Today (April 15, 2014): Qatar Airways Boeing 787 (Dreamliner) Business Class from Brussels to Doha.
On March 29th 2014, I flew Business Class in a Boeing 787 (Dreamliner) of Qatar Airways from Brussels (BRU) to Doha (DOH) (the next flight segment from Doha to Bangkok was flown on Qatar’s Boeing 777-300ER, and you can read my trip report of this flight here). The Dreamliner experience was superb and I am sure that the space, comfort and luxury on board the new plane will raise the bar for all of Qatar’s competitors. Unfortunately, Qatar Airways does not offer the same hardcore Business Class product on all of its long-haul planes: the Dreamliner Business Class makes the Boeing 777 Business Class product look a little dated (while it is still outstanding) and simply outclasses the dull Airbus A330 Business Class product (although Qatar Airways is currently retrofitting its Airbus A330 Business Class to match the 777 experience).
Qatar Airways features in my top 10 lists of the best airlines for longhaul Business Class, the most delicious airline food, the world’s best airline lounges, and the best Business Class amenity kits in the sky.
- Trip: BRU-DOH
- Airline: Qatar Airways
- Aircraft: Dreamliner (Boeing 787)
- Flight Number: 194
- On time departure: yes (10.15 am)
- On time arrival: yes (6 pm)
- Miles: 3045
- Flight time: 5:45
- Seat: 4A
- Class: business (D)
In this review (below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Business Class cabin layout
- Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
- Other inflight experiences (crew, cabin, lavatory, WiFi, entertainment)
- Comparison with other Middle Eastern carriers (Etihad Airways, Emirates)
- My verdict
1. THE BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
With a herringbone 1–2–1 configuration in Business Class (similar to American Airlines or Cathay Pacific), each passenger is assured of direct aisle access (no jumping over people’s feet here) and a significant amount of privacy. The Business Class seats on the sides are angled toward the large windows (the largest of its kind in the skies), while the seats in the middle are angled towards each other. Middle seats are placed a little more upfront than the side seats, hence you don’t look your neighbor into the eyes.
For a seat plan of Qatar Airways’ Boeing 787, click here.
2. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
The Business Class seat offers considerable personal space, allowing to sit back and relax in a 22-inch wide armchair. Armrests can be fully adjusted to different heights to complement different body positions while dining, reading, working or resting. A generous room feeling is provided by the huge shelf besides the seat, which provides space for magazines, the Safety Card and also the menu. You can dine and work comfortably at the same time with the elegant wood trimmed large sliding table: when dining begins, you simply rest your laptop or other belongings on the side table. There is also ample storage space such as a drawer and side compartment for personal belongings under the foot rest and on both sides of the seats (where you also find a bottle of water and a set of noise cancelling headphones). The seats also features a generous 17-inch personal touch screen TV monitor (more on that later).
The seat converts at a touch of a button into different cradle positions before reaching a generous 80-inch (203 cm) long, 30-inch (76 cm) wide flat-bed. The crew will provide a duvet during night flights only. Unfortunately, my seat broke down during the flight and could not be transformed into a flat-bed, but since it was a day flight, I did not intend to sleep anyway (no compensation was offered whatsoever despite the little inconvenience).
What are the best Business Class seats on Qatar Airways’ Dreamliner?
- The window seats in row 1 to 4 are the best for solo travelers.
- For those travelling with a companion: the middle seats in row 6 are located in their own little private space between the 2 lavatories and are therefore recommended.
What are the worst Business Class seats on Qatar Airways’ Dreamliner?
- The ‘window’ seats in row 5 are to be avoided, since they do not have a window.
Each seat comes with a soft blanket, a decent pillow, and an amenity kit. The latter comprises a bag with socks, eyeshade, earplugs and a comb, and a Salvatore Ferragamo kit that contains Attimo 5ml Eau de Toilette, 10ml lip balm and a 20ml hand cream or refreshing water. Pajamas are only offered on night flight.
30 minutes after take-off, I was offered a drink, and I choose a sprite with ice and lime. The crew then served me an appetizer of Pierre Joseph Cheese Gougere and red onion marmalade. Qatar Airways really puts a lot of effort in its food service. The menu is already at your place when boarding and is separated into three parts: one for wine, one for beverages and one for food.
As a starter, I choose the individual selection of marinated scallop, salmon tartar and smoked salmon. It tasted delicious. As an entrée, I was served Arabic spiced chicken breast with harissa yoghurt, pine nut, Mediterranean vegetables and saffron rice. It was restaurant-worthy stuff. Delicious once again. As a sweet finale, I had the strawberry and vanilla ice cream with mixed berries. Njammie! After dinner, every business class passenger was also served a small box containing 2 Belgian Godiva pralines.
90 minutes prior to landing, I was served a small buffet of white chocolate mousse, chocolate florentines, and lamb & mint pie (a rather weird combination, but it tasted ok).
5. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# CREW: the crew did a great job and was very friendly (addressing me by name, presenting themselves individually before take-off, and also thanking me in person for choosing Qatar Airways before landing). I sincerely hope for them that the stories/rumors about exploitation of the crew by Qatar Airways management are not true.
# CABIN: The 787 is quieter than other aircraft allowing you to work, sleep or relax in peace. With the largest windows in the industry and first-of-its-kind electronic touch pad controls to adjust the amount of light entering the cabin, you can look outside without glare, replacing conventional blinds. Dynamic mood lighting throughout the aircraft helps you adjust your body clocks according to the change in time zones as lighting is automatically altered during the flight. The 787’s cabin pressure is also set to 6,000 feet (1,8 km) as compared to 8000 feet (2,4 km) in other passenger jets. Boeing claims that one in four travelers experiences some form of ‘respiratory distress’ after flying 12 hours in a conventional aircraft with a cabin pressure of 8,000 feet, but this plummets to 5-6 per cent at 6,000 feet. I am happy to tell you that I did not suffer from a headache during the flight, which mostly happens to me after a few hours in a plane (although not sure this has anything to do with the lower cabin pressure).
# LAVATORY: the 2 lavatories for Business Class passengers come with a window and were kept very clean during the flight.
# INTERNET: WiFi was available for purchase once on board the aircraft. There were 2 variant wiFi passes that could be booked and used as often as you wanted: 3MB is 2 USD and 10 MB 5 USD and you had to pay by credit card. WiFi was really incredibly expensive and I would not recommend it. I was online for 20 minutes just checking my email and I had already used my purchased data consumption unit. What a shame for an otherwise brilliant inflight experience.
# ENTERTAINMENT: a striking feature of every seat throughout the aircraft is the touch screen Android technology control units, where you can navigate through a truly interactive system, offering more than 1,000 movie, TV programs, music and gaming entertainment options in a sophisticated and user-friendly way, just like the latest smart phones. The touch-screen control unit has a unique dual screen interface allowing you to play games on their handheld device while enjoying a movie on their personal screen. The flight information displays are terrific, and as such I could see that for the last 3 hours of the flight, we were continuously flying at the maximum certified ceiling of 43000 feet (and sometimes a few feet above).
6. COMPARISON WITH OTHER MIDDLE EASTERN CARRIERS
The 3 major Middle Eastern carriers (Etihad airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways) are known for their excellent Business Class. However, there are some differences that distinguish one from another (click here for more info):
- Chauffeur service: both Etihad and Emirates offer complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers, while this is not the case with Qatar Airways. A huge plus for Emirates and Etihad!
- Pyjamas: Qatar Airways offers pyjamas on overnight medium- and long-haul flights, while Etihad and Emirates only offer them in First Class.
- Duvets: Qatar Airways and Emirates offer duvets on medium-haul flights (to increase sleeping comfort), while Etihad only offers them on longhaul flights.
- Fleet-wide consistency: Etihad offers a consistent Business Class product across it wide-body fleet (with the exception of its superior Dreamliner B787 & Airbus A380 products, which were recently introduced), while Emirates and Qatar offer a more variable Business Class product across their wide-body fleets.
- Cabin interior & design: Etihad’s Airbus A380s & Dreamliner B787s feature an extremely elegant decor in their Business Class cabins (it doesn’t get any better at 30.000 feet), while Qatar’s A380, B787 and A350 cabins are very sexy with a red/white theme. Emirates features rather bombastic interiors, with lots of walnut veneer, gold trim and pearlised plastic, which is not to my liking.
- Cabin layout & seats: the best wide-body Business Class layout & seats are (in order from excellent to mediocre): (1) Etihad B787/A380; (2) Qatar B787/A350/A380; (3) Emirates A380; (4) Etihad A330/B777; (5) Qatar B777; (6) Emirates B777; (7) Qatar A330. So bottom line is to take the aircraft type into account when booking a flight on one of the 3 Middle Eastern carriers.
- Flat beds: Etihad Airways is the only carrier to offer flat beds (with 180 degree recline) across its wide body fleet. Contrary to their A380s, Emirates’ B777s have angled lie flat-beds (although they are still comfortable). Qatar Airways is currently replacing the (very uncomfortable) angled lie flat-beds on its Airbus A330 fleet by true lie-flat seats (after which the whole Qatar fleet will offer flat beds).
- Food: meals are delicious on all 3 carriers, but my best gastronomic experiences (so far) were always on Qatar Airways, followed by Etihad, and then Emirates.
- Number of meal services: on longhaul flights, all 3 carriers offer 2 meal services (one after takeoff, and one 90 minutes before landing). On medium-haul flights though, Etihad and Emirates only offer one meal; Qatar Airways used to offer a second light meal before landing but now seems to have skipped that as well. So there’s no difference here.
- Inflight entertainment: Emirates is the winner when it comes to the inflight entertainment product, with large screens and an extensive range of films, television shows, and audio options (but Etihad and Qatar offer plenty of choices as well).
- WiFi: onboard WiFi is offered by all 3 Middle Eastern carriers, but with a different price tag: Emirates offers the cheapest WiFi, while Qatar’s WiFi is just way too expensive, with Etihad somewhere in between.
- Amenity kit: Emirates has by the far the best amenity kit of the 3 airlines, with Etihad offering the least impressive Business Class amenity kit. Unfortunately, Emirates only offers them on longhaul flights, while Etihad and Qatar Airways offer amenity kits on both medium- and longhaul flights.
- Onboard bar: an onboard bar, exclusively accessible for passengers flying the premium cabins, is only present on the Airbus A380 aircrafts, which are now operated by all 3 carriers. But your chances of flying an Airbus A380, and thus socializing with other passengers in a fantastic onboard bar, are highest with Emirates, which has no less than 60 of these megaplanes in its fleet (Qatar Airways and Etihad own only 4 and 2 Airbus A380s respectively).
Read here my review of Emirates’ Business Class in a Boeing 777-300ER.
Read here my review of Qatar Airways’ Business Class in a Boeing 777-300ER.
Read here my review of Etihad Airways’ Business Class in an Airbus A330.
7. MY VERDICT
- Seat : 9/10
- Food: 9/10
- Service: 9/10
- Inflight entertainment : 9/10
- Cabin: 9,5/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9/10