary rights. This will be a product that will be unrivalled in our industry. And when you introduce that product into an aeroplane, I really don’t think you need a first class. Qatar Airways has decided to have only two classes in our planes. The only [Qatar Airways] aircraft with first class will be the A380.”
And here comes the big revelation: “We always raise the bar for our dear friends in the [Gulf] area to try to copy us. And we will have a double bed at a business class fare.”
Al Baker went on to say that, “Qatar Airways is a trendsetter, and now everyone is introducing nearly the same products as us, and [Etihad] has recently introduced bedrooms in planes. So we will do it, but at a cheaper cost; something that really once again raises the bar for passenger travel in the sky.”
We assume the seats will be configured 1-2-1, with the central seats having a full-length retractable divider in order to create the bed. We can’t wait to get further details on this product, which will certainly feature in Aircraft Interiors International in the near future (following full details of the A350-900 cabin appearing in the March issue of Aircraft Interiors International). But for now, let’s look at some of the broader stories that emerged during the launch event in Doha.
Airbus knows its touch-ups
Referring to the unexplained week-long delay in the delivery of the A350-900 in December, Al Baker stated, “People who do not know how to do a proper touchup on eyeliner and how to put on [lipstick]correctly can learn from Airbus how to do the touchups.”
A design partnership
As launch customer of the A350, when it placed an order for 80 of the aircraft (37 -900s and 43 -1000s) during Paris Air Show, the airline says it has had influence in the overall A350 cabin design. As Al Baker stated at the Doha event, “Unlike any other aircraft we have in our fleet, this aircraft was completely architected in a joint manner with Airbus, drawing parallels and innovations from the manufacturer and operator hand in hand, right from the start. This is important because we both benefit from efficiencies of engineering design that are completely consumer-led. This means that Qatar Airways acts as an advocate for its passengers and ensures that every feature of this aeroplane is carefully thought out.”
Automatic aircraft tracking
Asked about the current hot topic of automatic aircraft tracking, Al Baker, who sits on the Board of Governors of IATA, again made a bold statement. “We are very aggressively pursuing the matter that IATA should be leading the subject of automatic tracking of airplanes without the control of pilots… We as members on the Board of Governors are insisting that it should become mandatory that aircraft should be able to be automatically tracked from takeoff until landing. Qatar Airways is already doing an experiment with a supplier – I am not at liberty say who as I cannot advertise them in front of the media – but we are working closely with them in testing a system whereby all flight data that is being recorded in the flight data recorder is also received continuously on the ground in our operations center. Once this has been proven and all bugs cleared we hope Qatar Airways will be the first airline to introduce this in all our airplanes.”