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Qatar Airways developing new first class, ‘QSuites’ business class: Report

Qatar Airways is developing a new first-class product to introduce aboard its aircraft, according to a new CNBC report.

The airline is also redesigning its award-winning QSuite, which has been broadly considered among the best business-class products in the world since its debut in 2017.

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New Qatar Airways CEO Badr Mohammed Al Meer, in an interview with CNBC on Thursday, said that the new cabins represented a shift in strategy to align with “a new era.”

Al Meer took the top job at the airline group in November of last year, following the departure of CEO Akbar Al Baker after nearly three decades at the helm. He was previously the CEO of Doha’s Hamad International Airport (DOH).

The new business class offering will debut at the Farnborough International Airshow, which is slated to run July 22-26 outside of London. It was not immediately clear when the first class cabin would be unveiled; Al Meer told CNBC that the design was “70-80%” complete and “hopefully we will be able to announce it very soon.”

Qatar Airways currently offers a first-class cabin on its Airbus A380, which operates on some frequencies between the airline’s Doha hub and Bangkok, Paris, London, Sydney and Perth, Australia.

Related: The ultimate guide to Qatar Qsuite

Qatar had planned to phase out the A380s under Al Baker, but Al Meer said the airline would keep the jets active.

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The current first-class hard product, while more spacious than the business-class seats, is fairly dated compared to the offerings on Persian Gulf rivals Emirates and Etihad. It’s also missing some features from the QSuites, including closing doors for added privacy.

There were no details available on what the new product would entail. Al Meer told CNBC that the airline was looking to build a product comparable to flying private.

“We wanted to combine the experience of flying commercial and flying on a private jet and develop something new,” he said.

QSuites is available on some of Qatar’s Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 aircraft. Other aircraft — including the A380, the Airbus A330, the Boeing 787 and some of the airline’s 777s and A350s — have older business-class seats. However, they offer an identical “soft product” — or service items like food options, on-demand service and other amenities.

Close to perfect: Qatar Qsuite on a 777-300ER from Doha to New York JFK

Al Meer said that the airline is in talks with Airbus and Boeing for a “big” new aircraft order. However, it was not immediately clear whether the new first and business-class seats would be retrofitted on existing aircraft or only installed on newly ordered jets.

Qatar initially seemed inclined to phase out its first class altogether and instead enhance its onboard business class by introducing QSuites along with elevated dining options and top-tier service; numerous flight attendants would enable customized options like dining on demand instead of during a single meal service.

Emirates and Etihad, on the other hand, have kept the high-yielding top cabin and used it to distinguish themselves among travelers crossing the globe; the branding benefits from the opulence of first class — private suites, caviar, even on-board showers — trickle down to boost the airlines’ reputations across all of their service classes.

Related: Emirates first class still wows: Fully enclosed suites and unlimited caviar

Timing on the new products remains unclear, but they could debut on Qatar’s first Boeing 777X. The airline has 74 of Boeing’s newest jet series on order. The 777X is still undergoing the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification process, and timing for the already-delayed airplane remains unclear. Also unclear is whether the current crisis at Boeing surrounding the 737 MAX will impact the 777X program’s development. But, Al Meer said that the airline expects to receive the first of the new planes by the end of 2025.

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