Good Advice Tried and Tested

Qatar Airways A380 business class

18/09/2014

BACKGROUND

This was the delivery flight from the Airbus factory in Hamburg to Hamad International in Doha.

As such, the service on board is likely to have been different from the normal scheduled flights that will commence with the inaugural Doha to London Heathrow service on October 10.

We are also on that flight so in a few weeks the experiences can be compared.

Qatar Airways A380

BOARDING

This was done from the Airbus Delivery Centre. There were various celebrities on board, including Luis Suarez.

Boarding took place relatively quickly, with about 100 seats occupied out of the total 517 seats.

THE SEAT

The seating splits over the main deck and upper deck (see seatmap, below). The main deck is in four cabins, all economy (see "Qatar Airways A380 tour", September 17).

Upstairs there is a rear cabin for economy, the lounge, and then one large cabin of business class seats, a galley and at the front a smaller cabin of just eight first class suites.

This review focuses on the business class cabin. To read more about the aircraft's first class offering, click here.

Qatar Airways A380 seat map main deck and upper deck

We are having a seat map drawn up. Meanwhile, here's the map Airbus provided

The breakdown of the 517 seats is as follows: 

  • FIRST CLASS - Eight suites on the upper deck in a 1-2-1 configuration. Features a 90-inch fully-flat bed and a 26-inch HD in-flight entertainment screen. All seats have direct aisle access and exclusive spa-like bathrooms with luxurious amenities.
  • BUSINESS CLASS - 48 seats on the upper deck in a 1-2-1 configuration. Features an 80-inch fully-flat bed (with an effective pitch of 51 inches) and a 17-inch HD in-flight entertainment screen. All seats have direct aisle access.
  • ECONOMY CLASS - 56 seats on the upper deck in a 2-4-2 configuration, 405 seats on the main deck in a 3-4-3 configuration. Each seat comes with a 10.6-inch in-flight entertainment screen.

The immediate impression of the business class cabin on the upper deck is one of spaciousness.

The 1-2-1 configuration (A-EF-K) means there is a lot of space for each seat, the aisle seems wide, and the angle of the seat allows you to avoid making eye contact with anyone, although it's not difficult to chat to your neighbour across the aisle should you wish.

The seats run from row 10 to 22 (13 is missing) making a total of 48 seats.

Bear in mind that the cost of having such a spacious cabin is that the overhead bins are smaller than on the main deck.

As you'd expect, above the two centre seats this means that a standard wheel-on bag has to be placed in sideways rather than end-on.

Qatar Airways A380 business class upper deck overhead lockers

Above the window seats the bins are smaller still, although you can fit in wheel-on these bags, but again, sideways, and even my laptop bag had to go on its side.

The window seats all have bins next to then, all with a sign saying "No stowage", which is strange because they open and you can place small items in there.

That said, there’s plenty of room around the seat, and while I worked I kept my laptop bag by my feet with no problem.

There's a large side-table area for keeping books and the various bags and blankets, while under the footstool you can place items during the flight.

In addition, there is a good-sized foot locker, while under the armrest there is enough room for a water bottle and noise-cancelling headphones.

The seat is comfortable for working at, and the table solid, easily large enough for a laptop, plugged in, and with plenty of room around it. Indeed, it is possible to make a home office.

Qatar Airways A380 business class upper deck

Note the large side-table area

Qatar Airways A380 business class upper deck shoe locker

Good-sized foot locker

Qatar Airways A380 business class upper deck

Apologies for the mess: Plenty of room to create a home office in the air

I found that even after several hours working I wasn't exhausted. This is partly because of the seat and partly because of the wifi and ability to make phone calls and send text messages (I only sent texts).

But it is also because the A380 is noticeably quieter than many other aircraft types — over a period of time, this becomes very noticeable, especially so when you hear other passengers’ voices from a few rows away.

Speaking of wifi, there were several different pricing schemes available, from three hours to the whole flight (which cost $22). This worked well, even with quite a few passengers making heavy use of the connecton to file reports and images of the flight.

The large, 17-inch IFE touchscreen worked well, allowing you to control the screen using the handset, on which you can watch a second programme (so you could have the moving map on one, while watching a programme on the other).

This is not quite as intuitive as it might be, but having used the system on previous Qatar Airways flights I soon remembered how to ensure that the right picture appeared on the right screen — it's rather like plugging your laptop into an overhead projector. The first time it's a little baffling, but after a while becomes second nature.

The moving map is very good and allows different views. For instance, at take-off we could watch from the camera mounted on the vertical tail fin.

Qatar Airways A380 first class amenity kit

The amenity kit is first class, with a separate bag with flight socks, eye mask and ear plugs, while the main Giorgio Armani bag had after-shave, all over body shampoo and after-shave balm. There are male and female amenity bags.

Also on offer was a Missoni sleep suit.

Qatar Airways A380 first class Missoni sleepsuitAgain, this is only available for first class passengers. (Business class amenity bags will remain unchanged for the A380. There are plans for new business class amenity bags, I am told, but when they come they will be for the whole long haul fleet, not specific for the A380.)

The cabin is in Qatar colours and with the mood-lighting employed made for a relaxing and pleasing look.

The interior was, of course, spotless, and at one point CEO Akbar Al Baker politely asked a cameraman to take care when his camera knocked into the sides of the cabin around the doorway.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?

All seats have direct aisle access, so no preference there, but I would go for a window seat closer to the front of the cabin.

There, you will have the clearest view away from the giant wings (you may like looking at the wings, however, as they are incredible).

I'd avoid the back row (22) because the lounge is directly behind and also the front row (10) because this is close to the galley.

Qatar Airways A380 business class upper deck middle seats with divider raised

Qatar Airways A380 Delivery Flight menu

The middle seat will be preferable if you are travelling with a companion. If not, there is a central divider which can be raised and lowered manually.

This would be fine for screening out someone while you are reclined, but if sitting upright you would be able to make eye contact.

Since this was a delivery flight with media on board, it was also a showcase for the food being offered.

The menu was therefore a mix of both breakfast and lunch items, chosen by the passenger and served by the flight attendants a la carte. So, you could have breakfast or lunch or, if you wanted, a mix of the two.

I am reproducing the menu to show what was on offer. But note that the menus on particular flight sectors will no doubt be appropriate for the time of day and that this flight's menu was a mix of first and business class items.

  • Freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Blueberry smoothie
  • Melon and ginger health drink

Appetisers

  • Seasonal fresh fruits with honey crème fraîche
  • Bircher muesli-rolled oats bound with yoghurt, fruit and cinnamon
  • Beetroot gravlax with horseradish cream - asparagus spears and pumpernickel bread
  • Summer vegetable salad with buffalo mozzarella - asparagus, courgette, broad beans and peas with lemon dressing
  • Seared scallops with pomegranate and tomato dressing - rocket and herb salad with fennel and pickled red onion

Mains

  • Traditional Arabic breakfast - labneh with za’atar, kashkavel and shanklish cheese served with foul medames and Arabic bread
  • Vineet chicken and potato tikki with wilted spinach- sambar and coriander crème fraîche
  • Raisin pancakes with caramelized bananas - caramel sauce, cinnamon whipped cream and strawberries

I had the Vineet chicken which was very nice, and not too filling, leaving room for dessert.

Qatar Airways A380 business class food

Create your own breakfast

  • Your choice of eggs – scrambled or tomato omelette then choose from the following list of sides: grilled chicken sausage, beef medallion, sautéed potatoes, summer vegetable potato cake, sautéed mushrooms, roasted vine tomatoes and baked beans
  • Lamb shank machboos with rice - lemon and cumin raita
  • Dishes are accompanied by your choice of condiments and a warm baked morning breads

Palate pleaser

  • Nobu crab and wasabi - shisho leaf

Light options

  • Oscietra caviar -served with a full selection of classic accompaniments and your choice of blinis or melba toast
  • Signature Arabic mezze- a wide range of traditional mezze including hummus, moutabel, baba ghanoush, tabouleh, labneh with za’atar and moussaka, Arabic pickles and mixed olives served with Arabic bread
  • Smoked chicken and Oxford blue cheese salad - pickled apple, spinach, walnuts and honey crème fraiche dressing
  • Vineet tomato and cumin soup with potato bonda -sundried tomato crème fraîche and coriander oil
  • Braised beef rib with parsley mashed potato -baby carrots, balsamic glazed onions and horseradish jus

Dessert

  • Cheese selection served with crackers, grapes and chutney
  • Strawberry and white chocolate cheesecake -white chocolate ice cream with strawberry coulis
  • Gourmet ice cream

The drinks menu was as follows:

Champagne

  • Krug -  Grand Cuvée, Brut, France
  • Henriot - Rosé Millesime, France

White Wine

  • Albert Bichot, Chassagne Montrachet, 2013, Burgundy, France
  • Matua 2012, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
  • Hugel, 2011, Gewurtztraminer, Alsace, France

Red Wine

  • Chateau Cos d’Estrounel, Saint-Estephe, 2011, Bordeaux, France.
  • Wolf Blass, Shiraz, Grey Label, 2012, McLaren Vale, Australia
  • Tomassi Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico, 2010, Veneto, Italy.

Sweet

  • Royal Tokaji, Blue Label, 5 Puttonyos Aszu, 2008, Hungary

Tawny Port

  • Graham’s Colheita, 1969, Douro Valley

Apéritifs

  • Bombay Sapphire, Campari, Martini Dry, Martini Rosso

Digestifs

  • Baileys, Bacardi, Belvedere Pure, Camus XO Elegance, Cointreau, Crème de Cassis, Kahlua, Patron Reposado

Whisky

  • Chivas Regal 12-yrs old, Glenfiddich 15-yrs old, Jack Daniel’s,

Beers

  • Amstel Light, Corona Extra, Guinness, Heineken
  • So Jennie - Non-alcoholic Champagne, France

Cold beverages

  • Coca Cola, Diet Coca Cola, Sprite, Diet Sprite, Fanta, ginger ale, soda and tonic, Barbican non-alcoholic beer, apple, mango, orange, pineapple and tomato juices, sparkling and still water

Hot beverages

  • Ceylon, Ceylon Spice Chai, chamomile, decaffeinated, English breakfast, Earl Grey, jasmine, mint, Oolong, American, cappuccino, decaffeinated, espresso, latté and macchiato, hot chocolate.

Service was excellent throughout. The food and drinks were brought individually with no trolleys coming up and down the aisle.

Business class was full, although whether we had extra flight attendants looking after us is hard to tell. Certainly, there always seemed to be someone there when you needed a coffee or something else to eat.

 Qatar Airways A380 business class upper deck

Qatar Airways A380 premium lounge onboard

As I was working and this was a day flight, I didn't sleep, but I did recline the seat fully-flat, lie down and try a few different sleeping positions.

There's lots of room, particularly with the wide armrest down, and a comfortable sleep blanket.

I also went back to the lounge on several occasions. It's a sizeable area which could have over a dozen people standing and sitting (six on either side) without being crowded.

ARRIVAL

We had a fly-by of the Doha corniche before landing at Hamad International, where there was a press conference.

Qatar Airways A380 delivery flight arrival

VERDICT

This really is a lovely aircraft to fly on.

In business class, the fully-flat bed is superb, the cabin very spacious, and the large lounge a pleasure to visit every few hours and stretch your legs.

This is among the best business class cabins and seats in the world, on one of the best aircraft. It's been worth the wait.

qatarairways.com

Tom Otley