Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways to launch Business Class-only service to London Heathrow

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By Jonny Clark, TheDesignAir

Qatar Airways has announced the launch of a new daily all-premium Business Class service from its hub in Doha to London Heathrow. Mirroring the Business-only product currently run by British Airways from London City Airport to New York JFK, the new service will be the first of its kind in the Middle East and will commence on 15 May 2014.

Qatar Airways will fit an A319 aircraft with an all Business Class, single aisle, 2–2 seating configuration offering 40 seats – slightly larger than the 32 seats on BA’s A318 that operates the LCY – JFK route.

Full-flat bed, big-screen IFE, connectivity
The full-flat seat – similar to the one found in Lufthansa’s new 747-800 cabin, or Delta’s new transcontinental Delta premium product – is configured as pairs of seats, slightly angled away from the aisle, meaning a modicum more privacy, but really only ideal for those travelling in pairs.

A nice touch on the narrowbody A319 is the provision of a big-screen entertainment system with more than 900 movies, TV shows, and video games to choose from, as well as the ability to SMS from the air to those on the ground, enabling people to keep in touch.

Passengers on the Business-only jet also have access to Qatar’s Premium lounge in London Heathrow’s T4 and the airline’s Premium Terminal in Doha.

Qatar Airways currently operates five daily flights to London Heathrow and the additional sixth all Business Class daily service means the airline will step up the frequency on the Doha – London Heathrow route from 35 to 42 weekly services.
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Four airlines to receive their first A380 superjumbo in 2014

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By Raymond Kollau,

As more airlines are bidding farewell to the last 747 in their fleet and opt for the 777-300ER or the A380 as their flagship product instead, this year will see four more airlines welcoming their first superjumbo.

The A380 provides 50 percent more floor space compared with the Boeing 747, but airlines on average install only 35 percent more seats, using the extra space for roomier cabins and customized areas. Well-documented examples of ‘A380 extravaganza’ include the onboard First Class shower on Emirates’ A380 and the Absolut Vodka-branded lounge and inflight duty free store on Korean Air’s A380.

10 airlines currently operate an A380
As of end of January 2014, 16 airlines have ordered 304 aircraft of the passenger version of the superjumbo. Currently 123 A380s are in operation worldwide (graph here) and 10 airlines have taken delivery of an A380 so far: Singapore Airlines (2007), Qantas, Emirates (2008), Air France (2009), Lufthansa (2010), Korean Air, China Southern (2011), THAI Airways, Malaysia Airlines (2012), and British Airways (2013). With a total order of 140 A380s, of which 44 have been delivered, Emirates accounts for nearly half of the orders.

This year, four more airlines will receive their first A380, including three carriers who regularly show up in the various ‘best airlines in the world’ rankings: Qatar Airways, Etihad, Asiana, plus Japanese hybrid low-cost carrier Skymark. These airlines will be followed by the final round of first A380 deliveries to Transaero in 2015, while orders at Hong Kong Airlines (2015) and Virgin Atlantic (2018) seem questionable. At the same time, Turkish Airlines reportedly will add four A380s to its fleet this summer for operation on slot-constrained routes to China.

Becoming the eleventh carrier to add the A380 to its fleet (just before Qatar Airways), Korea’s Asiana Airlines will introduce its first superjumbo in June this year on regional routes, before deploying the aircraft on the Seoul – LAX route in July or August. Asiana will take delivery of a total of six A380s — two in June of this year, two next year, and two in 2017.

Asiana’s A380 will be configured with 12 ‘OZ First Suites’ and 66 staggered ‘Smartium’ Business seats on the upper deck and 417 economy seats (106 on the upper deck and 311 on the lower deck), carrying a total of 495 passengers.
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Buy your airline ticket in style: Qatar Airways opens ticket office in Harrods

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By Raymond Kollau,

We have reported before airlines in Brazil have been developing innovative strategies as they compete to win over the new Brazilian middle class, many of whom are entirely new to air travel. For example, TAM and low-cost carrier GOL are targeting this segment with novel sales channels, such as mini travel stores at busy subway and bus stations and kiosks at discount stores.

On a related note, Philippine Airlines and its low-cost subsidiary AirPhil Express offer customers in the Philippines the option to book a domestic ticket online and then pay for their ticket using cash at over 750 7-Eleven retail outlets nationwide, which are open 24/7. Meanwhile, Jetstar Japan has just signed a distribution agreement to sell tickets through the ubiqitous Lawson convenience store franchise chain. The arrangement enables customers to book Jetstar Japan air tickets using the multi-media terminals (known as Lawson Loppi) and pay for them in cash at the chain’s 10,000 plus stores. The deal with Lawson will allow the low-cost carrier to become the first airline in Japan to sell fares at multi-media terminals that already sell concert, bus and train tickets.

On the other end of the spectrum, Qatar Airways – which was voted Airline of the Year in 2012 and is one of just a handful 5-star rated airlines in the world – has just opened a flagship high-street ticket office in one of the world’s most exclusive shopping destinations – iconic British department store, Harrods in Knightsbridge, London.

Located on the lower ground floor of the department store, next door to Harrods Bank, the Qatar Airways ticket office is a short walk for many citizens from the oil rich state who have moved to the UK with many living in Knightsbridge and Kensington. Or as The Telegraph states it: “Now, with their favourite airline taking space in the Harrods basement, Qataris will only need to leave their Ferraris and Lamborghinis for a short time to collect their tickets on the carrier.”

Futhermore, Mohammed Al-Fayed sold Harrods for GBP1.5 billion to investment company Qatar Holdings in May 2010 – forging a close link to the Arab state.

“London is one of our most important gateways,” said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker. “We are opening our ticket office in central London at Harrods as it is a place that not only reflects the high level of service we offer, but is where our most discerning customers can be found. Harrods customers can now experience our unrivalled 5 star service in-store and onboard.”

Qatar Airways operates five daily flights between Doha and London Heathrow.

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Innovative Airlines 2012: #6 Qatar Airways

By Vivek Mayasandra

With the Gulf Region having firmly anchored itself as a global aviation crossroads, it comes with little surprise that Qatar Airways is on our list of airlines to watch in 2012. The national carrier of Qatar has experienced a rapid ascent to become one of the few ‘5-Star Airlines’ in the sky and was named “Airline of the Year 2011” by Skytrax – which cited its roomy Economy cabin and Business Class product – including the Premium Terminal at its Doha hub – as key drivers for the ranking.

Compared with Gulf-based competitors Emirates and Etihad, Qatar Airways takes a more low-key approach in designing its passenger experience. Says the airline’s CEO Akbar Al Baker in an emailed statement to, “We believe that our key innovation is not so much one particular product or service, but rather our commitment to blending the latest technologies, trends and styles with the best aspects of air travel as it used to be, including plenty of space, inspiring cuisine and a warm, personal service. We provide an experience, not sell a commodity.” Continues Al Baker, “Although our premium seats offer a high degree of comfort and privacy we do not see the need to feature gimmicks such as walls or doors in any of our designs.”

Onboard Experience
Qatar Airways’ fleet of widebody aircraft offer a Business Class product that features 180 degree flat bed seats in a 2-2-2 configuration, a seat pitch of 78 inches, 15 inch IFE screens (17”on its B777s) with over 1,000 entertainment options, and a-la-carte dining with all meals prepared at time of order. In Economy, the standard seat pitch is up to 34 inches (significantly more than on other airlines). Passengers also receive a complimentary toiletry pouch and the airline has teamed up with wellbeing guru Deepak Chopra to produce a ‘Tips to Fly Healthy’ guide that can be found in the seat-back pocket. All seats also offer in-seat power and a 10.6 inch IFE screen.

B787 Dreamliner
Qatar Airways expects delivery of its first Boeing 787 in Summer 2012 (it plans to have five 787s in service by the end of the year) and the airline will be the launch customer in the Middle East for the aircraft. Qatar will initially operate the 787 on intra-Gulf routes to provide flight crew with training hours before it will deploy the aircraft on the Doha–London Heathrow route in late August. Bloomberg reports that Qatar also plans to start flights to Atlanta, Chicago, Boston and Detroit within the next year as it begins receiving its 787s.
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Qatar Airways expands via niche markets, opening 24 new routes in 2 years time

By Vivek Mayasandra

With an enviable outlook ahead of them, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways are some of the world’s fastest-growing airlines. A recent report released by the Boston Consulting Group illustrates that the three carriers will collectively triple their capacity over the next 20 years. But while these so-called ‘Gulf Gullivers’ have a number of similarities – they have placed multi billion-dollar aircraft orders, large investments in their premium services,  and expanded their airports in order to turn the Gulf region into the world’s 24/7 aviation hub – they have taken on different growth strategies.

We have highlighted before how Emirates, which will become the world’s largest operator of widebody aircraft by 2015, is combining its global Dubai hub with localized services on board. This time we are taking a look at Qatar Airways, who has been taken a slightly different expansion approach by seeking out markets that have yet been unexplored by fellow Gulf carriers.

Airline of the year
The national carrier of Qatar has experienced a rapid ascent to become one of the top airline brands in the sky. Earlier this year, 5-star rated Qatar Airways was named “Airline of the Year 2011” by Skytrax – which cited its roomy economy class cabin and the Business and First Class experience (including the Premium Terminal at its Doha hub) as key drivers for the ranking.

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Qatar Airways currently operates a fleet of 102 aircraft to 109 destinations, and by 2013 plans to serve 120 destinations with a fleet of 120 aircraft. Receiving a new aircraft every 18 days, the airline is targetting an annual growth of 35 percent in the coming years, and has ordered more than 200 aircraft, including 10 a380s and 80 a350s, worth over USD 40 billion. Additionally, Qatar Airways is a key stakeholder in the construction of Doha’s brand new international airport, scheduled to open in 2012.

Niche Markets
While Qatar Airways is likely to remain smaller in total size than its near neighbour Emirates for the foreseeable future, the Doha-based carrier seems keen to overtake its Dubai-based rival in the number of destinations served (109 versus 116 routes at the moment). Speaking at the recent Dubai Air Show, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said that the airline’s mission “…has been to operate to key business and leisure destinations around the world, but also to underserved markets where others dare not venture into. We take bold decisions to serve certain markets because we believe it makes strong business sense.”
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Emirates orders 32 more A380s, grows A380 fleet to 90 aircraft

Dubai-based Emirates has signed a deal to buy 32 additional A380 aircraft in an order with a list price of USD11.5 billion. This brings the airline’s total A380 order to 90 aircrafts, nearly 40 percent of worldwide orders for the superjumbo. Emirates president Tim Clark said that all 90 A380s will be operating at the same time in the future, as “The first A380 aircraft we ordered will be retired from the fleet in 2020, and the last of this order will be delivered in 2017.” 

The central location of the Gulf Region on the world map lets aircraft access almost every destination non-stop, as 85 percent of the world’s population is located within a 8,500 km range from the Gulf. Governments in the region have been developing their carriers over the past decades to help diversify their economies and reduce dependence on oil revenues. The so-called ‘Gulf Gullivers’ are increasingly redirecting passenger flows from Europe, Asia and the Americas through their hubs, making them serious competitors for established airlines.
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Inflight connectivity takes off in the Middle East

2009 was the year of inflight connectivity in the USA with the rollout of Aircell’s Gogo inflight Wi-Fi on nearly 700 U.S domestic aircraft (roughly a quarter of the domestic fleet). Inflight Internet access is now being offered (or will soon be offered) by 10 North American airlines. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, a similar development is taking place. Airlines such as Emirates and Wataniya currently offer GSM-based connectivity on cellphones and pda’s, and several carriers in the region will follow during 2010, with onboard cellular as well as Wi-Fi access. 

Introduced in March 2008, passengers on 70 Emirates aircraft (out of Emirates’ 145-strong fleet) can currently use their cellphones and pda’s to make voice calls and send sms-messages. Emirates says 200 flights a day throughout 55 countries are currently mobile-equipped and each month passengers send and receive over 140,000 sms texts. The airline is installing the Aeromobile system at 2 to 3 aircraft a month and by mid-2010 will also add GPRS technology to its cellular service, providing pda users who need a quick internet fix with a limited Internet connection. Aeromobile together with Panasonic will also equip Turkish Airlines with full inflight broadband when the first of the airline’s 12 new B777-300ERs and 10 A330-300s enters service in the fourth quarter of 2010.
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Gulf Gullivers keep expanding amidst global downturn

The rise and rise of Emirates (Dubai), Etihad (Abu Dhabi) and Qatar Airways has been well documented. These so-called ‘Gulf Gullivers’ have placed multi billion-dollar aircraft orders, expanding their airports and developing their tourism infrastructure, with the aim to  turn the geographically ideally situated Gulf region into the world’s aviation hub. Some of the ingredients of their model: high frequencies to major urban destinations, target large metropolitan areas without direct connections (for example, Manchester, Birmingham in the UK, Düsseldorf, Hamburg in Germany) so passengers can bypass busy hubs in their region and transfer at the carrier’s 24/7 Gulf hubs, and large investments in their premium services.

The past year, major airlines in Europe, North-America, and Asia-Pacific have put their brakes on fleet expansion amid significant drops in passenger volumes and yields. Nevertheless, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways have continued their aggressive fleet and network growth, introducing more than 30 new widebodies between them during 2009. Middle East airlines saw passenger grow 11.2 percent in 2009 according to IATA. By contrast, passenger demand dropped 5 percent in Europe and 5.6 percent in the Norh America, as well as in Asia Pacific. And plans remain bullish: With a new wave of aircraft coming, most notably Emirates and Qatar Airways are now turning their attention to other European metropolitan catchment areas and to Japan.
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