Qatar Airways Plans To Eliminate First Class

Qatar Airways has one of the world’s best business class products, but it is not a first class product. You don’t get as much space on the airplane as in the first class cabin on a comparable airline. And ground services aren’t as bespoke. For instance, when I’ve flown Qatar’s first class I’ve been escorted from lounge to plane, and on arrival in Doha from plane through immigration formalities. And the design aesthetic of Qatar’s first class al Safwa lounge is among my favorites.

People often comment that the al Safwa lounge ‘looks like a museum’. But it doesn’t just look like one. It has pieces on loan from the Museum of Islamic Art.

While Qatar has an amazing business class their first class is limited:

  • Short haul flights are marketed as economy and first class, with standard business class seats but first class lounge access

  • Only their Airbus A380 offers a first class cabin long haul, and while good enough, the seats are entirely ‘open’ in design, two rows of four abreast seating. There are no doors, which Qatar offers in business class on many of their widebody airraft.

Long-term the Airbus A380 will retire. And rather than add a new, top-end first class along the lines of something that might compete with Gulf rivals like Emirates, Etihad and even Saudia, or even like European carriers Lufthansa and Air France, Qatar is planning to eliminate long haul first class.

According to Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, the extra perks of first class aren’t worth the investment in terms of additional revenue. Just as he’s (oddly) claimed in the past that they do not need to offer a premium economy cabin because their coach product is already just as good (it isn’t) he argues that their business class already gets you a first class experience.

Why should you invest in a subclass of an aeroplane that already gives you all the amenities that first class gives you…I don’t see the necessity.

New Qatar Airways 777-9 (“777X”) aircraft will not feature a first class cabin. So when the A380s retire, that’s the end of long haul first class for Qatar Airways.

If you want a fantastic business class experience, Qatar Airways certainly offers that, with strong catering and service in addition to a great seat. For the limited markets and customer segments that value a more bespoke first class product, however, they will not be able to get that from Qatar. And there is little question that first class offerings from Singapore; Emirates; Air France; ANA; Cathay Pacific; JAL; Etihad; and Lufthansa are superior to Qatar’s business class (though I’d potentially choose Qatar business, for instance, over British Airways first).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary Leff

    Why this need to keeping knocking BA first?

    I flew LHR-LAX two weeks ago in their new first suites and found absolutely nothing negative about the experience whatsoever. We had both breakfast and lunch in the Concorde Room. My wife enjoyed a refresh in a sleep pod. The food and wine offerings were most enjoyable. The on board service was faultless and the food and wine delicious. The new enlarged screen was excellent. The doors offered the option of having an open or enclosed suite. By starting the itinerary in LIS much of the cash copayment was avoided on the redemption.

    FWIW the next flight, LAX-SYD in QF first, was a bitter disappointment. On the other hand, SQ Suites (SIN-LHR) was mind-blowingly great.

    Trying to book onto Qatar first for next trip….;)

  2. @platy – BA first is ‘fine’ in its own right sure. But the Concorde Room is a nice business class lounge, as far as first class ground service where is there any? The seats are small for first class. And the food is nicely plated but they’re business class meals.

    If you’re comparing things to Qantas first, sure, you’re not going to be appalled by BA!

    But neither are among better first class products (EK, SQ, EY, NH, AF…. even CX… LH…)

  3. @platy – I’ve sat in them but not taken a full flight with them. I’ve experienced the current first class soft product, and of course experienced the ground product many times

  4. @ Gary Leff

    Cool. IIRC AUS gets the new 350 biz.

    You may (or may not) be pleasantly surprised in the air. BA appears to be improving. Even on Club Europe there were menus and decent food / drinks on our recent BCN-LHR, LHR-MAD and LIS-LHR flights. One chicken tikka curry was especially tasty! Crew on all of my recent flights (adding a LHR-SJC to that list as well as the LHR-LAX) have been most impressive in their levels of service.

    To call the Concorde Room a business lounge could be somewhat harsh given the dining on demand and quality of drinks and and some on board dishes have certainly been above biz IME.

    Each to their own….;)

  5. @platy – I find dining in the Air Canada business class Signature Suite (business class) lounges in Toronto and Vancouver to be far better than what’s offered in Concorde Room, for instance

  6. @ Gary Leff

    Good to know about the AC lounges. Thanks for the head up. When AC finally release some Canada – Australia flights again I’ll look forward to checking that out.

  7. I’m still thumbs down on BA for charging up to $160 for advanced Business Class seat selection on LHR-AUS. I purchased a full fare R/T Business Class ticket using USD and not miles or points.

  8. @ One Trippe

    “I’m still thumbs down on BA for charging up to $160 for advanced Business Class seat selection on LHR-AUS?”

    That’s a stinker.

    But not supposed to be payable with O/W upper tier status. One presumes many folk simply won’t pay and choose to assign their seats per on line check in when it opens. Interestingly, such charges don’t apply to first class.

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