I was at the launch of the new Qatar Airways economy seat in Berlin yesterday. Economy travel is not something we focus on much, but I thought it was worth a quick look.
Let’s be clear. There isn’t much you can do with a standard economy airline seat to make it better. This is why I am quite impressed with what Qatar Airways is doing, where lots of incremental changes add up:
- each seat gets a 13.3 inch 4K TV screen – it is almost as wide as the seat back. My one worry here is that the screen glare from neighbouring seats will be annoying, especially if you are trying to sleep.
- the seats are ultra-slim which seems to improve legroom – I tried one out and my 6’2′ frame was not wedged against the seat in front
- there are two flip-down trays – one just below the TV which includes a cupholder and the usual 2nd tray just above knee level
- the back of the seat in front curves inwards at the bottom, giving your knees more room
- the seats are partially in shells – this means that if the person in front of you reclines, the back of their seat does not come forward into your face
- all seats have USB charging sockets
Qatar Airways also announced an upgrade to their ORYX IFE system, taking it up to 4000 channels, and an increase in the size of food portions. Desserts will be 50% larger whilst main courses will be 25% larger. There will also be a move to using more recyclable and biodegradable items.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that you won’t be seeing this seat in a hurry. It is being introduced initially on the new A320LR aircraft which will not serve the UK. It will only be rolled out to other aircraft as part of the natural replacement cycle, which means it may take eight years to complete.
The food upgrade IS happening more quickly, however. It is due to launch imminently and be available on all routes by the end of the year.