Close to perfect: Qatar Qsuite on a 777-300ER from Doha to New York JFK
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Editor’s note: This review is of a flight taken in October 2021. Some of the onboard procedures may have changed in the months since, although another TPG staffer flew Qatar Qsuite a few weeks ago and said the experience felt similar.
After 17 nights in the Maldives reviewing resorts last fall, including the new Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa, I wasn’t excited to leave the island nation. But after flying Qatar’s A350-1000 in Qsuite business class to the Maldives a few weeks prior, the prospect of another transatlantic Qsuite flight and another extended layover in Qatar’s Al Mourjan Business Lounge made returning to the U.S. a bit easier.
After all, Qatar Airways’ Qsuites are easily one of the best business-class products you can fly. They provide an appealing cabin arrangement regardless of whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple or as a four-person group. Best of all, there are reasonably priced ways to fly Qsuite with points and miles.
I’d flown in Qatar Airways Qsuites several times before the coronavirus pandemic. After all, flying Qatar business class is — in my opinion — one of the best uses of American Airlines miles. And although some airlines are still offering reduced services in their lounges and on board due to the coronavirus pandemic, Qatar’s business class and lounge offerings are pretty much back to pre-pandemic standards and quality.
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My flight from Doha to New York was part of a round-trip from the U.S. to Malé in the Maldives. Typically, I’d redeem American Airlines miles to fly Qatar Qsuites between the U.S. and Malé — and that’s what my husband did to join me on this trip. After all, AAdvantage only charges 70,000 miles each way, plus modest taxes and fees, for this award.
However, I was trying to requalify for American Airlines Executive Platinum elite status and I needed more elite-qualifying miles and dollars. Plus, business-class award availability was limited for the dates I needed to travel. So, TPG booked me a round-trip business class ticket in Qatar Qsuites for $3,483. Although this was an expensive ticket, flying just one way from Malé to New York JFK via Doha earned me 13,139 elite-qualifying miles, 1,752 elite-qualifying dollars and 19,270 redeemable miles.
And although my round-trip flight was costly, TPG was able to book through Centurion Travel Services using Amex Pay With Points. So, after the 50% rebate for Centurion cardholders, TPG redeemed 174,153 American Express Membership Rewards points for my ticket and got a redemption rate of two cents per point (which is equal to TPG’s valuation of Amex points).
The information for the Centurion card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
For my return leg from Malé to New York-JFK via Doha, TPG purchased a basic business ticket in R fare class. When we booked, we expected that this fare class wouldn’t let me select seats before check-in or access Qatar’s Al Mourjan Business Lounge.
I was able to select seats by calling Qatar shortly after booking, though, possibly due to my Oneworld Emerald status from American Airlines Executive Platinum status. And, just days before my return flights, Qatar changed the regulations for R class to allow lounge access. So, in the end, buying an R fare class ticket had no noticeably negative impacts on my experience.
I couldn’t complete check-in online since Qatar needed to verify my COVID test for re-entry to the U.S., so I had to complete the process in person at the airport. Although the three economy check-in lines were long in Malé, no other passengers were in the single business-class queue. I only waited a few minutes for the agent to finish with the previous passenger and call me over — and I was on my way in just a few minutes.
Once in the transfer area in Doha, an agent directed arriving business-class passengers through a nearby empty security line instead of toward the business class security queue. Security was quick and easy, with no need to remove laptops from carry-on bags.
I went straight from security to the Al Mourjan Business Lounge. The facility is massive at over 100,000 square feet. It has two dining areas, two shower areas, a sleeping room, a game room and plenty of seating (most of which have power outlets). The lounge experience feels similar to pre-pandemic times except for passengers wearing masks. Interestingly, the lounge seemed just as busy during this trip as it had pre-pandemic.
Since I had an overnight layover, I got a snack from the upstairs dining area first. You can order food and drinks from the menu, although no one came around to take my order. You can also order sushi from a counter and try a selection of appetizers, hot dishes and desserts from the multiple buffets.
From there, I went to the business center to work for about an hour. I enjoy the workstations in this room, which feature outlets at each desk and comfortable chairs for working. The one downside: You can’t drink anything (even water) while in the business center.
Finally, I went to the sleeping area for an extended nap, since I wanted to be well-rested going into my Qsuite flight. You can ask for a semi-private area with a couch and chair. However, you can’t reserve a spot ahead of time, so you’ll just need to check availability at the sleeping area reception desk when you’re ready for a nap.
On my outbound flight, the reception desk had noted I could only use the sleeping area for six hours at most. But, before this flight, the reception didn’t mention a cap. Even so, I only used the space for about six hours. Blankets and eye masks are available if you need them.
There are also shower suites accessible from the sleeping room — you can check availability at the sleeping room’s reception desk. I’ve found the queue for the women’s side of the shower suites tends to be shorter than the men’s. On the morning of this flight, there was no wait for women but a five-person wait for men. Staff clean each shower between uses, and I’ve found that the showers are mostly well-stocked (but you can ask at the reception desk for additional items, including a hairdryer).
Before heading to my flight, I stopped by the cafe area for a small snack. I tried the Caprese salad, which was the perfect light bite thanks to its size and freshness. My husband tried the grilled chicken Cajun sandwich, which was notably more substantial.
There isn’t any dedicated lounge Wi-Fi, but you can use the airport’s network from the lounge. This network requires you to either have an active mobile number or to enter your Qatar booking reference number or e-ticket number. When I ran a speed test from the business center, I got 102 ms ping, 2.61 Mbps download and 123.8 Mbps upload.
All of the U.S.-bound flights depart from the C wing of the airport. Each gate has a security screening area that it shares with another gate. Security went fast, although passengers must remove laptops and liquids from their bags. Once through the security check and subsequent boarding pass scan, passengers reach a seating area that’s delineated by boarding zones.
The seating area was clean, but there weren’t any power outlets in the area, nor was there enough seating (especially considering the airport had blocked off many seats in the name of social distancing). There wasn’t a specific seating area for business class and elite passengers, but most seemed to be sitting near the boarding door.
Boarding started with pre-board passengers six minutes after the scheduled boarding time. Just four minutes later, business class and elites were called to board. The agent checked my boarding pass to ensure I was eligible to board before waving me through.
The flight pushed back right on time and arrived at New York JFK a few minutes ahead of schedule.
Cabin and seat
Qatar’s 777-300ER Qsuite cabin features an enclosed suite design with textured sliding doors. Seats are in a 1-2-1 configuration, with rows 1 through 6 in a forward cabin and rows 7 through 11 in a rear cabin. I prefer the forward cabin since fewer passengers walk by the seats during boarding. But some passengers may find the smaller rear cabin provides a quieter, more private experience in flight.
If you are traveling as a couple and want to make your seats into a double bed, you’ll want to select seats E and F of an odd-numbered row. If you are traveling solo, A and K seats in odd-numbered rows are best as you’ll be on the window side of the plane furthest from the aisle. If the seats you want are blocked when you check online, call Qatar to request specific seats.
I sat in seat 3E on this flight, which frankly felt like a brand-new Qsuite. I took a few measurements of my seat and found a bed length of 80 inches, a seat width of 20.5 inches, suite height of 53 inches and suite width of 39 inches. There was no damage or wear in my Qsuite and almost everything worked perfectly. The only issue, albeit minor, was that my chair clicked as I moved it from lie-flat to seat mode.
There’s a divider between the seats in the middle section, but you can lower this divider by pushing it down (or asking a flight attendant to do so). My husband and I dropped the partition between our seats during boarding.
After the departure meal, we asked for our seats to be made into a double bed. However, unlike previous transatlantic Qsuite flights, the flight attendants didn’t put a cushion between the seats to soften the gap created by the lowered divider. I’ve never had to specifically ask for this cushion on previous Qsuite flights, so didn’t think to do so on this flight. As I didn’t notice it was missing until my husband was already asleep, I didn’t ask for it to be added.
There’s ample storage at each Qsuite, especially since this aircraft offers overhead bins above the aisle seats and center section. So, each seat effectively has its overhead bin. But, even at the seat, there’s plenty of storage. In flight, you can rest items on the large counter next to each seat, which also has a shelf under it.
There’s also a compartment next to each seat that holds a water bottle and headphones at boarding (but has plenty more space for other items, like chargers, toiletry kits and even tablets). There’s no dedicated shoe storage, though.
You can release a bi-fold table from under the 21.5-inch touchscreen. The table is 18 inches deep, but the width ranges from 21 inches to 25 inches. The table doesn’t extend, swivel or have a personal electronic stand. Still, I found it comfortable for working and eating. Beneath the table, the footwell is large and even extends slightly at the bottom to allow for even more bed length.
There are four bathrooms in the business class cabin and 42 Qsuites. The bathrooms are spacious enough to allow a person to change outfits easily. There’s also a fold-down bench in each bathroom that may make changing easier for some passengers. A bottle of soap, facial mist and lotion are set out in each bathroom, while dental kits and razors are in a marked drawer below the sink.
Throughout the flight, I never had to wait for a bathroom, and flight attendants frequently refreshed the bathrooms, so they were always clean. But, as passengers changed out of their pajamas between the arrival meal and landing, it became difficult to snag an empty one.
The flight attendants kept the cabin dark for most of the flight. However, teal ceiling lights above the overhead luggage bins provided some sleep-friendly lighting. I found the cabin temperature comfortable throughout the flight, but certainly too warm for passengers to need the plush maroon blanket provided at each Qsuite.
Amenities and inflight entertainment
Each Qsuite has a 21.5-inch touchscreen on the wall in front of the seat. My screen was responsive with no noticeable lag. The quality of the display is excellent, with clear video and images. The screen doesn’t tilt, but it’s clear regardless of whether you are looking at it sitting up or lying down.
Qatar’s Oryx One system organizes a sizable amount of entertainment and information. It’s easy to find what you need, and the system removed aspects that aren’t available on this aircraft but are on other Qatar aircraft (like exterior camera views and the ability to control the entertainment system through your phone, both of which had been offered on my A350-1000 Qsuite flight a few weeks prior).
There were too many movies and TV shows to count. But in short, you shouldn’t have any issues finding something that interests you. To help, the Oryx One system offers collections within the Hollywood section of Movies and yearly hits within the pop section of the western audio.
You’ll find a flight map from the home screen by tapping on Your Trip and then selecting Flight Map. However, it’s a looping show that includes health reminders, ads and some not particularly helpful screens. It would be better if you could choose to stay on just one view. Plus, although I set my language as English, the map still showed some information in other languages.
A large remote is under the counter and shelf next to the seat. You can pop out the remote to use it easily. There’s a 4.5-inch touchscreen on the remote that you can use to control the IFE. However, the inflight entertainment system doesn’t offer any in-seat ordering functionality, external cameras you can watch, streaming entertainment or live TV.
Qatar provides Phitek noise-canceling headphones with Onyx One branding at each Qsuite. When you board, these headphones will be at your seat. The flight attendants don’t collect the headphones before landing so you can use them for the entire flight. I found the headphones comfortable and of reasonable quality. But, note that the headphones use a three-prong plug, so you’ll want to bring an adaptor if you plan to use your own.
Each Qsuite has one universal power outlet, two USB outlets and one HDMI outlet. The power outlet had twist-to-lock functionality, but none of my plugs fell out even without twisting. All of these outlets are easily accessible under the counter and shelf next to the seat.
Upon boarding, an amenity kit (with eye mask, socks, earplugs, lip balm, anti-aging moisturizer and hydrating facial mist), hygiene kit (with mask, gloves and hand sanitizer), two pillows and a wrapped blanket waited at each Qsuite. Shortly after push back, a flight attendant brought around The White Company pajamas. She estimated the size each passenger would need but noted that we could change sizes if we wanted. The pajamas came in a plastic bag that also contained slippers.
When you’re ready to sleep, ask a flight attendant to make up your bed. They’ll bring out a mattress pad and a full-size pillow, plus they’ll set up your decorative Qatar pillow and the soft, warm blanket that was at your seat when you boarded. The blanket was too warm for me given the already-comfortable cabin temperature, but I love how soft it was. I found the full-size pillow comfortable for my head, while the decorative pillow was good for hugging while sleeping.
All Privilege Club members get one hour of complimentary Wi-Fi access. Best of all, you can get access even if you aren’t crediting this flight to Privilege Club. However, you can also buy full-flight access for just $10. The Wi-Fi dropped frequently but was useable for some tasks. When I ran a speed test, I got 740 ms ping, 6.56 Mbps download and 0.04 Mbps upload.
Food and beverage
Two menus waited on the shelf beneath the counter at my seat when I boarded. A pink menu contained dining and non-alcoholic drink options, while a maroon menu contained alcoholic drink choices. You could request meals for particular dietary concerns ahead of time, but you couldn’t pre-order other meals. However, the menu specifically marked vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Shortly after boarding, a flight attendant offered me a choice of pre-departure drinks. I opted for Charles Heidsieck rosé reserve Champagne and it was delivered a few minutes later along with a cool towel. As the plane taxied, a flight attendant came over to take my departure meal order.
Qatar offers an à la carte menu that you can order from at any point during the flight. So, I ordered the wood-smoked trout tartare, braised Australian lamb shank with jus and a gooey chocolate and cherry cake for delivery shortly after departure. A flight attendant served me a post-departure drink and nuts 25 minutes after take-off. My first course arrived 47 minutes after take-off. The braised lamb easily fell off the bone and was marinated in a rich yet not overwhelming sauce.
The flight attendants set up a small snack box in the galley between the two business class cabins. However, since menu items are served on an a la carte basis, flight attendants actively encouraged passengers to ring their call button when they wanted food or drinks during the flight. Mid-flight, I ordered English Breakfast tea and the afternoon tea light option. I’m not an afternoon tea expert, but I enjoyed the variety of snacks I was served.
About two hours before landing, I ordered a mixed fruit smoothie, latte, seasonal fresh fruits and shakshouka (baked eggs in a fragrant Arabic tomato stew). The smoothie was creamy and tasty, and I enjoyed the sides that came with the shakshouka — especially the moutabel rolls and grilled halloumi cheese.
Nothing differentiated the food and beverage service on this flight from the Qatar Qsuite flights I took pre-pandemic — and that’s great. In a time when some airlines are still not offering full service due to the ongoing pandemic, it was refreshing to get the full Qatar business class dining experience on this flight.
The service on this flight was efficient and polished. Each time my husband or I rang the call button to order a snack or drink, a flight attendant responded in five to 30 seconds. Flight attendants proactively offered drink refills and provided turndown service when we were ready to sleep. And since meals ordered mid-flight needed to be heated individually, I appreciated that the flight attendant warned me that my afternoon tea would take a little time to be ready.
However, some flight attendants were significantly more friendly and proactive than others. And, companions who sit in the middle section together should note that different flight attendants assist each aisle. As such, flight attendants may not coordinate service for meals unless you specifically ask.
As the passenger across from me excitedly proclaimed while settling into her seat during boarding, this is a great way to fly for 14 hours transatlantic. Qatar Airways’ Qsuites are comfortable and private, and the food was on point for this flight. Best of all, I was thrilled to find the same Qatar business class experience I’d seen pre-pandemic.
On my round-trip to the Maldives, I purposefully booked Qatar flights with Qsuites on all four flights — and, despite flying on three different aircraft types, the experience on board was surprisingly consistent. However, I noticed a few minor differences across my Qsuite flights:
- On the shorter flights between Doha and Male, I didn’t get pajamas or a throw pillow at my seat. The amenity kit is smaller and the dining menu less extensive when compared to transatlantic flights. And I didn’t get a cute (battery-operated) candle with my meals.
- Qatar doesn’t serve alcoholic pre-departure beverages when leaving the Maldives.
- The inflight entertainment system on the A350-1000 aircraft offers a few extra features, such as exterior camera views.
If I was only going to fly Qsuites one-way, I’d try to fly the A350-1000 on the outbound transatlantic leg to get exterior cameras and arrive well-rested, and I’d try to select an aircraft between Doha and Male that has Qsuites business class. But, especially considering the relatively great value you can get when redeeming American Airlines miles for Qatar business class, you may want to fly both ways in Qsuites if you can find award availability.
I enjoyed my Qsuite experience so much on this trip that I’ve booked several more trips, including flying Qatar Qsuites from the U.S. to South Africa later this year. And, I already flew Qsuite back from South Africa earlier this year. So, if you’re sitting on American Airlines miles, go check out award availability and book a trip. After all, you can cancel American Airlines awards and redeposit your miles free of charge if you decide not to travel.
Featured image by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.
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