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Something entirely reliable in this industry are the somewhat outrageous and outlandish claims dished up almost monthly by Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar al Baker.

Some of his notable and recent outbursts and headline grabbing moments include:

That his airline doesn’t receive hand-outs from the Qatari government:

We are not relying on hand-outs from anyone.

Opening new routes ostensibly to “rub salt in the wounds” of his European and USA competitors;
His airline will be releasing a “super” business class that will render it’s competitor’s First class products redundant;

We are developing a new seat to which we will have proprietary rights, and one which will be unrivalled… and when you introduce that product into the airplane there is really no need for first class.

Their Economy Class is as good as Premium Economy…

The economy product is so good that we don’t have to punish people to pay more to get the same product.

and…

I have travelled in a premium economy seat on one of the competing airlines and I would have rather sat on the economic class seat of Qatar Airlines.

Glossing over the rather dubious claim he has travelled, for any statistically relevant amount of time, in Premium Economy on a competing airline, it appears Akbar al Baker seems set on peddling the idea his economy class surpasses premium economy.

Those in this industry are well adjusted to his outbursts, and the majority of his statements are more or less glossed over and harmless to the informed traveller. I wouldn’t be playing my part at FlightMaestro.net, however, if I weren’t to test his claims regarding the superiority of his on board products. Whilst we are still waiting on the new business class, and have been for some time, to materialise, I can at least tackle the Economy claims.

So this comparison has some vestige of relevance, I decided to compare Qatar’s Economy class against other long-haul carrier’s Economy products, rather than Premium Economy. I promised myself to look to premium economy if it looked like a wipe out in the first comparison. Look below for a quick glance at their scoring:

bp_5_figure_1

[FIGURE 1 – Qatar Airways Economy comparison]

So how do we arrive at Qatar’s Economy class score (and, of course, the others)?

Let’s break it down:

The aircraft: Qatar has a pretty diverse fleet, with every modern Airbus variant being flown, and the Boeing B777 and B787. We’ve weighted the aircraft in the total score according to the portion of the fleet the aircraft type represents and the length of flight those jets generally fly – aircraft on longer flights get more of a say, naturally. Overwhelmingly, the workhorses of the Qatar long-haul fleet are the B777 and B787, with a cameo appearance from their 6 A380s on select routes.

The layouts and seats: here’s where the cookie crumbles. Qatar uses a very high-density layout on their B777 and B787 aircraft – the two aircraft you are most likely to find yourself on if you fly with them. On the B777, expect to find 10 seats per row. This is precisely the same layout as Qatar’s competitors in Emirates and Etihad, so they are at least on par there. However, it is way behind competitors like Asiana and Singapore Airlines, who still champion 9 abreast in Economy class on these jets. What this means for the passenger is a Seat Width reduction of, on average, 2 inches compared to its rivals – over 10% less sideways space on Qatar Airways compared to its competitors.

Qatar’s Economy seat width on the B787 is over an inch narrower than on their own short-haul jets.

On the B787, 9 abreast is the flavour of the day. I can’t pillory Qatar Airways in the context of its competitors here, as this has unfortunately become the standard density for this jet. That being said: Qatar’s seat width on the B787 is 16.9 inches, which is decidedly not a premium layout. For context, that is over an inch narrower than their own short-haul A320 jets. Your call on that front.

The entertainment: Qatar can legitimately claim to have an excellent IFE system installed on virtually all their jets. It is extremely up to date, and is on par with competitors such as Etihad, Emirates and Singapore Airlines. However, curiously the IFE system they have opted for still requires the dreaded under-seat box (not something their competitors opt for), which does severely reduce legroom in an already cramped layout.

So what?

I’ll leave it to the chart to break down the summary of this comparison. Qatar Airways has more or less raised the bar in its Business class cabins (on the B787, A350 and A380), however I’m not inclined to agree their Economy class is anything to write home about, let alone ground-breaking. What’s more, with the airline recently announcing a sizeable order from Boeing for the B777 and B787 (the airline’s worst Paxex performers), things are looking bleak for Economy passengers on Qatar Airways.

As for the claim it exceeds Premium Economy and effectively renders it a redundant offering for Qatar Airways? Please.

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Posted by Tom

Tom is a consultant and founder of FlightMaestro.net, the online travel tool that rates, ranks and dissects every facet of in-flight passenger experience. All views expressed are his own.

One Comment

  1. […] uses a combination of the B777, A350 and A380 between Melbourne and London. Whilst the B777 is decked out in a very dense format (10-abreast in Economy Class), all three aircraft offer vastly better comfort than the B787 in the […]

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