When Qatar Airways invited me onboard the delivery flight of the new Airbus A350-1000 I was hugely excited. It was to be my first ever delivery flight and my first flight onboard the new, state of the art Q Suite business class product too. To get home from Doha, I had a choice of flying on the A380, 777 or 787. Seeing as I am flying so many 777s this summer and have flown a fair amount of 787s before I opted to fly on the Qatar Airways A380 business class.
Qatar Airways have a fleet of nine Airbus A380 aircraft based out of Doha Hamad Airport and they operate on only a select few routes. These routes are Sydney, Paris, Bangkok, Guangzhou, Melbourne and, of course, London. The London route is operated by the A380 on both the 1.55am QR9 flight and the 8.00am QR3 flight. I opted for QR3.
My taxi arrived at my hotel in Doha at 5.00am and quickly and easily whisked me off to the airport. Upon arrival he asked if I was flying business class and as I said yes, took a ramp to a separate section of the drop off zone for both business class and first class passengers.
The door was opened and bags unloaded by Qatar Airways staff who then walked me inside to the business and first only check-in area. I hadn’t checked in for my flight online so he entered my passport information and sent me away with my boarding pass within minutes.
Another benefit of flying business class was the private security lane. In many airports you will be taken through a ‘fast track’ lane but with Qatar, we had a quiet room which felt more like a luxury hotel lobby than an airport security hall. They sure know how to make you feel special.
Once through security I headed to the duty free section of the airport to take advantage of the AMAZING prices they have. From tobacco to alcohol and chocolate to plane models, you can find some amazing deals to take advantage of.
Once I had bought enough to warrant another suitcase purchase I headed to the business class ‘Al Mourjan’ lounge for a very early breakfast. The lounges are all up escalators which make them one floor above security and two floors above the main concourse to ensure maximum privacy. This is a really nice touch. My first impression of the lounge was along the lines of “This is HUGE”. The lounge really was gigantic. I found myself a table and placed down my luggage and jacket before going for a wander. Check out the slideshow below to see my favourite aspects of the lounge.
At 7.00am, 15 minutes before boarding, I headed down to gate A5 – a short walk of around 5 minutes. While walking towards the gate it was almost impossible not to appreciate the huge A380 standing at the gate ready to ferry us to Heathrow. The gate has two check in areas, one for economy passengers which had a pretty long queue and one for business and first passengers which had a tiny queue and led passengers to a private waiting room upstairs. This was a really nice touch and another way of ensuring the premium passengers had privacy.
Boarding began on-time and I headed down to the aircraft where I was met by the lovely cabin manager Fiona who led me to seat 18A, a standard business class window seat towards the back of the cabin. Once I had taken my seat I was immediately asked what drink I wanted and if I wanted a hot towel. I asked for champagne (which was an odd choice seeing as it was 1am in the UK) and was almost immediately brought a glass of ‘Lanson Black Label white champagne’ from France. It was a fresh tasting champagne with ‘aromas of flowers and a touch of honey’.
The Qatar Airways business class seat is the pod seat and is the same seat featured on the B787 and A350-900 models. It has now been outdated by the Q Suite which will be fitted onto all new aircraft apart from the 787s from now on. The seat features 80″ of pitch or bed length which when seated is more than enough to stretch out and store a bag and when lying down enough to fully stretch out in comfort.
The width is also sufficient with 22″. The seat also has a reading lamp and document storage rack to the left of the seat. In front of the rack is a table with storage space and to the left of that, two extremely deep bins. All in all, you’ll struggle to fill all of the storage space which is a huge benefit of flying the Airbus A380.
The seat has a personal monitor of 17″ which features the highly regarded Oryx One system. The screen has fantastic in-flight maps, films, TV shows, games and much more which is all controllable from your personal remote control on your left.
The seat features full recline and a very large table which suits both the bold eating spreads they lay out for you and the ability to work.
Finally, business class passengers are given amenity kits by BRIC’S. The kit includes socks, eye masks and a range of sprays, creams and gels. All perfect for comfort in long-haul travel.
So the A380 is huge – there is no two ways about it. Each airline chooses to lay the aircraft out in different ways and here is how Qatar have chosen to operate it.
The upper deck has stairs at the front and two enormous toilets for first class passengers of which there were two on this flight – one each! The First class seats are open suites and are set up in two rows of a 1-2-1 configuration. Behind first class is another enormous galley with two toilets which leads on to business class.
The business class seats are also laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration. The seats cover rows 10-22 which makes for a total of 48 seats. Behind the business class cabin is my favourite A380 feature – the bar.
For both first class and business class passengers, the bar features sofas with small tables for drinks and a huge amount of space to walk around in. This is such a nice addition to the aircraft as it means you have somewhere to stretch your legs and have a drink or in my case even do some work.
Behind the lounge comes a small economy cabin which differs from the other economy cabins. The cabin features only 56 seats and is laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration. This is a drastic change to the normal 3-4-3 offered downstairs and if flying economy with Qatar Airways, is a trick you should definitely look out for. One of the crew members did mention to me that they try to reserve those seats for OneWorld status members and elderly people, however.
Downstairs is all economy. I headed down to take a look and the layout is a standard 3-4-3 setup. The seats feature 32″ of pitch and 18.5″ of width. On today’s flight there were 150 economy seats free out of the 461 capacity!
After boarding was completed, ground staff left the aircraft and we pushed back and departed at 8.20am. Taking off in the A380 is an amazing feeling unlike that of any other aircraft. The sound is amazing.
The crew had taken my breakfast order before taking off and around 10 minutes after we hit the air Leo, who was looking after me for the day, brought me my drink, a bowl of hot nuts and the meal. Qatar Airways always lay out the meal in a lovely way with a small tray of salt, pepper and butter for the bread basket and even some small candle decoration. It’s lovely to see how much pride they take in their layout. I went for the cheese platter which came with four different cheeses, three types of crackers, some more bread, a pate, some grapes and some small vegetables. Leo also assured me that to compliment the meal I had to try some port wine as they go fantastically together.
The meal was lovely and a great choice if you’re not overly hungry. Once I had eaten I headed off to explore the aircraft. I started by stretching my legs in the bar before heading downstairs to chat with the crew operating the economy cabins. It was downstairs where I met the amazing Prashant Agarwal from India. He was so sweet and even though he was working in economy, came upstairs on several occasions to chat with me and check on how I was being looked after. It was a pleasure to meet him and the other crew and backed up my amazing impression of Qatar crew from the previous days flight.
Once I had explored the aircraft I put on my pyjamas and headed to sleep. It took me only a few minutes to get comfortable and then nodded off straight away. The seat is more than comfy enough to sleep but falls short of the Q Suite where privacy is concerned. I couldn’t help but notice that people in the middle seats could see me. This didn’t affect me at all but was a clear indicator on how the Q Suite is a superior product.
Within minutes of waking up Leo was back and asked if I would like tea or coffee. I went for a tea which was lovely to wake up to and headed to the bar to continue working. Inflight WiFi is offered on this flight but I chose not to use it. James, however, bought $20 worth and used it during the flight with great success.
I then headed back for my second meal – the Arabic breakfast. Once again, the display was beautiful and I enjoyed the salad that went along with it. I didn’t, however, enjoy the soup part so much which was a shame.
Soon after, we begun our descent into London Heathrow and the crew came to give me a ‘Fast Track’ passport control ticket as a thank you for flying with Qatar. This was a really sweet touch as the other passengers weren’t given the same.
The Bottom Line
Qatar’s A380s are fitted with the old seat which has now been outdated by the Q Suite. While the Q Suite is undeniably a superior product, the old seat is still fantastic. With lots of space and tonnes of storage, the 380 is ultimately a fantastic choice. The crew were absolutely incredible and looked after me extremely well. They were attentive, well-dressed and extremely professional. Well done Qatar Airways.
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disclaimer: this trip was provided by Qatar Airways as part of the A350 delivery flight trip but the views are fully my own. No pressure was put upon me by the airline to express particular points of view.