Gulf carrier Qatar has been plugging its Qsuite as the bright star of premium travel, touting its patented design as closer to some competitors’ first class than traditional business class.
Fly it and you’ll quickly discover this is one case where reality reflects the hype.
Qsuite is spacious, private, well designed and packed with features aimed at making travel at the pointy end more comfortable and productive.
It is a genuine suite featuring a sliding privacy door and enough room to sprawl out comfortably, feet on the ottoman, without having to worry about swapping things around to make space.
Combine it with Qatar’s top-notch service, food and in-flight entertainment and the Doha-based airline clearly has a winner.
The two business class cabins on Boeing 777-300ERs featuring the Qsuite come in a one-two-one configuration with suites facing towards both the front and the rear of the plane. This means those who dislike travelling backwards should be judicious in their seat choice.
In our case, Seat 11B was a forward-facing left-hand window seat with two windows affording good outside views on the airline’s inaugural flight from Doha to Canberra via Sydney. It used the flight to showcase the flagship product before moving the new daily service to a different business class seat.
Qsuites are expected to return to the route on a regular basis from June as the airline receives new aircraft fitted with the seat and retrofits others.
So what to expect on a Qatar B777-300ER equipped with Qsuites?
Expect a good start to your journey: there’s no fighting for overhead locker space here with plenty of room in the spacious stowbins. Watch your head though, they’re low.
It’s then just a case of settling in.
The suite is dominated by a giant, 21.5-inch high definition touch screen that is both crisp and responsive.
It is complemented by a pair of decent noise-cancelling headphones to give a superior cinematic experience.
And there’s plenty to choose from: the latest version of Qatar’s Oryx system has some 3000 options and a good selection of movies that can be accessed by genre and include the latest Hollywood blockbusters.
The system is simple and intuitive when using the touch screen to navigate the big selection of games, music and information.
There was no wi-fi on our flight but Qatar is in the process of introducing it.
At 21.5 inches across, the seat is not the widest in the sky but there’s no feeling of being cramped.
There’s sufficient room between the sculpted privacy screen on one side of the seat and wide open space on the other.
Storage is not a problem either.
A generous secure storage compartment underneath the big padded armrest next to the seat holds the headphones and water and features a small bridge to hold smaller items such as glasses.
A wide countertop is big enough to cope with magazines, menu, s spare pillows and other bits and pieces. Underneath is a lit shelf for parking laptops and tablets.
Initially, it didn’t look as if there was anywhere for shoes but there’s space next to the seat where they fit in snugly and are out of the way.
Seat controls are handily located and self-explanatory, except for the light switch. This looks as though it should control the overhead light but in fact for the lighting in the laptop shelf.
Variable seat controls allow you to recline or move the seat forwards and backward and adjust lumbar support. There are four presets: lie flat, fully upright, take-off and recline.
There’s also a do not disturb button that turns red when engaged and is white when not. That’s handy if you accidentally turn it on and do want to interact with cabin crew.
Options for charging devices include an illuminated USB port and a power point. A second USB port and a HDMI connection are around the corner.
The control console is easily accessible in the upright and recline positions but there is also a tethered touchscreen pad which hosts the main light and flight attendant call buttons.
This is difficult to access with the table fully deployed so get it out before eating if you think you may use it.
The table itself slides underneath the IFE monitor and is easy to use. It is in a fixed position when fully deployed but will still slide in and out when partially extended to allow you to leave the seat. It doubles as a drinks holder when stowed.
The privacy door is manual and is easily pulled shut or opened. The seats are designed so travellers cannot see each other even with the door open unless they stand up.
Food and wine on Qatar are up there with the best and the presentation on the two flights involved in this exercise was restaurant standard. It’s an on-demand system for ordering but Qatar’s attentive and personable cabin crew regularly asked if anything was needed.
Getting fed is simply a question of selecting what you want from the a la carte menu and ordering it it when you want.
Ditto for drinks.
The airline offers a choice of a brut or a rose Landon champagne as well as a selection of wines from around the globe and top-shelf spirits.
The trip to Canberra began with breakfast and the Emmental cheese omelette with chicken patty Lyonnaise potatoes, roasted tomato and chestnut mushrooms looked and tasted great. A small electronic candle in a basket was a nice touch.
Other choices included smoked halibut and mackerel rillettes with a horseradish dressing and a traditional Arabic breakfast.
There’s also a snack menu which on the Canberra inaugural included prawn cocktail crostini, duck spring rolls and a blue cheese croquette with pear chutney.
Dinner kicked off with dill marinated prawns with smoked salmon followed by Arabic spiced chicken with cinnamon spiced sauce, rice with minced lamb and golden roasted onions. It was washed down with a Laroche 2015 Chablis Premier Cru and followed by 15-year-old Glenfiddich.
Qsuite’s fully flat bed is 79 inches long and comes with a fitted mattress and two pillows.
The footwell is nicely proportioned so that even size 14 feet fit comfortably in the recline position.
A unique feature of Qsuite is centre seats that can be transformed into a double cabin with a double bed or a space for four people called a “quad”. This allows families or other groups to socialise and dine together.
The bed was roomy enough for a big guy . and generally comfortable.
The armrest drops down to accommodate people with wide shoulders who sleep on their back and there’s wriggle room for the more than 50 per cent who sleep on their side and for whom the two pillows are very welcome.
For this tall traveller, the seat’s headrest introduced a noticeable bump around shoulder blade level that the mattress did not completely smooth over. But that’s what pillows are for and they allowed a work-around.
Two air vents meant a good air flow and gave some individual temperature control.
Qatar supplies business class passengers with sleepwear from London’s The White company and a handsome amenities kit with socks, eye shades, earplugs and Castello Monte Vibiano products such as moisturiser.
Razors and toothbrushes are available in the four well-proportioned lavatories serving the business class cabins. Time spent waiting for the loo was minimal, even during the peak pre-landing period.
In all, the more than two years of research spent to arrive at Qsuite were well spent.
Qatar has moved the bar higher in the ongoing race to re-invent business class with this quality product.
Steve Creedy travelled to Doha as a guest of Qatar Airways.