I have had the incredible privilege to fly Business Class a few times in my life – going back the best part of 20 years – mainly through the perks the travel industry provided back in the day when I was still working in Tourism.
However, the brand new QSuite by Qatar Airways is in a league of its own, as other airlines (notably Emirates) only recently introduced a similar “personal pod” system in their First Class. Nothing quite prepared me for the experience as I was not expecting it at all.
Leaving the lovely Hamad Airport Terminal Building, we got bussed to our waiting aircraft and already here the difference between the two cabin classes showed. Business Class passengers entered a spacious bus with only 12 leather seats whilst Economy Passengers had the way more “normal” looking bus to their disposal (and by the looks with quite a few standing places…).
Up the gangway we went and then the oohs and ahhs sounded – not just from me but other equally surprised passengers as well. What greeted us where the brand new QSuites – I call them pods, individual spaces for each passenger arranged in a top and tail way – so back and forward-facing seats opposed to the more traditional herring bone way the “older” planes had on this route.
The seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, so one window seat – two aisle seats in the middle and again one window seat. Notably the EVEN numbered seats are the ones facing forward (the traditional way) and the ODD numbered ones (such as mine) are facing backwards and all are arranged also slightly off – to give maximum privacy when the doors are open.
I have taken a lot of photos not just of my little QSuite but also the general arrangement to give you my dear readers (if you still with me) a bit of a glimpse of luxury that most of use will not be privileged to see or experience.
Service, as one would expect, is exceptional. Qatar Airways Business Class stewards have a 1 to 10 staff to passenger ratio – so 1 Stewart/Stewardess cares for only 10 passengers which results in a very high standard of care.
After the obligatory welcome drink (Pink Champagne in my case) my lovely Stewardess explained the different features of my QSuite to me first, before asking for my preference of drinks and food after take-off. She also explained that once the door is closed it means absolute privacy, so if I wanted to get her attention I should press the appropriate button on the screen or handset instead of them coming by every so often as it is usually done.
The attention to detail the airline has given to this is amazing. The leather next to the seat is embroidered, there is a little compartment that can house all sorts of small items next to the seat (which of course can go flat to a bed) and equally one can use the inflight wifi system and has a handy NFC payment panel for that very purpose. They promise that even every Economy window seat has a actual window ( that is a promise that is well overdue actually). There are multiple power points for USB charging and laptop charging as well as a HDMI port – really they thought of everything a well paying customer could possibly want. The seat can be moved in all sorts of directions and angles and the headphones are noise cancelling.
The entertainment system is one of the best I have seen in years – and it is the same across all classes of travel and of course the a-la-carte food menu is tasty and nowhere near the obligatory bland airline food we all came to know and wrote about many times.
So how does flying backwards compare to flying the more traditional way you ask? Well, admittedly I felt a bit apprehensive at first as I can’t travel backwards on a train or bus, but I was assured that it would be different but if I felt it was not for me they would have some spare seats/pods that I could change into if need be. I ended up enjoying this rather different way of flying very much but I guess people need to be told at the time of booking if their seat is forward or backward facing.
The fun thing about these QSuites is that the middle ones can be made into either double or quadruple compartments. If a couple or family or group of friends travel together the dividing walls can be lowered between either the two adjacent pods or 4 facing each other ones – making it a rather interesting way of flying I would say.
I did ask the purser a few questions when he came by to ask if I enjoyed my flight, so I know that there are currently only 3 or 4 of these configured A350-900’s and they do fly the most popular routes of Doha to Frankfurt, Doha to London and Doha to New York. They will roll out more of these on other aircraft but it is unlikely they will appear on our NZ skies any time soon as to the nature of the extra long haul flights of 17+ hours and the demands that the extra weight of these would put on the plane itself.
They have been in operation just over 4 weeks and I am sure more and more people will be able to share their experiences about these soon. I have made a little short video about the QSuite as well which I will share with you in a separate post.
For now I have to get used of the feeling of being back on the ground and not in a cloud of luxury anymore that not everybody is lucky enough to experience. I feel rather privileged indeed.