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Qatar Airways Set to Revive First Class and Expand Fleet with New Plane Orders

The successor of Akbar al Baker has plans for a strategic overhaul, which includes developments of a first class cabin and a large order of new aircraft

by Rachel Dube

March 15, 2024

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

Qatar Airways is in the process of developing a new First Class cabin concept and seeking aircraft orders from Boeing and Aircraft under the leadership of new group CEO Badr Mohammed Al Meer. 

In a recent interview with CNBC, Al Meer—who previously served as the chief operating officer of Doha Hamad International Airport—said that this marks a new era for the airline. Al Meer aims to revamp the airline’s strategy and enhance supplier relationships. 

Photo: Badr Mohammed Al Meer, CEO. Courtesy of Qatar Airways

As part of this new strategy, Al Meer believes introducing a First Class cabin is crucial for the Gulf carrier. “We wanted to combine the experience of flying commercial and flying on a private jet and develop something new,” he said to CNBC. “We are 70% to 80% ready. We are only finalizing colors and small touches, but hopefully, we will be able to announce it very soon.”

These plans represent a major strategy shift for the airline, which announced it would be phasing out the First Class cabin just last year. 

“We were always focusing on two cabins, Economy and Business. However, based on demand for certain sectors, we see that there is and will always be a very high demand for First Class.”

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

Many airlines have decreased the number of First Class seats to maximize the space in their planes, but Qatar Airways has made a notable addition to its aircraft. The airline is working on a brand-new First Class cabin that combines the features of its signature Qsuite with the comfort of a private jet. 

Along with the new First Class cabin, the airline is redesigning its award-winning Qsuite business class. The new offering will be revealed in July at the Farnborough International Airshow.

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

As for pricing, the CEO mentioned that fares will align with its other top-tier options. “People will not have to pay an arm and a leg to fly on [the new] first class—it will be the same cost as our first class on the A380,” he says in the CNBC interview. 

Aircraft Orders 

Al Meer also mentioned that they submitted a Request for Proposal to Boeing and Airbus for a large new aircraft order. He wants to enhance the service offering and capitalize on momentum following the World Cup held in Qatar last year.

With the World Cup sales, the airline delivered a record net profit of $1.21 billion in 2022-2023.

Photo: Qatar Airways, Boeing 777-300ER. Courtesy of Boeing

The new aircraft order proposal follows a legal dispute between Qatar Airways and Airbus over safety concerns related to paint degradation. Al Meer also noted that he wants to halt former CEO Al Baker’s plans to retire the flagship A380 aircraft. 

He plans to expand into other markets, including China, India, Australia, Japan, and Korea. This strategy update comes as Qatar Airways competes with other Gulf carriers, including Emirates, Etihad, and Riyadh Air. 

“Competition will help us raise the benchmark,” Al Meer said. “The way I see it, the pressure is Riyadh Air… they will have to compete with the best of the best.”

All in all, we can expect a lot to come from the Qatar-based carrier in the future.