Sunny with a few rough spots: Qatar Qsuite on an A350-1000 from Houston to Doha
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Qatar Airways’ Qsuite business-class experience is one of my favorite ways to fly. The Qsuites themselves can cater to singles, couples and groups, and the amenities on longer routes are typically excellent, with a wide variety of drinks, tasty meals, cute pillows and comfortable pajamas.
I’ve flown Qatar Qsuites multiple times before. However, many airlines have eliminated or reduced service, amenities and food during the ongoing pandemic, so I wasn’t sure what to expect before a recent Qsuite flight from Houston (IAH) to Doha (DOH).
Besides masks for passengers and crew, though, the flight was surprisingly similar to Qsuites flights I’d taken before the pandemic. Here’s what it was like.
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I needed to fly to Malé in the Maldives to review a few resorts, including the new Le Meridien Maldives Resort and Spa.
Typically, I’d redeem 70,000 American Airlines miles plus around $20 in taxes and fees to fly Qatar Qsuites one-way from the U.S. to Malé. But, since I’m striving to requalify for American Airlines Executive Platinum elite status this year and business-class award availability was limited on my dates, TPG booked me a round-trip ticket in Qatar Qsuites. Just the one-way from Houston to Malé via Doha earned me 15,152 elite-qualifying miles, $2,021 elite-qualifying dollars and 22,223 redeemable miles.
This round-trip business-class ticket cost $3,483, but a TPG representative was able to book my flights through Centurion Travel Services using Amex Pay With Points. As such, after the 50% points rebate for Centurion cardholders, TPG effectively redeemed 174,153 American Express Membership Rewards points for my ticket. By doing so, TPG got 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.
As mentioned above, Qsuites are a great way to travel as a solo traveler, couple or group. However, assuming you don’t buy a basic business ticket that doesn’t include seat selection until online check-in, you’ll want to select seats shortly after booking your flight.
Here are some aspects to keep in mind when selecting a Qsuite seat:
- Seats A, E, F and K are single and rear-facing
- Seats E and F are great for couples, as these seats can be converted into a double bed
- Seats A and K are excellent for solo travelers who want to sit closer to the window (and hence further from the aisle)
- Seats D, E, F and G are great for groups of three or four passengers (be sure to pair them correctly, though, as shown in the screenshot above)
Finally, note that Qatar blocks the quad seats in the middle section, so you typically need to call Qatar and ask the agent to unblock these seats when traveling as a group of two or more. Even though my husband and I were traveling on separate tickets, we had no issues when calling to reserve seats 3E and 3F for our flight.
I arrived at the airport in Houston about three hours before the scheduled 6:15 p.m. departure time. Before entering the priority access check-in line, an agent checked my passport and proof of a negative COVID PCR test. Once my documents were deemed acceptable, I only needed to wait in line for less than a minute before one of the three priority access agents waved me over.
The area by the check-in desks was crowded, as there were some larger groups with a lot of baggage. The agent asked for my passport and negative COVID test proof again, as well as my phone number. She then took a surprisingly long time to check me in, as she seemed to be working on tasks for other passengers simultaneously. As she finished checking me in, she noted where I could find the KLM lounge that Qatar contracts with for passengers on this flight.
Security was quick and easy since there was a separate screening entrance and area for priority passengers. Best of all, this area had a separate TSA PreCheck line.
After clearing security, I went to the KLM Crown Lounge. Although I had access as a Qatar business-class passenger, you can also access this lounge with a Priority Pass membership. The lounge contained ample seating in soft furniture, a dining area and three work desks.
The lounge had a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and some light snacks. Some of these items were served by staff members, while others were self-serve. I found that staff members frequently walked around the lounge to collect used items.
The KLM Crown Lounge didn’t offer Wi-Fi, but the free airport Wi-Fi network was easy to access from the lounge and provided 8.29 Mbps download and 6.62 Mbps upload speeds.
There was only one sink and one stall in the women’s restroom.
After spending some time in the KLM Crowne Lounge, I walked to the nearby IAH Centurion Lounge, which offered more substantial food selections and a wider variety of drinks. So, if you have an eligible card, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, you may prefer the Centurion Lounge.
There were no agents at the gate at 5:30 p.m. when boarding was supposed to commence. When I looked toward the check-in area, I noticed the flight crew was still waiting outside security. So, although there weren’t any announcements at the gate, I knew boarding wouldn’t start soon. Eventually, frazzled gate agents told the building queue of passengers around 6 p.m. that boarding wouldn’t start until 7 p.m.
I’m not the type to get frustrated by delays, so I went back to the lounge. However, I did want to get good photos for this review, so I returned to the gate around 6:30 p.m. to check in on the situation. The gate agents had rearranged the boarding queues to allow an Emirates flight to board simultaneously but still said boarding wouldn’t start until 7 p.m. and insisted that passengers for my flight not begin lining up. So, I walked around a bit to stretch my legs.
When I returned to the gate area shortly before 7 p.m., I was agitated to see that priority boarding was complete and the agents were moving on to group two. After all, I’d wanted to be one of the first to board during priority boarding so I could get clean cabin photos for this review. Not wanting to lose more time, I squeezed through the crowds to board. My husband asked a gate agent why boarding started before 7 p.m., but she simply ignored his question.
On board, the flight attendants and pilots didn’t make any announcements about the delay. I didn’t inquire, either, as I was ready to move along to enjoying my Qsuite flight.
Cabin and seat
Business class on Qatar’s A350-1000 consists of the airline’s popular Qatar Qsuite hard product laid out in a 1-2-1 layout. Each suite has 52-inch-high walls and a sliding door that you can close in flight for more privacy. On the A350-1000, there are 12 rows for a total of 46 Qsuite seats. In particular, there are 10 rows in the forward cabin ahead of the typically-used boarding door and two rows in a smaller rear cabin behind the boarding door.
Qatar Qsuites on the A350-1000 are 20.5 inches wide, comfortable and well padded. As I mentioned earlier, seats E and F are excellent for couples. If you’re traveling as a couple in these seats and find the divider up when you board, you can ask a flight attendant to lower it, or simply press down on the partition and lower it yourself.
Seats have headrests that can move upward slightly and there’s a reading light next to each seat that you can set to various levels of brightness.
When you’re ready to sleep, ask the flight attendants for turn-down service. If you’re traveling as a couple in seats E and F, you can ask for your two seats to be made up as a double bed. I measured the bed to be 80 inches long once in lie-flat mode, but note that the footwell is slightly deeper at the bottom compared to the top.
Each Qsuite features a massive tray table 18 inches deep, 21 inches wide at its most narrow point and 25 inches wide at its widest point. This table is stowed in a folded position underneath the inflight entertainment screen. You can press a lever to release the table. Additionally, there’s a large counter next to each seat that you can use for drinks and belongings during flight.
Under the counter, there’s a shelf where you can put small items such as charging cell phones and small documents. Below this shelf are the seat controls, and below the seat controls, you’ll find an AC universal power outlet. You can slightly twist your plug to the left to lock your plug into the outlet. There is a USB outlet directly above the AC power outlet and another below the inflight entertainment screen.
Across from the counter, there’s a storage compartment next to the seat. This storage compartment has a padded lid that pops open when you press a button. Headphones and a water bottle were in this compartment when I boarded. I found the compartment was a good place to put my smaller belongings.
There are three lavatories in the business-class cabin: one on each side of the cabin at the front of the aircraft and one on the left-hand side of the aircraft between the front and rear business-class cabins. These lavatories are spacious (at least in terms of airplane bathrooms) and even have a window. They’re stocked with lotion, shaving cream, razors and dental kits – and were always clean when I visited.
Amenities and inflight entertainment
The inflight entertainment you can enjoy when traveling in Qatar Qsuites is impressive. First, you get a large yet crisp screen that measures 21.5 inches along its diagonal. Secondly, there’s a ton of content for passengers to enjoy.
Currently, there are three ways to navigate through the IFE system’s content on the A350-1000. You can use the touchscreen, the hand-held remote or a Wi-Fi-controlled remote on your phone. The hand-held remote is located under the counter and can be released by pushing on a button. You can use your phone to control the IFE by connecting to the Wi-Fi, scanning a QR code to visit a webpage and then entering a code that identifies your TV. Regardless of which method I used, I experienced no delays or lag.
You can watch a large selection of movies, TV shows and flight-related content through the inflight entertainment system. I counted well over 70 movies, including some recent releases, and over 60 television shows with complete seasons.
I enjoyed watching the flight map loop different views and information, and I appreciated the rear, downward and forward cameras, especially during take-off and landing. However, the inflight entertainment didn’t offer live TV, streaming content or in-seat ordering.
Qatar Airways provided Phitek noise-canceling headphones to business-class passengers. I found the noise-canceling effective and the sound quality decent.
When I boarded, an amenity kit, blanket, protective kit and decorative pillow greeted me on the counter by my seat. On my seat, there was another pillow. The blanket was soft and thick. However, since the cabin was comfortably warm throughout the flight, I couldn’t sleep under the heavy blanket without sweating.
Once boarding was complete, flight attendants passed out packets of pajamas to passengers. The plastic bags contained a top and bottom from The White Company and slippers. These pajamas are soft and have become my go-to when at home.
Qatar’s A350-1000 offers self-proclaimed “Super Wi-Fi,” but it is decidedly not super. On the positive side, Privilege Club members got a free hour of “Super Wi-Fi” and a full-flight Wi-Fi pass cost just $10 (or you can buy a Wi-Fi voucher ahead of time for just $8).
The performance of the Wi-Fi wasn’t impressive, though. Shortly after we started over the Atlantic, I did a speed test and got 680 ms ping, 13.13 Mbps download and 1.93 Mbps upload. But, as we traveled further, speeds dropped to just 3.88 Mbps download, 0.12 Mbps upload and 932 ms ping. It wasn’t even the speed that was most annoying – the network also disconnected from my computer repeatedly.
Food and beverage
After boarding, I was offered a pre-departure drink. The flight attendant went through a list of alcoholic and nonalcoholic options, but I opted for a glass of Lallier grande reserve Champagne. A choice of a hot or cold towel was offered with the drink.
17 minutes after take-off, a flight attendant came around to take my departure meal order. Qatar offers dining on demand, but most passengers took their meals at the typical times: right after departure and before landing. To get photos while the cabin was still well-lit, my husband and I asked for our meals to be delivered as soon as possible.
First off, we were each served our drink of choice and a small bowl of nuts. Unfortunately, the flight attendant wrote my order under the wrong seat, so I didn’t get my Charles Heidsieck rosé reserve Champagne until after a flight attendant stopped by to ask if I wanted anything.
Luckily, the rest of my meal service went smoothly. I ordered marinated prawns with quinoa salad as my appetizer, while my husband ordered the selection of tapas. The prawns were fresh and the quinoa salad had a tangy citrus dressing.
Next up, we received our main dishes. I ordered paneer tikka makhani and my husband ordered the seared Chilean sea bass. The tikka makhani sauce really made my dish, and I loved the combination of sea bass and saffron mashed potatoes in the one bite I tried of my husband’s dish. I asked the flight attendant for a drink recommendation and went with the crisp Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru 2016 chardonnay.
Once we finished our main courses, we were each given a choice of two desserts: chocolate delight with hazelnut or raspberry panna cotta with tropical salsa. Both dishes were small and light; the chocolate delight was decadent and the raspberry panna cotta was lighter but still satisfying.
Qatar Airways offered a few light snacks mid-flight, including chips, popcorn, chocolate and cookies. Plus, you could order various light options, including smoked halibut chowder, afternoon tea, beef and chicken sliders with coleslaw and a cheese plate. I decided to just order a few drinks – coffee and later, apple juice – and wait to order breakfast shortly before landing.
For breakfast, I wasn’t very hungry, so I ordered the creamy scrambled eggs for my main dish but noted I didn’t need any of the starters. Due to that, I was surprised to receive a tray with a full breakfast setting, including two starters and bread. The eggs were disappointingly dry, though, so I ended up being happy to have the “extras” that I initially didn’t want. In fact, the fresh fruit and yogurt ended up being my favorite. My husband ordered the masala uttapam with cashew nut upma and seemed to enjoy its spices.
Finally, shortly before landing, flight attendants handed each passenger a box with two chocolates while thanking them for flying with Qatar.
Flight attendants on this flight were diligent and friendly. We almost always were addressed by name, and flight attendants provided information proactively as needed. Plus, a flight attendant immediately lowered the divider between our seats when we asked for assistance during boarding.
However, a flight attendant allocated my departure drink order to the wrong seat, so I didn’t initially get a drink. And my husband had to ask multiple times if they’d reset his non-functional power outlet (which never ended up working). Once the flight attendants decided the outlet didn’t work, they offered to let him power his electronics at a different seat. This wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was acceptable.
Flight attendants encouraged passengers to ring the call button for any needs during the flight. We used the call button a few times, and response times ranged from 15 seconds to 80 seconds.
Finally, it’s worth noting that flight attendants may not simultaneously serve meals to couples traveling together in the middle section. That’s because different flight attendants handle each aisle, so you will each have a different flight attendant.
If you have American Airlines miles, it’s worth giving Qatar Qsuites a try. After all, you can fly Qatar Qsuites from the U.S. to South Africa for 75,000 miles and $16. But, if you are looking for elite earnings, it’s also worth considering paid fares on Qatar, as I did for this trip.
This flight from Houston to Doha had some issues, ranging from poorly-communicated delays and chaotic boarding in Houston to my husband not having a working power outlet for the entire flight. But, despite these issues, I was pleased to see that there weren’t any significant changes to the Qsuite hard or soft product due to the ongoing pandemic.
Featured photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.
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