The world’s largest commercial airliner has been a boon for major airlines hoping to get maximum traffic through the United Kingdom’s busiest airport. On 14 October 2014, Qatar Airways started flying their first Airbus A380 aircraft on its popular Doha – London Heathrow route. Qatar have only ordered 10 of these ‘Superjumbos’ which mean they will only be operated on Qatar’s busiest routes (compare for example, Emirates’ approach of operating them nearly anywhere they can).
The Qatar Airways Premium lounge at London Heathrow is conveniently located across from the gate Qatar use for their A380 flights, which makes boarding a breeze.
As you can see they even have the red carpet out for business and first class passengers! Elite oneworld status cardholders flying in the back are not welcome to use this red carpeted boarding lane (presumably because the majority of economy class is located on the lower deck).
Qatar’s second to be delivered A380 operated our flight to Doha. Today Qatar Airways have four A380s operating routes to London, Paris and Bangkok.
Qatar are using this same 1-2-1 ‘reverse herringbone’ business class seating on all their A380s, 787s and A350s. Unlike their other large gulf competitors, Qatar only have 48 seats into their business class cabin – in contrast to Emirates and Etihad (who fit in 76 and 70 seats respectively). This is due to Qatar’s decision to install a small Economy section on the upper deck, behind the on-board bar – more about that bar later.
The seat is exceptionally well designed with plenty of areas to keep whatever you need nearby. A storage compartment is available at every seat too, but it is only really large enough to keep your blanket in rather than any bulky items.
The seat offers 180 degree recline to completely lie flat, allowing for a very pleasant sleep whilst onboard. The two middle seats are best for those travelling together, whilst the single seats next to the window are best for any solo travelers.
The armrest facing into the aisle also raises to allow for a small amount of extra privacy whilst sleeping, this is controlled via the panel (which operates every other function of the seat).
The seat controls are very straightforward and intuitive. The only function missing that we have seen on other carriers is the ability to save a preferred seat orientation to recall after leaving the seat. The massage function was underwhelming however.
The In-Flight entertainment system is one of the latest offerings by Thales and is the same installed on the A350 and 787 fleet for Qatar.
All the content selection is done on the controller rather than the IFE screen which is not that common (we’ve had that before when flying JAL first class). We did find it difficult to scroll through the content quickly without inadvertently selecting something we didn’t want to watch, like Crocodile Dundee which Qatar regrettably include in their repertoire.
The screen itself is exceptionally large for business class. The high definition screen with content to match is very pleasing to the eye. Like most airlines these days, Qatar offer gate-to-gate entertainment so it is possible to use the system as soon as arrive at your seat upon boarding.
Qatar’s standard champagne in business class is a non-vintage Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve. They also offer the Billecart-Salmon Rosé. As far as business class offerings this would be one of the better offerings that we have had the pleasure of experiencing. It is not the best that Qatar offer in business class though – more on that later.
The service on Qatar Airways is very interesting. Having flown Qatar’s business class at least a dozen times, we have noticed that the service methodology is practically identical on every flight.
For example the first thing the crew will do when you are seated is introduce themselves, offer you a hot or cold towel and a drink. Not complicated but the delivery has been identical on every flight we’ve taken. This consistency is remarkable. The crew member looking after you will also come around shortly before it’s time to depart and take your meal order.
The menu is presented in a solid leather holder, alongside a separate drinks menu complete with full page pictures of the wines and champagnes available.
The meal service began promptly half an hour after takeoff. There are no tacky-looking trays, so everything is placed onto your table directly.
We went with the ‘Classic Arabic Mezze’ for our starter. It’s interesting that between the three major gulf airlines that each have a different take on the dish. In fact Qatar themselves even sometimes come out with a completely different dish, as we have found on other Qatar flights when ordering exactly the same thing.
Qatar’s ‘classic’ Arabic mezze consists of hummus, tabouleh and muhammara. To be perfectly honest we only really touched the hummus (a favourite of ours).
Ex-Doha the crew seem to remember to heat the pita bread but from remote ports that part seems to get forgotten. In any case the starter was passable and we would not hesitate to order this dish again on Qatar.
To save passengers from the difficulty of choosing which bread to eat, it seems Qatar have decided to give you three different types. None were particularly warm or appetising so those remained untouched.
For mains we went with a serving of the ‘Arabic spiced lamb shank with dukkah’ served on quinoa with golden sultanas, pomegranate and walnuts.
Lamb tends to be a good choice on flights as it heats up well and tends not to get too dry. This meal certainly didn’t disappoint and the meat was full of flavour with the arabic spices. Pomegranates also help to provide that little bit of sweetness in what overall is quite a bitter dish.
Not wanting anything too fancy we settled on some ice cream which we found to be an excellent decision. It was perfectly soft to eat and we found ourselves wanting more!
On long haul flights, Qatar offer business class passengers to dine anytime in stark contrast to a number of other carriers (such as Qantas) who we were shocked to find on a recent flight have preset meal times for dining in first class. Whilst not such a big deal on a 7 hour flight as this one, on longer flights it’s excellent to have the ability of ordering a main meal whenever desired.
Since Qatar Airways were kind enough to fit a bar onboard their A380, we felt it would be remiss of us not to wander down and explore the area available behind business class.
It turns out that the bottles behind the bar are purely for show and the crew are not allowed to open them.
Available at the bar are a selection of well marinated green and Kalamata olives, along with some spiced nuts. As a note of comparison, gulf-competitor Emirates also like to provide some hot snacks like meatballs at the bar on their flights.
Behind the curtain is a small economy cabin, which they save for Gold and Platinum members of Qatar Airways’ Privilege Club program. The cabin manager assured us that they never manage to sneak up to the bar unnoticed.
Oddly enough none of the crew had noticed that the bar counter was actually shaped like a question mark. We didn’t manage to get an acceptable photo but make sure you have a look when next flying on a Qatar Airways A380.
Now here is where it really gets interesting. Qatar serve Krug in the bar. This a champagne usually reserved for first class on Qatar Airways, and which we regularly enjoy when flying in the front cabin on Singapore Airlines.
On Qatar Airways, Krug is not served at your seat in the business class cabin so we can highly recommend making your way to the bar if champagne is your drink of choice. The Rosé on offer in the bar was Tattinger, also different to what is available at your seat.
Of note is also the fact that Qatar serve Krug at their premium lounge in Doha. Given that it is our second favourite champagne served on an airline (second only to SALON served by JAL) we feel it’s a huge value add by Qatar.
There is also 18YO Chivas Regal available at the bar, whilst only the 12YO variety is available at your seat. In any case, the moral of the story is if you fancy a better drink – make sure you stretch your legs at some point during the flight.
With an impressive food and beverage selection, Qatar Airways offers one of the best business class products in the sky today.
Qatar Airways offer a very consistent service experience. It genuinely feels like the flight attendants are just following a script. This comes at the cost of the flight attendants not being as personable as on some other carriers.
Qatar Airways have certainly stepped up the quality of their hard product with the introduction of this seat (offered on Qatar’s the Airbus A380, Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 aircraft).
This is by far one of the most comfortable business class seats available in the air today. The meticulous planning and attention to detail is apparent when you take the time to enjoy the new cabin. We feel this seat is superior to other leading offerings, such as the latest seat by Cathay Pacific, and sets a new benchmark for other carriers to follow.