Qatar Airways A350 Business Class Review

Qatar Airways has a rather interesting reputation. Their CEO, His Excellency Mr. Akbar al Baker, has a reputation for uncompromising attention to detail and…um…”close management” of what is said about his airline. That said, he’s made Qatar Airways into a formidable competitor and a big part of the Middle East Three group of airlines (with Etihad and Emirates). Boasting not only an amazing A380 First Class but also one of the finest lounges in the world, Qatar Airways has a story to tell. For that reason I was excited to fly and write this Qatar Airways Business Class review on one of their new Airbus A350 aircraft.

How did I book the flight?  What did it cost?

This one was easy.  I was in Dubai visiting some friends and needed to fly back to Singapore.  I went to ba.com to search availability and found Business Class availability from Dubai to Doha and then Doha to Singapore.  A simple call to American Airlines Singapore desk later (since I happened to be in Singapore when making the reservation) I had confirmation numbers in hand.  The business class leg cost me 30,000 AAdvantage miles (note: after the March 22 devaluation this award would cost 40,000 miles, actually one of the not terrible changes in the award chart) and $10-15 of taxes.

(aside) Dreadful delay management from Qatar Airways

Our flight from Doha to Singapore was scheduled to take off around 9:30am from a remote gate.  I made my way to the gate, which was a considerable walk from the Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge, only to see that there was a delay on the board.  The ground staff made an announcement that there was a delay and they would have more information at 9:30am for us.  That’s annoying, but delays happen, no harm no foul.  9:30am came and went with no communication from the gate agents.  At 10:00am I approached the desk and asked if they would make an announcement letting us know when to expect more information at least.  The gate staff told me they would and never did.  At 10:20am the screen at the gate suddenly showed a delay of roughly six hours, pushing our departure time back to 2:30pm.  This caught the passengers at the gate by surprise and we asked the gate staff what was going on.  The gate staff shushed us and told us to wait for the announcement over the loudspeaker.  Minutes later the loudspeaker said what the screen in front of us said: there was a mechanical problem with our jet and we needed to wait for inbound aircraft.  Again, annoying, but it happens.  I walked back to the Al Mourjan lounge and relaxed for a bit with some food and some photo-editing.  About an hour later a gentleman came through the lounge announcing the final call for my Singapore flight.  WAIT, WHAT?!  It turns out they had fixed the mechanical problem and moved the departure time up to basically that minute.  No announcement was made in the lounge that I could hear, although they claim they “made many announcements”.  After a brief sprint, I made it to the gate and boarded after a lengthy bus ride to a station outside the maintenance hangar where our jet was waiting.

 

Qatar, here are some recommendations:

  1. Keep your promises.  If you tell a group of people you will give them more information at 9:30am, click that microphone at 9:30am, even if it’s just to tell them you are still waiting for more information.
  2. Beat your airline screens.  Communicate the delay to your ground staff before it hits the screens, allowing your ground crew time to make an announcement and provide information to customers.
  3. Announce critical changes in all areas of all lounges.  When I go into a British Airways lounge for a Cathay Pacific flight, I understand they will not announce information about my flight.  Being at the Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Lounge waiting on a Qatar Airways flight, I would expect that something as operationally serious as a departure time being moved up 4 hours would be announced.

Ok, back to the review…

Once we were cleared to board we got on a few buses and went on a long journey near the main maintenance hangar at Doha’s Hamad International Airport, where our Airbus A350 was waiting.  I got off the bus and tried to take some pictures of the airline engine until I was informed that this was against the rules by a really rude airline official who grabbed my camera by the lens and forcibly moved it away from the engine.  That is never acceptable and I’m lucky I had a good grip on my camera, otherwise it could have fallen and there would’ve been an incident.

So I’ll happily post this picture, in honor of the guy who thought that it was appropriate to mess with $4700 of camera equipment simply because I didn’t know it wasn’t permitted to take this picture.

qatar airways business class review

Airbus A350 Engine

Ok, so it should be abundantly clear to you at this point that I was not a very happy camper as I boarded the beautiful new A350 aircraft.  To add insult to injury, the engines were turned off, due to maintenance, meaning the air conditioning was not functioning yet, leading to a rather warm cabin.  I was sitting there in a bad mood, putting some serious thought into whether or not I should even do this review (since it’d be hard to be impartial).  But the in-flight service manager came by, apologized for the delay, and so warmly welcomed me to the flight that I found my sunshine again and felt excited about the flight again.  She was an absolute joy and took a personal interest in making sure I had a great experience.

The Seat

qatar airways business class review

A350 Business Class Seat

Qatar uses a reverse-herringbone seat that’s similar to all the others that are so popular these days (indeed, I’ve called American’s version of that seat the best business class seat in the sky).  The seat was very comfortable, easy to adjust, and provided quite a bit of storage space.

qatar airways business class review

Seating area

If I had to find a criticism I’d say that it didn’t provide very much privacy, but that doesn’t bug me that much.

qatar airways business class review

The seatback

The flight attendants were making extra sure everyone was comfortable by making sure every champagne glass was refilled promptly and distributing chilled towels to help with the heat.  It was very much appreciated after the stress of the morning and helped me calm down.

qatar airways business class review

Champagne and cold towel

The Qatar IFE system is absolutely fantastic and was available on the ground, so I perused the options while enjoying my champagne.

qatar airways business class review

IFE system behind some champagne

The flight attendants distributed amenity kits by Giorgio Armani.

qatar airways business class review

Amenity Kit

The noise-canceling headphones were in the aisle-side armrest in a nice little compartment that also had a bottle of water, which was an excellent place for it, since the armrest descends into the seat when you’re in the sleeping position and it’s right next to you without having to reach anywhere.

qatar airways business class review

Water and headphone compartment

The Flight and Meal

The engines eventually turned and, mercifully, the cabin started to cool down.  We had a short taxi to the runway, since we were already away from the terminal by a good distance, and were in takeoff position shortly.  The A350 has a tail camera, which I always enjoy watching during takeoff.

qatar airways business class review

Watching pushback

Once we were in the air the inflight service began.

I’ve always liked Qatar’s food, although I feel some of it is needlessly complex.  It’s personal preference, sure, but I prefer simple food cooked well.

The meal began with some warmed nuts, and a dragonslayer to drink (I call a Bailey’s on the rocks a dragonslayer simply because I’m a guy with a beard and don’t want to feel unmanly for ordering a Bailey’s on the rocks).

qatar airways business class review

Warmed nuts and a dragonslayer

After that I was presented with a lovely arabic mezze to start with some lovely hummus (I’m a hummus enthusiast and found it lovely in both taste and presentation).

qatar airways business class review

Hummus Among Us!

qatar airways business class review

Action shot of some hummusing

The bread looked real nice and artisan-y.

qatar airways business class review

Bread.

For lunch I ordered the chicken.  I find it’s pretty easy for an airline (or a travel blogger cooking at home last night) to ruin chicken and have it end up dry, but Qatar nailed it on this one, the chicken was delicious!

qatar airways business class review

Chicken, potatoes, beets, and roasted asparagus

I was legitimately full at the end of the main course but I saved a bit of room for dessert, just so I could, you know, review it for you.

qatar airways business class review

Ice cream sundae with fresh berries

After the meal I used the in-flight wifi ($20 for the flight) to catch up on some emails and watched a few movies as I drifted in and out of sleep.  Before I made my bed for a long nap I looked outside and was greeted by the curved wingtip of the A350 against a beautiful sunset and had to get a picture!

qatar airways business class review

Sunset behind the curve

The Airbus A350

The new Airbus A350 is Airbus’s response to the Boeing 787.  It consists of composite materials which are corrosion-resistant, allowing for higher humidity levels and a lower cabin pressurization “altitude” during the flight.  Not to mention the windows are much bigger as well.  All in all I definitely noticed a difference, walking off the flight I felt much more like a human being than the typical zombie-like state I’m in after long flights.

Qatar decorates its cabin beautifully.  During the flight they decorated the separators pictured here (similar to the wall decorations on the A380) but I was dutifully sleeping instead of getting pictures, but the entire cabin was classy and refined.

qatar airways business class review

Mid-cabin separator

qatar airways business class review

Business Class Cabin

Wrapping it up

I enjoyed my flight.  The cabin was comfortable and felt luxurious.  The service was wonderful and warm.  The initial delay and rude airline official really frustrated me, as I’d assume the staff at the home airport would be the best-trained, but that may not be fair to Qatar Airways.  There were elements of the delay that I’ve calmed down about since I took the flight but remain annoyed that the guy forced my camera away by grabbing the lens of my camera.

Anyway, I’m very happy to report that once I stepped foot into the business class cabin I had nothing to worry about.  By the end of the flight I was sitting there wondering if it was indeed the same flight I was so upset about when I boarded.  Qatar Airways was the most surprising flight of my First Class Round the World Trip back in November and I would not hesitate to book another flight on Qatar Airways in longhaul business soon!

I would not hesitate to book another flight on Qatar Airways in longhaul business soon!Tweet: I would not hesitate to book another flight on Qatar Airways in longhaul business soon!

 

Have you flown Qatar in Business or any other airline on the A350?  What did you think?  

20 Comments

  1. So for the cabin pictures, do you just get up and take them? I have a few trips coming up (CX F, JL F, etc.) that I’d like to get a cabin shot much like the last picture in your post, but I’m wary of being yelled at.

    Reply
    • Hey Francis,

      You got it, I just get up and take them while walking around the cabin. Usually people don’t care too much, I just make sure the flash doesn’t go off, that’ll get you in trouble REALLY quickly.

      Reply
    • It would also be courteous to inform the cabin crew of your intentions and ask them kindly for their cooperation!

      Reply
      • In my experience that’s usually more trouble than it’s worth. Most cabin crews don’t have an issue with pictures being taken as long as it’s not disrupting the flight.

        Reply
  2. Good to hear your journey ended well despite the difficult start. Out of the four QR sectors on my most recent business trip to SE Asia in January, two sectors (FRA-DOH, SIN-DOH) were in the A350. QR service on all sectors were impeccable as you experienced and the lounge at Doha was excellent as well. The FRA-DOH was in A7-ALA, the first A350 to enter the fleet over a year ago, but everything was in still good working condition. The SIN-DOH sector was in A7-ALC, a newer A350, but there were already signs of wear, headphone was broken, IFE was in perpetual state of restart for the first hour of the flight and movies could not be accessed directly from the main menu. Other than the very likeable reverse herringbone layout and perhaps a whiff of newness, I personally didn’t find the A350 any more comfortable than the 777-300ER (DOH-MNL) and A330-300 (DOH-FRA) with the upgraded flatbed J cabin. The air felt just as dry as the other planes, and couldn’t say it was any quieter than the 777/A330 at cruise (in middle J seats). Overall, I enjoy flying with QR, and will fly with them again if the price/route/timing are favourable. As far as business class hard and soft products go, I don’t find QR any better than my usual trilogy of CX/SQ/BR.

    Reply
    • Really good comment, thanks for posting! I may have been looking for a difference but even flying in coach I noticed a difference on this jet. I’m a fan of the 777-300ER but still end up feeling ragged at the end of it, it was just a different feeling getting off of this flight.

      Reply
    • Personally i think A350 is quieter than 777-300ER. I’ve flown with QR A350 on my way back to SIN. It’s great but the service is somewhat underwhelming

      Reply
  3. i flew QATAR 1350 BIZ CLASS recently from DOHA to PHL. incredible plane very smooth and no noise. young crews but slow service.

    Reply
    • I didn’t find the same slow service on my flight but you never know from crew to crew, certainly.

      Reply
  4. A much more polite and less risky way of stopping photo taking is to simply block the lens with your hand while informing the photographer. Likely QR’s ground crew not being properly trained.

    Thanks for the review.

    Reply
  5. I really enjoyed reading this review, I’ve only managed to bag one Business Class flight on my travels and it was wonderful all the same but I love reading about other peoples experiences! (And looking at the different food options!) It sucks that it didn’t get off to a great start but it sounds like the crew made up for it when you boarded 🙂

    Reply
    • They certainly did, thanks for stopping by and reading!

      Reply
  6. Have been flying with Qatar for the past couple of years, from Singapore to different parts of Europe. I must say, the management of “flight schedule” sucks big time. Being prudent I would have a layover of 3-4 hours, but due to delays and stuff I still end up missing the 2nd leg of my flight, and had to do something like an amazing race to catch the next flight (they really cramp it so tight you’d think you had to teleport yourself to the next plane once you touch down). That being said, the experience in flight was amazing.

    Reply
    • I think their reliance on the A350 on the SIN-DOH leg really hurts the reliability ratings, they don’t have too many spare A350s laying around in case one goes mechanical.

      Reply
  7. Great review and photos — I especially like the “forbidden” pic of the plane engine. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • Thanks Nancy!

      Reply
  8. Beautiful photos as usual 🙂 is that the 50mm or the 16-35mm you used for the cabin shot?

    Reply
    • Hey Danny, it was the 16-35

      Reply
  9. Your pictures are amazing! May I ask about your camera? 🙂
    Thanks!

    Reply
  10. Nightmare called Qatar Airways.
    For thanksgiving break we took our son out of High School and our Daughter out of college to go visit the grandparent in India. {We all are US citizens}. We only had 10 days for this vacation and thanks to Qatar Airways it took us 2 days to get there and 2 days to get back. Plus ½ a day to resolve an issue created by them. So our vacation of 10 days was reduced to 5 ½ days thanks to Qatar Airways. They had numerous chances to fix the issue and Qatar Airways failed miserably on every step to do the right thing. This is a BIG beware recommendation before anyone thinks of flying Qatar.

    Booking the tickets: In April we got an email advertising cheap fares from Miami to New Delhi and we booked our tickets online for travel in November. First time on Qatar Airways.
    Before booking out tickets we called the customer service 800 number and asked them if we would get free accommodations as the layover was 9 hours in Doha while going and 23 hours when returning. The agent told us that they will give us a hotel as the layover was over 8 hours. Based on that info we booked our flights. {AMADEUS: 5J9L72}
    In October we called the customer service number to get our hotel stay booked and was informed that we are not eligible for hotel stay and we can change our flights for 450 dollars each. We talked to the agent and basically her attitude was too bad we gave you the wrong information (1st Instance for them to fix / do the right thing)
    We decided to book our own hotel and called them again as I read on a blog that Qatar gives transit visas and was informed again that Qatar Airways will not get us transit visa and we will have to get them ourselves @80 US dollars per person. We did our own research and found out that yes we were eligible for transit visa and applied and got them without any charge. https://transitvisa.qatarairways.com/transitvisa/online/qrvisa/applyVisa/search. (2nd instance for them to fix / do the right thing or even give us the right information)
    Travel to India: We left Miami on flight number QR 778 on November 18th, 2016. Check in was simple and effective and the plane was clean, professionally staffed and comfortable. Everything went well until this flight started to experience some trouble and had to make an emergency landing into Zurich about 8 hours in. http://dohanews.co/qatar-airways-flight-from-miami-to-doha-makes-emergency-landing/. This experience was scary as midflight all the lights came on and we were informed we were making an emergency landing and within 20 minutes we were on the ground with fire trucks and ambulances on either side of the runway. We sat on the tarmac inside the aircraft which intermittently lost power for two hours with no updates from the cockpit or the crew. (3rd instance for them to do the right thing)
    We were then made to disembark in -5 degree off the plane into waiting busses and we all were travelling from Miami to Doha and hence had no warm clothes. The wait for the busses had all of us freezing off. {4th chance to improve customer service}. We were placed inside a holding area for close to 12 hours in Zurich. We were told no one could help us with our connecting flights but that an aircraft from Doha was on its way to get us. There were other flights leaving from Zurich to other destinations but Qatar was not willing to book us on those flights. I checked and there were seats available. {5th Chance to provide some level of customer service] Upon checking online, we learned that there was smoke in the cockpit and that was the reason for the emergency landing. What we found horrifying was that upon landing, we were made to sit inside the aircraft for 2 hours after that! Qatar had a flight go up in smoke three months ago but passenger safety was not a concern as we were sitting in a plane which could have gone up in smoke and there were emergency vehicles all around and we had no updates. This one is a BIG mess up in my eyes as we could be in a burning/ smoking plane. [6th mess up of Qatar}
    We were given some meal vouchers for all our troubles to be used inside the holding area in Zurich. We obviously missed our connecting flight to New Delhi but were assured that we would be taken care of on arrival into Doha. On arrival into Doha, we were informed that our flight to Delhi would be 11 hours later and were offered hotel accommodation. Our trip to India was only for 10 days – because of this delay, we were looking at having lost one whole day. After almost 2 hours of talking to ground personnel, we were put on an Etihad flight which took close to 8 hours to get to Delhi via Abu Dhabi. We were 11 people who were going to Delhi and all the ground crew wanted to do us was get us out of the area. The supervisor Masuma was professional but was not willing to help. So now we are all lying on the floor in the customer service area after 8 hours of flying, 2 hours on the tarmac, 12 hours in Zurich and then the 8 hour flight to Doha and all the waiting for boarding etc while they take a few hours to book us. In all, it took us 48 hours to get to Delhi from Miami. Qatar had a flight out and so did other airlines into our final destination but Qatar would rather nickel and dime us and make us stay in Doha for 11 extra hours {7th chance to do the right thing- See a theme here. If all goes well then Qatar is great but if anything goes out of the ordinary they have no clue about customer concern / safety or comfort}
    Finally we reached our final destination and the bags and disembarking was smooth and efficient.

    Travel back to Miami: The day before our departure from Delhi back to Miami, on the 29th of November, tried to check in for our CONFIRMED flight to Miami. We were unable to check in and no further information was given online. We called and were told that we were not booked for the flight and that our entire booking had been cancelled due to a “glitch in the system’. (8th chance – please inform us if you are going to cancel our flights) Our information was taken and the representative (Floyd and then Akash) on the line assured us that he would get back to us within an hour. When we did not hear back for 2 hours, (9th mess up of Customer Service) we made our way to the local office on Barakhamba Road in New Delhi where we were given the same information and were told to wait. After another 2 hours, we were told that our flights had been reinstated and that we had confirmed bookings for our return. So Qatar Airways “System Glitch cost us another ½ day to get our confirmed booking reinstated.
    While at the Barakhamba Office in New Delhi, I requested an upgrade for the Doha – Miami sector in return for the extreme inconvenience caused to us. We were told by the agent Ekta that we should request this at check-in. We did that and were told that the flight was full but that Doha should be able to accommodate us. Upon our arrival in Doha, we went to the ground staff and obtained our boarding passes. We were looking at a 19 hour layover in Doha and had reserved a hotel room on our own. We requested an upgrade at that time for our flight after explaining all that had happened to us. We spoke to the agent as well as the supervisor on duty who explained that they were putting in a note for us to be upgraded and that we should arrive at the boarding gate at least an hour before departure to confirm this. We did so and were then told by the check-in agent that we were not going to be upgraded.( 10th chance to do the right thing) We requested to speak with a supervisor who told us there was nothing he could do. There were seats available in Business Class but he could not upgrade us. (11th frustrating experience] He was rude and absolutely unwilling to help. (12th chance and by this time we had had more than enough of the shabby treatment by Qatar)
    Reaching Miami: Upon arrival into Miami, we discovered that 2 of our suitcases were damaged beyond repair. We waited for the ground clerk to help us. After waiting for close to an hour after a 15 hour flight, we learned that Qatar would only reimburse half of the price of our luggage! They wanted us to provide receipts showing how much we paid for the bags and then they would reimburse ½ of that value. Seriously we have to carry receipts for our suitcase purchases. We were so exhausted at that point, that we just left. (13th customer service mess up)
    Our experience has been so bad that we all to become aware of how Qatar Airways treats its passengers. Not only was little attention paid to our safety post the emergency landing, there was also no concern or arrangements to get us to our destination as soon as possible. On top of that, our return journey was made into a nightmare as well. Like I said in the beginning – Nightmare called Qatar Airways.

    Reply

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