Qatar Airways new business class product is called the Q Suite (or “Qsuite”, as they style it). It was introduced in March 2017, and the first aircraft to be fitted with it was a B777-300ER. It is gradually being introduced on the carrier’s long-haul fleet, though as with many business class seats there have been various delays in the roll out, and at present the majority of the A350-900 fleet do not have the Q Suite.
This review is of a day flight back from Doha, Qatar into London Heathrow on the new A350-1000 aircraft, which is the larger variant of the A350-900 which Qatar Airways has been operating for some time (we have reviewed the A350-900 and the “old” business class seat on it).
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 was no one at premium check-in for either first class or business class and, though I had no bags to check-in, I did inquire about how busy the flight was, and then moved seats from a window seat to a centre seat. I did this to experience the phenomenon of putting four seats together, both forward- and backward-facing. I then went through security and made my way to the Al Mourjan lounge, which must have had fewer than five passengers in the whole place.
I’ve been through the Al Mourjan lounge many times, mostly in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning, and always been impressed (if occasionally frustrated at having to wait 45 minutes for a shower). At this time (1030) it was a very different place, and I wandered around for an hour taking some video, which I will post on our You Tube channel. At 1130 I made my way to Gate C1.
There was a further random security check at the gate which was very thorough (every electrical device out and swabbed for explosives). I accept that this is random, but seeing other passengers walk straight through while I was checked (even iPad out of case, camera out, every device had to be turned on) was frustrating. Still, I’d rather have the security than not have it, and if they are going to err I would rather it was on the side of caution.
I managed to get on board a few minutes early to film the cabin. This is an extensive review but useful, I think, to show the layout of the cabin.
The Q Suite setup is very different from normal business class cabins. On the A350-900 there are 36 Q Suite seats, while on this A350-1000 there are 46. The A350-1000 contains two business class cabins, a main cabin with nine rows at the side and ten rows in the middle, all in a 1-2-1 configuration making 38 seats and then a second, smaller cabin of just eight seats.
The seats are also forward- then backward-facing, like many train seats. 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 operated by a catch by the passenger, 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. With the door open, the facing seats allow you a good look at the person in front of you, but only at the start and end of the flight.
The seat has a type of shelf next to it that can be raised to become a large armrest, or lowered so it gives you more room around the shoulders. The lid of this lifts up, and inside is storage space with a bottle of water and the noise-cancelling headphones. At the seat is also the Brics amenity kit and a pillow with a message on it – The Sky is a Wonderful Place to be. Which I suppose is true, even though this depends on which airline you’re in it with.
There is a large touchscreen IFE that is close enough to operate, and a further handset recessed into the side of the seat. The amount of space on which you can place objects 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 on, and that was without using the side shelf/storage area.
The seat reclines so that your feet meet the footrest beneath the IFE screen. The seat also allows for you to rest your feet on the floor even when the seat is reclined, which adds to the different options. There are numerous seat controls and pre-sets for controlling it.
There is no easy answer to this because there are so many variables. A forward-facing window seat will suit individual travellers, but bear in mind that the overhead lockers are above you, so when someone opens them you have to be careful not to bang your head. If you have a backward-facing window seat, then you are closer to the aisle because of the staggered nature of the seating – not a deal breaker, but less good.
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 they have the centre console between you and the person sitting in the other centre seat, which is preferable if you don’t know them. If you are travelling with them, then perhaps go for the ones closer together (E and F for instance); and if you are partners, those are the ones you want since the backward-facing centre seats are the only ones that can be made into a double bed.
I think with the divider up, a forward-facing centre seat is 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 also have dine on demand. Qatar has also introduced further choice – you can read about it here.
The menu was a good one, starting with soup of the day (white onion, which I declined) and a choice of appetizers: a meze of hummus, tabbouleh and baba ganoush served with Arabic flatbread, or alternatively poached prawns with seared lime and spring onions.
Main course options were chicken maqlooba (“upside down” chicken with rice and vegetables) with aubergine rice, crispy onions and mint raita; herb-crusted loin of lamb, potato purée, baby vegetables and rosemary jus; or vegetable jalfrezi, jeera pulao rice and chana dal. I had this last option, which was delicious. I also thought the food was much more tasty than on the flight leaving London (including the Arabic meze), which made me wonder whether if this was because it was made in Doha and not London.
The dessert options included banoffee pie with crème anglaise; fresh berries with almond syrup; or an ice cream selection. I was impressed that when I ordered the ice cream I was offered a second dessert to go along with the ice cream.
The wine selection was extensive and included two champagnes, white or rosé – Pommery Brut Royal NV, or Drappier Brut Rose de Saignee NV. White wines included a chardonnay, specifically a Burgundy from the Mâconnaise region, the Albert Bichot Pouilly-Fuissé, 2015; or a sauvignon blanc, Villa Maria’s Cellar Selection from Marlborough, New Zealand, 2016.
Red options included a cabernet sauvignon and merlot blend from Pauillac in Bordeaux, the Chateau Lynch-Moussas Grand Cru Classe 2012; or an Aussie shiraz, Kilakanoon’s Killerman’s Run 2015, from Clare Valley. The dessert wine choices were an Alvera Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927, or the 30-year-old tawny port Porto Cruz Gran Cruz.
I have read about the new Q Suite having some teething problems with various faults, 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 then it worked fine.
I worked for a while and then reclined the seat. There was no bedding on offer since this was a day flight, but there was the comfortable pillow and a very good and thick blanket, so I had no problem getting comfortable. I used the eye mask and earplugs provided to sleep for about 90 minutes. If you put down the armrest you also have more room.
When I woke I ordered some tea and also one of the snack options (the steak sandwich with melted cheese), 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. I had no checked luggage and so was quickly landside to begin the journey into central London via the Underground.
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. Some passengers will be confused by the unorthodox layout, choosing window seats even when travelling in pairs or with families; but in time the Q Suite will be recognised as a unique product. As on the outbound flight, the service was exemplary, and the food and wine choices and presentation were all top class.