I’ve come to an interesting realization over the past few days. Or really it’s a rather unfortunate realization, though I guess acknowledging a problem is the first step to fixing it. I’m attracted to people that are walking and talking contradictions. I don’t know why, there’s something intriguing about them. I’m genuinely curious to hear what they have to say next, because you never know what they’ll say next. Maybe that’s why I like watching The Real Housewives so much.
This brings me to the most prolific guy in the airline industry, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker. He’s the CEO of Qatar Airways, or just “The Chief” as everyone calls him.
Some days I think the guy is absolutely out-of-his-freaking-mind. He says things no one else is willing to say, and sometimes he’s dead wrong. Yet at the same time he’s a “no-BS” kind of guy. He has an unreal level of attention to detail, and he has no problem throwing shade like the best of them.
Earlier today I wrote about Qatar Airways finally taking delivery of their first A380, after a four month delay. For a long time, His Excellency has been ragging on Airbus saying they’re totally at fault for the delay. He wouldn’t explain why the delay happened, but just told media to ask Airbus, and told them to tell Airbus they have to tell the truth.
He directly contradicted himself in a Doha News article today, saying it wasn’t in fact Airbus’ fault — it’s because of how obsessed Qatar Airways is with quality (whatever that means):
Meanwhile, Al Baker seemed keen yesterday to smooth over earlier disputes with Airbus, saying the plane maker was not to blame for the delays to the delivery of the aircraft.
Backtracking on previous remarks made in July, he added that that the postponement was due to Qatar Airways’ commitment to quality.
That brings me to a Wall Street Journal article published today talking about how Qatar Airways plans a “business class revolution.”
Qatar Airways doesn’t see a future for first class, aside from on their A380s. They claim they sell only about 40% of first class seats, given that most people can’t justify paying for first class anymore. He claims they’ll have a “substantial revolution” with their business class product by mid-2016:
By mid-2016 the airline plans to roll out a new business class seating arrangement that Mr. Al Baker describes as “a first-class product sold as business class.” The executive would not discuss details of what he said is a proprietary set-up that will represent “a substantial revolution.”
Of course that pales in comparison to this quote from His Excellency:
“We have no residents and no suites and no butlers. But we have class,” Mr. Al Baker said in a pointed reference to his rivals.
Your Excellency, if you’re single you might want to give The Countess a call. I think you two would get along swimmingly.
So should we actually believe that their “revolutionary” new business class will be like first class at business class prices?
I think our answer might just be in his explanation of why Qatar Airways isn’t introducing a premium economy product:
Qatar Airways also is steering clear of the trend of introducing so called premium economy seating, a product priced cheaper than business class but with more amenities than standard economy class. Mr. Al Baker quips that the airline’s new economy class is effectively a “premium eco” offering, though at the cheaper price.
Clearly His Excellency has never flown premium economy (I can’t blame him, neither have I). But to say that their new economy class is like premium economy on other airlines is about as accurate as saying that Etihad’s pre-clearance facility in Abu Dhabi couldn’t be operating better. Qatar Airways has 32″ of pitch in economy class, which is 6″ less than premium economy on most airlines. 6″ counts, especially on a longhaul flight! Comparing their economy product to a decent premium economy product is ludicrous.
Ultimately I think His Excellency’s philosophy is “if you can’t beat them, join them. And if you can’t join them, talk $hit about them.” And he does that better than anyone else.
Do you think Qatar Airways will actually introduce a revolutionary business class product? How much better can it be than Qatar’s 787 business class product, or Etihad’s Business Studio product, really?
Qatar Airways 787 business class seat
(Tip of the hat to Joey)