Mention Qatar Airways Business Class these days and you’ll probably only hear about one thing – the Qsuite. However, there are still a large number of the airline’s previous generation seats operating in this cabin, based on the Collins Aerospace ‘Super Diamond’ model.
We took a trip to find out what you can expect from the Qsuite’s ‘poor cousin’, still fitted to over half the airline’s Airbus A350s.
- Flight: QR212 Athens to Doha Hamad
- Class: Business
- Seats: 7A & 8A
- Aircraft Type: Airbus A350-900
- Aircraft Registration: A7-ALL
- Aircraft Age: 3.0 years
- Date: September 2019
- Departure / Arrival: 13:10 / 17:25
- Flight Time: 4h 15m
- Cost: 22,000 Avios + £172.10 (c.S$292) per person
Note: Nearly 80% of the cash element payable on this redemption was down to the Qatar Airways fuel surcharge (£137.40, or S$233). Actual ‘taxes’ on this route are minimal.
The Collins ‘Super Diamond’ seat
Collins Aerospace is a major player in the aircraft seats market. While the company does a lot more than just cabin interiors (a market that’s grown for Collins since acquiring B/E Aerospace in 2017), it’s ‘Diamond’ and ‘Super Diamond’ Business Class seats are popular products.
Other airlines choosing the ‘Super Diamond’ in Business Class include American Airlines, British Airways with its new ‘Club Suite’, China Airlines and Virgin Australia.
Fun fact: Collins Aerospace also manufactures the Qsuite, though for obvious reasons Qatar Airways has made sure this is exclusive and therefore not available as an ‘off-the-shelf’ product for other airlines to buy.
In Qatar Airways fit on the A350, these seats boast 50″ pitch and a 22″ seat width, the latter not including the retractable armrest at the aisle side which provides additional width in both seat and bed mode if desired.
In full-flat mode the bed length is a generous 80″, though the foot end becomes a narrow ‘cubby hole’ as it extends under the console of the seat in front.
You’ll also find this seat installed in Business Class on the airline’s Airbus A380s and Boeing 787-8s, with a slightly shorter 78″ bed length on the latter type (so pick an A350 or A380 if you can on an overnight flight).
One aspect of this seat we find a little disappointing is privacy, with no side ‘wing’ at head level you do feel quite exposed to the aisle and other passengers compared with similar seats like Cathay Pacific’s Cirrus product (even the China Airlines version pictured above makes some effort to improve this).
The Qatar Airways A350-900s with Super Diamond Business Class have 36 of these seats installed. They are split across two cabin sections, a larger forward zone of six rows (rows 1 to 6) with 24 seats in total, then a small three-row cabin (rows 7 to 9) with 12 seats.
As the seat map shows, solo window seats are finished in Qatar’s maroon fabric, while the middle seat pairs are in grey.
We personally prefer the smaller three-row cabin at the back, which feels more intimate and has low foot traffic since the Business Class toilets are all located forward of this section.
Having tried the middle pair 10 days before on our flight from Doha to Athens, we decided to choose the window seats 7A and 8A for this flight.
Qatar’s check-in desks in Athens open three hours prior to departure, with no early check-in facility available, so don’t arrive at the airport too early as there’s not much to do in the landside area.
We discovered this having arrived four hours before departure on our flight from Mykonos, and had to kill time at a cafe in the check-in area while we waited for the desks to open.
Pro Tip: If you have a longer wait, the recently renovated Sofitel Athens Airport is directly opposite the terminal. Better bars and restaurants are available there to pass time between flights, including a comfortable lobby area. The hotel also offers day rates – call or email to book.
Qatar Airways uses the Swissport lounge at Athens airport, located opposite gate A13. A lounge invitation is provided along with your boarding pass at the check in desk.
It’s a fairly basic facility and nothing to be excited about, with no alternative oneworld options at the airport and a handful of Priority Pass lounges, which appear to be of a similar standard.
We would not recommend getting to the airport particularly early just to enjoy the lounge – an hour is really all you need in there. Shower facilities are not available.
Boarding was announced in the lounge around 45 minutes before departure time and we made our way to the gate. Timing was perfect – just as we arrived the Business Class cabin was being called.
We were offered a welcome drink and both opted for Champagne. As far as bubbly is concerned, Qatar Airways serves a Brut and a Rosé option both on the ground and in the air when flying Business Class.
A hot or cold towel is also offered. Athens Airport isn’t the best for air conditioning, including the rather warm experience in the airbridge while boarding, so we both went for a refreshing cold towel.
Also waiting at the seat are your blanket, pillow and an amenity kit, plus a water bottle and other literature to the side.
If you’ve flown this seat on Qatar’s Boeing 787 you’ll notice a few differences, not least that the A350 (and A380) version has a water bottle holder on the shelf to your side, which is missing on the Boeing 787.
Edit: Thanks to reader Terry for pointing out that some of the airline’s 787s do now have the water bottle holder on the side shelf, so perhaps these are being retrofitted.
You’ll find your headset in the extendible armrest at the aisle side.
Simply press the release button and the flap will lift, revealing this storage compartment with integrated light.
This is where your water bottle will be on boarding if you fly this seat on one of Qatar’s Boeing 787s.
Amenity kit and pyjamas
You’ll always get an amenity kit when you fly First or Business Class with Qatar Airways, however pyjamas are only provided on long-haul flights which include some night flying.
For example on QR3 from Doha to London Heathrow (7.45am departure, 12.25pm arrival), pyjamas are not provided, however on QR9 flying the same route (1.40am departure, 6.20am arrival), pyjamas are offered.
Since this was a relatively short daytime flight between Athens and Doha, no pyjamas were loaded.
Pro Tip: Qatar Airways sometimes has pyjamas loaded on board from previous flights, even on routes which do not offer them. There is no harm in asking the crew if there are any spare sets.
The amenity kit is not the hard case BRICS one you’ll get on longer flights (there is a new soft case BRICS one doing the rounds too since late 2019), but instead is a fabric one from Indian luxury leather goods brand Nappa Dori.
The amenity kit is waiting at your seat when you board. If you’re on a Qatar Airways flight where pyjamas are offered, these will usually be distributed by the crew during boarding or before takeoff.
Inside you’ll find a pair of socks, eyeshades and ear plugs, plus the following toiletries from Italian wellness brand Monte Vibiano.
- Lip balm
- Anti ageing moisturiser
- Hydrating facial mist
Three toilets serve the 36 seats in the Business Class cabin on this aircraft, an excellent seat-to-toilet ratio of 12:1, even with a full passenger load.
There’s one toilet at the very front of the cabin on the left, then one on either side behind seats 6A and 6K.
Toilets are a relatively standard size, with backlit mirror over the sink and a full-length mirror on the opposite wall to ensure you’ve changed into your pyjamas (if provided) correctly before re-emerging into the cabin!
Toiletries are by Dutch brand Rituals, and include hand soap, hand lotion and body mist.
Additional personal items you might consider to be ‘missing’ from the amenity kits can be found in the toilet – namely shaving and dental kits.
There is a padded changing bench which extends from the side wall to cover the toilet seat lid, plus a large raised baby changing table which lowers from the back wall at sink surface height.
We used both the toilets in the middle section of the cabin a few times during the journey and they were kept very clean throughout.
These older A350s (yes, it sounds a bit strange saying that!) don’t have Qatar’s new ‘Super Wi-Fi’ GX Aviation system installed, which we reviewed recently with impressive results.
We paid for access on this flight but frankly it was a waste of money – the connection was completely unusable.
Pricing was as follows:
- Messenger (8MB / 1 hour): Free
- Starter (30MB): US$5
- Prime (100MB): US$10
- Ultimate (200MB): US$20
It’s a stark contrast from the airline’s ‘Super Wi-Fi’ system, which gives you an hour for free then charges just US$10 for (fast) unlimited data with no time limit.
Around a third of Qatar Airways A350-900s (all those with the Qsuite, and even a few with the older Collins product we’re reviewing here) are now fitted with ‘Super Wi-Fi’. It’s also being progressively rolled out to all aircraft in the fleet, which is a great improvement.
There’s a 17″ HD touchscreen at your seat, equipped with Qatar’s ‘ORYX ONE’ in-flight entertainment system.
It’s not as large as the 22″ screen you’ll get on the Qsuite, but otherwise the system seemed to be identical, and was responsive with a good selection of movies in high definition.
There’s also a remote control at the seat side if you prefer to use that rather than the touchscreen function.
Qatar Airways also includes camera feeds from the tail and aircraft nose, which are an interesting option during takeoff and landing if you’re into that sort of thing.
Noise cancelling headphones are provided, as mentioned above you’ll find them in the armrest storage compartment on boarding.
These are unbranded but of decent quality.
Seat controls and positions
There’s an intuitive set of seat controls attached to the fixed side table allowing you to adjust the recline, lumbar support, legrest and armrest positions.
There are also preselected controls allowing one-touch operation for relaxation, dining, bed mode, plus the upright takeoff and landing position.
One thing we noticed is that the armrest closest to the aisle is retracted on boarding, while the one furthest from the aisle is extended. There seems to be no way to then replicate this setup later if you adjust the armrest setting – they’re either both up or both down!
The table extends from below the TV screen directly in front of your seat.
Simply release the catch underneath and pull the table out towards you.
Once the table clicks into position you now have quite a large space to use, ideal for drinks and smaller dishes and certainly bigger than an Economy Class table.
Extend the table ‘leaf’ towards you however and you’re then presented with the full surface.
This is a significant surface area for dining or working, which corresponds in height with your fixed side table for an even more generous space.
One negative aspect you might find with the table is that it doesn’t adjust in height, nor does the seat itself. It wasn’t a problem for us, however very tall or very short passengers might find the dining position slightly uncomfortable for this reason.
Since the armrest at the aisle side of your seat retracts to seat level, you can ‘shuffle’ in and out of your seat during mealtimes without too much difficulty.
There is extensive storage space in this seat, starting with the side bin furthest from the aisle, which releases using the metal catch.
It’s a big enough space for most laptops and tablets, plus other items such as your phone and passport.
At the aisle side the armrest doubles as a second storage compartment, where your headphones are located during boarding.
Once you’ve removed your headphones there is a good amount of additional storage space here, including a water bottle holder that is more easily accessible while sleeping than the one at your seat side.
At all seats with the exception of the bulkhead positions (row 1 and row 7) there is a dedicated shoe storage at floor level directly under the back of the seat ahead of you.
Simply lift the flap to extend the compartment.
This is a relatively spacious compartment, which should take a pair of size 10s with ease, and can also be used to store other items instead of your shoes if you wish – like a tablet or small laptop.
Eddie was at a bulkhead position on this flight, in seat 7A. At these seats there are a few differences. Firstly the side storage compartment is inaccessible, with the lid secured closed.
There is also no pullout drawer for shoe storage. Neither of those factors are a big issue however, because instead these seats feature two large cupboards (where the seat in front would normally be) to keep your items close by.
Another benefit of these seats is slightly wider aisle access, since there is no shell of the seat back in front protruding into the space.
At the seat side there’s a USB charging port and multi-standard plug socket for keeping your devices working during the journey.
This socket should accept most plug types, including ‘Type G’ UK (plus Singapore / Hong Kong), US and Australian formats. It remains accessible when the seat is in bed mode.
Qatar Airways offered a good selection of Champagnes and wines on this short flight, including both a Brut and Rosé option on the bubbly side as we mentioned earlier.
While the widely available blue label Pommery is offered as the regular Champagne, which we enjoyed on boarding, the Canard-Duchêne Rosé was a surprisingly good after takeoff option, served with warm nuts.
This went down a treat against the beautiful views of Greece as we climbed out of Athens, toasting another great holiday. If you haven’t been to Mykonos, by the way, you’re missing out. A truly beautiful island (just don’t expect it to be a cheap vacation!)
For those looking for the perfect wing shot, a window seat in the three-row mini-cabin at the back of Business Class is the right place to sit!
Avgeekery aside, here is the full wine menu available on our flight.
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|Dessert wine & Port
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As always, we check the ratings through our favourite comparison site Vivino.
These are good ratings for Business Class, broadly in line with scores we expect to see for Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and similar carriers.
Aside from the two Champagnes, we tried the Château Larrivet and Stump Jump red wines during our short lunchtime flight, and both were very nice.
There is also a beverage selection including non-alcoholic bubbly and mocktails, tea, coffee and a selection of soft drinks.
Qatar Airways allows you to dine-on-demand in Business Class, even on short flights like this. For example if you’d rather eat just before landing into Doha rather than when the rest of the cabin is served shortly after departure, simply request your preferred timing from the crew.
We both chose to eat after takeoff with the main service, since it was lunchtime.
Qatar also offers a ‘Pre-Select Dining’ option through the online booking portal, however this is only available for flights departing from Doha.
Service starts with a bread basket served with butter and your choice of olive oil – balsamic vinegar, tomato chilli or spicy lemon and pomegranate.
An amuse-bouche of feta cheese with tomato base was served.
It was nothing special but to be fair after 10 days in Greece we’d probably had enough feta cheese at this point!
Eddie started with the roasted red pepper and tomato soup, which was excellent.
Notice how Qatar Airways is now including the fake candle on all flights in Business Class with the meal service (we first saw it on the Qsuite in 2018). It’s a nice touch, but works better on a night flight or in a dark cabin!
I went for my favourite starter – the signature Arabic mezze. This dish does vary slightly by route and on this flight included stuffed vine leaves, hummus and tabouleh, served with Arabic breads.
As I’ve experienced before with Qatar, the Arabic breads are quite small and don’t do justice to the portions offered, so I ended up finishing much of the dish using the regular bread basket instead.
For the main course I chose the seared snapper fillet. The fish was tasty but a little dry, and the tomato and vegetable accompaniments seemed a little overcooked.
Eddie went for the chicken kabsa, but it tasted bland. Not a great dish sadly.
We both skipped dessert but the crew brought round Godiva chocolates after the meal service.
On a four-hour daytime Athens to Doha flight there is probably no need to sleep, and we did not do so on this journey.
That’s not to say we didn’t make up the beds to try them out of course. That’s essential for review purposes, but also because this seat on the A350 flies some really long sectors – including Doha to Miami, clocking in at over 15 hours in the winter season.
You’ll need at least a couple of long naps on a flight like that.
It’s worth mentioning the blanket here – one of the best we’ve experienced in Business Class. It has a soft, plush texture on one side (maroon) and a soft smooth finish on the other (grey). It’s also generously proportioned, so you shouldn’t wake up only half covered in the middle of the night.
We found the bed comfortable, gaining some added space at the side with the retractable armrest set flush with the seat / bed to increase the shoulder room.
There is no mattress pad provided, like on some airlines in Business Class such as Qantas, but the seat cushion itself is well padded.
The bed does feel a little exposed to the aisle, so you can extend the armrest if you wish to improve the feeling of privacy, though this obviously comes at the expense of overall width.
The bed has a relatively small ‘cubby hole’ at the foot end, common with these reverse herringbone designs, but as side sleepers neither of us tend to find this a significant problem.
Qatar Airways has installed a small communal bar area at the entrance atrium where you typically board the aircraft, through the second main door.
There’s a decorative ceiling light here which changes colour depending on the mood settings selected by the crew.
During the cruise the crew will set up self-serve fruit and snacks to pick up from the bar counter, which you can take at any time.
They also put a bottle of Champagne and some glasses here (it was missing when the photo was taken but was replaced later).
The larger forward section in the Business Class cabin on this aircraft is slightly quieter in terms of engine noise, however the small three-row section we sat in (rows 7 to 9) feels more intimate, and benefits from less foot traffic.
There is not a significant difference between the seats, however we would avoid row 6, which is close to two of the toilets and so will suffer the highest noise and foot traffic.
Window seats (A and K at each row) are best for solo travellers, while for couples the middle seats (E and F at each row) are more sociable. Even if you are travelling alone but end up in a middle seat, a large privacy divider extends between the seats.
Another benefit of the window seats on this aircraft is the addition of two individual adjustable air vents. Since Qatar did not install overhead lockers in the middle ceiling section of the Business Class cabin, there are no air vents for the middle seat pairs.
The window seats also benefit from two overhead lights for better table illumination. The middle seats only have one overhead light each.
All seats do have an adjustable reading light however, at head height with two brightness settings.
Personally we think the window seats in the rear cabin are the ones to pick on the A350-900.
The crew on this flight were friendly but the service was very frantic and rushed. Granted, this is a relatively short flight, however the Business Class cabin was not 100% full.
The Cabin Services Director came and introduced herself on boarding and asked us to contact her if we needed anything, then she vanished for the rest of the flight never to be seen again!
Now she may have been working hard in the galley to support her crew, which is of course fine, but we both thought it was a bit strange to give the impression that she would be on hand whenever we needed anything only for the opposite to be the case.
The other crew members were efficient, without being particularly engaging, however they weren’t very proactive. We both had to use the call bell to request another drink on more than one occasion, with glasses not being topped up between courses either. It’s awkward to have to ask, but this is Business Class so these service levels are expected.
Lately we’ve had quite contrasting service standards on Qatar Airways (we took six flights with them in Business Class in 2019). It ranged from very good, on most of our Qsuite flights, to pretty abysmal – on a Doha to Bali sector where Eddie and I may as well have been sat on completely different aircraft such was the disparity of service between the two aisles.
This flight was somewhere in between the two extremes – not awful, but not great.
Where these seats are flying
At the time of writing (January 2020), Qatar Airways has 39 Airbus A350-900s in its fleet. Not to be confused with the airline’s 14 Airbus A350-1000s, all of which have the new Qsuite product in Business Class (see our review), the A350-900s have three different versions of Business Class.
By far the most common is the ‘Super Diamond’ product we’re reviewing here, fitted to 24 aircraft (61% of the fleet). The Qsuite is fitted to 10 of the most recently delivered ones (26% of the fleet), while the five remaining outliers (13% of the fleet) are leased from LATAM Brasil and have the South American carrier’s Business Class seats fitted in a 2-2-2 layout.
|24 aircraft||10 aircraft||5 aircraft|
|Super Diamond seat map||Qsuite seat map||LATAM seat map|
Qatar A350-900s with the Qsuite fitted have the same capacity in this cabin with 36 seats, and the same number of rows, however the seats are labelled A/B/D/E/F/G/J/K to take account of the alternating forward and backward facing layout. If your flight has the simpler A/E/F/K configuration as shown above, you’ve got the Super Diamond seat instead.
The LATAM jets are probably the least desirable due to their more dated 2-2-2 layout without direct aisle access for window passengers (the Jamco Journey seat if you’re interested, which does go fully flat). They are easily avoided though since they are only used on three routes as of January 2020 – Barcelona, Colombo and Hanoi.
The Super Diamond product on the A350-900 is currently flying on a range of routes from regional hops to the likes of Amman and Muscat, plus longer routes including the following (selected flights, as of January 2020):
Remember the route network changes seasonally, so for example Kuala Lumpur (currently receiving the Qsuite-equipped A350-900s on one of its three daily flights) reverts to the Super Diamond seat on that service from March 2020.
How to redeem
It goes without saying that you can use Qatar Airways Privilege Club miles to redeem in Business Class on a flight like this, however that scheme lost significant value almost two years ago in an overnight devaluation without advance warning.
Since Qatar Airways is a oneworld member airline, you can use points or miles collected in another oneworld frequent flyer programme to book these flights.
Popular options for our readers include Asia Miles and British Airways Avios points, though there are also good value options with the likes of American Airlines AAdvantage programme and JAL’s Mileage Bank.
We used 22,000 British Airways Avios points to redeem this flight, which we considered to be good value. The equivalent distance flight with Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Kolkata costs 39,000 KrisFlyer miles in Business Class.
Qatar Airways still has a great Business Class seat on its A350-900s that lack the Qsuite, with both products designed and manufactured by the same company.
We enjoyed our 4-hour flight from Athens to Doha, and despite the high fuel surcharge the 22,000 Avios we spent didn’t exactly break the bank.
Unfortunately the service seemed very rushed and the main courses we had for lunch were both on the disappointing side, though the drinks selection was good.
Privacy is also an issue with these seats, personally we prefer the Cathay Pacific Cirrus model with a ‘winged’ section at head height for a more enclosed feeling while seated.
That said, if you’re looking at flying on a Qatar Airways flight in future but can’t secure the Qsuite on all your sectors (as is often the case while the new product rolls out), don’t be dismayed as this Super Diamond seat is still something to look forward to.
The airline will also imminently open its Singapore Premium Lounge at Changi’s Terminal 1, further enhancing the experience.
|Review:||Qatar Airways A350-900 Business Class|
|Summary:||Qatar’s older A350 Business Class seats may not have the ‘wow factor’ of the Qsuite, but they still stand up well as a flat-bed direct aisle access option on a wide range of routes. The main downside is a lack of privacy, and on this flight we had average service and lacklustre main courses.|
|Among Long-haul Business Class seats:|
3.5 out of 5
(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)