With Qatar Airways now rolling out its business class Qsuites across its Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 fleet, the airline is turning its attention to a new version of the Qsuite for its Airbus A380 superjumbos and Boeing 787 Dreamliner, along with the world's first Boeing 777X due in 2020.
Speaking with Australian Business Traveller on the sidelines of the launch of daily flights to Canberra, Qatar Airways CEO His Excellency Akbar Al Baker said the A380 upgrade program would begin in 2020.
"We cannot put the Qsuite on the upper deck of the A380 because of curvature of the fuselage," Al Baker explains, adding that the cabin width of the Boeing 787 is also incompatible with the current Qsuite design "because we have to narrow the seat, and we don’t want to do that."
"So we are developing a new 1-2-1 product, a new seat which will go first in the Boeing 787-9s", with the A380s to follow "in the year after next".
The A380s will retain their first class cabin, although those open suites could see a revamp to give them more privacy.
While Al Akbar declined to share further details on the new Qsuite – "I cannot tell you, you will have to wait" he teased Australian Business Traveller – he allowed "it will have full privacy, so it will not be very far away from the Qsuite. The only thing it will not have will be able to have is a quad (to) convert into a family area."
The Qsuite is also being modified for the Boeing 777X – the next generation of Boeing's 777 family, which will take wing in 2020 with Qatar Airways as launch customer for the 777-9 jet – with reducing its overall weight as a key driving force.
"These seats are not very light (and) we always endeavour to have a product that is lighter on an aeroplane," Al Baker says.
"The modified Qsuite that we are now looking at for the 777x will be at least 22% lighter than the current Qsuite."
Al Baker expects that upgrading its entire Boeing 777 fleet to feature the Qsuite business class seats will take until the middle of 2019.
"At the moment we have nearly 58 Boeing 777s and only 14 are equipped (with the Qsuite)," Al Baker says. "The program to retrofit all previous 777s will take one and a half years to finish".
Qatar Airways will also pick up the keys to four new Boeing 777-300ER jets this year.
Those new Boeing 777-300ER jets will roll out of the factory with the Qsuites installed, as will the airline's first Airbus A350-1000 due on February 20, 2018.
Beyond the Qsuite
Regardless of changes made to the 'Qsuite 2.0' design for the Boeing 787 and 777X jets and the Airbus A380, Al Baker believes that business class has reached its zenith with the Qsuite.
"I really think that there will be no room any more for improvement," he forecasts. "The only improvement will be in technology, in how much you can digitalise the product and how lightweight you can make it."
He cites the reduced weight of the Boeing 777X Qsuite as an example of how "we will keep on improving (the Qsuite) but within the same envelope. I don’t think there is any more comfort improvement you will be able to have."
Does this mean the battle of business class is over?
"It's not over, no. There will always be people who try to copy and catch up. But when it comes to attention to detail and commitment from the crew, it cannot be matched and it cannot be manufactured."
For Al Baker, "the human touch" remains the X-factor in business class. "The human touch, which you cannot produce in a factory, is what comes with the culture of an airline, and the culture of Qatar airways is completely dedicated to comfort and hospitality of the passengers."
David Flynn travelled to Canberra as a guest of Qatar Airways