Julie Baxter

Qatar Airways last month completed the roll out of its new Economy experience – QUISINE – designed with quality and sustainability at its heart. Julie Baxter looks at the processes to launch

Rolling out any airline change takes time and careful planning, and changes across the Economy cabin bring even greater pressures on the pre-launch decision-making process.

As Qatar Airways looked to make its Economy class the best in the business, and an active competitor against other airlines’ Premium Economy cabins, Genevieve Rosario, senior manager product development & service design, knew the team had to get it right.

Genevieve says: “Economy service is not one you change every day. There is a lot of investment required and you have to get it right first time. We undertook a lot of R&D, benchmarked our competitors, conducted multiple trials and took input from crew and passengers. We decided on a very bespoke branding – QUISINE – offering passengers a better experience while at the same time addressing the need for long-term, sustainable inflight solutions.”

Size and quality matters

At the heart of the offer was a decision to standardise the meal offering and switch from trays of varying size to a half size, but at the same time offer larger food portion sizes of improved quality – all presented in a style more familiar in retail. Appetiser size was increased 20%, main courses 25%, desserts doubled in size, a 250ml personal bottle of water was offered on every meal tray, and beverage choice was refreshed. Genevieve says: “It seems counter intuitive. If you cut the tray size you assume you must be cutting the offer, but actually we increased the portion size of every element we offer. We focused on cutting inventory but increasing quality and the impact was exciting.”

Eye-catching equipment

The serviceware was specifically designed to add interest and vibrancy in the cabin. Trays in four colours were to be randomly loaded with retail style fully transparent, largely rotable equipment, topped with clear, recyclable lids to enhance first impressions. The airlaid napkin has the look and feel of linen, and improved quality stainless steel cutlery makes the setting feel robust and purposeful in a way not often experienced in Economy. A wine glass in sustainable material was introduced to complement the airline’s wine selection, which now includes spakling wine.

Manuel Guerrero, manager product development, adds: “We eat with our eyes before we even begin to dine so it is important food looks good. We wanted every item served to look colourful and enticing. We wanted to add a touch of sophistication with sparkling wines and cocktail snacks, as well as regional mezze flavours and Arabic breads for regional flights.

Working primarily with Qatar Airways Catering Services and Qatar Aircraft Catering Company, the team upgraded the meal quality not just by requiring larger portion sizes but by specifically detailing ‘vibrant, colourful and healthy ingredients in appetisers’, ‘layered and home-made desserts’, ‘chunkier fruit pieces’ and ‘natural yoghurts with compote’, and warm ‘individually-packed butter croissants’ and ‘flavoured focaccia’ breads.

Cut the clutter

To further manage waste, butter and chocolates were removed from the tray and offered separately: butter is offered on demand and chocolates with the hot beverage service. Genevieve explains: “In the past airlines typically loaded all these components onto the tray and expected passengers to eat it all by the time we returned to collect the tray. People don’t really want to eat like that, they want a well-balanced meal and then the opportunity to snack later, so that’s now what we do. It cuts waste and better reflects what passengers actually want.”

The team conducted analysis which indicated warm snacks on late night departures were often wasted as many passengers fell asleep. So now a freshly-prepared sandwich is offered straight after take-off to be eaten whenever desired – almost a dine-any-time option in Economy. Genevieve adds: “We have become very smart with waste; assessing the popularity of items and making responsible changes as required. Our collaborative relationship with our catering partners means we can monitor and evolve what we offer to truly match demand.”

A revamped experience

So passengers can plan their time, a time-line on the menu card explains the services and snacking opportunities. This is complemented by a 360° service with the crew visible between services and offering water/juice every 30-40 minutes. Drinks and snacks on longer flights are also available in the galleys.

Thinking green

Genevieve adds: “Our big focus is to achieve a sustainable cabin, with the objective to reduce weight and waste, and replace single-use plastics with rotable, compostable or recyclable alternatives. With QUISINE we believe we are now well on our way on this journey. •