Last month, I enjoyed a FABULOUS holiday in the incredibly beautiful Maldives. I will publish my trip reports over the coming weeks:
- Trip report: Qatar Airways B787 Dreamliner Business Class Brussels to Doha (today)
- Trip report: Qatar Airways A330 Business Class Doha to Male (+ Al Mourjan lounge)
- Review: Jumeirah Dhevanafushi
- Review: Park Hyatt Hadahaa
- Review: St Regis Vommuli
If you are looking forward to the Soneva Jani review, I will publish that one in April.
Today (March 1, 2017): Trip report: Qatar Airways Boeing B787 Dreamliner Business Class Brussels to Doha.
On February 4, 2017, I flew Business Class in a Boeing 787-8 (Dreamliner) of Qatar Airways (QA) from Brussels International Airport (BRU) to Hamad International Airport (DOH) in Qatar. The next flight segment from Doha to the Maldives was flown on a QA Airbus A330-300, and I will publish that trip report next week. IMHO, QA’s B787 planes offer one of the best Business Class products in the world: the design of the cabin is ultrastylish, the flatbed seats are very comfortable, inflight entertainment is topnotch (except for the expensive WiFi) and the (presentation and taste of) meals are restaurant quality.
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 Businss Class lounges, the best inflight videos of all time, the world’s most luxurious A380 First Class cabins, and the best Business Class amenity kits.
- Trip: BRU-DOH
- Airline: Qatar Airways (QA)
- Aircraft type: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
- Aircraft registration number: A7-BCP (delivered in 2014)
- Flight Number: QR196
- Date: February 4, 2017
- On time departure: yes (9 am)
- On time arrival: yes (5 am)
- Miles: 3042
- Flight time: 6 hours
- Seat: 4K
- Class: Business Class (D)
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Cost of my ticket
- British Airways lounge at Brussels Airport
- Facts & Figures about the QA Dreamliner
- Business Class Cabin
- Business Class Seat (& what seat to choose)
- Other inflight experiences
- Comparison with Etihad Airways and Emirates
- My verdict
1. COST OF MY TICKET
This flight was part of a return trip from Brussels to the Maldives via Doha. I booked the Business Class seat (and one for my travel companion) for 80,000 AAdvantage miles + $89 USD for airport taxes. AAdvantage is the loyalty program of American Airlines, which is a oneworld partner of QA, making it possible for passengers to collect and spend miles on both airlines. Although the program devaluated last year, AAdvantage is still my favorite airline loyalty program, because of the numerous promotions (which earn you shiploads of miles) and the interesting airline partners beyond the oneworld alliance (such as Fiji Airways, Tahiti Nui, and – especially – Etihad Airways). 80,000 miles is still below the mileage threshold required by other loyalty programs, although it’s considerably more than the 60,000 miles one needed before the AAdvantage devaluation kicked in.
2. BRITISH AIRWAYS LOUNGE AT BRUSSELS AIRPORT
QA does not have its own lounge at Brussels Airport. Its Business Class passengers have access to the lounge of its oneworld partner, British Airways. The latter is one of the best lounges at Brussels Airport, which is quite remarkable since British Airways only has a handful of daily flights connecting Brussels with London. The layout of the lounge is very simple: it’s a fairly large, rectangular space with the reception area at its centre. Several cozy sitting areas spread out along both sides of the reception, with some stained glass screens adding an extra level of privacy. One side of the lounge features a food station (with a continental breakfast on offer at 7 am in the morning), while the other side has a bar (with gorgeous chandelier) and self-service cafe. Floor-to-ceiling windows stretch along the lounge’s entire length, offering great views of the tarmac (but not of the runway itself). The design of the lounge is similar to the one you find in all British Airways lounges all over the world, with colourful throne chairs and Osborne and Little exclusively designed fabric.
3. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT THE QA DREAMLINER
- The Boeing 787-8 is a mid-size, dual aisle, twin-engine jet manufactured by Boeing, the American aerospace company.
- The aircraft is 20% more fuel-efficient than similar sized commercial jets it is designed to replace, and to date, is Boeing’s most fuel-efficient aircraft.
- Composite materials make up 50 percent of the primary structure, including the fuselage and wing.
- The engine nacelles are made of serrated edges that reduce the noise levels both outside and inside the cabin, by up to 60%.
- The aircraft features raked wingtip to improve the fuel efficiency.
- The windows are more than 30 percent larger than those on most similarly sized airplanes. Instead of pulling shades up and down, customers can adjust the brightness of windows with a button. Using an electrochromic dimming system, the windows turn from fully transparent to completely dimmed in gradual steps.
- Because the aircraft is pressurised to a lower equivalent altitude, passengers breathe more oxygen than in any other aircraft. More oxygen means fewer headaches, less dizziness and less travel fatigue.
- Less than 10,000 holes are drilled into the fuselage during assembly of a 787.
- The size of the 787 factory is approximately 380,000 square feet.
- The 787 flies at Mach 0.85, or about 650 miles per hour.
- QA has currently 30 Dreamliners in its fleet with an average age of 2.6 years.
4. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
The QA B787 Dreamliner features 22 fully flat-bed seats in Business Class and 232 seats in Economy Class.
All 22 Business Class seats are located in one single cabin, which has to be one of the most beautifully designed airplane cabins of our time. A combination of white, pink and red tones give the cabin a sexy, ultra-chic and overall very sleek look. Entering the plane is quite remarkable as QA choose for an open design (contrary to the galleys that are the entryways in planes of most other airline companies). The moment you step into the Dreamliner via the Business Class cabin door, you are struck by a feeling of space, comfort and luxury. There’s a bar with a shiny table and lunar shaped light on one side of the entryway, and an equally shiny library on the other side. Most seats (20 in total) are located in front of the bar, spread over 5 rows. Behind the library, there are two extra middle seats, located in their own private cocoon, which are a perfect choice for couples or friends traveling together (although they don’t come with any view). A vaulted ceiling stretches the length of the Business Class cabin and recessed overhead bins provide a feeling of spaciousness
The Business Class cabin features a herringbone 1–2–1 configuration, similar like the one you find on American Airlines and Cathay Pacific to name a few. This is my favorite Business Class layout as each seats faces forward and each passenger is assured of direct aisle access (no jumping over people’s feet here). There ‘s also a significant amount of privacy: the Business Class seats on the sides are angled toward the large windows while the seats in the middle are angled towards each other – with middle seats placed a little more upfront than the side seats – so your fellow passengers don’t directly look into your seat.
For a seat plan of Qatar Airways’ Boeing 787, click here.
5. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (& WHAT SEAT TO CHOOSE)
For this particular flight, I was seated in 4K, a window seat.
QA’s Business Class on the Dreamliner is a very comfortable one an among the best in the skies. The seat has a pitch of 50 inches (127 cm) and a width of 22 inches (56 cm). The seat is angled towards the windows (for window seats) or the plane’s center line (for middle seats). In front of each seat is a 17-inch (43 cm) Android TV (more on that below), with a footrest hidden in the compartment below the entertainment screen. Larger items such as your carry-on bags can be stored under the footrest. The large, wood-trimmed and shiny tray table is located below the TV screen and is released by pulling it towards you, after which you can fold it out.
Besides the seat is a large shelf, which provides space for magazines, the safety card, and menu, and which can be used as an extra table to put your laptop or other belongings on when the dining service starts. On that side of the seat, you also find a large storage compartment, a reading light, the remote control for the inflight entertainment system, an electronic touchpad control (to dim or brighten the windows), and the controls to adjust the seat configuration, ranging from the upright takeoff position to a flat-bed. The other side of the seat features a rather robust armrest which holds a storage cabinet with a bottle of water and the noise-cancelling headphones.
At the touch of a button, the seat converts into a generous 80-inch (203 cm) long, 30-inch (76 cm) wide flat-bed. The bed is also wider than the seat itself (30 inches or 76 cm) as the armrest disappears in the flat-bed position. One disadvantage of the flat-bed is that your legs and feet rest on the ottoman below the fixed table and entertainment screen, so they may hit the table as you move position during your sleep.
What are the best Business Class seats on QA’s B787-8? Click here for a seat map.
- The window seats in row 1 to 4 are the best for solo travelers.
- Those traveling with a companion will prefer the middle seats, especially those in row 6, since these two seats are located in their own little private space between the two lavatories.
What are the worst Business Class seats on QA’s B787-9? Click here for a seat map.
- I suggest to avoid the ‘window’ seats in row 5, since they do not have a window.
A light blanket and thick pillow was placed on the seat upon boarding. Before takeoff, the crew also handed out stylish Giorgio Armany amenity kits, which were packed with nifty goodies for the flight and bathroom back at home. QA lady’s amenity kit contains Armani Si fragrance and a perfumed body lotion, while male Business Class passengers get Acqua di Gio fragrance and after shave balm. Not forgotten are the basics such as eyeshades, socks, earplugs, lip balm, and a hairbrush.
Upon boarding, I was offered a choice of hot or cold towel, and a glass of Champagne, orange juice, water, or QA’s signature drank, lemon mint. I choose the latter and IMHO, this is the best welcome drink offered by any airline in the world.
One of the areas where QA excels with its Business Class product is the quality and presentation of the food. This was short flight of only 6 hours, and only one meal service – breakfast – was offered (I would have preferred a lunch though). You could also order some light snacks later in the flight if you got hungry again. I choose the following items from the menu:
- Coconut and banana smoothie, with oat crunch.
- Cured salmon with caper berries and egg, cream cheese with chives.
- French toast with mixed berry and coulis, vanilla mascarpone cheese and honey.
Before landing, I ordered some more food from the menu:
- Smoked chicken, sun blushed tomato, and crouton salad, with parmesan cheese and mustard dressing
- Fresh fruit
8. INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
Every seat features a touch screen Android technology control unit, which allows you to navigate through an 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.
9 OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
#CREW: the young QA cabin crew members did a great job and were all very friendly. Something I like (and only experience with Middle East and Asian carriers) is that they present themselves individually before take-off, and also thank you in person for choosing QA before landing. It makes you feel very special and welcome.
# BAR: When the plane is in cruise, the crew sets up the ultra-stylish bar at the back of the cabin. On one side of the shiny table, they put a bottle of Champagne with luxurious glasses, while a large fruit basket and some chocolates were put on the other side of the table.
# LAVATORY: The Business Class cabin features two lavatories near the entryway. Both of them come with a window and were kept very clean during the flight.
# WIFI: 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 very expensive and I would not recommend it. I was online for a few minutes just checking my email and I had already used my purchased data consumption unit. What a shame for an otherwise brilliant inflight experience.
# FLIGHT PATH: normally, the flight path from Brussel to Doha goes straight over Syria and Iraq, but the plane detoured around the current ISIS conflict area by flying over eastern Iran.
10. 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 overnight 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), 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 understated, elegant design in their Business Class cabins (it doesn’t get any better at 40.000 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.
11. MY VERDICT
- Seat : 9/10
- Food: 8,5/10
- Inflight entertainment: 9/10
- Service: 9/10
- Cabin ambience: 9,5/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9/10