Qatar Airways passengers flying Business Class to the US will be able to borrow laptops free of charge from the airline starting next week.
The move is to help premium passengers get around the new electronics ban onboard US-bound flights from Doha.
The restrictions came into effect last week, and include a ban on all electronics larger than a cellphone onboard flights from 10 cities, including Doha.
The policy has prompted questions about whether the US government is deliberately trying to hurt the competitiveness of Gulf carriers.
Some analysts have suggested these airlines may lose some of their lucrative business passenger segment to US carriers unaffected by the ban.
What its rivals are doing
But all three Gulf carriers – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways – have introduced new policies to retain business.
During yesterday’s announcement, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker emphasized that his airline was committed to offering the best solutions to its passengers:
“Whilst other airlines have relied on their existing onboard offering to comfort passengers, we have not rested until we could offer a true solution to our passengers,” he said.
The comment appears to be a jab at rival Emirates, which responded to the electronics ban with an ad emphasizing its existing seat back entertainment options.
It has also introduced a special electronics “check in” service at the gate. This will allow passengers to hold onto their laptops/iPads etc longer.
Etihad, meanwhile, recently announced that it would be offering a free iPad loan to its US-bound premium class passengers from Sunday.
It is also giving free WiFi to First and Business Class passengers.
Qatar Airways meanwhile is extending a one-hour free WiFi offer to all passengers heading to the US. This is regardless of which cabin they’re sitting in.
Additionally, passengers will be able to purchase WiFi access for the entire duration of their flight for a US$5 flat fee.
Starting next week, all passengers flying with Qatar Airways to the US will be able to use their tablets and laptops until just before their board their aircraft.
These items will then be collected, tagged and packaged “securely,” according to the airline. They will then be “returned safely” to customers upon arrival in the US.
Additionally, the airline said Business Class passengers will be invited to download any important files to a USB storage device before borrowing an airline laptop.
This will allow them to “pick up where they left off” during the flight.
However, economy passengers will not be able to take advantage of the laptop loan service.