TOULOUSE (BLOOMBERG) - Qatar Airways unveiled a new aircraft seat that can be docked with one next to it to create what the Gulf carrier says will be the industry's first double bed in a business-class cabin.
The so-called QSuite is more flexible than earlier models and will also allow four berths to be realigned to form a mini meeting area, with adjustable screens creating a private area for couples, Qatar Air said Wednesday.
"You can take your honeymoon on Qatar Airways, but you'll have to keep silent," chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker joked after revealing the seat at the ITB Berlin travel show.
With fares unaffected, the "extra intelligent" design from B/E Aerospace Inc will provide an edge in luring wealthy travellers, he added.
The new berth, under development for two years, quickly converts into a double bed, according to the company, which said the adaptability of the seats will also make them popular with affluent families and pairs of passengers who prefer to sit facing each other.
Innovation in cabin design is vital for the world's leading airlines, said Mr Yan Derocles, an analyst at Oddo Securities in Paris.
"Companies with poor seats lose passengers and those with good ones keep them," he said. "Qatar has always been an airline that's sought to present itself as ahead of the pack."
Qatar Air, which owns key elements of the design, said it will initially feature in Boeing 777 wide-body jets seating 42 people in business class. Existing planes should enter service with the seats from June after retrofitting, with as many as three grounded each month for the work through the end of 2018.
Around 10 new 777s still on order will be equipped with the berths, with a plane scheduled to be delivered every 15 days on average.
The upgraded business cabin will also be standard on Airbus Group SE A350-1000 wide-bodies slated for handover from the end of this year, as well as some older A350-900s. The QSuite will make its debut on flights to London, followed by Paris and New York services.
The 787 Dreamliner will not get the berths because its fuselage is too small. Neither will they be fitted on Qatar Air's A380s, with the upper deck business area having insufficient space.
The superjumbos are also the carrier's only long-haul aircraft with a first-class cabin, so that omitting the seats will avoid cannibalising the most lucrative sales. New business-seat offerings are being devised for both models, Mr Al Baker said.