Qatar Airways CEO On Premium Economy: It Won’t Happen

Qatar Airways is not interested in launching premium economy on its flights, the airline’s Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said today. Qatar’s CEO spoke about the future of the onboard experience during Simple Flying’s Future Flying webinar. Let’s investigate further.

Qatar Airways COVID-19 testing
Qatar Airways won’t launch premium economy, maybe ever. Photo: Getty Images

Is premium economy the most profitable cabin?

Some carriers have found premium economy to be one of their best-earning cabins. Emirates, for instance, revealed this cabin last December, and since, it has become one of the airline’s highest priorities.

Nevertheless, Mr. Al Baker is definitely not sold on premium economy. In an exclusive interview with Simple Flying, he said,

“I’m not going for premium economy. Qatar Airways provides passage at reasonable prices to my passengers, giving them equal, or even higher comfort than the premium economy.”

Qatar’s CEO went on to add that there’s a delicate balance between profitability and taking passengers to the cleaners.

The airline has been firmly against premium economy for quite some time now. According to Mr. Al Baker, the premium economy is, really, the economy class of Qatar Airways. He has even said that the standards of inflight service at any economy class seat of his company are far ahead of premium.

Qatar Airways Q suite
Qatar Airways’ Qsuite is the path of the future, according to the airline. Photo: Qatar Airways.

First class is also a big no-no for Qatar

Not only is Qatar Airways uninterested in the premium economy. The Middle East airline is also unimpressed by first class cabins, Al Baker said,

“We removed first class from our airplanes since 2006, and some of my competitors told me that it was a huge folly on my part and just had this very high class -first and business- which we call our Qsuites.”

Qatar’s CEO added that other competitors may have criticized him initially but now are following his steps. Companies like British Airways now have all two-class airplanes, though they call it three-class because they still maintain a premium economy.

Al Baker is really unimpressed by first class because load factors tend to be very low, between 50 and 52%. “An airplane is a very expensive real estate, and you cannot carry fresh air onboard; you need passengers,” he said.

But not all hope is lost for first class passengers. There could be two or three routes from Doha where Qatar may introduce a very small first class, Al Baker added.

Qatar Airways CEO On Premium Economy: It Won’t Happen
Qatar Airways is very happy with its A350 and B787 fleet, but not so much with the A380s. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

It’s (almost) all about the passenger experience

Qatar Airways will only put products and cabins onboard if they’re affordable to their passengers while maintaining an absolute luxury on the experience.

That’s one of the main issues with first class as well, said Al Baker. “I don’t think that any first class is close to the luxury we provide in our Qsuites.”

With that in mind, Qatar Airways is already working on the second phase of its Qsuites. Nevertheless, Mr. Al Baker failed to provide more detail regarding the immediate future of its successful cabin.

For Qatar Airways is almost all about the passenger experience. But, why almost? Because of the environment. Mr. Al Baker said that the A380 was Qatar’s biggest mistake. He added that while the A380 is one of the passengers’ favorite aircraft, it’s just too unprofitable to keep it flying.

“People who have a large number of A380s are going to suffer in two ways. One is operating costs. And second, people who are very cautious about emissions will avoid traveling on an A380. I know passengers love it. It’s a very quiet and smart airplane, but the damage it does to the environment should be the priority and not the comfort.”

Have you traveled with Qatar Airways? How did you find the onboard experience? Let us know in the comments.