After a short layover in Doha on my way from Vietnam back to the US it was time to board Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350-900 for the 14 hour flight from Doha to New York (JFK). I specifically chose this flight so that I could fly Qatar Airways’ newest aircraft opposed to taking the Boeing 777 which also flies once daily to JFK.
This was my second of eight Qatar Airways flights during my insane 2017 Qatar Airways Mileage Run. The flight covers a distance of approximately 6,704 miles. Since I purchased an “R” fare business class flight and credited my flight to the AAdvantage program I earned 1,341 EQD, 10,056 EQM, and 10,727 AAdvantage award miles as an AAdvantage Platinum Elite. This flight was on of several which helped me earn AAdvantage Executive Platinum status in 2018.
Boarding A US Bound Flight From The Middle East
This has been an interesting year for international airline travel. Throughout the year the US has introduced a few different “bans” on travel to the US from the Middle East. The US first discriminated who could travel (unsuccessfully), then eliminated electronic devices from the main cabin, and as of my flight (November 2017) the US now requires and extra security check of larger electronic items. I didn’t know too much about this latest “electronic ban” until I reached my departing gate in Doha.
On US bound flights the check in process is even more intense. Passengers with electronic devices other than cell phones undergo additional screening. This screening is essentially the same as the “random” screening you get in the US when a TSA agent flags your bag. Gate agents open your bags, wipe everything down with a test kit, and inspect electronic devices. At that point all electronic devices are placed into sealed, durable, plastic bags which you can’t open until you reach your final destination.
One of the things I really appreciate about the departure gates in Doha is the gate check in process. Gate agents scan passengers’ boarding cards at the entrance to the enclosed gate area rather than at the gate’s boarding door. Checked-in guests then wait in a secure boarding area before entering the jet bridge. When boarding commences passengers don’t have to scan their boarding cards and can instead just walk onto the flight. Overall I found this method sped up the boarding process significantly. The only downside is that once you’re within the secure gate area you can’t leave easily to use the restroom for example.
My SSSSpecial SSSSurprise
In addition to the additional electronics screening, all US bound passengers also receive a secondary metal detector scan. Most passengers simply pass through a very sensitive metal detector and are cleared. However, for one reason or another I had the four S’s (“SSSS”) on my boarding card which means I was selected to undergo additional screening.
I’ve been randomly selected many times before so I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong. As I entered the security checkpoint a man touched nearly every inch of my body. It was definitely an awkward experience and one that I feel may have crossed the line, but I’d rather be a little uncomfortable than unsafe I suppose. Additionally, on the other side of the metal detector, the security agents emptied and searched my bags completely. The process only took a few a few extra minutes, but was obviously extremely thorough.
I definitely don’t have an issue with the added security measures, but it’s worth knowing about them before your flight so you can plan accordingly. Overall the security check added an additional 15 minutes to the boarding process. However, Qatar delayed boarding by about 15 minutes as well so I don’t think you have to worry about missing your flight if you show up to the gate at the proposed boarding time.
Note: I didn’t take pictures of this process as I didn’t want to attract any additional attention to myself.
Finally Boarding The Qatar Airways A350!
After clearing the US bound flight security checkpoint I took my seat in the secure gate area. Qatar Airways boards by zone number and conveniently directs passengers to sit in their zone area. The idea is that only those in the called zone stand up when the boarding agent calls their zone. I found this process worked better on paper than it did in practice, but was still more effective than the current methods used by domestic carriers.
Since I was seated in a premium cabin I had access to the “Premium Seats” located closest to the gate’s boarding door.
As I mentioned, the whole standing when called boarding process worked better on paper than in person. As the gate agent opened up the gate’s boarding door nearly everyone in the secure area rose to their feet. At that point, the gate agent invited those seated in the “Priority Seating” section to board the aircraft. Gate staff had already scanned boarding cards so the gate agent simply verified my boarding card as we passed by.
Once through the gate door a Qatar Airways employee directed passengers to separate doors for economy and business class.
I boarded the aircraft through the business class boarding door. Business class passengers enter the aircraft through the L1 boarding door toward the front of the aircraft.
Economy passengers board the aircraft through the L2 boarding door which is the location of Qatar’s signature dome on the A350. As my seat for the flight was 9K, which is aft of the dome I should have boarded through the L2 boarding door.
Qatar Airways A350 Cabin
I typically wouldn’t dedicate an entire section of a post to the general cabin of an aircraft, but Qatar’s A350 absolutely deserves one. For starters, the Qatar Airways A350 is the most beautiful aircraft cabin I’ve ever seen. While the Lufthansa First Class cabin is classy and the (old) Singapore Airlines Suites cabin is attractive, neither are what I would call beautiful. The Qatar A350 business cabin however is truly beautiful.
The cabin features a 1-2-1 layout which gives every passenger direct aisle access. Qatar opted to remove the center overhead bins from the business class cabin which helps make the entire cabin feel extremely spacious.
Toward the rear of the business class cabin (between rows 6 and 7) is the large centerpiece dome light (pictured above) which hovers above two large rounded countertops which double as an in-flight bar.
There isn’t any seating area within the “bar” area, but passengers can grab various in-flight magazines located on either side of the forward section of the bar counter. The rear section of the bar lacked the bouquet of flowers, but offered plenty of space for the crew to place food and snack items for passengers to enjoy while in cruise.
I just loved the attention to detail and various textures used in this portion of the aircraft.
I especially loved the detailed rim of the overhead dome light which I’m assuming 99% of passengers don’t even notice.
The recessed lighting within the cabin cycles between a variety of colors which softly flows out of the various crevasses of the aircraft’s business class ceiling.
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class Seat
Luckily for business class passengers, the beauty of the business class cabin doesn’t end with central bar area. As I mentioned, the cabin features a 1-2-1 layout that consists of 36 seats in total. Each seat is a true lie-flat seat with direct aisle access. For the 14 hour flight to New York I chose seat 9K which is a window seat in the last row of the business class cabin. I specifically chose this seat so that I could admire the entire business class cabin throughout my flight.
Each seat moves into a variety of positions by using the seat adjustment buttons embedded into the side table.
You can adjust each moving piece of the seat individually or can instead just push and hold for three seconds the pre-programed seat settings to move to a desired position. (ex. Takeoff, Dining, Reclined, More Reclined, Bed). The takeoff position is completely upright with the aisle armrest lowered while the dining position is the same, but with the aisle armrest raised.
The seat controls are also lightly backlit which make them incredible easy to see when the cabin lights are off yet not overwhelmingly bright.
Where To Sit In The Qatar Airways A350 Business Class Cabin?
While the window seats are ideal for anyone traveling alone, choosing a window and middle seat might be the best option for passengers traveling together.
Passengers can easily see and talk to the person sitting across the aisle from them. Above is the view of 9F from my seat, 9K. As you can see, the seat housing doesn’t offer business class passengers much privacy, especially from their seat-mate across the aisle.
Passengers in the two middle seats have a much harder time seeing one another.
While sitting in the two middle seats passengers have to lean forward to talk to one another. Passengers can lower the center divider, but that doesn’t really solve anything. Really the divider is only there to help block your seat-mates entertainment screen from shining into your seat.
Each Qatar Airways A350 business class seat features a huge touchscreen entertainment system featuring Qatar’s excellent Oryx One platform.
As you can see from the above picture, the Oryx One screen on the A350 is massive. As with all Oryx One enabled aircraft, passengers have hundreds of movie, tv, music, and gaming entertainment options. Additionally, passengers have the option to watch any one of three exterior cameras throughout the flight. More on that later.
The Oryx One screen in business class on the Airbus A350 is huge. It’s also high-definition so video entertainment looks stunning.
You can operate the Oryx One system by touching the large touchscreen monitor, but can also navigate the system with the handheld touchscreen remote found stowed beneath the large shelf toward the rear of the seat.
The remote also has tactile buttons for the seat’s reading lights and the flight attendant call button. Passengers also have the ability to display the in-flight airshow (moving map) in the remotes screen while media plays on the larger seat-back screen. One thing I loved is that you can adjust the window shades with the remote which I’ll also discuss a little later.
Qatar Airways provides all business class customers with a pair of noise canceling headphones, but I opted to use my own Bose QC35 headphones. Using my own headphones required I use the Bose provided airplane adapter which plugs into the headphone jack located just to the rear of the seat controls.
Just beneath the seat controls passengers will find a power socket and USB port to charge their devices in flight.
Remote Controlled Window Shades!
The remote-controlled window shades were one of the things I enjoyed most about Qatar Airways’ A350. The window shades are reminiscent of those found in Lufthansa’s 747-8i first class. What I mean is that the entire shade operation is behind the plastic window shield. When you lower the shade, an accordion cloth shade lowers first, partially blocking out light. Next, a second solid shade follows blocking out nearly all visible light.
The best part about the whole operation is that the two shades open/close in unison when using the handheld remote. In Lufthansa First Class I had four windows and needed to close each one individually. I remember thinking how cool it would have been if I could just push a single button to make all four operate in unison. Luckily, Qatar made this dream a reality with the new A350 business class cabin.
The window shade open/close buttons are just below the volume slider.
If you’d like, you can also open/close each window shade individually using the touch sensitive buttons buried beneath each window.
I know, you can’t see the window shade buttons, but you can just see the top of one beneath the left window above. I found the window shade buttons a little hard to use considering they are both blocked by the side table and large shelf located toward the rear of the seat.
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class Seat Storage
Speaking of storage space, in addition to the large shelf and side table, the Qatar Airways A350 business class seat has plenty more storage options available to passengers. Smooth transition huh?
First, there is a cubby located on the side of the seat away from the aisle.
It’s worth noting this cubby isn’t functional in at least seats 7A/K and possibly all other “bulkhead” seats. Additionally, bulkhead seats lack the small shoe storage cubby located under the seat-back of the seat in front of you.
All business class seats feature a water bottle and headphone storage area in the aisle armrest.
There is also a small cubby located under the footwell which “can’t” be utilized for taxi, takeoff, and landing.
Finally, there is a large shelf with a magazine storage rack and space for an additional water bottle. This storage area also holds the safety card and airsickness bag.
Overall, I love the reverse herringbone seats features in Qatar’s A350-900 aircraft. They are similar seats to those offered in the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 so you know about what to expect when flying in business class in either one of those planes. However, the new A350-1000 will feature Qatar Airways’ QSuite business class product which I can’t wait to try.
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class Doha To New York
Now that you’re familiar with the aircraft design and fantastic business class seat (hard product) it’s time to finally start discussing the stellar service extended to passengers on our 14 hour flight across the Atlantic.
Shortly after taking our seats the wonderful Qatar Airways flight attendants circulated the cabin and introduced themselves. At that time they dropped off the Bric’s amenity kits and asked each passenger if they’d like a pre-departure beverage and a hot or cold towel. Since I was a little dehydrated after my connecting Qatar Airways A330 flight from Vietnam I ordered the Lanson Brut Rose and a glass of water along with my hot towel.
Shortly thereafter the cabin crew again circulated the cabin collecting the used towels and at this time distributed the Bric’s Amenity Kits. Male passengers received a navy blue kit while female passengers received a bright yellow kit.
Inside the hard shell amenity kit I found a pair of navy socks, a navy blue branded eye mask, and lip balm, facial misting spray, and moisturizing cream all provided by Monte Vibiano.
The cabin crew circulated the cabin one final time as we taxied nearer to our departure runway. At that time the crew collected any pre-departure glassware and distributed the in-flight pajamas.
The pajamas were made exclusively for Qatar Airways by The White Company and featured a rather attractive light gray top and dark gray pant. For this flight I requested a “not large” set and was given a Small. The small pants were much too small while the small top proved a little tight, but nearly the right size.
In-Flight Dine On Demand Meal Service
Although boarding was delayed about 15 minutes we pushed back from the gate right on time and were airborne in what seemed like no time. Perhaps the taxi went by so quickly because of the pre-flight gifts and champagne?
Once airborne the cabin crew again stopped by each seat to distribute the menus for the flight. Business class on Qatar Airways features a “Dine on Demand” concept. That means passengers can order any available item from the menu at any time of their choosing. You don’t need to stick to a certain meal time or even stick to the type of meal being offered at a point in time. I love this concept because it means you can eat meals that sync up with your internal body clock rather than being forced to eat breakfast when all you want is a hearty dinner!
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class Wine and Beverage Menu
Although I’m not much of a wine drinker it was nice to see Qatar offers such an expansive in-flight wine list. I personally enjoyed a few glasses of the Lanson Brute Rosé during my flight, but tried to limit my overall alcohol consumption to minimize the effects of jet lag.
After looking over the alcoholic beverage menu I decided to look through the dining menu so that I could order dinner shortly after takeoff.
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class Dine On Demand Menu
Since Qatar’s A350 flight departs Doha at nearly 2:00am and arrives in New York at 8:00am the food menu was heavily focused on the breakfast options. There were still a few good A La Carte options for passengers who wanted to eat dinner.
Keep in mind, since Qatar Airways features a dine on demand meal service that you can order any item on the above menu at any point during your flight. If there is an item that you “must have” you can alert the cabin crew and they’ll reserve that option for you on a first come first served basis.
Non-alcoholic beverage options are listed on the second page of the in-flight dining menu which of course you can order at any time.
I tried to stick with non-alcoholic beverage options during my flight as alcohol tends to increase the effects of jet lag. So throughout my flight I decided to sample nearly every “mocktail” on the menu. I personally found the “Orangeade” was my favorite as it was quite refreshing.
Dine On Demand “Dinner” Service
Since the flight departed Doha at 2am most passengers chose to go to sleep immediately. I however was still on Chicago (CST) time which meant it was time for an early dinner. Shortly after takeoff I asked for dinner and the answer was of course “yes” so I placed my meal order. A few minutes later my flight attendant returned to prepare the tray table for the meal service and drop off a small chicken plate as compliments from the chef.
As with all business class meals on Qatar Airways, the dining experience begins when the cabin crew drop off 3 dinner rolls, a pad of butter, and salt and pepper shakers.
Shortly after finishing the small plate of chicken my Classic Arabic Mezze arrived.
While the humus and tabouleh were fine, I absolutely loved the muhammara! I loved this dish as a starter to the meal and will order it every time it’s on the A La Carte menu. After I finished the mezze my filet arrived.
The filet, although slightly overcooked, came with a ton of flavor. The mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables were also very tasty.
I again finished everything on my plate which prompted the flight attendant to stop by and deliver the final dish of the meal service; dessert. Dessert on this particular flight was a white chocolate and mango mouse cake which was fantastic.
It didn’t take me long to finish the delicious dessert. At that point the flight attendant again stopped by to clear and stow my tray table so that I could sit back, relax, and hopefully sleep.
Dine On Demand “Breakfast” Service
The cabin remained dark nearly the entire flight, but with about 2 hours from our destination the cabin crew turned on a very subtle mood lighting effect.
This was enough of a visual cue to encourage customers to begin placing breakfast orders. I followed suit and ordered a banana smoothie, a filet and scrambled eggs dish, and of course the breakfast bread offering.
Unlike other meals, my entire breakfast showed up at approximately the same time.
Breakfast was delicious and I couldn’t have been happier with my choices. I especially loved the banana smoothie, but just wish it came in a larger glass.
One thing I noticed about the breakfast service was just how stressful it was on the cabin crew. The A350 features 36 business class seats which are serviced by essentially 4 crew members. Each flight attendant is responsible for between 8 or 10 guests depending on how they divide the cabin.
This really wasn’t an issue after takeoff as most passengers didn’t order food immediately and meals were fairly spaced out among the cabin. For breakfast however, nearly every passenger ordered at the same time. Also, the A350 business class cabin only offers a single forward galley to prepare food. It can’t be easy to prepare 36 various meals in a single galley kitchen.
Overall the meal service was great, but the cabin crew forgot to bring me a cappuccino I ordered. My flight attendant apologized and explained how it’s difficult to prepare a cappuccino in the cramped galley so I changed my order to a black coffee. Again, none of this bothered me, but rather the experience highlighted one of the issues with a dine on demand meal service.
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class Tail Camera
As I mentioned previously, each business class seat features a huge Oryx One entertainment system. The IFE offers passengers dozens of new release movies and several thousand hours of other audio and video entertainment. Yet, the thing I loved most about the entertainment system on the Qatar Airways A350 is the tail camera.
Passengers have three different exterior camera options to watch throughout the flight. The rear camera is mounted on the tail and offers a fantastic view of the aircraft and surrounding scenery. The downward camera faces straight down toward the ground and the forward camera is mounted just behind the nose gear. It was a real treat cycling through the various camera angles once the sun came up as we neared the Eastern Seaboard.
When I tried to sleep I opted to leave the tail camera displayed. All you could see in the middle of the night was the flashing dome light atop the aircraft, but when I woke up I saw the above image. It’s a truly unique experience getting to see the exterior of the aircraft that you’re inside!
Landing In New York (JFK)
Even more unique is watching the plane come in for landing.
As we descended below the overcast skies of New York you could clearly see the neighborhoods below the approach path into New York’s JFK airport. At this point I switched to the downward camera.
I then switched back to the tail camera just moments before touchdown. This view highlighted the aircraft crabbing toward the runway.
A few moments later we were finally on the ground in JFK after our fantastic 14 hour flight.
I loved watching the approach and landing from the tail camera, but it honestly made me a bit uneasy which I wasn’t expecting.
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class Lavatories
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget to take photos of the lavatories. The A350 features 3 lavatories in the business class cabin. One located in the front of the aircraft while the other two are near the central bar area. All three lavatories are about the same size.
The sink counter offered a passengers shaving and toothbrush kits although I don’t trust brushing my teeth with aircraft non-potable water. Also the sinks are motion activated which means you can minimize the number of things you touch inside the lavatories if you’re worried about germs, etc.
Along the lavatory wall is a small cabinet which housed small cups (please don’t drink lavatory water) and more signature Qatar Airways tissue paper. Qatar Airways only offered tissue paper in their business class lavatories which often fell apart when used to dry your hands. There is also a small magnified mirror in the center of the larger vanity mirror which provided an extreme close of up of just how red my eyes were near the end of the flight.
The toilet wasn’t much to look at, but remained clean throughout the flight. Toilet seat covers are available to passengers in a small cubby next to the toilet. Sadly, neither lavatory offered a window to the outside world.
One thing I especially liked about these lavatories were the indication lights near them. When occupied the light associated only with the occupied lavatory turned red. When available the light shined green. This made it incredibly easy to tell which lavatories (if any) were occupied and which ones were vacant.
My Overall Qatar Airways A350 Business Class Impressions
Wow! If you couldn’t already tell I absolutely loved this flight. For starters, the Qatar Airways A350 business class cabin is simply stunning. Another thing I noticed about this flight is how great I felt after it. I woke up from my in-flight slumber feeling refreshed which rarely happens to me. Likewise, I experienced little to no jet lag at my destination. Part of that is of course that I stayed on CST to begin the journey, but I suspect it’s also thanks to the improved passenger comfort offered by the A350 aircraft.
As with nearly all Qatar Airways flights the cabin crew was simply fantastic. The crew seems to perfectly walk the fine line between being attentive and annoying. They only seem to step in as you need something. If you don’t need anything they won’t constantly ask if you do.
Additionally, service within the business class cabin moves incredibly quickly. If you order a drink or a meal it often shows up well before you expect it to. This helps the dine on demand meal service move at your pace. If you’re eating quickly, they’ll bring food quickly. If not, you can slowly enjoy each course without the crew constantly asking if you’re finished. Qatar Airways cabin crew is top-notch and this flight was no exception.
The only “issue” I had with this flight was the cappuccino mix up. I don’t often drink anything other than black coffee and was kind of looking forward to a cappuccino with breakfast. This mix up definitely didn’t ruin my flight, but it did point out just how busy the business class cabin crew is on the A350.
This is going to sound weird, but flying in business class on the Qatar Airways A350-900 to New York was a little sad. The flight of course was fantastic, but it was sad knowing that in just a few months the Boeing 777 which flies this route daily will have Qatar’s new QSuites. Likewise, it’s sad knowing that the A350-1000s will also feature QSuites. I guess overall it’s just sad knowing that you are flying in a new, incredible, business class cabin which is already outdated.
With that, I absolutely loved this flight. If you have to choose between a non-Qsuites 777 and the A350 I’d chose the A350 every day. The cabin is beautiful, the seat is fantastic, and the crew (as always) is amazing.
I also really like that this flights leaves Qatar at 2 in the morning and arrives in New York at 8 in the morning. This is perfect because it allows you to have a full day in Doha and potentially a full day in New York. It’s almost like you didn’t miss anything during the 14 hours you were airborne.