The day had been looming since mid-2007. At some point in the future, the first ever Airbus A350-1000 aircraft would leave Toulouse. It wasn’t until 2012, however, that it became clear where this flight would depart to. On December 3rd, Qatar and Airbus announced that the original order of 20 Airbus A350-800 aircraft was to be converted into three -900 variants and 17 -1000s. From that moment on, the clock was ticking.
The original plan was to deliver the aircraft towards the end of 2017 but due to the ‘unbelievably high standards’ of CEO Akbar Al Baker, the fitting of ‘Q Suites’ (Qatar’s new state of the art business class) on the aircraft delayed the delivery further. On January 22nd, it was rumoured by Reuters that the delivery would take place towards the end of February. They were correct.
Once I knew that I would be onboard the ferry flight to Doha and the surrounding celebrations, I was overcome with excitement. This was to be my very first delivery flight and I couldn’t wait to work alongside Qatar Airways for the first time, too.
On Tuesday 20th February, I flew out to the Airbus factory in Toulouse where I was met by an Airbus chauffeur who shuttled me straight to a press conference hosted by Qatar and Airbus. It was here that Al Baker announced that they are considering converting some of the -900 orders to the larger -1000 so as to receive even more of the larger variant. The conference was also special as it was Fabrice Brégier’s last day as Airbus President.
So What Makes the -1000 Different?
In basic terms, the A350-1000 is a bigger version of the -900 model. It features a larger cabin and new Trent XWB 97 engines. The engine differs from the XWB 84 model in that it delivers an extra 13,000lb of thrust to carry the bigger jet. The engines are made by Airbus’ trusted partner Rolls Royce. The major difference, however, is that the -1000 jets are all fitted with the new Q Suite product, unlike the old -900s. This is, however, about to change as Al Baker announced that all future aircraft deliveries apart from the 787s will be Q Suite fitted. The 787 will also feature an upgraded product, he announced. He also confirmed that First class will stay on the A380 but not feature on any other aircraft.
After landing in Toulouse and attending the press conference, we were whisked off to the Airbus Delivery Centre where we visited A7-ANA, the first ever A350-1000 aircraft to be delivered to an airline. My first impressions of the aircraft were positive. As we walked around the jet you could sense it was new by the way that everything was as clean as a whistle. The aircraft really was beautiful. As we entered the plane I was hit with a strong smell: new aircraft. If you have ever had a chance to smell an aircraft which is just months old then you will know what I’m talking about! If not, I’m not crazy, don’t worry.
The visit on Tuesday was a really great chance to check out how the product looked so here is my review of both cabins:
Business Class Q Suite
In Tuesday’s press conference, Al Baker and Brégier both pressed the point of how revolutionary the Q Suite was. When I got on board, I finally knew what they were talking about. The Q Suite has a fantastic look to it and is a massive upgrade from the old business class product. The suites feature full privacy with sliding doors, bigger TV screens, hi-tech electronic blinds and are pretty damn comfy, too.
The Q Suite layout is designed in such a way that a double bed can be made out of the two middle suits if travelling with a partner and a small meeting room can also be made. By lowering the middle blinds, four people can join tables to make a large one in the middle. By keeping the blinds on the sides up, a fully private meeting room is created. Genius.
The idea behind the Q Suite truly is revolutionary and it requires you to see it in person to really appreciate it. The Q Suite covers rows 1 to 12 and the configuration is 1-2-1.
The economy class on the A350 also really impressed me. With no premium economy product, the two economy cabins have the task of impressing those who normally would choose premium. In a typical 3-3-3 configuration, the seats are slimline and modern.
The seat pitch felt sufficient when I tried it (albeit mid-flight for about 5 minutes) and width was more than acceptable. Because of the slimline seats and clean feel to the aircraft, the cabin felt really spacious which I liked. The economy class fills up the rear two cabins. As someone who has flown a lot of premium economy, I thought the cabin felt fantastic and is on par with many of the premiums I have flown.
Once our tour was over, we headed back to the hotel and prepared to finish our evening in quite some manner. We were all brought back to the Delivery Centre where we were offered champagne and little snacks that made me feel as pompous as ever (they did taste incredible though…) before entering into the dining hall for a wonderful dinner and unbelievable light show.
The aircraft was revealed in a spectacular performance of strobe lighting and then the drama came inside as projectors lit up our tables in incredible fashion. It was truly spectacular.
Having been out the night before at the Gala it was incredibly hard getting up at 4.00am to head back to the Delivery Centre. So hard, in fact, that I didn’t do it. After waking up half an hour late I dashed outside, got a taxi and paid an extortionate fee to arrive for check-in. The irony was, however, that my taxi driver drove so fast that I actually arrived earlier than everyone else!
The Delivery Centre has its own little check in area with two desks. We all queued in excitement, got our boarding passes and seats then ventured upstairs to where we had attended the Gala party just five hours previously.
Laid out for us was a very spectacular spread of pastries and nibbles with small bar areas to get coffees and juices. A really professional looking layout, I thought.
Once we had eaten I went through the small security lines and boarded my first ever delivery flight! Exciting right? The atmosphere was fantastic; a good mix of journalists and excited young bloggers meant that wherever you were on the plane you had a wide variety of people to chat with and share your enthusiasm.
My seat for the 7-hour ferry flight was 6J, a window seat in the larger front cabin. The crew were amazing in showing me around. They began by offering me a drink, hot towel and asking about my food preferences before showing me around my seat and telling me all about the features of the Q Suite.
What an impressive suite! One of my favourite features was the little area between my seat and the window. If you pull the tab it reveals a storage area but when down can be used as a table for your camera or bag. At one point it even became a seat for James until I kicked him out! With that said, the table area in front is already extremely impressive. With a little shelf below the actual table it provides plenty of storage space. Be sure to clear it before takeoff though or everything will fly off and hit you!
We pushed back and departed Toulouse at around 9am so as to arrive in Doha in daylight for the press. Departing at 9am meant breakfast was served pretty much straight after takeoff. I opted for the ‘platter of seasonal cut fruits’ as a starter and the ‘cheddar cheese omelette with sausages’ for my main. The meal was really beautifully presented by the wonderful crew but took about 30 minutes to arrive! As this wasn’t an ordinary flight, however, I didn’t mind as I was up wondering the aircraft anyway.
While walking around chatting to everyone it was amazing to see just how enthusiastic the Airbus and Qatar staff were. It was really nice to see just how confident they were in this new jet. As we neared the end, we were lucky enough to step inside the flight deck. This moment is one that I had wanted to do ever since I was a young child and it didn’t disappoint. Sitting in the flight deck at 41,000ft was amazing and I can’t thank Captain Konstantinos Iliakis enough for allowing the visit.
My final meal came from the snack platter menu specially devised for this flight. It was a selection of meat, fish, vegetables and tasted even better than it looked.
As we descended into Doha we did something I have never done before. We descended to 1000ft and circled Corniche to show off the new plane! The views from the inside were spectacular. After Corniche we cruised towards Hamad airport where we performed a fly-by. Just as we neared the end of the runway, the captain applied full throttle and we powered out on another loop. It felt incredible from the inside.
Upon touchdown in Doha we were met by the world’s media and airport staff. It was an amazing feeling to be part of the media team actually onboard the aircraft.
This flight was very special to me as it was my first ever delivery flight. I had an absolutely amazing time onboard the flight thanks to the amazing company and fantastic crew. I want to make a special mention to Daryn from the Philippines who treated me so nicely onboard. I will remember her for a very long time for sure!
The A350 really is a remarkable aircraft. With the -1000 variant under their belt, Qatar are in a very strong position. The revolutionary Q Suite is a state of the art product that people will, undoubtedly, start to choose over other outdated business class products. Mix this with the fuel efficiency of operating the A350-1000 and I can see Qatar Airways increasing their dominant hold over luxury air travel in the future. Well done and thank you Qatar Airways.
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Be sure to check out some of my friends websites who were also on this trip!
Josh Cahil – gotravelyourway.com
Stefan Unterwegs – globaltraveler.tv
Brian Kelly and Zach Honig – thepointsguy.com
Sam Chui – samchui.com