I was feel a little flutter of excitement when I fly Business and this time was even more exciting.
I was invited to try out the Qatar Airways Business Class products on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the A380 AND the new A350 XWB.
THREE different types of aircraft, all in one trip from London to Singapore and back. Qatar Airways is the global launch customer of the A350 XWB and therefore the first airline to fly this plane commercially, so many passengers (including me) are excited to try it out.
So what’s special about this A350?
If you’re not an #avgeek like me and you aren’t familiar with the A350, it’s a next-generation aircraft manufactured by Airbus. Qatar Airways received its first A350 in December 2014 and not long after it went into operation on services to Frankfurt. In May of 2015, Singapore became the second route. The plane features the latest innovations, such as a high precision air management system that filters the air every few minutes and a carbon fibre fuselage that provides reduced cabin pressure, meaning food tastes better.
So what’s it like to fly?
Read on for my Qatar Airways A350 Business Class review…
I flew the A350 from Doha to Singapore and from Singapore to Doha, so I got to experience this brand spanking new aircraft not once, but twice.
Flight QR 938 from Doha to Singapore departs at 7am and lands in Changi Airport at 19:50. Since this was a day flight I managed to get plenty of photos! The return leg- flight QR 945– departed Changi at 02:30am, touching down in Doha’s Hamad International Airport at 05:05am.
The first thing I noticed about the A350 was the Business Class entrance area. I loved the illuminated dome ceiling and the tasteful red roses on display.
There’s a total of 36 seats in Business Class, arranged in a 1-2-1 layout, with direct aisle access at every seat. The aircraft features advanced air conditioning technology, electromechanical window shades that go from transparent to opaque and full LED mood-lighting so passengers feel good throughout the journey. The overhead storage bins have enough space for two-roller bags per person, so there’s plenty of space for your belongings.
On both journeys I was seated in a middle seat- 04E and 15E. I discovered the two seats differ slightly, so I’ll try to explain in more detail.
Seat 07E was in the front row of the back section, directly behind the dome entrance. Because there was no-one sitting in front of me, I had an extra cabinet-like storage compartment for my belongings.
See how there are two doors to the left of the TV screen? The top one contains a vanity mirror storage space, while the lower one is large enough for a laptop and small bag.
In Seat 04E, on the other hand, I had a passenger sitting in front of me, so there was just a sliding drawer for my shoes built into the bottom of the shell of the seat in front.
So if you want more storage compartments, try to bag a centre seat on row 7! Other than that, the seats are the same. The armrest to the left of me contained a water bottle and my noise cancelling headset. In front of me there was an ottoman and space for a cabin bag on the floor. The tray table slides out from beneath the TV screen- it’s not particularly big but you can easily get in and out of your seat.
To my right there was a small storage compartment big enough to hold my camera and other bits n bobs. Above this is the side table, with the electronic touch panel for the seat functions built into it. The power socket and the USB port can be found next to the TV handset at arm level, then there’s a large flat space for things like your blanket, laptop and menus at shoulder level. It’s not the biggest business class seat I’ve seen, when I compare it to the likes of the Singapore Airlines A380, but it’s certainly well thought out in terms of ergonomics.
This is what it looks like when it’s converted into a fully flat bed:
IFE (Inflight Entertainment)
Business Class on the A350 XWB features the latest 4th generation IFE systems with high definition 17″ Thales Avant touch screens and over 1,000 entertainment options. I usually stick to movies, so I finally watched Birdman. THAT ENDING!! Can anyone explain it to me?
The TV screen is large and you feel like you’re in your own private cinema with 3D audio and a high-fidelity surround-sound effect. What’s really cool about this system is that the main screen and the handset are both touchscreen, so you can watch a film or a TV show while doing something else on the handset, like play a game or check out the flight map. What was annoying is that the handset isn’t particularly responsive, so it wouldn’t do what I needed it to do. It took me quite a while to get it to select the right movie. If Qatar Airways could use something that had a screen with the responsiveness of an iPhone, that would improve the user experience tenfold.
If you need to do work during the flight there’s paid Wi-Fi, although I decided to switch off and enjoy the journey.
Before we talk about food, let me just say, you have to try the Rose Champagne…it’s Tattinger and it tastes incredible. Ask for one when they offer you a welcome drink on boarding the plane and you’ll soon forget your daily stresses and strains. I’m not usually a champagne drinker but when it’s on offer and it’s pink and it tastes better than the rest, I’m certainly going to have 1 or 2.
Besides the free champagne, the highlight of flying Business Class for me is always the food. I’m a bit of a glutton on planes. Small confined space, not much to do, lots of gourmet food…
On Qatar Airways you can dine on-demand, which means you can order anything from the menu, at any time during the flight. A member of cabin crew comes round to take your order before take-off but you can just tell them you’d rather eat something later.
On the flight from Doha to Singapore we were served breakfast. I chose the cucumber and apple healthy energiser shot, the seasonal fruit platter, and the traditional Arabic breakfast.
After I’d had a sleep I woke up and was feeling a bit peckish, so I called a flight attendant and had the grilled lemon grass chicken salad with mozzarella, roasted yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes and beetroot curls.
On the return flight I’d had a huge dinner so I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry. I started with the ‘palate pleaser’ of sesame coated prawn, followed by the chicken and coconut soup, the Arabic mezze, the cheese plate and gourmet ice cream. OK that actually sounds like a lot…but I skipped the main course!
I believe the menus are designed by internationally renowned chefs Nobu Matsuhisa and Vineet Bhatia. I noticed on all the flights that the dishes are quite healthy and light, with a selection of Arabic and western food to choose from. The selection of main meals isn’t as extensive as I’ve seen on other Middle Eastern/Asian airlines and if I’m being picky, I would like to have seen more adventurous main meal options. The food is of a high quality though and the dine on demand option meant I never went hungry.
On Qatar Airways you’re provided with a sleepsuit to change into, which is a real treat because most airlines only hand out the pyjamas in First Class. Qatar Airways only operates First Class on the A380 though, so Business Class customers get the luxury treatment.
I wouldn’t usually bother changing on an aircraft but I slipped into my jim-jams on all the night flights. Initially on looking at the pyjamas I thought they looked a bit un-feminine in the dark grey colour but actually when I put them on I thought they were pretty stylish. The waist was massive on me but I guess they’re designed to fit all shapes and sizes, so they have a drawstring waist that you can pull in (or let out). With a mandarin collar and button-down top, these PJs did seem to suit everyone.
Enough about the pyjamas…what was in the amenity kit?
When I arrived on the aircraft, my amenity kit was ready and waiting for me. They have both male and female kits, but they know before you board what gender you are, which is pretty neat. The kit comes in a silky black, Giorgio Armani zip bag and is packed with goodies, including a comb, flight socks, earplugs and eye mask. You also get a lip balm, a full size bottle of moisturising lotion and a mini Giorgio Armani ‘Si’ perfume. I’ve seen a lot of amenity kits, but rarely ones with full-size bottles or a proper perfume. The toothbrushes and toothpaste can be found in the bathrooms, so you don’t have to remember to take those with you when you need to brush your teeth before bed or landing.
I really liked the A350- it is new after all. Although as a passenger I preferred the A380 because of the novelty of the onboard bar, and the 787 Dreamliner because of the ultra-large, electronically dimmable windows. The A350 is much more cost effective for the airlines though, since it’s not only faster but more fuel efficient, emitting 25% lower emissions than current generation aircraft in its category. If you like what you see and want to book Qatar Airways Business Class, you can do that here and check out this page for special offers.
Disclaimer: Qatar Airways invited me to try their Business Class for the purposes of a review. I try to tell it as it is, so opinions here are my own.