Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker is working on a new economy-class product, which could be unveiled as early at 2019, likely at next year’s ITB Berlin.

The Doha-based airline unveiled a new business-class seat at the 2017 ITB world tourism fair.

“When you give the best product in business class, then you should never forget economy-class passengers, because that’s the volume,” Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker told ATW on board the airline’s delivery flight of its first Airbus A350-1000.

He declined to give details on the new product, but said, “There is something [special] that we want to do. I promised the same with our [new business-class seat] Qsuite [at last year’s show] and I surprised [the public] with the product. And we want to do the same again for economy class.” He has no plans to install a premium-economy product in its fleet.

In addition, Al Baker said he is keeping a close eye on supersonic transport projects as a hoped-for next step in luxury.

“We are very interested in supersonic flights,” he said. Likely referring to Boom Supersonic, a Denver-based company currently designing a 55-seat supersonic commercial aircraft, Al Baker said his airline “would not hesitate to be the launch customer.”

Japan Airlines (JAL) has entered into a strategic partnership with Boom and has placed purchase options for up to 20 aircraft. But Boom still must identify an engine manufacturer, which Al Baker sees as a potential showstopper. Qatar Airways would be interested in “a small number” of supersonic airliners, he said.

Flying supersonic would be an additional offering in Qatar Airways’ range of high-end products.

In 2017, Virgin Atlantic took purchase options for 10 of Boom’s Mach-2.2 airliner, followed by JAL. Boom’s partnership with JAL includes an investment of $10 million in the project. Boom is targeting the mid-2020s for entry into service.

Kurt Hofmann

Thierry Dubois