TRIED & TESTED FLIGHT
Qatar Airways A350-1000 Q Suite Business Class
Qatar Airways’ new business class is the Q Suite (or “Qsuite”, as Qatar styles it). It is gradually being introduced on the carrier’s long-haul fleet, and is currently on some of the B777-300ER fleet and this A350-1000 aircraft, which is the larger variant of the A350-900. (We have previously reviewed the A350-900 with the “old” business class seat – see businesstraveller.com for that review. You can also watch a video of this Q Suite flight on our You Tube channel.)
We arrived at Hamad International Airport in Doha at 1000 for QR001 departing at 1225, a flight of some six-and-a-half hours. This is a quiet time at Hamad International. There were no other passengers at premium check-in, and I was quickly through security.
I’ve been through the Al Mourjan Lounge many times, mostly in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning, when it is very busy. At 1030 it was a different place, and I wandered around for an hour making a video, which will be available on our You Tube channel. At 1130 I made my way to Gate C1.
There was no queue to board, though there was a further security check.
The Q Suite set-up is very different from normal business class cabins. There are 46 suites in total: 38 in the main cabin, with nine rows at the side and ten rows in the middle, in a 1-2-1 configuration; and then eight seats in a second, smaller cabin.
The seats are also forward- and backward-facing. So the front row, row 1, has four backward-facing seats, and then row 2 has four forward-facing seats. For the centre seats, that means they can make a four (the flight attendants call it a “quad”) if the central divider is dropped between the seats and then the fore and aft divider is operated.
The centre divider is released by the passenger using a catch, but the fore and aft divider is operated by the flight attendants. In addition, each seat has a sliding door that is locked open via a device similar to an Allen key for take-off and landing, and then is released for the rest of the flight.
The seat has a type of padded shelf next to it that can be raised to become a large armrest, or lowered to give you more room around the shoulders. The lid of this lifts, and inside is storage space with a bottle of water and noise-cancelling headphones. At the seat is a Bric’s branded amenity kit and a pillow bearing the words, “The sky is a wonderful place to be”.
There is a large touchscreen that’s close enough to easily reach, and a handset recessed into the side of the seat. The amount of surface space is really impressive, and I could move my laptop onto the upper table and have the whole of the large and very firm table folded out for dining without even using the padded shelf.
The seat reclines so that your feet meet the footrest beneath the IFE screen. The seat also allows you to rest your feet on the floor even when the seat is reclined, so there are many options. There are numerous seat controls with presets.
A forward-facing window seat will suit individual travellers, but in these seats the overhead lockers are immediately above you; you could potentially bang your head if someone opens one as you are standing up. If you have a backward-facing window seat, then you are closer to the busy aisle because of the staggered nature of the seating.
Centre seats will also suit individual travellers, but make sure you have a forward-facing one, such as D or G. These share the disadvantage of being closer to the aisle, but the centre console is between you and the person sitting in the other centre seat, which is preferable if you don’t
know them. If you are travelling companions, then perhaps go for the ones closer together (E and F, for instance).
If you are travelling with your partner, it’s worth noting that the backward-facing centre seats can be made into a double bed.
With the divider up, a forward-facing centre seat can be a good choice – I went for 4D.
On boarding, I was welcomed, my jacket taken and I was offered a choice of drinks, including champagne. Before take-off, menus were handed around and orders taken, although it was made clear we could order meals at any time. Qatar has also introduced online preorder dining, and is currently introducing other improvements to the catering.
My meal was good, starting with soup of the day (white onion), which I declined, and a choice of appetisers: I had the meze of hummus, tabbouleh and baba ganoush served with Arabic flatbread. For the main course I chose vegetable jalfrezi, cumin pulao rice and chana dal. I thought the food was much tastier than on the flight leaving London (including the meze), which made me wonder whether this was because it was made in Doha, not London.
The dessert options included banoffee pie with crème anglaise; fresh berries with almond syrup; or a choice of ice creams. The wine selection was extensive and included two champagnes, white or rosé – Pommery Brut Royal, or Drappier Brut Rose de Saignee.
I have read about the new Q Suite having teething problems, but there were no problems on this flight. On boarding there was no in-seat power in the cabin, but the flight attendants rebooted it and after that there were no further issues.
I worked for a while and then reclined the seat. There was no full bedding on offer since this was a day flight, but there was a proper pillow and a good blanket, so I had no problem getting comfortable. If you put down the armrest you also have more room. I used the eye mask and earplugs to sleep for about 90 minutes.
When I awoke I ordered some tea and one of the snacks (the steak sandwich with melted cheese, pictured opposite), which was delicious.
We experienced no turbulence and arrived at Heathrow slightly early, only to circle around the airport for 20 minutes and then spend a further 15 minutes waiting to get to our stand. Once there, we were quickly off the plane. I had no checked luggage and so was soon landside to begin the journey into central London.
Qatar Airways already has an outstanding business class seat, but the Q Suite is an attempt to do something even more special – to add a touch of first class comfort to the business cabin. At the moment the Q Suite is not widely available – you will know if you are booking one from the seating plan, and the Q Suite surcharge. Some passengers will be confused by the unorthodox layout, but in time the Q Suite will be recognised as a unique product. As on the outbound flight, the service on this return leg was exemplary, and the food and wine, plus their presentation, were all top class. Tom Otley
WATCH THE VIDEO REVIEW ON YOU TUBE
If you are travelling with your partner, it’s worth noting that the backwardfacing centre seats can be made into a double bed