Aircraft Type: 777-300ER
Class: Business Class
Date: January 2014
Best for: Those looking for the best of the business classes, not in need of frills, but good onward connections and timetables.
Most likely to sit next to: Local wealthy Qataris who do international business and onward connecting international businessmen.
Business or pleasure: A decent sized screen, seat with lots of space, and in seat power. For those who are able to fly the 787 will also be able to experience wi-fi onboard.
Routes: Qatar flies around the world. Plenty of capital cities and business centres along with leisure destinations.
Frequent Flyer Programme: Privilege Club. Good for earning when travelling for business and spending on holidays.
Best bits: The network is great. Lounges are excellent, as is seat comfort, the newer planes are better than the older ones, and the 787 business class flat bed is by far the best product so far.
Worst bits: Older cabins showing their age, lie-flat not fully flat and food is a little hit and miss.
Qatar Airways Business Class Report
One of our International judging panel were lucky enough to travel business class with Qatar Airways in January, between London and Doha on a quick business trip. This route is frequented by Qatar’s 777, A330, A340 and 787 and soon to be an all business class A319 making for a wealth of differing products. We were able to experience both the A330 and the 777 on this route.
On The Ground
When arriving at Heathrow Terminal 4, perhaps one of the Heathrow Terminals most in need of renovation, check-in was swift and painless. Even a small problem with a passport was dealt with with efficiency and a friendly smile. The check in desks had carpets in the business class check in area, which were a little weathered, but a nice touch. Heathrow Terminal 4’s check in area was dated, and with no reason to hang around, we quickly headed through the security using the Fast Track security lane. Airside heading to the new Premium Lounge we were greeted and welcomed inside.
The lounge itself is beautifully designed, incredibly elegant, and a haven from the Terminal 4 environment. The latest lounge was launched roughly the same time the 787 started on the London route, and the lounge isn’t showing its age. It’s a myriad of areas in muted contemporary tones. The whole lounge has luxurious finishes and the attention to detail is excellent. As well as areas to sit and relax, there are fine dining areas to enjoy a proper dinner, a lighter bistro style dining area. The business centre is well equipped, as are the showers and their signature wine and martini bar is the perfect place to prep yourself for a few hours in luxury.
The wide panoramic windows have an excellent view of the airport and add a sense of space to the lounge. The food offering is of excellent quality and in some ways is better than that onboard, so for some of the night flights that operate from London to Qatar it can be better to check in early and enjoy a full meal in the lounge before boarding the flight and heading straight to sleep.
The 777 cabin, in comparison to the return journey on the A330 appeared a little more tired. The 777-300ER have two seating configurations, one of 24 seats in 4 rows, and another with two mini cabins, separated by the galley, in total offering 42 seats. We experienced the first configuration, and sat in the centre pair of seats, in row 1. The cabins offer mood lighting and the deep red hued seats offer a wealth of warmth and colour. Whilst we admired the idea of flowers on the bulkhead, the presentation was contrary to the contemporary look of the rest of the cabin.
The cabin offers a small intimate cabin, with a wealth of cabin crew serving the business class passengers, although on the way out the service was slightly less effective than the return from Doha to London, whereby passengers were greeted by name, coats taken and snacks offered before take off. On arrival though on our outbound flight, champagne was still offered, and hot towels served after take off. Even though there was a difference in the service quality between the two legs, this was excellence in business class offering through and through. The only bad element was when not enjoying a main course on the outbound leg and leaving a full plate, there was no acknowledgement of this, no alternative offered and no apology given.
The seat is the most impressive element of the Qatar product, whilst it is a lie flat bed, rather than fully flat, the seat is long, and space per seat is more than comfortable. Whilst in a 2x2x2 configuration, this inherently means window seat passengers have to climb over their seat partner to get to the aisle. The space between each seat meant climbing over your partner was easy and effortless. With a wealth of extras to the seat, from massage functions to flexible reading lights, privacy screen and even in-seat power, the seats are top of the line. (The newer seats on the A330 however are more comfortable and feel more luxurious than the older 777 seats.)
A good thing to point out, is that these seats on the 777 are being replaced by brand new lie-flat seats, and the roll out now means over half of the fleet has them. The newer seats offer less lumps and bumps when fully flat, and much more space, in comparison. Whilst the older seats are only a few years old, these newer seats will help keep Qatar at the top of their game.
The entertainment onboard is good. A wide selection of movies, but not the biggest, will keep you entertained on a long haul flight, although being a connecting airline, through two long haul movies you may need to start hunting to find movies you want to watch. The screens (roughly 12″) are big enough to view the movies in good enough detail, but are still fairly small in comparison to other middle eastern carriers such as Emirates. The Oryx system is fast to respond and easy to navigate. They also have noise cancelling headphones, which are good, but the ones on Fiji Airways were much better.
The food offering with Qatar was generally perfect, bar one incident we mentioned above, whereby the pasta main course was overcooked and bland in taste. On arrival champagne and snacks were given, then the main food service started and orders were taken. We opted to start with the arabic mezze, which was beautifully presented and tasted excellent. After this was a choice of main courses, sadly, the dish we picked was just not up to the cut, well overcooked pasta and a chicken that was overly bland in taste just wasn’t right. When cleared away, no comment was given by the staff, even though pretty much a full plate was left. The desert however was delightful and the presentation of all the dishes beautifully done.
As this was an afternoon flight, the second service was an afternoon tea, beautiful cakes and pastries, and nice and light on the palette. It’s in these smaller details that Qatar really excels, and is most likely the reason that the airline consistently wins awards. There was a wonderful selection of wines, champagnes and premium spirits, which were free flowing too.
Plenty of extras, and all excellent. Salvatore Ferragamo leads the way with the amenity kit offering. Alongside the branded kits, the standard Qatar amenity kits in their softer bags offer eye masks and socks as well as all the standard extras. There were also hot towels offered, bottled water, luxury chocolates etc. But the biggest extra, and the leading product of both trips, were the lounges, the premium lounge in London Heathrow, which is hopefully the blueprint for other future lounges and the exclusive premium terminal in Doha, which is vast and luxurious, although knowing the spa was on the First Class side of the lounge does make us want to book First Class next time. Also, the Doha premium terminal, with its effortless check in is amazing, similar to those familiar with the VS Upper Class Wing, has a check in process feels more like booking into a hotel, than on to a flight.
Qatar deserves its 5 star Skytrax rating, it has an excellent business class product and delivers above and beyond its product level. The fleet is young, service level good, seat comfort is up there (and being improved upon) and IFE great. We couldn’t do anything but recommend Qatar Airways, although we feel we will be jumping up and down with excitement if we experienced the Dreamliner or the new A319 all business class product that are being progressively rolled out on the LHR – DOH route. Our recommendation, is book carefully on this route, from May onwards, try to book either on the A319 or the 787 flights for the best possible experience and definite fully flat seats.