Loading

Qatar Airways increasing focus on London

Qatar Airways opened a premium lounge at London Heathrow at the end of Jan-2012, the carrier’s first premium lounge facility outside of its home hub at Doha. Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker, said that London Heathrow was the “obvious choice” for the new premium lounge, as the London Heathrow service is one of the carrier’s best performing routes.

The new lounge reinforces London’s position as one of the airline’s most important destinations. Qatar Airways operates four daily services to London Heathrow, offering more than 11,000 seats per week with a mix of A330-200/300, A340-600 and Boeing 777-300ER equipment. The carrier also codeshares with bmi and United Airlines on the Doha-London Heathrow service.

Qatar AirwaysLondon Heathrow lounge follows, after some time, similar lounges from competitors Etihad Airways and Emirates. Etihad Airways opened a dedicated premium lounge at Heathrow in 2009 while Emirates has operated a dedicated first/business class passenger lounge since 2006.

London Heathrow is the most heavily trafficked destination in Europe for Middle Eastern airlines, beating out other hubs such as Frankfurt, Milan and Paris. It is a particularly strong destination for GCC airlines, with more than 140 weekly frequencies operated by Gulf region carriers alone.

GCC airline operations to London area airports from Gulf hubs

Carrier

Origin

London area airport

Weekly frequencies

Weekly seats

Emirates

Dubai

London Heathrow

35

31,178

Emirates

Dubai

London Gatwick

21

7371

Etihad Airways

Abu Dhabi

London Heathrow

21

10,976

Gulf Air

Manama

London Heathrow

14

3066

Oman Air

Muscat

London Heathrow

7

1610

Kuwait Airways

Kuwait

London Heathrow

10

2560

Qatar Airways

Doha

London Heathrow

28

11,078

Saudi Arabian Airlines

Riyadh

London Heathrow

7

2009

Saudi Arabian Airlines

Jeddah

London Heathrow

7

2009

Outside of the new lounge, Qatar Airways has significant plans for its London Heathrow operation this year, reinforcing London’s position as the carrier’s preeminent premium route. The carrier is due to increase its operations to five times daily from 25-Mar-2012, two months ahead of the start of the London Olympic Games. The additional frequency will be operated by one of the carrier’s 777-200LRs. The 777-200LRs feature 217 economy and 42 business seats for a 259 total, featuring lie-flat seating and a 2-2-2 configuration in business class.

Qatar Airways has also announced it plans to deploy its first 787 on services to London. The carrier has 30 787s on order and is due to take delivery of its first aircraft around Jun-2012 following delays from a previous end-2011 delivery date. Another four 787s are expected to be delivered to the carrier over 2H2012.

Qatar Airways plans to initially deploy the 787 on a number of Middle East region routes to allow crews to become familiarised with the aircraft, as is common with airlines and new aircraft types.

The aircraft will then shift to long-haul routes, with London Heathrow as its first European destination. Mr Al Baker said the 787 would be an excellent tool for route and frequency development in Europe, allowing the carrier to economically serve routes that it may not be able to otherwise economically operate with its existing fleet.

While Qatar Airways has not announced a detailed seating configuration for its 787 yet, Mr Al Baker previously confirmed the aircraft will have around 20 seats fewer than on its A330-200s and will feature two classes. The business class on Qatar “will be more luxurious than any first class flying today,” according to the CEO, who has dismissed any notion of fitting premium economy seating, arguing economy class will be sufficient enough not to warrant a premium cabin. The appearance of first class on a Qatar Airways aircraft will be reserved for the A380, which the carrier will start taking delivery of from 2013.

Deploying the 787s on Doha-London Heathrow will result in a marginal reduction in capacity but with significantly lower unit costs.

Known 787-8 seating configurations

Airline

Type

Total seats

First

Business

Premium economy

Economy

Air India

Standard

256

0

18

0

238

ANA

Domestic

264

12

0

0

252

ANA

Short-haul

222

0

42

0

180

ANA

Long-haul

158

0

46

0

112

Japan Airlines

Long-haul

186

0

42

0

144

LOT

Standard

252

0

18

21

213

United Airlines

Standard

219

0

36

63

120

Known 787-8 configurations range from just 158 seats for All Nippon Airways’ (ANA) long-haul configuration up to Japan Air Lines, up to 264 seats for ANA’s domestic short-haul. Qatar Airways’ A330s feature 228-272 seats for the -200 and 249-305 seats for the -300. Its larger 777-300ERs have 335 seats, and 777-200LRs have 259.