Recent months were very exiting for aviation enthusiast around the world. Many airlines took deliveries for the newest planes on the planet and increased both their service quality and reputation. Among them two shine a little bit stronger then the others. What is interesting, their headquarters are located less then 300 kilometers from each other (in straight line). Qatar Airways (QR) the national carrier of State of Qatar and Etihad Airways (EY) national airline of United Arab Emirates are both based at Persian Gulf. Passenger and cargo aviation in this region changed completely in the past 20 years. It has transformed mostly because of Dubai International Airport rapid expansion combined with Emirates Airlines (EK) growth which showed the path of development for the other countries or emirates nearby. Both Qatar and Etihad are trying to replicate the success story of Dubai and they already have been able to establish very competitive position on the market. The idea is to become an air bride between all continents for transfer passengers. They are realizing this visions through their hubs in Doha and Abu Dhabi. Hamad International Airport (DOH) is a new airport owned by Qatar Airways group and was opened in the middle of 2014. Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) is also growing and waiting for the new Midfield Terminal to be completed.
Both Gulf carriers are trying to differentiate their selves by investing in the best possible planes and care about their interiors. Just recently Qatar took delivery for two amazing aircrafts, Airbus A350-900, in the same time becoming a first customer for the type and A380-800 the absolute icon of aviation and the biggest passenger plane in the world. Etihad has also picked up A380-800 but also probably the most modern airplane in the world Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. What’s so special about A380 and why do I make such a big deal out of it? After all the plane was introduced with Singapore Airlines in 2007, so the consecution has 8 years. Knowing that, why am I so amazed by the fact the two new airlines are adding it to their fleet? Maybe it is a matter of size, innovative and original design, maybe the limited number of A380 which are in operation (153 at the moment). One is certain, this plane always makes a great impression on travelers and is one of the most comfortable in the sky. Most importantly however it has a status of a real icon of the aviation and it will be observed closely by everyone for many years to come.
In Qatar Airways it is configured in 3 class layout (First, Business and Economy) and it may take up to 517 passengers on board. QR currently operates four A380 and deployed them to 3 destinations including Paris, London and Bangkok. From the middle of 2015 the second daily connection to London is being planned. Qatar has ordered 10 A380 in total so in the coming year they will take delivery for additional 6 planes. Etihad sole A380 has 496 seats in 4 class layout. For the first time in the industry EY introduced The Residence class, three-room suite with living room, bathroom and bedroom. Additionally the new First Class Apartment are also available for carrier guests. They have only one room but are positioned above average first class product in other airlines. This extraordinary plane connects Abu Dhabi and London every day and present own beauty to the world.
In my opinion the new livery used on this aircraft is really unique and fantastic to look at. It is unquestionably one of the best paintings I have ever seen on the planes. EY plans to have 5 A380-800 before the end of 2015. The second one which will arrive in the first quarter of 2015 will be also used on London route. The rest will be gradually introduced and serve on flights to Sydney and New York. They will all increase the capacity on existing routes as well as boosting First Class seats number for the most wealthy customers. For both carriers A380 is a flagship, reason for pride and great promotion for the airline and the country.
Qatar Airways has taken delivery for the first A350-900XWB ever and it was also a very turgid moment for the carrier. They masterfully used this event to announce they are the leading airline and get the attention of whole aviation world. Such occasion is a rare situation and Qatar knew how to use it on their favor skillfully informing the industry about it. Frankfurt was chosen as a first A350 destination. Singapore will be added in the end of Spring and the others are about to come very soon. A350-900 is currently the newest plane in world. Of course Airbus and Boeing would long argue about which one is more technologically advanced (A350 or B787) but according to various specialist A350 is built in the more conventional way. The amount of composites used is however higher (53% vs 50% in 787) but A350 is equipped with less sophisticated electrical system and lacks of head-up display or dimmable electrochromic cabin windows. It is also a clean sheet design and is couple of inch wider then its Boeing rival. What is even more important A350-900 is as fuel efficient as Dreamliner using more mature (safe) technology which is a really great achievement. It has one of the quietest cabins in the sky and 787 alike is equipped with advanced air-conditioning technology, full LED mood lighting and higher cabin pressure which reducing the fatigue of passengers. Qatar Airway has 80 of this planes on order being the largest customer for this type. QR A350 is equipped with 283 seats in 2 class configuration. 36 out of them are business class seats and the rest of cabin is dedicated for economy class.
Etihad brand new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is slightly smaller then Airbus A350 and has just 235 seats in 3 class cabin layout (First, Business and Economy Class). EY decided Dusseldorf will be the first destination for this plane. They will have 5 of them till the end of 2015 and they will be additionally deployed to Washington and Mumbai. Version -9 of Dreamliner is about 6 meters longer then -8. It may carry up to 280 passengers in 3 class layout, which shows how much room in the cabin of EY is occupied by very exclusive and elegant first and business classes. Etihad has ordered 41 Boeing 787-9s and apart from that 30 bigger 787-10. 787-9 shares the technology with its smaller brother 787-8, however it is more then just a stretched version of it. While building this second member of 787 family, constructors were able to learn form 787-8 mistakes and reduce the weight, added 40 more passengers and extended range up to 15 370 kilometers. All of this was also possible thanks to HLFC (hybrid laminar flow control) system which significantly reducing a drag of the plane. Boeing is keeping the details about the system away from inquisitive sight of the press and competitors. This system is obviously a key feature of -9. This version of 787 has a plenty of other upgrades and improvements. Etihad is willing unarguably to benefit out of it, using the aircraft to convince more passengers to fly on board its planes.
All of those newly introduced by Etihad and Qatar planes should help these carriers to maintain a dynamic growth path entrenching Gulf region role on the worlds aviation map. For passengers new, modern planes are a hope for faster, more reliable, more comfortable, less stressful and less tiring flying. I wish only one of those fantastic machines start flying to Warsaw which is my hometown.