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Following a soft US launch late last year, Qatar Airways is now flying the Airbus A350 between Doha and three destinations in the United States: New York City, Boston and Philadelphia. It’s a phenomenal plane, despite some initial hiccups, and if you’re looking to travel to Qatar (or beyond), it’s one of your best options — especially in business class.
However, as a reader recently shared, Qatar will pull the A350 from Philadelphia service for the entire month of May. It may seem odd for the airline to make this move, especially considering it’ll be replacing the A350 with larger planes, but it’s likely that Qatar is opting to pull service from PHL because it’s arguably the airline’s least premium US destination — and as you’ll see below, the A350 is needed somewhere else.
From May 1 through May 31, Qatar will fly a mix of 777-200LRs and 777-300ERs between Doha in business, but there’s an important distinction there, as the 777-200LR has economy seats arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration, while it’s 3-4-3 on the 777-300ER. Meanwhile, business-class seats, while still lie-flat, are arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration, compared to the A350’s much more spacious 1-2-1.
Neither 777 is as modern as Qatar’s latest plane — here’s a tour of economy on the A350:
Officially, Qatar is stating that “the aircraft change is due to scheduling availability.” Interestingly, the airline is launching its A350 on the Doha-Adelaide route as of May 2016, so it’s pretty clear that Qatar’s a bit behind on A350 deliveries, and rather than delaying the Adelaide launch, has opted to temporarily pull the plane from Philly, as you can see from the 777-300ER substitution below:
As of now, the A350 Adelaide service will continue through June, though the plane will also return to Philadelphia on June 1. Is Qatar getting another A350 just in time for the switch? Probably not — as you can see below, the airline will begin substituting a 787 Dreamliner on one of its Doha-Munich flights beginning May 31:
Of course, the Dreamliner isn’t nearly as much of a compromise as the 777, so Munich passengers won’t be missing too much. The 787 has a very similar (albeit much smaller) business-class cabin, and while economy seats are a bit narrower (17.2 inches instead of 18), they’re still in a 3-3-3 config.
If you’re interested in flying the A350 (as you should be), you can catch it on the following US flights (during regular operations):
So what can you do if you’re affected by this aircraft swap? Unfortunately not much at all. Qatar is citing its contract of carriage, which states “We may without notice, substitute alternative carriers, or aircraft.” So if there’s now a Boeing 777-200LR flying on the day you were expecting a brand-new Airbus A350, Qatar likely won’t be willing to issue a refund or waive the change fee (if one applies). Though as we often say, it never hurts to ask!
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