Qatar Airways will introduce first class cabins on 777-9s used on key routes


Qatar Airways has announced that it will introduce a first class option on a small number of select aircraft to fly on key routes when it welcomes the Boeing 777-9 into its fleet in 2025. The move comes as the carrier aims to exploit the opportunity presented by the boom in luxury air travel since the end of the pandemic.

Aligning the new cabin as an experience more like flying on a private jet, the yet-to-be-designed private suites will offer the pinnacle of commercial passenger air travel when they are introduced on the carrier’s fleet of new Boeing 777-9 fleet expected to arrive from the end of 2025. These aircraft will also feature the airline’s latest incarnation of its business class offering – the Qsuite 2.0.

Qatar Airways is hoping that the newly introduced first class suite will surpass the experience offered by its local competitors such as Emirates and Etihad, as well as other airlines such as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Qatar will also heavily rely on the experience it has gained operating its own dedicated fleet of private jets under the Qatar Airways Executive brand when refining the design of its new service.

“We will utilize our knowledge and our expertise from having a private jet company,” Qatar Airways CEO Badr Mohammed Al Meer told CNBC in an interview. “I feel that nobody can develop a first class cabin better than us for that reason. “We want to combine the experience from flying commercial and from flying a private jet and develop something new.”

“We have always been pushing away the concept of having a first class cabin on our aircraft,” Al Meer said. “I have decided in the last few months that we have to introduce a first class cabin, especially when we have to exit the A380. Based on demands for certain sectors we see that there is and that there will be, always, very high demand on first class.”

Qatar Airways

The decision will come as a surprise to many. Less than a year ago, Al Meer’s predecessor Akbar Al Baker declared the airline’s newly revamped Qsuite service was of such high standard that it effectively made first class “obsolete”, and that Qatar Airways would no longer offer first once its A380 superjumbos were retired.

“Why should you invest in a subclass of an airplane that already gives you all the amenities that first class gives you?” said Al Baker in June 2023. “I don’t see the necessity.”

The introduction of first class on Qatar Airways flights is not expected to be network-wide, however. Al Meer has stated that there is likely to only be demand for first class on “certain sectors” that its Boeing 777-9s will operate. These are expected to be routes from Doha (DOH) where the airline has its main base, to cities such as London, Paris, possibly New York, and maybe one or two others. A limited number of the 50 Boeing 777-9s the carrier has on order are expected to feature the ultra-luxurious and “very exclusive first class cabin of just four seats.”

“We are 70% and 80% ready, and we are only finalizing colors and final touches,” Al Meer told CNBC, adding that “hopefully, we will be able to announce it very soon.”

Qatar Airways says a bit of healthy skepticism is needed for the industry's net-zero goals
GagliardiPhotography / Shutterstock

The carrier’s CEO also added during the interview with CNBC that the airline was currently evaluating a further large aircraft order, with a request for proposals having already been issued to both Airbus and Boeing.

Industry analysts are presuming that any such order will be for further widebody jets to replace its fleet of Boeing 777-300ERs of which it currently has 57 with an average age of 10.9 years. The types thought to be in contention for any such order include the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 777X series. 

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