My return to the Northern Hemisphere was made comfortable by travelling with Qatar Airways. The journey started with a visit to their partner’s Qantas Business Lounge in Auckland, then the 18 hour Auckland to Doha stretch in their normal Business class offering, a marginally briefer stay in their Al Mourjan Lounge, and then finally, the Qatar QSuites Business Class seat for the 7 hour hop across from Doha to London.
QSuites have been around for a little while and pretty much set the standard for Business Class seat layouts as evidenced by BA recently announcing their new cabin design (https://simpleflying.com/british-airways-club-suite-tour/) which, if not a copy, is a least inspired by the Qatar QSuites Business Class seats.
The point of difference to standard business class is that there is a little wall around your seat which can close off giving you privacy. Like having your own little office.
Qatar has managed to appeal to three groups of passengers – the solo passenger gets privacy, the couple travelling together get an intimate shared sleeping space (the partitions between their seats fold down) and the family or business group of four can fold down the panels between them and play cards or discuss business.
Qatar QSuites Business Class seat layout
The layout is hard to describe, so a screen grab from SeatGuru will illustrate – every other row is backwards.
The 1-2-1 layout means fewer seats but in my case at least, that means more attention from the attendants. Carol introduced herself on my boarding and deposited menus and a hot towel before returning with my welcome drink.
I’d love to be a champagne aficionado because the range of champagnes available on these flights keep those knowledgeable of the differences amused for hours on the travel boards. I stick instead to the non-alcoholic drinks – personal experience reminding me that the only thing worse than a hangover is a hangover in an air conditioned pressurised tube which dehydrates you for 8 hours.
The QSuite seat
The seat looked smaller than the photos I’d seen but as I settled in I could see how that was misleading – the Airbus A350-1000 (in this case A7ANE – almost new beginning service in November 2018), hid most of its 79” length tucked into the foot cavity.
The 21” width made me raise an eyebrow because there was a side ottoman with a lid which folded down to give you more seating right beside you, so it seemed ludicrous that they couldn’t somehow use that additional room to give more width. Especially when other airlines are giving 25” (Singapore) wide Business Class seats.
I must admit that I was looking forward to sleeping on a seat which looked like it might actually be able to accommodate my height!
The curved edge of the console gave exceptional access to the ports, remote and seat controls – in stark contrast to my previous flight. The whole suite just exuded space – there was the table top (currently occupied by the blanket, pillow and amenity kit), a shelf under the table top, the ottoman beside me (currently holding the noise cancelling headphones and a bottle of water).
Qatar had removed the luggage bins above the middle rows of the plane to maximise the airy feeling of space, but I was glad they had kept the ones above the window seats. It definitely didn’t feel smaller for a slightly lower ceiling and I really appreciated having my own personal double-nozzled air flow.
The screen for the entertainment system was touch screen (the one on my previous flight had been too, just too far away to reach!!) and even though there was a remote on a string available, I don’t know why you would bother. Again, the entertainment system was operational from terminal to terminal, so no downtime!
The door closing off the suite from the rest of the plane was only closed after takeoff and I was instructed to only use the gold sliding handle, not the emergency exit handle. In the event of an emergency you’d be able to lift the door out of position and fling it away to assist in escaping the plane, but that would obviously preclude using it for privacy under normal circumstances.
There was a DND (Do Not Disturb) button on the rounded console which I thought amusing – the walls looked high from the seated position, but when standing even my attendant could peer in without standing on tip toes.
Qatar QSuites business class food
After takeoff the food came – served as the previous flight on a lovely table cloth with a flickering electronic candle and accompanied with real cutlery and a basket of warm bread.
My appetisers this time were better than my main – salmon to start with, followed by four of the largest prawns I’ve had on a plane (big and juicy!) and then the beef fillet for a main. Not quite as good as the lamb on the previous flight, but still perfectly serviceable!
The rest of the flight
I managed to get a bit of sleep this time, but the width of the seat again was a little uncomfortable – of note was a three way seat belt with not only a lap belt but also a shoulder belt coming from the seat top and clipping onto the lap belt where it clipped into the seat.
Before landing I had a look around and took a photo of the aisle, or I guess with all the suite doors being closed it was more like a hallway – a bit of a novelty when typically the flight exposes you to all your fellow passengers for the many hours you are together.
I remember one long haul flight trying to get to the bathrooms in the middle of the night, picking my way over people’s feet dangling in the aisle and avoiding tripping on blankets pillows and other detritus like some sort of obstacle course. None of that in the Qatar QSuites Business Class.
It was around this time that I discovered that the Complimentary WiFi was working. You got an hour for free and then they’d charge you for the rest – but that was per device so if you had a couple of devices you could get quite a bit of usage if you really wanted to.
I’m not quite sure what you would need to use the internet for though. I just used it to check in on Facebook from Kirkuk in Iraq, but I guess if you needed to check business emails or had some work that needed doing and sending to someone it would be cool to be able to do that. I suspect since it used satellite technology that it would be slow. My experiences with satellite based wifi haven’t been the best so I left it well alone.
We were on the final part of the journey and I was impressed with the journey tracking part of the entertainment system. You could zoom in or out on the map, you could rotate your view of the plane and surrounds from any angle and you could even select a side of the plane and it would show you which towns or cities were in your field of vision.
I was glad I’d played with that because it allowed me to notice that it was a clear night, and that a little later we were following the Thames into Heathrow. There’s something quite magical about seeing the iconic sights of London from a plane at night.
The Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, The Shard, The London Eye, the various parks all welcomed me back to the city, and before you knew it Heathrow was reaching up and greeting our wheels.
So the point of the excercise was to compare and contrast the two Business Class offerings of Qatar Airways, so how did they stack up?
The Qatar QSuites Business Class seats really made a difference. Sure, the standard seat was good, but there were a number of reasons you’d have to pick QSuites over standard business class:
- The privacy – it was just so unusual not to have any interaction with any other passengers – no “oh, have you worked out how to plug in the headphones”, no “how do you work this?”, not even seeing the other passengers out of the corner of your eye. From the moment you take your seat to just before you leave it’s like you’re travelling alone.
- The seat – while both seats were a little narrow for me, the design of the QSuites seat meant that it was more comfortable to sleep – the fact that the foot cubby meant that you were legitimately 180 degrees all the way along was way more relaxing than the standard business class offering.
- The space – the standard business class seat was “just” a seat. A good seat, don’t get me wrong, but fundamentally it was a seat. The QSuites seat came with space – with places to put things and to put things away so you didn’t have to see them but could get them without getting up. Hard to explain but so much better for the psyche.
I’d love to have the Qatar QSuites Business Class available for the flights from Doha to Auckland (or reverse) – and hopefully at some stage Qatar Airways provides this option, because if you have to travel for 18 hours on a flight, and have elected to spend the money on business class to do so, it would be great to be able to take advantage of the best in this class of seats.
(Edit – The New Zealand Herald says the Q-Suites will be introduced on the Auckland-to-Doha route from 1 June 2019).