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New Qatar ‘all business class’ Heathrow service launched – a great Avios redemption

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In the ‘I didn’t see that coming’ stakes, Qatar Airways announcement this week of an ‘all business class’ service from Doha to Heathrow scores pretty highly.

Using a newly acquired sixth daily slot at Heathrow, the service will launch on May 14th.  It will use an Airbus A319 with a similar layout to the one British Airways uses on its London City to New York JFK flights.

It will offer an overnight service to Doha, leaving Heathrow at 21.55 and arriving at 06.40.  The return leaves Doha at 14.50, arriving in London at 20.25.  With only one plane available in this configuration, it remains to be seen what happens when there are technical issues, especially as the 21.55 is the last Qatar service of the day.

Seating will be in a 2 x 2 formation, with just 40 seats on the plane.  Qatar released these mock-up images:

Qatar A319


Qatar A319 2

Whilst the seating looks tight, Qatar Airways says that the seats will be fully flat and that the planes will be wi-fi equipped.

My gut feeling would have been that Qatar Airways would not release Avios seats on this route because they need to fill it with paying passengers to make it work.  However, the seats are there.  At the time of writing, for example, there are 4 seats available on the Heathrow to Doha service on 2nd June – 10% of the plane!  In fact, there seem to be 4 seats available on most days.

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Comments (25)

  • James67 says:

    Unimpressive IMO. As you say seats are tight, and the cabin looks drab to me. Same old climbing over issues for window seats Despite only 40 seats it will still have a small cabin feel; some may likd that but I prefer the feeling of space in the likes of TG and SQ a380s. The nearest departures are QR 1 and 2 on which I am betting they will run the a380 which should be a much better experience. I took a chance on an F redemption on this hoping the old a340 will be gone by November.

  • Baggageinhall says:

    Four redemption seats yet they are charging a premium for revenue seats. The QR website shows no availability in the lowest fare buckets on this service.

    I’m fascinated to see what the QR F cabin looks like on the A380 given that their F cabin is the least ritzy of the Middle East 3.

  • RogerWilco says:

    Why shouldn’t they release seats for OW redemptions? They’d get reimbursed by the respective partner airlines, wouldn’t they?

    • James67 says:

      Yes, but not aa lucrative as a full fare revenue ticket. If it was truely attractive to airlines then we would see much better award availability than we do.

    • Rob says:

      Only at a very modest cost

  • Froggitt says:

    Assuming a standard A319 takes 130-140 seats, rows of 4 instead of 6 would reduce that to say 90, at a pitch of say 30in, and halving it to 45 should give a seat pitch of 60in, while also adding some galley space.

    60in compares well to most business classes, but those pictures to me look more like VS Premium Economy.

    • Rob says:

      They are mock ups, we have to assume the real thing is better! The BA service from City to New York is fully flat and very impressive.

  • James67 says:

    Going off topic somewhat here but the acquisition of a sixth slot pair at LHR by QR and their use of it to deploy a small a319 on a long(ish)-haul route bothers me. Heathrow is already operating near full capacity with little room for expansion. Therefore, it seems crazy to me that they allow an airline with multiple daily slots devoted to long-haul flights to deploy smaller aircraft such as the a319 on some of the slots. It seems more sensible to me that when an airline has multiple daily slots serving the same to LHR) or they should be made to give some of them up to other airlines which would improve the passenger experience by providing a wider range of direct desitnations from Heathrow. There are other examples, such as UA/CO and their 757s or AC deploting a330s and 787s on multiple slots when they could be using something larger like 773ERs. The 787s is also a problem as I see it because many airlines seem to be depolying it as a replacement for larger 777s thus reducing capacity and inevitably leading to less competition, increased fares and less reward seats going forward. I know introducing controls on aircraft size using LHR and other busy hubs would be problematic but should be not impossible, the distinction would need to be made between domestic and short-haul routes as opposed to long-haul routes. IIRC some changes were introduced along these lines a few yuears back that caused BMI in particular probles with its slots where it deployed its ERJs. I would be curious to know what other readers think on this issue?

    • Tim says:

      It would be a simple algorithm to implement – the higher the percentage capacity of slots used, the more seats each slot must carry – busy airports with big planes, quiet ones with a variety of sizes. The optimisation however is not about improving “the passenger experience”. It is about profits. A smaller, all-business class flight could easily generate more profit than the largest of aircraft packed full of economy seats.

      I am not entirely convinced about an all-business class flight generally. What is the point? It takes experience and imagination to believe that there are other planes somewhere where other people are less comfortable and experiencing poorer service levels. It is far easier to look through the curtain to make one appreciate what one has :).

      • Rob says:

        The City to New York service ‘works’ but that is departing from a small airport and the ‘small plane’ ethos fits in. Seems a bit odd transiting the massive Heathrow infrastructure to board a 40 seater, but then I did an Aer Lingus to Heathrow 2 years ago on a plane with not many more seats!

    • John says:

      Heathrow _wants_ to expand, it is only at capacity in terms of flights not passengers, and if an airline chooses not to maximise the number of passengers it could fly it is not their problem.

    • tim says:

      Could this new service be regarded as slot-sitting? When the passenger numbers and aircraft are available my betting is that Qatar will switch it to a bigger multiple class plane.

      • Rob says:

        It wouldn’t surprise me. You can’t run this route long-term when you only have one aircraft that can fly it. Any maintenance work requiring more than a couple of hours will result in a cancellation.

        • Matthew says:

          Or they might phone Titan up and have a plane deployed in 30 mins from Stansted as a back up!

      • James67 says:

        If you have hit nail on the head it could be slot sitting for a380 as times are slightly bettercthan QR 1 and 2. My bet on a QR a380 F may just have taken a hit 🙁

    • Rob says:

      Heathrow usage is a bit of a PR myth. Remember that during the Olympics, they made a big song and dance about banning all charter flights and private jets from Heathrow to improve reliability. Those planes are now back, taking a fair % of slots.

      Qatar, in any event, is a hub airport. Its not as if the Qatari Government is running empty planes in a weird attempt to drive tourism in Qatar. 80% of passengers will be going on elsewhere (although possibly not on this service) and, de facto, increasing capacity from London to a huge number of cities (via Doha).

      There are plenty of services to non-hub airports that could be pulled out of Heathrow first.

      • Tim says:

        Agreed. Hubs can be anywhere. I have no interest in flying anywhere near London but I have to to catch a connecting flight. Put them in outer space and they would be better.

        Boris Island is a non-starter for that reason: it is still London-based. Some serious research ought to be presented, without the influence of current interested parties, into how to address the current UK market for flying. For a start, Northerners are much more likely to fly South in the Winter. “It was always thus and always thus will be”. Yet this is not addressed by any suggestion of a proposal.

        I understand that Heathrow is convenient for Londoners and those who wish to visit London, but its placement is an irrelevance for the majority who are just passing through. Bulldoze it and let BA come up with new and brighter suggestions for a hub.


        • James67 says:

          At least now we have less cause for complaint than we used to do thanks to the Gulf carriers when heading East and South. Heading West it seems both UA and the newly merged AA/US are showing interest in expanding regional departure thus increasing competition and a choice if both major alliances. Perhaps this might provoke Delta back into UK regions as opposed to relying on KLM. Aer Lingus expansion in the States is also welcome for regional depatures and from what I have heard they are offering very competitive fares. Perhaps most disappointing is the lack of competitive fares from KLM and their poor FF program given their great regional connections to AMS which is arguably the best European transit hub Going forward I see TK being more agressive acriss the UK as they have been in Germany. We have connections with LH via FRA and from MAN with AY via HEL (wisg they would come to Edinburgh) which is great heading far East. Ironically the biggest regional problem now is European shorthaul unless you are happy with LCC. We may continue to gripe about BA and LHR but personally I think we have never had it so goid from the regions and hopefully it will get better.

      • James67 says:

        But one side effect of slot dominance by a few hub-to-hub carriers with multiple daily rotations to their hubs only is that we ultimately have less choice of direct routhes. In effect Heathrow in the Word just becomes a larger version of Chicago in the USA. By allowing these carriers to dominate we increase the need for A-B-C etc routings as opposed to direct A-C irotings which would possibly increase in number if a wider range of carriers were able to get a bigger slice of the pie. All to often we hear complaints about BA dominance at Heathrow but that at least has the advantage of more direct routes to more places. To me overseas carriers feeding their own hubs via multiple daily rotations at LHR is a bigger problem than BAs dominance.

        • Rob says:

          There is no big money in flying to more places directly, though. Over the last 5 years BA (and Virgin to a lesser extent) have trialled additional services to India, for example, which failed. BA has also not been rushing to do more in China apart from Chengdu. Las Vegas, Maldives, Punta Cana …. these are the places it is actually starting up.

          A 3rd runway at Heathrow with more slots would not make any real difference to the number of routes served, apart from airlines transferring from Gatwick. BA could find a slot pair in 5 minutes for any new service it wanted, it also has the aircraft. But it doesn’t.

          Assuming that you will never be able to justify a direct service from London to some obscure Indian city, the 2nd best option is to let the Middle Eastern hub airlines in.

          • James67 says:

            Thanks, that makes sense. I was just assumming carriers like PAL and Garuda had a desire but were be squeezed out by Gulf and big carriers when it came to payung for Heathrow slots.

  • Sarah says:

    Wow, that looks really unappealing. The seating as you say looks really tight and the whole thing just looks cramped. Coupled with potential reliability issues, I don’t see why anyone would choose to fly this over the 1-2-1 layout of the 787. Once you’re on board you’ve no idea that there are a couple of hundred people sat behind you, and it doesn’t have any additional benefits over their standard LHR service such as you get with the BA LCY-JFK service – ie City departure and Shannon pre-clearance.

  • Sam says:

    These flights only have booking classes J & C, and no discounted D & I Business classes. It’s I class that the constant stream of Business Offers / Companion Fares are booked in – i.e. BKK is currently £1550 + tax in I, cheapest in C would be £2450 + tax – so this will a premium service.

    I’d say if you’re tempted to book it with Avios availability, grab it sooner rather than later as it may not be around forever!

  • ADS says:

    I flew JFK-LCY last year and was really disappointed with the plane & service.

    I won’t be rushing to try the Qatari incarnation.

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