Qatar Airways has no plans to introduce a premium economy class section on its planes, the airline’s CEO Akbar Al Baker has said.
“We are not going to introduce premium economy. The comfort we give you in economy is much more than premium economy,” Al Baker told journalists at a news conference this week.
This is not the first time Al Baker has dismissed the idea of rolling out such a service; he made similar comments last November.
But his views are in contrast to those recently shared by the CEO of rival Emirates, who said earlier this month that he was “looking seriously” at the possibility of introducing a premium economy offering that would be halfway between the economy cabin and business class.
Similarly, American Airlines said last week that it plans to introduce a premium economy product on its domestic flights in 2017.
Several major international airlines currently offer premium economy seats, including Qantas, Singapore Airlines, British Airways and Air New Zealand.
Typically, passengers booking these more expensive economy seats are offered more leg room, wider seats, more luxurious food and a larger baggage allowance.
‘A business case’
Last week, the UAE-based airline’s CEO Tim Clark told reporters that premium economy was a serious option under consideration:
“We’re looking at all sorts of opportunities in terms of product development but clearly there’s a business case for looking seriously at premium economy. That’s not to say we are definitely going to do it, but we are looking at it.”
Although the airline’s figures show that it is performing well overall. It reported a 56 percent increase in profit last year, but also saw a 3.1 percent drop in its “passenger load factor” – the number of seats filled on its aircraft.
It is possible that the airline may turn to premium economy to help fill these spare seats. If it did, it would be the first of the region’s major airlines to introduce the new cabin class.
The ‘comfort canyon’
Last week, aviation journalist John Walton argued that Emirates and its Gulf rivals Etihad and Qatar Airways are obvious candidates for premium economy because they operate a large number of long-haul routes in which passenger comfort is important.
He also pointed to the significant difference in comfort levels between Emirates’ existing economy and business classes – the so-called “comfort canyon.”
The same can be said of Qatar Airways, which decided to introduce 10-across economy seating on its Boeing 777 fleet last year, the last of the big three Gulf airlines to do so.
The move reduced the width of each seat by almost two inches, to 17 inches across.
At the same time, the airline has been busy developing a new business class seat which, according to Al Baker, “will put our competitors in disarray wondering how they will compete.”
“The passenger experience gap between Qatar’s economy and ‘superbusiness’ would be well filled by premium economy,” Walton recently wrote in a column for Airways News.
Would you pay more for premium economy with Qatar Airways? Thoughts?