An Unimpressive Flight In Qatar Airways’ Impressive A350 Business Class

After flying from Doha to New York in Qatar Airways’ 777 business class, we returned from New York to Doha just 20 hours later in Qatar Airways’ A350 business class. I’ve flown Qatar’s A350 business class several times before, including on the first ever commercial A350 flight.

This experience is supposed to be far superior to Qatar’s old 777 business class, but unfortunately in our case that wasn’t true.

To start, Qatar’s A350 business class cabin is stunning. I don’t think there’s an airline with a more beautiful A350 business class cabin. That’s partly because Qatar has removed the galleys that are typically near the second set of doors, and instead made it a big open space (by the way, yes, that’s the captain photobombing in the below picture — hah!).

Qatar has Super Diamond reverse herringbone seats in business class on the A350, which I like overall, though they lack privacy. Over time my opinions evolve, and I think I prefer American’s 777-300ER business class hard product to Qatar’s A350 business class hard product thanks to the added privacy. I wish Qatar had added some sort of a “widget” near the aisle for privacy, given that they had already customized the seat quite a bit.

As before, Qatar has great amenities — pajamas, slippers, amenity kits, and mattress pads. The A350 also has an excellent entertainment selection, along with the A350 specific features, like a tail camera, and window shades that can be lowered by the push of a button (and unlike the 787 there are real shades, and not just dimmers).

Unfortunately what disappointed on this flight was the service. The captain was the only crewmember I interacted with who displayed an ounce of personality. This is my problem with service on Qatar. Sometimes the flight attendants are incredible, as was the case on my previous two flights. Sometimes the crews just feel completely dead inside, as was the case on this flight.

I feel bad saying this, because the crew worked really hard, but the flight attendants I interacted with didn’t smile, weren’t sincere, and seemed completely disinterested.

I sort of get it. They had a one day layover in New York and were probably tired. Furthermore, while the A350 is a pleasure for passengers, it’s hell for crews. They have one tiny galley out of which to serve passengers, compared to two bigger galleys on the 777.

The crew worked hard. Qatar has a dine on demand concept, and they were hustling for the entire 12 hour flight.

Drink refills were never proactively offered (even when it was just an empty water glass). Plastic wrappings weren’t ever taken from seats. The meal pacing was really slow due to the limited oven space they have on the plane. The crew just generally looked so stressed the entire flight that I almost felt guilty asking them for anything and adding even further to their stress.

Also, this isn’t the crew’s fault, but they ran out of a lot of things. Halfway through the flight they were out of ice, sparkling water, and several items on the menu. I get they’ll run out of food items with such an extensive menu, but running out of sparkling water and ice? Really?

The one other benefit of the A350 is that it has wifi, though unfortunately Qatar chose OnAir as their provider, which is awful. While 200MB of data cost a reasonable $20, it’s almost uselessly slow. It’s fine for messaging, but that’s about it. Loading a webpage can take several minutes.

On the plus side, the food was excellent, as always. I had lunch after takeoff, and started with an antipasti salad.

For the main course I had a fillet of snapper with roasted sweet pepper sauce.

For dessert I had the rich chocolate torte, which was indescribably delicious.

For breakfast I had a strawberry and banana smoothie and bircher muesli to start.

Then for the main course I had sweet corn pancakes with smoked salmon.

So Qatar’s A350 is beautiful, I love the tail camera, and I generally love reverse herringbone seats. I love Qatar’s amenities, and I love their dine on demand concept and excellent beverage selection. But nothing quite takes the fun out of a flight like a crew that really doesn’t want to be there…

That’s my biggest issue with Qatar. I know every airline has inconsistencies, but at Qatar more than any other airline I find that they have some of the world’s best crews, and also some of the world’s most disinterested crews.

If you’ve flown Qatar, have you noticed a similar service discrepancy, or is it just me?

Comments

  1. I get it, I really do. But do you really prefer AA service on the 777-300ER than service on Qatar A350?

  2. Maybe Garuda could raise some $$$ by lending some of their award-winning crews to Qatar for a short time? Lol

  3. While Qatar is still my favorite long haul carrier I have to agree it’s often a hit or miss experience. There’s also been a noticeable decline in catering quality and quantity. What they do have is often not that great or is out of stock when I want it. On my last few flights I’ve requested, and received, a meal from economy because the business class meals were either inedible, or out.

    Their cost cutting is starting to show in the soft product.

  4. That’s why I don’t Qatar has the worlds best business class I think Virgin Australia would have to be better than Qatar as I consistently find there to be great crews on VA and the seats are super stylish and more private than Qatars (A350 Not Qsuites) as they have a bit of a widget and the foods pretty good but there are great amenity kits and you get pajamas.Though this might change once Qsuites is fully rolled out.

  5. I find the crew on the 777 (e.g. Doha to Asia) is almost always better than the A350 (e.g. Doha to the US). I guess its a tradeoff between comfort and service. Though it might also be a cultural thing…be interested to see if some people have received good service on a A350 to Asia?

  6. Oh dear. You are so right. I flew a domestic leg in Australia yesterday. It’s one I have been doing once a month for several years.

    Four things made the flight for me. I got seat 4C – first row of economy on a Qantas 737-800, which has the most legroom in economy other than an exit row (which they now charge extra for). Second, the business class flight attendant made sure I had wine – all the time. Third, our flight got delayed due to storms in Sydney which had delayed an incoming flight earlier, which had half of our crew on it. We were held for 20 minutes, and I lost the plot in terms of when we were meant to arrive. I asked a crew member, who wasn’t sure, so I said ‘Don’t worry’ – but she did, and consulted the purser, and came back to me with a precise time for arrival: ’42 minutes’. And the fourth thing – an empty middle seat.

    In my opinion, good service can over-ride some of the worst hard products

  7. The chocolate torte. Ha ha. Having a thick northern English accent I asked for this and got a gin and tonic.

  8. I was actually having a conversation with a fellow passenger about this the other day. What makes it worse for me is DOH, which is like some kind of soulless hell. Personally, I only find marginally more pleasant to spend time in than DME, which says it all really.

    They have a great product, but I don’t always feel like it was ‘worth it’ after flying Qatar, whereas even though I’ve (usually) spent more and earned less, I always feel positive about Cathay afterwards.

  9. “I’ve flown Qatar’s A350 business class several times before, including on the first ever commercial A350 flight.”

    Out of curiosity, how many times have you flown Qatar’s A350 after January 2015?

  10. I had an almost exactly the same experience. Crew who honestly acted like they were dead inside. Never smiled. Didn’t clear rubbish or refill drinks proactively. Overall very poor experience. Did completely contrast flight day where the mostly Korean crew were attentive, friendly and fun. Very hit and miss in QR J. I find Asian crews are typically better

  11. I have flown numerous times on each of “Penta Queens”: Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Singapore and Turkish. I have noticed significant differences between crews at Qatar and Emirates but not at The other three. Turkish (to me) has a superior crew.

  12. Have flown Qatar twice DOH to USA Business class, very unimpressed.
    Apathetic crew is understatement…drinks always empty, flight attendants disappear…thought I was flying a US based airline. Never again…

  13. Minor point, but I’m pedantic by nature: disinterested means impartial. Uninterested means lacking in interest, which I assume is what you mean here…

    Great review though!

  14. I’ve flown on the 777ER and the A350 and I prefer the openness of the A350, although, I’m fairly tall and the seats on the A350 didn’t quite fit me.
    I concur with the author about the flight crew! Inattentive crew with a snappy attitude.
    For me, the dream flight would probably be…
    Flight crew from Singapore Airlines
    Cabin layout from QA 777ER
    Wine and champagne list from QA
    Food from QA or ANA ( Personally prefer more Asian food)

  15. I was talking to an FA once who also mentioned how much they hate the A350 as apparently not only is there one less galley the one that is there is so small it also causes conflicts within the crew. They say more crew internal fights break out on the a350 then any other iron in the QR fleet. It’s a shame as I prefer the biz seats there over the 787 or a380 (slightly more space more wooden shelf’s etc).

    I have had some flights with less then enthusiastic crews, but even on a bad day I would put the QR crews much higher on the list then many of the ME3 or US3 crews. Go back and fly on United long Haul or KLM and then compare. Generally the QR crews are better trained and seem to really be interested in their jobs. Of course anyone can have a bad day, and I agree that Doha is a uniquely boring place but most of the crews are making relatively good
    money and want to be there.

  16. Ignore everything else, the fact that the captain photobombed your shot and did so quite outstandingly is money in my book! Big props to that guy!

  17. Melbourne Doha Manchester 2016 777 economy… ok but not world best. Seemed short of cabi crew eg one to a food trolley..food average and below Cathay standard..seats a bit tight..entertainment excellent.
    ..Doha transfer confusing with minimal time allowed.. crew more attentive into manchester as less crowded…

  18. I have had similar experiences on all of the Gulf 3, crew are either fantastic or you feel like they are just dead inside.

    I’ve noticed on EK though that some crew mixtures just don’t gel at all and service is chaotic.

    I’ve flown QR,EK and EY in the past two weeks each on multiple flights for 3h plus and I have to say I found the best to be QR and worst is EY ( that’s in First as well) where I suggested to a particular lady that as she seems to just be angry at the pax all the time that perhaps this was not the right sort of job for her.

    In the end there is no one better than others, it’s really down to the crew working together as they influence you more than anything when your stuck with them for up to 17h.

  19. I believe I had 7 or so return flights BRU – Asia/NZ QR business class in the last two years, apart from trips with other carriers.
    I was always impressed, in particular comparing to European carriers ( not to mention the US carriers I take US bound). And recently also Etihad that is rapidly going down.
    Only comments I can concur with: out of sparkling water too fast and yes DOH is an alien base…but at least it works, what cannot be said of AUH.
    For me only EVA Air beats QR, though I have to admit I did not fly Singapore or Cathay recently.

  20. Lucky asked and answered the question. They are simply tired and stressed. Their lives are demanding, living as they do in a secure compound in DOH and then they leave to do a job they enjoy only to find the conditions are equally tough as the aircraft fitout prioritizes form over function. The recent isolation of the country hasn’t helped morale.

  21. Having just flown to and from MAN from SYD in economy on Qatar, all 4 crews were amazing. As a platinum FF on VA they are also excellent and much better than the other carriers to the US or UK

  22. I flew the A350 from Doha (where I live) last week to Barcelona. The crew in business were spot on – friendly, engaging and proactive.
    My return flight, the cabin was heaving, and not a single thing was missed from my perspective.
    I fly almost exclusively on QR and while it does vary, I do find the crews overall excellent.
    as for the comment about Doha being a “soulless hell”, having lived here for 10 years I’ve found it grow into a modern, diverse and vibrant city.

  23. @Raul – Garuda’s crew was that good because it was based on their culture and etiquette, so they don’t struggle to just being a nice cabin crew. They may come from several differents background yet the one thing that they have in common are their attitude and hospitality towards guest (especially foreigner). And there’s no foreign FA, so you can expect an constantly good service

  24. @Rachel – I should stress that I was just referring to the airport (which I find has a ‘twilight zone’ ambience to it), and not the city of Doha. I would indeed take an extra-long layover so I can venture out of the airport, over a 3-8 hour layover inside of it, whenever possible.

  25. Well done Matt for point out Ben’s school boy error. He always gets this wrong (along with many others, I hasten to add!!!)

  26. I feel you. On a trip last year, I’ve had an overall fantastic trip with Qatar. Especially on the DOH-BKK sector on the A380. The crew were just absolutely amazing! So good that I just had to write a compliment for them. They brought out my mother’s breakfast, but she was asleep, and they brought it all the way back with a smile. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The crew working at the bar were also just amazing and full of character. But on the return from DOH-BOS, the crew was so inanimate, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was disappointed, but understood that Qatar is not the most employee-friendly airline there is.

  27. Two days ago I was having a conversation with the ever-so professional attendant in the bar of the A380. I had mentioned I had flown the various QR aircraft types and the we discussed the differences in seats, etc. He confirmed that the crew dislike the A350 as it has such a small galley for so many passengers. The cabin is stunning, but it is a challenge for the crew as the storage and workspace is lacking. What was QR management thinking? Those issues won’t be easy to correct, and it negatively affects meal choice and service – not to mention cabin crew stress.

  28. Just landed at HND on the a350. Great flight but at least 6 of the window blinds wouldn’t close. Crew using menus to try to block out the light. Not what you’d expect on basically a brand new plane.

  29. Many years ago I was BA crew and you do get very tired on these single night stops. There are however two things to keep in mind QR consistently gets bad press over the way it trests it’s crew and I am sorry to tell you that US passengers tend to be demanding and rude hence most crew hate doing US flights

  30. I’ve had 8 Business class legs in September/October 2017. And flew on different aircrafts, the A380 with the bar, the B787, and the B777. I didn’t really see a difference in the service, the only thing I noticed is that Asian crew was why better in their communication and service if compared to their Arabic (North African countries) colleagues. Another thing which I didn’t like, was when I reached Doha airport and used their Premium check-in entrance. the 2 times I went through (1x Business Class and 1x First Class) I was asked to show my ticket, and they specifically said that this entrance is only for Premium cabins. The thing is that the other passenger who just entered after us, was not asked, but greeted. The only difference was that he was white. So yeah I think they should either ask every one or not but this was not a good way to start my trip.

  31. My experience with Qatar is that the inconsistencies in service are more variable. That said, it seems that service suffers more when the crews are returning to their home base in Doha. Perhaps it is short layovers and, or, the crews can only let their hair down when they are away and they return tired.

  32. Lucky – I’m just curious. In your review, you imply that the lack of galley space could be partially to blame. So are you saying that the A350 is not suitable for ultra-long haul routes with a heavy premium cabin – especially as compared to the 777 when it comes to having the necessary storage and prep space for meals, drinks, ice, etc.? I would be very interested in knowing your thoughts on this.

  33. “Dead Inside”???! That’s a bit much! I like the QR planes. The J lounge in Doha is a bit big and soulless and the crews a bit robotic. Not dead inside though.

  34. I fly QR in J class a lot (mainly down to their J class fares ex europe to asia/australia which are often half the price of other carriers) and I generally fine their overall experience exceptional in terms of the whole package.

    Their crew are generally excellent and I feel a little that on the odd occasion that they are not, it really shows as the overall standard is so high. Because their standards are generally so high I wouldn’t be surprised if being ‘unimpressed’ by the crew on a QR flight is akin to having a ‘good’ crew on a US or european airlines flight.

    I’ve never flown to the US on QR to be fair (it would be a bit of a back track flying from europe to DOH to then fly to the US!) but on the sectors to Asia I guess they have shorter flights and less of a time change. I can imagine some of the flight durations from DOH to the US and back are mega and the time changes extreme. I think i’d cut them a little slack for feeling a bit ‘out of it’ sometimes especially given how hard they work on board.

  35. Running out of food, drink, and ice is something I have experienced several times on Qatar flights. Good to have status and have the FA’s reserve/hold things for you. But, it seems to happen on a lot of flights to/from the USA. Not all. But many.

    “Dead inside” – laughed out loud. Somewhat accurate.

  36. Just finished SGN-JFK via DOH trip. Terrible experience. When I tried to order any hot food, FA kept telling me you have to wait 25min or you can have salad right now. WTF am I fly with? Souplantation Airways?? When I flew Emirates, FA politely told me after boarding that please give us no more than 30min to prepare a la carte. Terrible experience with QR

  37. I have 2 QR A350 flights lined up in coming weeks in business. I’m hoping for not-so-full cabins, if this results in less stressed/grumpy crews!

  38. Why would you patronize an airline from a country that oppresses LGBT people when you have about 200 airlines to choose from? They do not deserve your money (points) or the free publicity.

  39. @Boraxo

    Really? Again?

    By that criterion, you should not travel on pretty much any Asian or African carrier (maybe Taiwan and South Africa are ok?), nor most US airlines that serve, say, Texas or The South, certainly not Russian or most eastern and Central European carriers.

    So that leaves a handful of Western and central European carriers, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, plus I guess much of South America.

    Who’s on your personal boycott list?

    Or is it just that you hate Arabic carriers?

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