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).