Approaching perfection: A review of Qatar Airways’ Qsuite business class on the 777-300ER, Doha to JFK
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During the COVID-19 crisis, our team has temporarily ceased taking review trips and we are not publishing new flight or hotel reviews. While bringing our readers unbiased, detailed reviews of travel experiences is one of our core missions, now is not the time. We all love to travel and know you do too. So, to help keep you entertained — and maybe inspire you — we are republishing a selection of our most popular reviews from 2019 and 2020, including the one below. Hopefully, this will help you once we’re all ready to start booking trips again.
Incredible privacy, on-demand dining, speedy Wi-Fi, enormous inflight entertainment selection, responsive service.
Overcrowded lounge, inconsistent inflight food.
In the summer of 2017, Qatar Airways unveiled its outstanding new Qsuite, bringing a true suite product — complete with a sliding door — to the business-class cabin. I managed to join the very first flight a few days later, and have since flown Qsuite several more times, including most recently on my longest Qatar flight yet, from Doha to New York-JFK.
Had there been award availability, I could have redeemed 70,000 AAdvantage miles to book Qsuite between Doha (DOH) and New York-JFK. There weren’t any open awards on the date I needed, though I did find a fantastic fare from Cape Town (CPT), where I was attending the South Africa PeaceJam conference, to Montreal (YUL), with connections in Doha and JFK.
In total, the one-way business fare ran me $2,053, with an incredible net cost after factoring in the 10,265 Membership Rewards points we earned, worth $205, by paying with the Platinum Card® from American Express ($550 annual fee. See rates & fees).
I also earned a total of 18,675 redeemable miles between the two segments, worth about $260, based on TPG’s most recent valuations. And since American awards Elite Qualifying Dollars for partner flights based on distance, I netted a total of $2,830 EQDs — roughly 1,000 more than I would have earned had the flight been operated by AA.
This one-way trip actually brought me almost all of the way to the $3,000 EQD requirement for AAdvantage Gold — though I’ll be finishing 2019 a few thousands miles short of qualifying.
Since I started my journey in Cape Town, my Qsuite experience began at Doha’s transit area. After a stop at the transit desk to see if I could move to an earlier flight to New York, on Qatar’s A350-1000 — a firm no, despite plenty of open seats — I continued on to the security checkpoint.
The transit area was very crowded. It may have been midnight, but it was clearly rush hour at DOH.
From there, I wandered past Doha’s 23-foot-tall “Lamp Bear,” an especially popular photo stop, even a few years in.
Doha easily had one of the cleanest terminals I’d ever visited, with a variety of amenities.
The airport sports restaurants, plenty of shopping, computer workstations, kids playrooms and high-end business and first-class lounges — it wasn’t the worst place to spend an eight-hour overnight layover, especially if you were able to secure a room in the transit hotel. I had something else in mind for this visit, though.
My first stop was Qatar’s Al Mourjan business lounge, accessible to business- and first-class flyers traveling on Qatar and other Oneworld carriers.
The space was packed. It’s so enormous that there was still plenty of open seating, but I’d never seen it this crowded before.
Fortunately, there were two large dining areas to choose from, starting with a sandwich shop on the main level.
There, guests could order a variety of quick-service savory treats, which were delivered to their seats by service staff.
There was also a self-service coffee and tea station.
I saw a handful of cakes and other desserts.
The lounge was divided between two levels, with a smaller mezzanine offering more seating and food.
It was hard to miss the enormous spiral staircase, easily one of the most iconic features I’ve encountered in an airport lounge.
At the top of the staircase, there was a sit-down bar serving wine, beer and liquor.
Qatar used to offer a la carte dining upstairs, as well, though that had been replaced by a hot and cold buffet.
The staff seemed to be struggling to keep up with the barrage of guests. A number of dishes were missing on both sides of the buffet, but there was still plenty to choose from.
Meanwhile, back downstairs, there were a number of side rooms to escape the crowds.
The game room was entirely empty, though the designated nap area (below) was completely full. There was also a 40-minute wait for a shower, so I decided to wait to shower at the first-class lounge.
Just as I was getting ready to leave, I came across an area that was almost entirely deserted just to the right of the main check-in desk.
There were plenty of open semiprivate chaise lounges there. This could have been a decent option if I’d needed a spot to snooze.
There was free Wi-Fi throughout the lounge as well. It was decently speedy, though I wouldn’t plan to download dozens of TV episodes or anything like that.
After a few more minutes of exploring the biz lounge, I headed over to the Al Safwa First Lounge, which recently began accepting paying business-class flyers. As of the time of this review, business passengers can spend up to six hours in the lounge for 600 Qatari rials (about $165), or 650 rials ($180) with a 15-minute express massage. Since the first-class lounge access wasn’t an included perk, I left it out of this review, but you can read all about that experience right here.
After just over six hours in the lounge — the staff never approached to ask me to leave — I began my journey to the gate.
Notably, U.S.-bound passengers must pass through a second security checkpoint just before the gate, as well, which added roughly 10 minutes to the process.
Just after the scheduled boarding time, a gate agent announced a delay. It ended up being just about 20 minutes, but some passengers clearly weren’t thrilled, since there aren’t any bathrooms after the second security screening.
And with that, it was time to board A7-BES, a less-than-2-year-old 777-300ER.
Cabin and Seat
Qatar’s 777s feature a total of 42 suites, spread between two cabins.
I was in the smaller rear cabin, with just 18 suites, several of which ended up going out empty.
Suites were staggered: Odd-numbered suites faced to the rear and were closer together, making them ideal for passengers traveling together (though a center partition was available).
I had a rear-facing window suite, but it was positioned closer to the window.
Since Qsuite features full-length sliding doors, privacy is outstanding regardless of where you sit, though I still liked being right up against the window for better views during takeoff and landing.
The door was locked until after departure but slid completely across. There was no gap, like you’ll find on Delta.
Inside, the suite was quite spacious, with decent storage. I ended up keeping my gadgets on the small shelf underneath the side table, which also enabled direct access to the power outlet and USB port.
There was also a very small shelf underneath the display, above the slide-out tray table.
The only secured storage was just to the side of the seat. That’s where I found my headphones and water bottle, too.
There was also plenty of overhead bin storage. Unlike on the Airbus A350, which has a higher ceiling, Qatar installed center bins on the 777-300ER.
Qatar offered turndown service, including a dedicated mattress pad and larger pillow.
I found the bed to be comfortable, and I managed to get eight consecutive hours of sleep!
The sliding door really made a huge difference, too, and aisle traffic didn’t bother me much at all.
Privacy was excellent even with the door open, thanks to the side walls and suite arrangement.
Perhaps most exciting of all was the fact that Qatar decided to install overhead air vents, making it easy to stay cool in an otherwise warm cabin.
The seat-to-lavatory ratio was decent, too. With several open seats, there were fewer than 40 passengers for the four lavatories, meaning I never had much of a wait. I was surprised to see that they weren’t kept clean throughout our journey, though.
Amenities and IFE
Qatar offered special amenity kits for October, recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month, stocked with the usual goodies, including an eye mask, earplugs, socks, creams and a facial spray.
You may have noticed a few missing essentials in the photo, but not to worry: Toothbrushes and shaving sets were available in the lav.
Slippers and comfy pajamas from The White Company were on offer, too.
As were Qatar-branded noise-canceling headphones, which I found to be mediocre, so I used my own, instead.
You could control the 21-inch inflight-entertainment system directly from the main display or via the wired, touchscreen remote.
The screen was especially reflective, which made it difficult to make out some of the darker content in a bright cabin.
There was loads of content to choose from, including more than 250 movies and over 100 TV shows.
There was a robust selection of recent hits, too. Anyone who doesn’t regularly travel on long-haul flights should find something fresh to watch.
The display quality wasn’t fantastic, though. The picture was dark, and the reflective coating didn’t help. There was a subtle but annoying hissing sound coming through my headphones regardless of what I watched, too.
I was surprised to see that the moving map wasn’t interactive and just ran on a loop.
Qatar offered its latest Wi-Fi on this particular aircraft, with an hour included for free and a full-flight option available for $10.
The speed didn’t quite match Qatar’s “Super Wi-Fi” branding — service came in and out a bit, and felt adequate, at best.
Food and Beverage
Dine on Demand
Qatar offers on-demand dining in business class, which was perfect for this flight, given that I was recovering from food poisoning in South Africa. I was offered my choice of beverage shortly after boarding, but I wasn’t feeling up to Champagne so I went with the airline’s signature mint drink, which was refreshing!
A flight attendant also came by with the menus, including a large selection of a la carte items and snacks. Despite the variety, Qatar tends to run out of certain items quickly, so I asked to reserve a few before departure, even though I didn’t plan to eat until later in the flight.
There was also a large mix of cocktails, beer, liquor, mocktails, soft drinks, coffee and tea.
Since I slept right away, I didn’t begin my meal until roughly nine hours into the flight. First, I ordered afternoon tea, which I was told would take 15 minutes to prepare. It arrived only a bit later than expected, around 25 minutes after I placed my order. The sweets and scones were delicious with clotted cream, though the bread from the sandwiches was a bit soggy.
Next, I ordered the snack platter, which I was told would take another 15 minutes. I checked in almost an hour later and was told it wasn’t ready yet, so the flight attendant suggested I have a cheese platter in the meantime. I wasn’t blown away by any of the cheeses, and the brie looked like it had melted at one point and then hardened a bit.
The snack platter finally arrived about an hour and 15 minutes after I placed my order. It wasn’t clear what the holdup was, but I appreciated that the crew offered something to tide me over. It turned out to be a lot of food, most of which tasted fine except for the shrimp wrapped in crabcake, which looked great but was mushy.
Up next, there was, yup, more food! The snack delay meant it was already time to move on to my main meal, starting with the mezze sampler. The hummus tasted fresh and delicious — paired with the pita bread, that was my favorite, by far.
I also tried the gravlax starter, which was excellent as well. I liked the mix of red lox (colored with beet juice), which made the dish pop.
My culinary journey concluded with the pistachio pullao, which packed a lot of flavor, with big chunks of pumpkin and a yummy sauce.
Finally, I was handed a small box of Godiva chocolates, which I intended to take home but ate a few minutes later.
This was easily one of the friendliest, most outgoing crews I’ve ever had on a long-haul flight. Everyone I interacted with was very sweet, but a few service hiccups held Qatar back from a perfect rating.
The biggest issue I encountered was an inconsistent response to the call button: Sometimes someone would arrive in a few seconds, but later in the flight it went unanswered twice. The crew also didn’t keep the lavatories clean, and some of the food service estimates were way off, without anyone coming to check in with an update. I can’t emphasize enough how friendly this team was, though!
Is Qatar’s Qsuite absolutely perfect? No, not quite, but it certainly remains the industry’s all-around best biz, thanks in no small part to that spacious, private suite. Meanwhile, some of the catering didn’t feel quite as high-quality as I remember, though my delayed ordering — by almost 10 hours, in this case — may be partially to blame.
That said, Qatar Airways remains one of my absolute favorite carriers, especially whenever I manage to score a flight in Qsuite. I certainly won’t hesitate to fly it again, and I’d even travel several hours out of my way or pick an overnight airport layover to make that happen — as long as there’s award availability or the price is right.
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