One of the most revolutionary Business Class seats in the industry, the Qatar Airways Qsuite, hit the market in June 2017 flying between Doha and London. Today it’s fitted on 25 Qatar planes flying to more than 20 cities each day. We boarded one of the newest, a 4-month old A350-1000, which will be flying to Singapore from November 2018, to put the product to the test.
- Flight: QR68 Frankfurt T1 to Doha Hamad
- Class: Business (Qsuite)
- Seat: 11K
- Aircraft Type: Airbus A350-1000
- Aircraft Registration: A7-ANB
- Aircraft Age: 0.3 years
- Date: 9th September 2018
- Departure / Arrival: 17:35 / 00:35
- Flight Time: 6h 00m
- Cost: 37,500 British Airways Avios points + S$410.00*
* Note the high level of taxes and charges applicable to Qatar bookings using Avios. This stems partly from the Qatar fuel surcharge, however on this route I was also stung with the significant taxes and airport charges applied when departing from Germany.
If you manage to secure the same redemption in the opposite direction (Doha to Frankfurt) the cost is still 37,500 Avios, but a much more palatable S$171 in taxes and fees.
“First in Business”. That’s what Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker promised when hyping up the newest Business Class product the airline was set to launch in 2017. When it was finally revealed at the travel trade event ITB Berlin in March that year, it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Direct aisle access for all was a must, already featuring in Qatar’s newest Business Class seats.
With the Qsuites reveal we had a new era for Business Class travel. Individual suites with closing doors, double beds for couples, effective workspace for colleagues or social and dining space for families in dedicated ‘quad’ middle sections.
It was all a bit too much to be true. Had Qatar Airways finished off the need for First Class on planes for good? If Business was this standard, why did you need First?
I was travelling alone on this sector, as Eddie had secured a First Class ticket from Geneva on Emirates the same evening in their newest 1-1-1 fully enclosed suite product (that’s right, the one with the virtual windows). Look out for a review on that coming up soon.
Anyway back to (relative) reality – one of the first things you’ll notice when you book a flight in Qatar’s new Qsuite Business Class is that as a single passenger the seat selection appears to be quite limited. That’s because the ‘solo’ seats by the window are best designed for people travelling alone, while the airline wishes to maintain middle pairs and those elusive ‘quad’ sections for couples and larger groups.
This is actually quite a good policy, unlike the Singapore Airlines new A380 Suites where solo travellers are not directed to only occupy the single suites (3A and 3F) until they are both occupied, instead free seating in that cabin means two people travelling alone can block both ‘double suites’ from all other passengers who book subsequently – a slightly crazy concept.
The downside for solo Qsuite passengers wishing to take their chances on having a double bed or a whole ‘quad’ to themselves is that they won’t be able to break up these seat groupings in case a larger booking is made on the same flight.
First of all here’s the seat map for the Qatar Airways Airbus A350-1000, all of which feature Qsuites. This is also the aircraft type that will be serving the Doha – Singapore route from 1st November 2018.
Here’s how Qatar Airways open up their Qsuite seats for advance allocation based on the number of people travelling on the same booking. Assuming you are booking on a totally empty A350-1000 flight for:
- A solo passenger: Window seats (A/B or J/K in each row). There are 22 of these seats in the Qsuite cabin on the A350-1000.
- Couples travelling together: Rear facing seats which convert to a double bed (odd-numbered E/F pairs). There are 6 opportunities for these pairs in the A350-1000. Also, forward facing seats alongside one another (even-numbered D/G pairs).
- Groups of 3 or 4 passengers travelling together: ‘Quad’ seats (odd-numbered E/F pairs followed by even-numbered D/G pairs in the row directly behind. For example 1 E/F & 2 D/G or 3 E/F & 4 D/G, etc…). There are 6 opportunities for these quads in the A350-1000.
Couples and larger groups on the same booking can also choose the A/B or J/K window seats.
Seats 1A and 2B, the first two window-aligned solo suites at the front left of the cabin, are blocked for advance selection and can only be allocated by the airport team.
If you are a couple travelling together but on two separate bookings, for example if you each made a redemption booking from your own frequent flyer account, you can call Qatar Airways if you wish to be seated in one of the couple pairs and they will override the seating allocation rules as you’ll be unable to do this online.
The same applies if you wish to combine larger groups on separate bookings into quad seats for example.
Online check in
For most airlines this is where you can usually evade the seat allocation rules and choose any unoccupied seat (for example, row 11 in the Singapore Airlines A350 Business Class cabin). That’s not the case with Qatar Airways. The same seat choice restrictions apply even at this stage.
A tool like ExpertFlyer, which allows you to view the seat map for your flight free of charge, will help you here. On my Frankfurt to Doha flight I was able to tell that the middle pair (11 E/F) was not occupied (shown as blocked on ExpertFlyer), giving me a good chance to ask the crew whether I could move across to experience the double bed once on board. I therefore stuck happily with my original selection, 11K.
Notice on ExpertFlyer how you can determine whether the middle / quad seats are occupied (solid blue) or empty / blocked (crosses). You can also see that 1A/2B cannot be selected, nor can 12B/J unless you are travelling with an infant.
The check-in counters at Frankfurt airport for Qatar Airways are in Terminal 1 departure hall C. I arrived 3 hours before departure at 2.30pm to find no queue at the two dedicated Business Class desks, and was quickly checked in both for my flight to Doha and the second leg to Bangkok.
The seats I had pre-selected were assigned for both flights and the whole process was quick and easy. I was directed to use the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge, which is the only option in Frankfurt for Qatar Airways passengers are there are no other oneworld lounges in Terminal 1.
A Priority Pass will get you into the LuxxLounge, which looks a bit average.
I thought the Air Canada lounge in Frankfurt was great, and there’s a full review of that coming up soon. It’s also a nice alternative to the Lufthansa lounges for anyone flying on one of the three daily Singapore Airlines departures from Frankfurt.
Boarding for Business Class passengers commenced 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time.
You are welcomed through the forward left door with an elegant decorative wall featuring the Qatar Airways logo.
The Qsuite seating options
The first thing to note about the Qsuite is that it features both forward facing and rear facing seats. For those of you who’ve had the misfortune of experiencing British Airways’ Club World product, allay your fears as this is quite a different proposition!
If you aren’t comfortable sitting backwards on a flight (many people aren’t and I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of the concept myself) then there’s some bad news here – over half the Qsuite seats on the A350-1000 face backwards (24 out of 46). On the 777-300ER it’s even worse for you, two-thirds of the seats in that cabin (28 out of 42) are rear facing. In the A350-900, 20 out of 36 Qsuites face backwards.
For most people it’s no issue but if it is a concern you will have to select your seat carefully when flying in this cabin. Later in this review we have a guide to help you choose. Before I get into my own seat and experience, let’s start by looking at all the seat types on the aircraft, as I managed to take some photos as I made my way to seat 11K in the rear Business Class cabin.
Rear facing window seats (A and K)
These seats are aligned closely against the window, with your storage compartment and control console / side table between the seat and the aisle.
Forward facing window seats (B and J)
These seats are more closely aligned against the aisle with your storage compartment and side table between the seat and the window.
Rear facing middle pairs (E and F)
Perfect for couples who want to take advantage of the double bed, these seats are directly alongside one another in the middle section with the stowage and side table between the seat and the aisle in both cases.
If you are seated here next to a stranger a large privacy divider provides adequate isolation from your neighbour.
Forward facing middle pairs (D and G)
Still a good option for couples, the forward facing middle pairs are similar to the forward facing window seats in that the seat is close to the aisle with the side table and stowage in the middle in both cases.
Again a privacy divider is installed in case you are not travelling with the person seated next to you.
The solo window suites at the side (A/K or B/J) each have two air vents in the ceiling. If like us you appreciate these it’s important to note there are none in the middle suites (D/G or E/F). Due to the lack of overhead lockers in the middle section the ceiling is so high they would be out of reach and probably ineffective anyway.
I took a moment to sit in the vacant suite 12J behind my seat and actually I preferred it. The forward facing aspect seems much better to me. Even though the seat is closer to the aisle, privacy is maintained and the orientation and positioning of everything appeared to be more ‘natural’.
Here’s the other thing with the A and K seats – the suite access (gap when the suite door is open) is aligned with your head, meaning when the door is open, privacy from the aisle is minimal. With the forward facing B and J seats your head is cocooned away from the suite access ‘void’ while the door is open, so it feels much more private the moment you sit down, regardless of the door position.
It could be a personal thing but in future I would pick a B or J seat in this cabin flying solo over the rear facing A or K options.
Each Qsuite also has a pillow with a slogan written on it like “the sky is a wonderful place to be”, “this is my happy place” and “paint the sky, make it yours”. Presumably this helps a lot for instagram! You are encouraged to take the pillows home with you if you wish.
The seat it is 79″ long in bed mode, an inch or two longer than the latest Business Class seats on Singapore Airlines Airbus A380s or Boeing 777s. Seat width is where things start to suffer in the Qsuite – at 21.5″. Singapore Airlines’ 2013 J seat is 28″ wide and its latest 2017 J seat is 25″ wide for comparison.
The amenity kit, pillow and blanket are already provided at your seat for your arrival. As you may notice from some of the photos above the amenity kit is only provided at occupied seats. The crew had also extended the dividers at middle pairs where people were travelling on separate bookings, but retracted them at pairs where a couple was known to be travelling together, for example at 1E/F.
That’s a nice touch and avoids any awkwardness if you’re seated in those middle pairs.
The crewmember working in my area came to explain my suite including the various controls and offered a welcome drink. A range of options was offered, on the Champagne side it was a choice of standard or rosé.
I opted for the standard brut – a Pommery non-vintage. It certainly hit the spot, perfectly chilled and obviously freshly opened. A hot towel was also offered.
The seat has a grey leather headrest and the side console and armrest are also leather, however the rest of the seat is finished in fabric. It’s a little on the firm side compared with other Business Class seats I’ve experienced, however it was still comfortable.
There were three other passengers in the 8-seat rear Business Class cabin on this flight, a single traveller in 11A and a couple who had chosen 12D/G rather than 11E/F, for whatever reason.
After takeoff the crew came round to offer another drink and take the meal order. I appreciated the service pace here – often on other airlines I find the crew rushing to take meal orders on the ground before you’ve really had time to read the menu. There’s no rush on a 6-hour daytime flight in my opinion.
Having said that it did then take a while before I received my second glass of Champagne, served with some warm nuts. First world problems!
The suite door actually can’t be closed until later in the flight on request. The cabin crew use a device to unlock the door allowing it to then move between the open and closed positions. This wasn’t immediately clear and there was a fair bit of yanking on my part before I finally decided to summon some assistance and the door was unlocked for me!
In fairness the crew may have explained this as part of the initial briefing on the suite functions but if so I didn’t register it at the time.
Presumably it is a safety function during takeoff and landing ensuring the suite door cannot be closed, as there is a possibility it can become stuck (there is an emergency release mechanism, but you wouldn’t want to be fiddling with that during an evacuation following a fire-fuelled rejected takeoff!)
Each window in the Qsuite cabin has an automatic window blind controlled by buttons above.
The first stage is the extension of the day blinds. After that you can press again to extend the full blackout blinds. At any position you can press a second time to stop the blinds in an intermediate position, allowing you to effectively modulate the natural light coming into the cabin.
Storage options and table
At the entrance to the A/K rear facing window seats there is a stowage compartment containing your noise-cancelling headphones, a bottle of water and the in-flight magazines. There is a handy mobile phone shelf and below that plenty of storage space for other items such as an iPad.
In the suites where the seat is aligned closer to the aisle the storage compartment is at the far side from the door, but is essentially the same design.
Closing the lid of the compartment increases the space you have to spread out, particularly useful when the seat is converted into bed mode.
Finally a button on the side allows you to extend the compartment upwards for use as an armrest. I thought this was really clever use of the console and gives you a better feeling of being ‘shielded’ from the open suite door when extended.
The half-leaf table is stowed beneath the TV screen and first extends towards you. In the folded position it can be adjusted backwards and forwards, however once it is fully opened it is in a fixed position.
Luckily the seat moves forwards and backwards using the seat controls allowing you to get in and out easily while dining (having retracted the armrest as seen above).
The table is a sturdy surface ideal for working or dining and there is plenty of space for everything.
Amenity Kit and Pyjamas
The amenity kit comes in an attractive BRICS toiletry bag. The company is a leading Italian fashion travel brand so the bag, exclusive to Qatar Airways, is a nice perk in itself.