Qatar Airways was the launch customer for the A350 XWB, taking delivery of the first aircraft in December.
It operates two A350s daily to Frankfurt and a third to Singapore. It starts daily A350 services to Philadelphia in January, and to New York and Boston in March.
I had arrived at Doha Hamad International on flight QR002 from Heathrow for my onward service to Singapore on QR0938 – a 50-minute connection – so I was concerned when we parked at a remote stand.
Fortunately, we had arrived 25 minutes early so making the 0700 departure was easy. The business class bus took us straight to the terminal, and security was quick.
I walked swiftly to Gate B7 and boarded immediately.
The XWB acronym stands for “extra wide body”, which is Airbus marketing the fact that the A350 is wider than Boeing’s B787, with a 5.6m fuselage cross-section.
Qatar’s A350 has 283 seats, including 36 in business in a 1-2-1 layout (the same configuration as on the airline’s B787, which I had flown in on from London).
Both aircraft feel roomy, aided by the larger windows and onboard welcome area – even more pronounced on the A350, with its illuminated dome, no lockers above the centre seats and wide seating area.
The windows have blackout and opaque blinds so you can vary the light more easily than on the B787.
Seats are spacious, at 80 inches long and 30 inches wide when reclined. A side-table area is big enough for storing papers, a tablet and laptop when the fold-out table – itself large enough to continue working while eating – is in use for dining.
In design, they are similar to those on the airline’s B787s and A380s, and are superb for both working and sleeping.
Qatar Airways says customers enjoy reduced jet lag owing to high-precision air filtering and a carbon fibre fuselage that reduces pressure. It is also very quiet.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?
Business class is split into two sections of six and three rows – there isn’t much difference between them.
Service comes from the front, so avoid the first few rows, while there is a washroom behind the last. For this reason, go for row eight – there’s little footfall and the service remains good.
On board, I was offered a choice of drinks and hot or cold towels. A Giorgio Armani amenity bag was provided. The Thales in-flight entertainment system was viewed on a 17-inch screen.
Wifi and GSM connectivity were available through the Onair system, which was slow to come on. After 80 minutes (once we were past Iran), it worked, although as there is no internet available over Pakistan and India, buying the full flight package (US$22) probably isn’t worth it.
Mains on the menu included a traditional Arabic breakfast of labneh with za’atar, feta, cucumber, tomato, falafel and olives with ful medames and bread; and congee with steamed bay shrimps, choi sum, carrot, ginger, black mushroom, spring onion, youtiao, chilli and soy.
The wines were outstanding and included Pol Roger Extra Cuvée Réserve 2006; Pinot Gris Domaine Zind Humbrecht Clos Windsbuhl, 2001, Alsace; and Pinot Noir Villa Maria Cellar Selection 2010, Marlborough.
We arrived on time and immigration was quick.
A lovely aircraft that is quiet and extremely spacious.
When the US services begin, it will be fascinating to see the reaction – while the US carriers have upped their game considerably in recent years, at present there are few airlines matching Qatar Airways in terms of onboard product, service and lounges.
- DEPARTURE TIME 0700
- JOURNEY TIME 7 hours 50 minutes
- CONFIGURATION 1-2-1
- SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
- BED LENGTH 80in/203cm
- BED WIDTH 30in/76cm
- PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight from London to Singapore via Doha ranged between £1,983 and £5,037 depending on flexibility.
- CONTACT qatarairways.com