Qatar Airways was awarded the world’s Best Business Class Airline 2018 by Skytrax, outdoing close rivals such as Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Emirates. I have flown numerous times with Qatar Airways in the front cabin, and it is really hard to disagree with the award of this accolade. Qatar Airways truly has the best business class seats with equally impressive inflight services to match.
I booked my flights five months ahead of my trip, and within this period, there were three aircraft changes. At one point, it was changed to a QSuite, which got me excited, but two weeks before departure, it was reverted back to the standard business seats.
My departure was from Stockholm Arlanda Airport Terminal 5. The check-in counter opened promptly three hours before departure. Check-in was a breeze, and so was the security checks (using fast track). After passing the duty free shops, I reached the Immigration. Again, it was a quick process and I was off to the lounge in minutes.
Stockholm Arlanda Lounge
There was only one lounge available in the whole of Terminal 5 (not a big terminal). Stockholm Arlanda Lounge is operated by an independent company and its entry is by invitation. Business class passengers and OneWorld Alliance elite members (Emerald and Sapphire) can access the lounge. I also noticed that Singapore Airlines and Priority Pass passengers use this lounge too. The lounge was basic and not well-maintained as a lounge should be. The flooring was dirty with food waste scattered all over. The chairs and sofas were stained. Food and drinks were minimal; whatever little food there was, it was unappetizing and by 8pm, the food was removed. If you have a late flight and are thinking of having a shower before your long onward flight, you are out of luck. There was no shower available. This is not a lounge that you want to spend many hours inside but by all accounts, it is not exactly a dump either – just dirty and basic.
QR172 was attached to an aerobridge at Gate F58. As usual, business class passengers and OneWorld elites were boarded first. The whole process was well-organised, fast and efficient with all the passengers loaded in good time. I was warmly welcomed by a team of cabin crew and was shown to my seat by the Cabin Service Manager himself.
Cabin and Seating
The aircraft used on this Stockholm Arlanda to Doha route was an Airbus A350-900. The A350 is my favourite long haul aircraft because it is quieter and spacious, at least perceived in my mind. The layout of the business cabin was 1-2-1. The single seaters were reverse herring bone with the seats angled towards the windows. The centre two seaters were positioned slightly angled towards each other. The main front cabin had six rows, with another three rows after the bar/galley.
I was seated in 3A, a window single seater on the left side, which afforded me a lot of privacy.
The business cabin had the full LED mood lighting on which created a nice ambience. The cabin was immaculately clean and organised to the last details, including the washrooms. Overall, the cabin felt very spacious and private.
All the seats were fully lie flat complemented with plush pillow and a premium quality blanket/duvet. There were plenty of overhead compartment spaces. There was also a drawer for storing shoes, and purpose-built storage for water bottle, magazines and headphone.
The inflight entertainment was channeled through a very large touchscreen display. It was non-foldable, so in theory, you could watch your movie right until disembarkation (ground to ground). A USB charger and power plug were available next to the seat, in case you need to energise your mobile devices and laptop.
As soon as I was seated, I was asked what I wanted for a pre-flight drink, and whether I preferred hot or cold towel. My drink and hot towel came very promptly. The Business Class à la carte menu and drinks menus were handed out shortly after, followed by a set of pyjamas, furnished by The White Company, a British company. The pyjama set consisted of throw-away slippers, a bottom and a top. My meals and drinks orders were also taken before take-off. Qatar Airways offers ‘dine anytime, on demand’ service. You can specify when you would like to have your meals served. I typically prefer my meals shortly after take-off, and another one about one and a half hour before landing. This, in my view, maximises my downtime.
After reaching the cruising altitude, my drink “So Jennie”, a delicious pale pink sparkling beverage made mostly of grapes, was served along with a small bowl of warm nuts (almond, cashews and pistachios).
While I was munching on the nuts, the cabin crew started preparing the dining table-tray with white-cloth and white napkin. The white dinnerware, stainless steel cutlery and condiments were positioned and aligned with precision.
My starter was sweet corn soup. It was complimented with a selection of fresh white and brown artisan breads. I tried the spicy lemon vinaigrette for my dip; it was surprisingly nice. This was followed by my chosen appetiser – smoked salmon with horseradish and chive. My entrée was a spicy Thai green curry vegetable with jasmine rice, red chili and kaffir lime. Altogether, the meals were fresh and delicious, and presented beautifully and meticulously served. My finished dishes were cleared promptly. I declined the dessert as I was too full, but if I had wanted to, I could have had the molten chocolate cake with blueberry compote. Instead, I settled for a freshly brewed cup of macchiato, along with a couple of Godiva chocolates.
The inflight amenity kit was furnished by BRIC’S, a renowned Italian maker of luxury travel bags. The contents included a pair of cabin socks, eye mask, foam ear plug, lip balm, anti-aging moisturiser and hydration facial mist. The three skin care products were from the Beauty line of Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio, another Italian manufacturer. All these items were enclosed in an elegant and premium hard travel case.
Qatar Airways’ Oryx One provided the inflight entertainment. A large monitor sat above the table tray. The touchscreen provided easy navigation for movies, audio and flight maps. A good selection of the latest Hollywood, Bollywood and other world movies were on offer, amongst which, included Mission Impossible – Fallout, Mamma Mia 2, Equalizer 2 and Annihilation. The noise cancelling headset worked effectively, providing good quality audio.
You can also monitor the flight progress by tuning to the flight navigation map, and if you so desire, you can also take an exterior peek through the A350 cameras. You can also control the inflight entertainment using the wired portable hand control, located immediately above the hand rest. This was particularly handy when you were already in your ‘relaxed’ seating position and the touchscreen was a bit of a stretch to reach.
In between the main front business class cabin and the smallish rear business class cabin was the bar/galley area where fruits, snacks (chocolate bars, potato chips, etc) and drinks were freely available on self-help basis.
There was onboard wifi, provided by Ooredoo. It was complimentary for the first 30 minutes. If you wanted more, it was USD10 for three hours or USD20 for the whole duration of the flight. There was a fair usage data policy – the three hour plan was constrained to 100 MB, while the whole flight plan was limited to 200 MB. To me, the limit was too low, almost unworkable for a long flight. I had no idea what happened if you exceeded the data limit. I tested the complimentary wifi on my laptop. It was slow; I think satellite wifi has a long way to catch up with the land technology.
The washrooms were quite spacious and very clean, equipped with an extensive array of amenities such as shaver kits, toothbrush kits, wet wipes, soft tissues, hand lotion, body mist and power outlet. The toilet’s flush and water tap were non-touch on this A350-900 aircraft, activated by hand gesture – the first I have seen on an aircraft. In fact, the toilet cover closed automatically when flushed. The cabin crew also dutifully cleaned the toilet and ensured the toilet paper seat cover was replaced after each visit.
Onboard turndown / seat cover service was not offered on this flight, or rather not voluntarily offered. (On one of my previous flights to and from Tokyo, the crew pro-actively went around the cabin to offer a turndown service.)
The seat had some 14 pre-programmed seat modes, and with a little tweaking, I found a comfortable position. I slept about three hours out of the six hour flight. Personally, I found the lie flat bed to be a bit on the hard side but certainly tolerable.
Forty-five minutes before landing, the cabin’s ambience lighting was brightened. A hot towel was offered, and I was asked if I wanted anything to eat or drink. I opted for a cup of hot English breakfast tea and some ginger snap cookies.
Our flight landed on time in Doha.
It dawned upon me that after numerous business class travels, this must be easily one of the best and comfortable flights I had taken in a premium cabin of any airlines. The fine dining was most enjoyable, the cabin crew were very attentive and warm, and their pursuit for attention to details was top notch. I wish all Qatar Airways’ flights can be consistently and equally good as this. And for the aircraft – the Airbus A350-900 was fabulously comfortable, clean, spacious and private. I would rate this flight 9.5 out of 10, if I am pushed for a quantitative rating.
Airline Review: QR172 Qatar Airways, Airbus A350-900 XWB, Stockholm Arlanda to Doha, Business Class
Date Flew: 11-NOV-2018
Duration: 6 hours