Qatar Airways Is Playing Fast And Loose With The Words “Upgrade” & “Spacious”

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Earlier today I wrote about how Qatar Airways is replacing one of its two Qsuite equipped aircraft on the Doha – Frankfurt route in favor of an Airbus A380. In the press release for that announcement the airline attempted to put a positive spin on the news despite the fact that, for Business Class travelers, the news was probably not what they wanted to hear.

In fairness to Qatar Airways there are some positives to having the Airbus A380 on the Doha – Frankfurt route (I pointed those out in the post earlier) so the press release wasn’t entirely a smokescreen for bad news….but the airline has also released another press release in which facts really only play a half-part.

a white buildings on a hill next to a body of water
Image courtesy of Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways has now announced that it will be resuming its seasonal services between Doha and four Mediterranean destinations this summer – Antalya, Bodrum, Mykonos and Málaga.

Nothing wrong so far….but then the press release goes on to contain the following two statements:

The award-winning airline will also introduce larger, more modern aircraft to two routes, with Antalya operated by A330 and Málaga by the spacious Boeing 777-200LR

The award-winning airline will add an extra weekly flight to the Antalya, Bodrum and Mykonos routes from May 2019, as well as upgrading from the A320 aircraft to the larger A330 on all flights to Antalya, with the more spacious Boeing 777 replacing the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on all Málaga services.


The words “upgrade” and “spacious” make it sound like Qatar Airways has really come through for travelers and improved their offering from last year…but that’s not exactly true for all passengers. Some passengers will definitely be worse off.

Business Class Passengers

I’ve been fortunate enough to try out the Business Class cabin on all of the Qatar Airways aircraft mentioned in the press release and I’m pretty sure that there isn’t much of an upgrade going on anywhere on these routes.

Firstly, the Qatar Airways A330 and the 777-200LR are not more modern than the 787 and A320 they’re replacing…especially when it comes to the Business Class cabin.

Secondly, the press release may say that the Malaga flights will be operated by a 777-200LR but the schedules show the route being served by a 777-300ER:

a screenshot of a computer

Which aircraft passengers eventually get will make a BIG difference to the comfort levels on offer.

The Qatar Airways 787 has a great reverse-herringbone Business Class cabin in which all seats have direct access to the aisle (reviewed here)….

a row of seats in a plane
Qatar Airways 787 Business Class

…and, although the A320 doesn’t offer all-aisle-access, the A320 does offer very similar lie-flat seating to the Dreamliner (reviewed here):

a seat in a plane
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class

I reviewed the Qatar Airways A330 earlier this year and can attest to the fact that the Business Class seats aren’t any better than the one on the A320 (although the seats in the middle section do get good aisle access).

The cabin is set out in a 2-2-2 layout….

the inside of an airplane
Qatar Airways A330 Business Class

…and unless you get seats in row 1 the space for your feet is as constrained (if not more so) than on the A320 the A330 is replacing.

a seat in a plane
Qatar A330 Business Class Footwell

If the difference between the A320 and A330 isn’t particularly wide the same can’t be said for the gulf between the Dreamliner and the 777-200LR which is now replacing it (apparently).

Where the Dreamliner has the excellent reverse herring bone, all-aisle-access seats I discussed earlier, the Qatar Airways 777-200LR Business Class cabin has a 2-2-2 layout and offers seats that don’t quite go flat:

a plane with seats and people in the background
Qatar Airways 777-200LR Business Class

I reviewed this cabin on what was then the world’s longest flight and, although it was fine, it certainly wasn’t as good as the Dreamliner’s Business Class cabin. I would choose the Qatar Airways 787 Business Class cabin over the 777’s every time.

Economy Class Passengers

The news is actually marginally better for Economy Class passengers and as these are almost certainly all “leisure routes” that’s definitely a good thing.

The Economy Class cabin in the outgoing Dreamliner is tight and its seats offer just 31″ of pitch (legroom) and only a little over 17″ of width – that adds up to a lot of discomfort for a lot of passengers.

If the press release is correct and the Malaga route is upgraded to a 777-200LR aircraft there’s a chance that the Economy Class cabin will offer 9-across seating. If this is the case, passengers will have around 33″ of pitch and almost 19″ of seat width and those are fantastic numbers for a long-haul flight in moder day aviation.

a large airplane parked at an airport


If the schedules are correct (or if Qatar Airways adds a reconfigured 777-200LR to the Malaga route) then the amount of seat width the passengers are offered will drop. It will drop down to just 17″ which is the tightest seat Qatar Airways operates on long-haul routes.

Where the A330 is taking over from the A320 Economy Class passengers will see the amount of legroom they’re offered increase from 31″ to 33″ (fantastic) but the seat width on offer will go down from 18″ to 17.5″ (not so good).

It’s a mixed bag in Economy Class but some passengers may indeed see an “upgrade” in cabin.

Bottom Line

I know it’s the job of a press release to put a positive spin on just about anything but calling these aircraft changes “upgrades” and suggesting that the new aircraft are “spacious” is pushing things a little far.

In the Business Class cabins its very hard to see where the improvements are supposed to be (I consider the A330 Business Class cabin one of the weakest the airline offers) and in Economy Class it will be interesting to see which version of the 777 actually takes to the skies – if it’s the 777-300ER the 17″ wide seats won’t feel like much of an upgrade to anyone.

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  1. This year I took 2 return flights on QR business class between Europe and Doha on A320 (from Budapest and Sarajevo) and all four flights were operated by regional business class (the flights from Sarajevo didn’t even have IFE). So for me, I would be happy to be guaranteed flat bed on A330. The B777 is personal preference. The only thing I mind about the old seats is the lack of privacy. Actually I find it very comfortable for sleeping and also for lounging (I also spent 20 hours in that seat flying to EZE).

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