Qatar Business Class. 777 vs. 350.

To avoid this blog looking a bit like an infomercial for Qatar Airways (it’s not!), I am going to compress a couple of the articles into one.

In this post, I’m going to cover my flight from Doha to Narita and also the flight back from Haneda to Doha.

Qatar Airways has quite a mixture of aircraft in its fleet at the moment and a variety of business class products.

The outbound flight was operated by a 777-200LR, the longest range commercial airliner flying.  This is the aircraft that Qatar use for their Doha to Auckland flights so if you end up on one of these, you’ll be on it for a while.  Thankfully Doha to Narita was only around ten hours, so not too bad a stretch at all.

The flight departed at around 02.30 local time, and having already travelled for six hours from London, a couple hours in the Al Mourjan lounge in Doha, I was ready to go to bed immediately.

Qatar Airways offers a dine on demand concept in business class so I explained to the crew that I was going to go to sleep immediately and that I’d pick food when I woke up.  They said that was no problem.

As always, they provided a very welcome pre-departure glass of champagne and choice of hot or cold towel.  I chose cold given it was quite warm in the terminal.

Qatar Airways pre-departure champagne and cold towels

I was sitting with my friend in seats 5J and 5K, the bulkhead seats in the second cabin of business class.  I was in 5J which felt really quite exposed; there was little privacy between any of the seats.  Also, my aisle seat was quite open to all of the traffic to and from the galley, so I was somewhat concerned that I might be disturbed in-flight.  However it was a very good sized seat that went fully flat.

On longer flights in business class, Qatar provide both pyjamas and also a mattress pad for seat.  As soon as the seat belt sign was turned off, the crew came around and made up the bed for us both.

With that, I essentially passed out for the next seven hours.  To my surprise, I wasn’t disturbed at all.  The bed was still a little firm for my tastes, but woke up over Beijing having had a really good rest.

With that, I decided to have some food.  I’ve scanned in a copy of the menu, which actually had quite a lot of choice.

This was the wine list.

I decided to start with the sushi selection (from the Japanese menu), and then went for the chicken piccata as my main, then the chocolate cake for pudding.

The sushi selection was beautifully presented and actually tasted really good.  For inflight catering I was very impressed.  The main course was less impressive, however still not bad.  Pudding was another winner, but then it’s pretty hard to go wrong with chocolate cake (at least with me)!

With that, I napped for the remainder of the flight and soon we were landing at Narita.  There was zero queue at both immigration and customs and were out within minutes and on to the Narita Express train.

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The return flight was a few days later from Haneda airport, which is much closer to the city centre than Narita is.

It was also operated by a brand new Airbus A350 aircraft which I’d had the pleasure of travelling on before with Finnair from Helsinki to London.

Upon boarding, I was quite surprised at how open the cabin felt, and the apparent lack of privacy again (although not as bad as the 777-200LR) for such a new product.  Certainly compared to the Q-Suites I reviewed earlier.

Qatar Airways A350 business class

However the seats themselves were very cleverly designed.

There was a huge amount of storage around the seat.  A large cubby hole to the left of the seat, one accessible at foot level in the seat in front, another one in the armrest containing a bottle of Evian.  The overhead seatbelt signs were also electronic showing seatbelt status, smoking and when to turn off electronics.

When sat in the seat, due to being angled away from the aisle, the level of privacy was definitely improved from walking around the cabin, however still wasn’t quite what I’d hoped it would be.  The American Airlines new business class seats (of all three types) on the 787 and 777 aircraft provide more privacy.

The obligatory champagne was offered, another choice of hot or cold towel and a few minutes later pushed back.  I was struck by how quiet the cabin was compared to the 777-200LR on the way out – a night and day difference.

A few minutes later, a gin and tonic and warmed nuts arrived and the dinner service began.

The menu for the return flight was this.  The wine list was the same as previously.

I opted for the mezze selection and then the breaded chicken, with the tiramisu for dessert.

They started with an amuse bouche of crab, followed by the mezze platter.  I have to say, I was really disappointed with it.  I was expecting a few more items, perhaps some olives too, but for a middle-eastern airline, it was just bland.

The main course was a lot better with the chicken quite tender and not dried out at all.  Pudding was also great, although would have preferred chocolate as on the way out!

With dinner over, the crew made the bed up and again I passed out for the next eight hours until the captain made his announcement that we were 45 minutes away from Doha.  I skipped breakfast, figuring I’d eat something in the lounge, despite the best efforts of the crew who tried to feed me again!

View of Doha at dawn

After a rather circuitous approach due to the blockade, were were on the ground and disembarked through door 1L into gate D1.

So, three Qatar Airways flights and three different business class seats.  The Q-Suites are outstanding.  The 777-200LR was ok and the A350 was pretty good.

The staff were faultless and lovely throughout, but I did get the feeling they were ‘on-script’ and almost robotic; you couldn’t have a bit of banter with them in the same way a good British Airways or Qantas crew would.

The food was also very good, but not quite as outstanding as I had might have expected, but the odd dish here or there did stand out (the sushi for example).  I thought Etihad’s food was better.

Overall, Qatar really are a class act.  For business class it really is an excellent experience.  Head and shoulders above British Airways First Class (let alone business class) in every conceivable way, excepting the mediocre wine list.

The only thing that would make me think twice about choosing them in future on a business trip is the direct vs. transit issue.  With Tokyo as my destination, travelling via Doha turns a 6,000 mile non-stop journey into a 8,400 mile one – that’s quite a detour.  On holiday, it’s a no brainer; Qatar every single time.