Imagine a world where the CEO of an airline doesn’t believe first class belongs on an aircraft, an interesting premise. What happens then when said airline needs new aircraft ordered?
First revealed at ITB Berlin in March 2017 Qatar Airways Q-Suite dominated travel media. You see pre Q-suite the norm for business class would be paying upwards of £1500 to fly on a cabin that would have 8 seats across, some airlines would have you stepping over people when you need to get in and out of your seat. Chances are you’d go to sit down and you’d realise you’re staring at someone who is sat next to you but facing towards you.
The Q-Suite changes all of that. As the name may suggest you get a fully private suite. 4 across this time, one on the window side, 2 in the middle and then the other on the far side window. All with direct aisle access, so no stepping over people. Did I mention the private suite bit? none of that weird eye contact or rubbing elbows now.
As a general rule of thumb, I try my hardest to be the last to board when flying anywhere long haul. The reason is, if you’re in a metal can for 6+ hours, why would you want to spend any more time than you have to. side note, short-haul is different only because I don’t like to have to faff with the lack of overhead locker space.
The reason it’s a general rule of thumb is because every now and again it gets broken. One of those instances is when I know I’ll be flying the Q-Suite and want to spend as much time as possible onboard. Fortunately, as a business class ticket holder, you get to board long before anyone else.
As you board you are escorted to your
seat suite by one of the flight attendants who will introduce themselves and then wait patiently until you are seated to take your drinks order. No sooner have you figured everything out and taken a few selfies than your pre-departure drink is being served along with a hot damp towel to freshen up.
Whilst freshening up your dedicated flight attendant takes the knee to go through the food menu with you. It’s at this point where you aren’t ordering food as such, you’re just reserving it, more on that later.
Once the pre-departure champagne has been swigged, it’s time to buckle up and get on your way.
Let us start with the layout as it gives some insight. In a cabin where most major airlines are using 10 seats across in economy, there are just 4 suites; ample space then. Now unlike Qatar’s main competition in regards to a business class cabin in ANA which uses the full width of the suite as a seat, Qatar uses what I’d describe as a standard width seat. It’s plenty large enough for anyone really though and anything more is very much diminishing returns.
With each seat comes a whole range of adjustability. You can slide forward to be closer to the fold-out table for dining. You can slide back, should you desire even more legroom. Raise or lower the back and footrest individually of each other. Surprisingly though, there’s no massage function which is strange given this seat is supposed to replace first-class flying. Still, I can assure you even if you’re flying Qatar’s longest route from Doha to Auckland you won’t be uncomfortable.
Travelling as a couple:
If you don’t mind facing backwards when you fly then I would definitely recommend seats E & F. These are the closest together and with the divider removed it makes for a nice bed together.
If travelling backwards isn’t for you then you’re settling for D & G. I say settling as there’s quite a high divider and an armrest/cubbyhole between you and your plus 1. Not what I would consider being intimate.
No questions asked you want A or K (Side Note – If you’re ever flying into Heathrow, always choose seat K, the views will blow your mind). Yes, B & J are also window seats and you will be flying backwards but trust me on this, these are the seats you want. Unlike B & J which have the armrests blocking some of the windows, A & K it’s unrestricted access to you’re own 2 windows. You can also sit in either D, E, F or G as a solo but they don’t have a window so why would you want to do that if you had the choice?
Two Point Two:
If you’re travelling as a 4some, you can actually request a quad suite. This works by dropping all the dividers down between seats D, E, F & G so that E & F are side by side facing backwards and D & G are side by side facing forward.
Qatar fly all sorts of routes with their larger aircraft but even with their jaunts to Auckland (clocking in at about 18 hours) you won’t be sat or even lay there bored. Coming in the way of a ~20 Inch touchscreen Qatar has you covered. Yes, they may have skimped slightly on the real estate of the screen (That’s so they can offer a quad suite) but you’ll find them packed with all the latest cinema releases along with a vast collection of albums and even podcasts. Failing all of that, you could just switch to the external cameras and watch the world go by (or in this instance see how your pilot is getting on in a drag race)
Should you find yourself lying down and wanting to interact with the screen there is a handheld wired device which is stored where your seat controls are. It’s fairly slow, input response-wise, but it does its job without being too annoying and saves you from getting an ab workout pausing every time you get a new course.
If you happen to have forgotten your headphone each passenger is provided with a complimentary set of “noise cancelling” headphones during the flight. I quote noise cancelling as that is what is stated on them, but that’s not really the case, the noise cancelling abilities wouldn’t even compete with a set of Sony XM2’s from 2017. I think it’s just because they were that padded that they blocked some external noise out. Don’t get me wrong they are pleasant enough to have on your head for a 6-hour flight and provide okay sound, chances are though, you’ll have something better in your hand luggage.
As mentioned earlier, your food order is taken not long after boarding and I can assure you “Chicken or vegetarian” is a sentence you will not hear uttered. Something else you won’t hear said along the lines of “we’re now turning on the cabin lights for the meal service”. 3 words, Dine On Demand, that’s right no pre-determined dining time, no being woken up to eat. You eat when you want, on your terms and the service is spectacular.
Your table is set for you, with a glass of water, a fake tee light candle, a warm selection of artisan bread and nuts, salt & pepper grinders, butter and even fine olive oils (though you do have to request them). Plated up on proper plates with proper knives and forks.
First up was the appetiser and it was a choice between:
- Sweetcorn soup – paprika cream.
- Signature Arabic mezze – hummus, tabouleh and moutabet served with Arabic bread.
- Cold smoked salmon with horseradish and chive crushed potato salad – lemon and red radish.
Choosing the latter, the smoked salmon wasn’t rubbery but fresh, an impressive feat 30,000+ feet in the air. It coupled well with the horseradish and chive crushed potatoes and made for a nice light starter.
Up next, the main and it was a choice between:
- Arabic spiced chargrilled chicken breast – served with Oriental rice, crispy onions and mint raita.
- Lamb loin with herb butter – black olive mash potato, ratatouille and lamb jus.
- Vegetable Thai green curry – jasmine rice, red chilli and kaffir lime.
Choosing the lamb loin and the presentation may not have been Instagramable but it was lush. Juicy, fairly tender lamb on a bed of ratatouille, which I wouldn’t normally eat but found to be nice. I did think the jus was a little strong flavour wise but as the herb butter was on top of the lamb, you could get away with avoiding the jus without ruining the flavour of the lamb.
Cheese, please! What an absolute delight to have a cheese plate served as a dessert when jetting off somewhere. Yes, there were other desserts available such as sticky toffee pudding but they aren’t even getting a look in. Brie, Stilton and mature Cheddar served with red and green seedless grapes, celery, carrots quince jelly and crackers. Top quality cheese, a variety of crackers, some of which I’ve never had before (and I love a cheeseboard) and an all-around excellent way to finish off a meal.
The whole point in flying in business class and this is where Qatar shines. In a matter of moments, your dedicated flight attendant can transform your seat into a fully flat bed with accompanying pillows and a duvet. Not sure what you’d like me to say? It’s extremely comfy there’s loads of room, you get to keep the pillows. You are even given pyjamas that you can keep. Regardless of how good the window views are I would certainly try and get seats E & F. Even if you’re flying on your own, if there’s space they will lower the divider, insert the foam topper and you get a full double bed to yourself. For the mischievous, you could even join the mile-high club though you’d have to be pretty brazen as the walls are only just over 5ft.
Of course with every Q-Suite having a door how does the airline stewardess know when you need anything or that you don’t want to be interrupted without opening the door? They have a button for that, DND, Do Not Disturb. Genius.
I’m finishing this review off having just woken from a 6-hour sleep to have some breakfast in the form of some Weetabix with full-fat milk. Qatar’s CEO was right, you don’t need First Class. Qatar delivers a luxurious first-class experience, they just label it as business class. I’m well rested, I feel mega and it’s not far from landing. Without a shadow of a doubt, the best flight I’ve ever had in business and it far outshone my very high expectations. My equation, Happiness = Expectation – Reality. My expectations were extremely high having seen all the hype about the QSuite. My reality was immense and flawless. My happiness is through the roof and can not wait to do it all again. Who gives a shit about the destination when the journey is this good?