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Qatar Airways Eliminates First Class Cabins from Future Aircraft

The airline is set to eliminate First Class seats entirely from its fleet by 2030, as it seeks to redefine the in-flight experience for its passengers.

by Lauren Smith

June 6, 2023

Photo: First Class seats on a Qatar Airways Airbus A380. Courtesy of Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways, renowned for its cutting-edge innovations in air travel, has taken another bold step in revolutionizing the passenger experience. The airline’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker, recently confirmed that the forthcoming Boeing 777 planes will not feature First Class cabins.

Al Baker emphasized that the decision was prompted by the belief that the lavish seating arrangement is redundant, given the exceptional amenities offered in the airline’s Business Class Qsuites.

This move comes as Qatar Airways celebrates six successful years since the introduction of its ground-breaking Qsuites. Unveiled as the world’s first Business Class cabin designed as individual suites complete with closing doors and double-bed configurations, Qsuites set a new standard for in-flight luxury.

Photo: Qatar Airways QSuite. Courtesy of Qatar Airways.

For years, Qatar Airways and Al Baker have maintained that their Qsuite experience rivals that of First Class cabins found in rival carriers. Now, they are taking their commitment to the next level by gradually phasing out First Class seating across their entire aircraft fleet.

The decision to eliminate First Class cabins not only underscores Qatar Airways’ confidence in its acclaimed Qsuites but also aligns with the evolving preferences of modern travelers. With the introduction of Qsuites, passengers can revel in comfort and privacy that is on par with, if not surpass, traditional First Class offerings.

The Qsuites feature extravagant flatbed seats, ample storage space, direct aisle access for every passenger, and various customizable seating configurations to accommodate individual or group needs.

“Why should you invest in a subclass of an airplane that already gives you all the amenities that first class gives you,” said Al Baker during an interview with Bloomberg News over the weekend.

Qatar Airways offers First Class seats on a few select routes operated on the handful of Boeing 777s it acquired from Cathay Pacific and on its ten Airbus A380s.

Photo: Qatar Airways, Airbus A380. Courtesy of Jan Rosolino / Unsplash.

The Gulf carrier had been due to retire the A380s but was forced to delay those plans when post-pandemic supply chain issues delayed the delivery of new planes. The double-decker planes should run until the end of the decade before being put to pasture.

Additionally, the airline’s upcoming 40 Boeing 777-9s—slated to become its flagship aircraft upon delivery in 2025 and beyond—are expected to come with QSuites.

Previously, Al Baker had hinted at the possibility of installing First Class cabins on some of the upcoming 777-9s. However, the Group CEO has confirmed that these aircraft will exclusively feature the airline’s renowned Qsuites.

Photo: QSuite Business Class seat. Courtesy of Qatar Airways.

This strategic move indicates that by the time Qatar Airways retires its A380s in 2030, it will no longer offer any First Class seats, setting itself apart from competitors such as Lufthansa, Air France, and Qantas. These airlines have recently intensified their focus on luxury, introducing opulent cabins and airport lounges.

Lufthansa, in particular, reported a surge in demand for its premium cabins, with leisure travelers occupying the First Class and Business Class seats previously occupied by corporate travelers who have transitioned to conducting business remotely.

Lufthansa’s CEO, Carsten Spohr, compared the rising demand for First Class travel to the post-pandemic upswing in luxury cars, watches, and real estate. The airline responded to this positive trend by unveiling its all-new First Class Allegris product.

Similar Trends in North America

This trend has also emerged in the United States, where American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines all witnessed robust demand for premium seating. United’s Chief Financial Officer, Gerald Laderman, acknowledged that most of their growth is focused on premium seats.

On the other hand, Qatar Airways believes that its Business Class product can adequately compete with the luxury offered in First Class cabins. However, passengers will lose certain amenities associated with First Class travel. These include more spacious seats, albeit without doors, enhanced service from flight attendants, indulgences like Krug Champagne, Arabic coffee, dates, and caviar, generous lavatories onboard, and exclusive escorts to the plane and car services.

Photo: QSuite Business Class seat. Courtesy of Qatar Airways.

With the phasing out of First Class tickets, it remains to be seen how Qatar Airways will repurpose the Al-Safwa First Class lounge at Doha’s Hamad International Airport (DOH), known for its exceptional facilities and services.

As Qatar Airways embarks on this strategic realignment, it seeks to demonstrate that its commitment to luxury air travel remains unwavering, even without the presence of traditional First Class cabins.

The airline’s Qsuites has garnered significant acclaim and are expected to continue to deliver an extraordinary experience to passengers, solidifying Qatar Airways’ position as a leader in the realm of refined travel.