Thursday 20 June 2019

Qatar in big business push as frequencies to be increased

The award-winning QSuite business-class seating, which offers coworking or sleeping space
The award-winning QSuite business-class seating, which offers coworking or sleeping space

Business Travel: Mark Evans

Qatar Airways will be going double daily from Dublin to its Doha hub on selected days this year, boosting onward connection options for Irish business travellers.

The airline's high-profile chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, said back in 2017 that the airline would be looking at double daily if load factors stayed above 85pc. The increased frequencies - from July 1 to the end of September - will be on its Boeing 787 Dreamliners, offering 22 seats in business class.

Al Baker had hinted that the airline might even look at introducing the Airbus A350 into Dublin, with the advantage of 14 additional seats in business. It could yet be a case of watch this space.

Still, the Dreamliner has major advantages - the primary one being its jetlag-busting properties. Given its higher cabin air pressure and humidity, the chances of fatigue, dry eyes and headaches are lessened - especially advantageous on long-haul flights. First seen in Ireland with Ethiopian Airlines, the Dreamliner's also being introduced this year by United on Dublin-Newark and WestJet's new route from Calgary to Dublin.

The frequency increase is part of a push by Qatar to further grow itself in the business and leisure space here. The frequencies this summer (with daily morning departures and afternoon departures too four times a week) will improve connectivity either outbound or inbound for business cities such as Hong Kong, Singapore, the Indian sub-continent, Bangkok, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, Johannesburg and Cape Town, plus leisure spots such as the Maldives, Vietnam, Seychelles, Phuket and Sri Lanka.

While all Middle Eastern carriers fare well in quality surveys, Qatar believes it has an ace up its sleeve with the unique QSuite configuration. Unusual in that it's also designed to be a co-working space or a sleeping space, depending on passengers' needs, it can be converted into a four-seater mini office for on-board meetings, complete with doors for privacy, or divided up as a double bed space. It's not an option in and out of Ireland, but is available on key onward routes from Doha, including on some Australian routes, to Tokyo and China.

The airline has told this column that the premium option is being rolled out on-board newly delivered Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A350 aircraft, or retrofitted across the fleet, with the process currently ongoing. The Dreamliner fit-outs, due to the aircraft's cabin curvature, will take longer to implement, however.

But there's still a lot to be said for upfront on the Dreamliner in and out of Ireland. The 22 seats provide a level of peace and quiet that you won't find in, say, a typical A380 cabin - with a bustling business class cabin with just shy of 80 seats. The Dreamliner's seats all enjoy aisle access - something that United, for instance, has been pushing hard to do in the States with its ongoing Polaris class rollout. It's a small point, but a big issue if you want a proper night's sleep without a fellow passenger trying to scramble past you.

Qatar's bathrooms and aircraft are also designed with wheelchair access in mind - it's a minority issue but seen as a key USP by management. For SMEs and startups, economy class does have its advantages, apart from price. It's one of the few airlines that doesn't charge you a hefty price to prebook preferred seats in the main cabin, with selection free, a saving which can stack up considerably for frequent fliers.

On the ground, it's ended its transfer arrangement with global supplier Blacklane, and takes the view that transfers aren't a key part of the product, with taxi or transfer chauffeurs often added into the ticket price by airlines. On the ground, though, it's pushing the fact that its Doha hub is a single-terminal facility, cutting down on transfer times. Aside from its normal business lounge - complimentary for business travellers - there's an interesting paid option too. The Vitality Wellbeing & Fitness Centre at the airport features an indoor swimming pool, hydrotherapy tub, gym and squash courts, proving popular with sports teams and fitness-focused travellers, with the $50 entry fee getting six hours' access to the facilities.


Aer Lingus has told this column that reports of it reintroducing business class on European flights aren't as straightforward as has been claimed. The business product is still being finalised and it's aimed at maintaining continuity of service for transatlantic travellers - ie, if flying inbound to Dublin from the States in business class, you'll maintain that service in the cabin on your onward flight to major cities in continental Europe. It could well be a case of business being offered only where space is available, and the airline said it's currently working on the product and how it will be rolled out.

Sunday Indo Business

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