Qatar Airways Eyes New First Class Cabin For Some 777X Aircraft

Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, has said this week that he is studying an ultra-premium first class cabin for the airline’s forthcoming Boeing 777X aircraft. The new cabin will be installed on only a handful of the 777-9s it has on order and will be used to fly premium-heavy routes into Europe.

Boeing 777X, Test Program, First Flight
Some Qatar 777X could have a new first class suite. Photo: Boeing

Qatar studying ultra-premium first

Qatar Airways is planning an exciting addition for some of its forthcoming Boeing 777X jets. The Gulf airline has told Executive Traveler that a handful of the aircraft will feature a super-luxury first class cabin, filling a gap in the high-end market that will be left by the retirement of its Airbus A380s.

Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker told the publication,

“We are studying the possibility of having a very exclusive first class cabin of just four seats, for example.”

Qatar Paris Air show
Qatar was one of the first airlines to order the 777X. Photo: Getty Images

The suite would appear on just a select few Boeing 777-9 aircraft and would be deliberately designed as a very niche product, targeted at those passengers demanding an ultra-premium product. The aircraft would be tasked with missions from Qatar to a select number of premium-heavy European routes. Al Baker told Executive Traveler,

“We have huge demand here in Qatar to two or three European destinations … so we may introduce a very small first class cabin for our local passengers who want a very exclusive first class product.”

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What could we expect from the new 777-9 first class?

Qatar was one of the first airlines to order the 777X, along with Lufthansa, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Deliveries should have begun next year, but the airline has pushed these back to at least 2022, in mitigation for the travel downturn caused by the current crisis.

Qatar Airways A380
The premium heavy 777-9s will follow the retirement of the A380. Photo: Getty Images

Al Baker told Executive Traveler that it won’t be the first of its 777-9s that feature this new, super-premium cabin. He has said before that the A380s will be retired from their 10th birthdays, and as such, we shouldn’t expect to see this product until around 2028 when the final A380 leaves the fleet. Al Baker said,

“It will not be on the initial 777X because we want to have a product that is really very unique, so we need time to develop it.”

Qatar Airways has a stunning first class product onboard the A380. Featuring eight seats, the cabin is laid out in a 1-2-1 arrangement with fully flat beds and Qatar’s impeccable inflight service all built-in. However, in the modern world, these cabins lack privacy and are uncompetitive against something like the Emirates first class private suites.

Emirates first class suite
The product could take inspiration from Emirates first class suite. Photo: Emirates

With only four seats in the ultra-premium cabin, we can expect Qatar will be looking for something rather special here. The Emirates first suites are probably not a million miles away from where Qatar is aiming, but with a few more years to develop the product, we could see a game-changing offering in the pipeline.

It’s interesting that, while it isn’t doing away with first as some airlines are, it is halving the size of the cabin. The CEO told Executive Traveler that this was down to the low load factor in its A380 first cabin, which he says averages no more than 55-60%. He said,

“I think eventually, first class will keep shrinking on airlines.”

It’s great to see Qatar is planning to keep its first class cabin, albeit with half the current capacity. We’ll have to wait some years to see the end result, but knowing Qatar, it will likely be something exceptional.