Qatar Airways Reveals New Economy Seat

Filed Under: Qatar

We’ve known for a while that Qatar Airways plans to introduce a new economy class seat. Earlier this week it was even confirmed that the seat would be revealed today during ITB Berlin, which is the world’s largest travel and tourism trade show.

However, there was some confusion about what the new seat would look like. Over a year ago Qatar Airways talked about how within a few years they wanted to introduce a “revolutionary” economy product.

However, leading up to today’s announcement, the airline seemed to scale back expectations, as they simply referred to the new economy seat as “enhanced.” It’s important to remember that Qatar Airways will never leave an opportunity on the table to overhype something.

So, how does Qatar Airways’ new enhanced economy seat look? Similar to just about every other economy seat.

Here’s a video showcasing the new product:

Let me be clear. This would be a revolutionary economy product:

But that’s not what we’re getting… 😉

The new seat will debut on the A321neo, the first of which will be delivered this year. While Qatar Airways plans to eventually install this seat on other planes as well, you can expect it will be five to eight years before the entire fleet features these seats.

So, what can we expect from the seat itself?

  • Semi-fixed back shell design with a 19 degree recline system
  • Pre-reclined position of six degrees for takeoff and landing
  • “Enhanced legroom”
  • Adjustable, lightweight headrest
  • Dual multi-function tables for maximum adaptability and table space
  • 13.3 inch 4K widescreens
  • Enhanced connectivity and faster wifi
  • USB Type C with high power fast charging capabilities

It looks to me like this is a decent improvement on their existing economy product, but unfortunately it doesn’t look revolutionary to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Qatar Airways should still be commended for investing in the economy experience, when other airlines seem to only invest in first and business class. But I don’t think these changes will materially change the experience in economy.

Here’s to hoping that they still plan on introducing a “revolutionary” product in the coming years.

What do you make of Qatar Airways’ new economy class?

  1. 4K IFE screen in economy (or any cabin) and USB-C fast charging are some very welcomed technology addition…
    Not mentioning some sort of shell design.

  2. My take on any seat (Biz or Econ): any recline should be within the seat itself. No obstruction to the person behind. Simple perk. Simple idea. duh.

  3. It’s nice but I loved the relatively high seats of their 777 economy. It gave you a more sense of privacy.

  4. @Rob in Miami
    Cathay did that a couple years ago. It was a favorite… among chiropractors. People’s backs did not like that seat.

    I’m guessing there’s a reason why fixed shell seats aren’t more common in economy.

  5. Is it just me or do those new economy seats look like a skinnier version of Singapore’s seat in their old A380 suites cabin.

  6. It looks to me like the Optimares Quadra (or YC Quadra) seat.

    Not exactly “revolutionary” but it might be a nice improvement.

  7. @Rob

    Don’t forget either that AF’s current PE seat is in a fixed shell, and is pretty much considered a torture device.

  8. I’m struggling to see the point of 4k on a screen that small… but given people seem obsessed about getting 4k on phones now, what do I know?!?

  9. The pun was unintentional…

    I wonder what the distance away is. Would be interested in doing the calculation to see if you could even resolve the extra detail. I guess it’s borderline.

  10. You’re right, it’s a step in the right direction and better than ignoring it. Have to laugh at the word “enhanced” because it can equally mean reduced.

  11. Funny to see people complaining that seats in Economy aren’t like those in Business.

    That’s why coach fares are cheap, guys!

  12. Last week’s post about revolutionary seats aged well!

    On a serious note, USB C Fast Charging is a nice addition. Plus a lot of Windows laptops (like mines) have 4K screens. It is pretty nice of Qatar to put 4K screens in economy class. Hopefully, Qatar will update their IFE selection with 4K content. There is no point of having a 4K screen if one can only watch HD (1080p) movies

  13. Larder upgraded resolutions screens in economy, in a world where airlines are trying to do away with seat back screens is a great idea.

    High speed USB-C charging is also a great feature. I am curious how much power it will draw, can i charge my laptop? or at least my Nintendo Switch.

    These changes don’t set the world on fire, but they are definitely a step above from anything else I have seen in economy.

  14. @Tom – Yet economy seats never seem to improve, they just seem to get worse. Lots of design companies dream up what looks like amazing designs, but has a single airline ever dared to go with any of those designs? Not that I’m aware of. I don’t think anyone is asking for business class seats, but the evolution of business class seats have gone from huge recliner chair to mini suites, whereas economy has simply gotten more cramped and more uncomfortable.

  15. Assuming a 31” seat pitch and 7” for the back of a human head to the eye, then watching a 13.3” screen from the seat is like watching a 65” TV from a little less than 10’. My living room is set about about like that, and I can slightly perceive the difference between 4K content and 1080p.

    But as Dylan said, if content won’t be 4K, then this is rather moot.

  16. If it’s the same kind of recline design as ANA’s, where the seat pan slides forward while the upright part of the chair remains fixed, I feel sorry for anyone who has to fly in them longhaul. That is not good for your back.

  17. Many seventies and eighties economy seats, are more like premium economy today. The seats in this new example, are once again far too narrow and not plush enough for a long restful flight. The only thing revolutionary is the hype.
    Then again with pricing so competitive these days, a new premium economy class would make more sense ala Emirates, as not as expensive an outlay as business but at least not uncomfortable when full or long flights like economy.

  18. Qatar’s new video on YouTube makes the recline mechanism clear. The upper part with the screen reclines, but the shell (table and pocket) stay fixed. Pretty ingenious design!

  19. At a viewing distance of about 3ft on a 13.3″ screen 720p, 1080p and 4k content cannot be differentiated without a thorough A/B test.

  20. Amusing…, they stole or copied the intro piano theme from Final Fantasy X soundtrack. Song is called “to zanarkand” the piano intro there starts at 25 seconds

  21. Dual trays is revolutionary in that no other airline does that. Anyone who flies economy will realise how little storage space you get and an extra tray for your phone will do huge amounts of benefit

  22. WP, JDS +1

    Fixed shell seats are designed for people 5’3″ and under, it makes no sense ergonomically.

    I flew CI premium economy, which has a fixed shell seat. It is the only flight in my life where I couldn’t fall asleep because I was literally sitting on the ground in a slouched position. It was so bad, I voluntarily downgraded my self to 10-abreast coach on the return and had a better flight.

  23. I read elsewhere that these revolutionary seats have a reduced pitch of 30” so outside of their enhanced IFE screen, I nothing here to brag about. Even at only 5’8” I don’t see how this slide-out recliner seat is going to be comfortable since my knees already hit the seatback pockets on many existing configurations. I can’t imagine what you tall passengers have to endure. I hope a tall person reviews these seats soon so we can have more insight about the new revolutionary design in passenger comfort…..

  24. I mean, if even in promotional materials the passenger’s shoulders go beyond the seat’s width (and the passenger does not seem tall or anything), you know that these seats are cramped. Boo.
    I don’t really care about the IFE screen quality. Give me a reliable power supply, free streaming wi-fi movies and a seat where you actually relax comfortably with no compromises, and I’ll call that revolution in economy.
    This Qatar seat is just an attempt to make a more dense economy cabin glamorous.

  25. I think it’s important to keep in mind that this is only a semi fixed-shell seat. The ergonomics issues of the older style seem to be addressed in this seat since the entire backrest, in this case, does “tilt” back. The fixed part is for the sake of the passenger behind the seat, as their tray table situation remains the same whether the seat in front is reclined or not. Lastly, it seems that the legroom issue, when reclined in a fixed-shell, is solved here, as the area with the seatback pocket moves forward when reclined, creating “more” legroom.

  26. It is revolutionary – they’ve made economy worse.

    Fixed shell – ugh. A too-large, too-bright screen – ugh.

  27. If it’s anything like CX’s old fixed shell economy seats, it will be a disaster. I flew it once and NEVER again, as it was the only time in my life that I couldn’t fall asleep. It was so awful that CX eventually got rid of their shell seats. If that’s what QR installs, then it’s unquestionably the worst economy seat in the world, especially for long-haul flights.

  28. A major part of their enhancement of Econ is the soft product, with more substantial meals, larger portions. These will be offered across the board, regardless of whether or not the new seats are installed. How this seat will be received remains to be seen, it may be a hint that they start it on a short/medium haul aircraft.

  29. I too shudder at the thought of a fixed shell. I suffered through an Air France B-777 flight from Paris to Montreal in a fixed shell Premium Economy seat that offered not an inch of recline; just a forward-sliding seat cushion. The only blessing was that it was a daytime flight and I wasn’t trying to sleep. Even so, my lower back was hurting less than an hour into the flight. By the time we reached Quebec I couldn’t wait to deplane. Never again!

    It’s sad that flying Economy Class has become such a grim experience that Qatar can try to pass-off this new seat as something to get excited about!

  30. I tried the seat at ITB today and the partly fixed shell and no intrusion gave me a 10% premium eco feel. The part of the seat the we sit on also angles a little bit so it is more comfortable to stretch out.
    But when the seat slides down you are not able to stretch your neck back since the seat is fixed

  31. I’m amazed that any airline is wasting money and, more importantly, weight / space on IFE screens. Everyone has their own devices, with the exception of some small children. We all pay the cost for this with higher ticket prices.

  32. 4K 13.3″ IFE screens are revolutionary but close to useless if it doesn’t swivel/tilt when the person in front reclines and then sets off a domino effect of the entire column reclining. i hope airlines take note

  33. Update on my last post since I tried the seat today at the ITB mock-up.
    Plus: looks really very stylish, to which the cabin lighting design adds much. Legroom is improved due to the angle of the lower part of the back rest. Recline of the seat in front of you has zero effect on your space, that’s the fixed shell benefits.

    Minus: way too little padding. It’s a typical slim seat, too hard. Wouldn’t want to spend a long flight in it for this reason alone. Your own recline feels much more like a lowering of the seat (that sinking feeling), not much real recline to speak of. The guy across the aisle, who was, shall we say, more substantial than me, and taller to boot, complained that his knees were pressed against the seat in front, and the table pressed against his legs (in the lowered, or if you insist, reclined position).

    Summary: the greatest Econ it surely isn’t.

  34. who ever said that fixed shell economy would be good, they must have never rode CX fixed shell economy before. it might be the design flaw of CX, but after you recline, there is barely enough room for your feet, and there is no padding at all what so ever. on one like that seat ever

  35. Checked out their mockup in hall 2.2 on ITB Berlin today and found their new seats quite comfortable and well-designed, yet not really revolutionary. They make good use of the available seat pitch by slighlty tilting the seat back and removing structures and amenities from the knee area. Unlike @Frank I found the padding adequate. On the downside the plastic elements look and feel cheap and the armrests are very narrow. I am also not sure how well the seat’s fabric will age.
    Postes some pics here
    Funny Side Story: United also was @ITB to promote their premium economy. They had a nice booth with two original seats and a display of their pe tableware, wines, and amenitys. I hung around several minutes displaying genuine interest and a trade visitor’s badge, yet neither the sour-looking attendand nor the two chatting UA employees who sat in the demo seats sipping a drink of water offered a greeting – let alone an invitation to try anything or ask a question.

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