How Qatar Airways' new 787-9 business class compares to Qsuite
There’s a new Qatar Airways business-class seat flying now, and while it's only available on a handful of routes so far, we should start seeing it in more places later in 2022.
In June, the Doha-based airline took the wraps off its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which is outfitted with a brand-new business-class seat, both for Qatar Airways itself and for the aviation industry as a whole. The novel Adient Ascent products are pod-like installations that fan out in a 1-2-1 outward-facing herringbone configuration.
Why the new seats? When Qatar attempted to install its crowd-pleasing Qsuite on the Dreamliner, it couldn’t get the seats to fit across the fuselage without making significant modifications.
That’s why the airline decided to look for an alternative and ultimately ended up going with Adient for its new seat.
As exciting as new business-class seats are for aviation enthusiasts like us at TPG, those traveling with Qatar Airways are likely wondering how the new product stacks up against the airline's tried-and-true Qsuite.
While many aspects of the "hard product" differ between the two seats, the amenities like pillows and blankets, as well as meal service, remain unchanged.
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First things first -- how do the two seats line up side by side?
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two products is their respective layouts. With Qsuite, there are four different types of seats in one cabin and, what's more, some face forward and some face the rear of the aircraft.
Window seats are either flush with the cabin wall or closer to the aisle, and center seats are right on the aisle or practically connected to one another.
In Qsuite, the "true" window seats that are flush with cabin wall also face backward, a notable drawback for some flyers. Window seats that face forward are closer to the aisle, which cuts down on some privacy but alleviates possible concerns with rear-facing seats.
Meanwhile, in the center seats, those next to each other are ideal for couples, since they can be converted into an oversized double bed. Plus, those traveling as a family or group of four can convert four center seats into a "quad" — a nifty feature that lets you dine, relax or work together in what feels like a semiprivate in-air lounge comprised of the four seats.
While intriguing in one sense, all these seat variations can be stressful for flyers just looking to choose the best option for themselves. If you're booking at the last minute, getting your preferred seat type can be a challenge.
Meanwhile, the new 787-9 simplifies the seat-selection process. That’s because all seats are created equal ... more or less. Every window seat is angled to the window. Those in the center have their seatbacks closer together with their footrests closer to the aisle.
Some flyers might worry that the center seats on the 787-9 are too close to one another. Fortunately, a privacy divider between them raises to the height of the seats, providing a solid barrier between strangers. (Of course, solo travelers should try to select a window seat, if one is still available.)
Other than choosing your preferred location and type of seat, the business-class pods on the new 787-9 Dreamliner are all (roughly) the same.
Just be sure to avoid the ones with missing windows in Row 5.
Qsuite-equipped jets have two business-class sections: one larger cabin and a second, smaller cabin, which is undoubtedly more private.
Meanwhile, the 787-9 Dreamliner has just one single business-class cabin with 30 seats spanning eight rows in a 1-2-1 configuration.
The Adient Ascent seats aren’t as tall as Qsuite seats, and the cabin feels considerably airier. The drawback, of course, is that the spaciousness in the cabin comes at the expense of some privacy. With more seats in the single cabin, combined with them being roughly 5 inches shorter, the Dreamliner cabin simply doesn't feel as private as planes with Qsuite.
Another note about the density of the 787-9 cabin: With eight rows of seats and less personal storage space at each place, the aisles on the Dreamliner can get significantly more foot traffic than those in Qsuite as passengers stow their belongings in the overhead bins during boarding and throughout the flight.
Every Qsuite seat, as well as the new 787-9 Dreamliner pods, has a sliding door that closes for additional privacy.
On Qatar’s Airbus A350-1000, the door to each Qsuite measures 52 inches high, whereas the Adient Ascent seat doors on the 787-9 are 4 inches shorter. In addition to the 4-inch height disparity, Qsuites feel inherently more private thanks to the staggered configuration with alternating forward- and rear-facing seats.
That's especially true when you're traveling as a couple. For instance, my wife and I flew in a pair of center Qsuite seats for our honeymoon. When they were converted to a double bed, it felt like we were flying on a private plane. The bed faced backward, and the only time we saw other passengers was when we got up to use the lavatory.
Meanwhile, on the 787-9 Dreamliner, you'll see your fellow passengers regardless of where you sit. That’s not to say that the Adient Ascent seat isn’t private. It’s just that Qsuite sets a high bar (literally and figuratively).
While the door in the Dreamliner pods is shorter than the one in Qsuite seats, I'll note that it's also easier to use. It's much lighter and slides on its track without much resistance, compared to Qsuite doors that feel like you have to put some real muscle to budge at times.
There’s no question that Qsuite seats offer more space to move around in than the Adient Ascent pods on the 787-9.
That’s largely because of the additional storage compartment located on the side of each Qsuite seat. When the compartment, which measures nearly a foot across, is latched closed, the cover doubles as additional seating or leaning space. Qsuite seats themselves measure roughly 21 inches wide, but the side storage compartment gives them a much more spacious feel.
There’s no such storage area (in fact, not much of any storage) in the Dreamliner’s Adient Ascent seat, but I'll discuss that below in the storage section. The real downside with the Ascent seat is that its width is fixed to 21 inches. Without the side storage area, it feels significantly tighter than the seat in Qsuite.
While the Ascent seat is narrower than a Qsuite seat, the placement of the tray table is significantly more comfortable in the former. That's because the table doesn't constrict as much of the leg space as it does in Qsuite, which helps when you're reclining.
One area where the seats are similar is that the entertainment monitor doesn't swivel or tilt on the Dreamliner or in Qsuite. When you're reclining or resting in bed, you'll need to tilt your head to enjoy an ideal viewing angle.
This one is big.
With Qsuite, there’s plenty of storage for all your belongings. There are two exposed surfaces: a sizable side table (that can fit a laptop or iPad) and a small shelf between it and above the control console. There’s also a narrow lip underneath the entertainment screen with space for even more loose items, like a glasses case or AirPods.
In addition, you’ll find a large, enclosed storage compartment adjacent to each seat. Just press a button to pop open the cover and voila — you’ve unlocked the perfect place to store your shoes and larger items.
Unfortunately, there’s significantly less storage in the 787-9’s business class.
The two-tiered side table isn’t even large enough for most laptops, though the smaller table extends slightly beyond the upper level and doubles as a cocktail tray, which helps avoid accidental drink spills.
In terms of enclosed storage, there’s a small cubby next to the seat. It’s no more than 6 inches deep, though, so your larger items won’t fit inside.
When it’s time to rest, it’s a toss-up between Qsuite and the new Dreamliner seat as to which one is better. Qsuite seats have a larger footwell and a bed that’s 3 inches longer than the one in the Dreamliner’s business-class pods. The bed in Qsuite measures 80 inches, while the Adient Ascent bed measures 77 inches long.
On the other hand, the Adient Ascent seat has more room for your thighs and legs because the tray table doesn’t interfere with your sleeping space as much.
All told, I’d hypothesize that side-sleepers would prefer the Dreamliner, and most others would be better off in Qsuite. Thanks to the smaller tray table, side sleepers should be able to rest their legs on top of each other without hitting the table, which isn't really possible in Qsuite.
But, if you sleep on your back or stomach, there's simply more room — both in terms of bed length and in terms of footwell — in Qsuite. Personally, I'm a back-sleeper, and after flying the products on back-to-back flights, I definitely prefer Qsuite for catching up on sleep.
The double bed
There’s good news for couples who travel together: Both Qsuite and the new Dreamliner business class have center seats that can be converted into double beds of sorts.
However, the arrangement differs on each product. For one, only certain Qsuite seats can be converted into a double bed. You need to be seated in two center pods that are flush with one another to unlock this feature. Note that the center pods that are flush with one another also face backward, a downside for some flyers.
On both the Airbus A350-1000 and the Boeing 777-300, there are six total double beds, one fewer than you'll find on the Dreamliner. If you book at the last minute, it’s possible that all the Qsuite seats that convert to double beds could already be reserved.
On the Dreamliner, all the center seats can be converted to a makeshift double bed. However, the arrangement of the double bed isn’t as natural as the one in Qsuite.
That’s because the center seats angle towards the aisle. So, your heads will be next to each other’s when sleeping, but your legs will angle outwards. Essentially, picture yourself sleeping in a bed shaped like a “V,” with your heads meeting at the intersection point of the two lines. (Unfortunately, the cabin was full on my flight, and I couldn't grab a shot of the Dreamliner's double bed.)
Connectivity and entertainment
Both Qsuite and the new Dreamliner pods feature one universal AC outlet each. Qsuite also offers two USB-A charging ports, while the Adient Ascent only has one.
One slick addition that’s exclusive to the Dreamliner is a Qi-enabled wireless charging mat, built directly into the side of the seat. This proved to be the perfect place to charge my iPhone since it doubled as a secure phone holder.
For those who aren't familiar, Qi wireless chargers use magnetic fields to wirelessly power your device. Your phone will need to be Qi-enabled, and the latest iPhone, Google and Samsung models (among others) should have this capability built-in.
In the U.S., JetBlue's latest Mint product has a Qi charging mat built-in, and Qatar is one of the first international carriers to install one, too. The mats charge devices a bit slower than using a physical cable, but at least the new technology doesn't require any wires.
Note that you'll need to continue powering computers and larger devices using the standard AC power port.
There’s one (major) downside to flying on the Dreamliner to be aware of: There’s no Wi-Fi internet access available yet. If you need to stay connected while in flight, you’ll need to fly a different Qatar jet, or a different airline.
Finally, both Qsuite and the Dreamliner feature Qatar's top-notch entertainment system. While screen sizes differ (21 inches in Qsuite compared to 18 inches on the Dreamliner), the actual content and Oryx One software are identical. There are over 3,000 movies, TV shows and other programming to keep you occupied.
As mentioned above, neither screen tilts or swivels, making it hard to find the perfect angle when you're sleeping or resting.
What stayed the same
While there are plenty of differences between Qsuite and the new Dreamliner product, several elements of the business-class experience remain the same.
The “soft product” is uniform across the long-haul fleet. Regardless of which seat you’re flying, you’ll enjoy the same pillows, blankets, pajamas, amenity kits, culinary experience and more.
If you’re after the single best business-class seat in the Qatar Airways fleet, then look no further than Qsuite.
The sheer amount of space and privacy afforded to each passenger is simply unrivaled. Top it all off with plenty of storage and a comfortable bed, and you’re bound to have a great flight.
That said, I’d still consider flying the new Adient Ascent seat on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner again. Sure, there are some notable drawbacks compared to Qsuite, but it’s still a stellar product that’s trying to compete in the shadow of its big sibling.
Qatar’s new seat is roughly in the same league as some other popular, fully enclosed business-class products like British Airways’s new Club Suite and Virgin Atlantic’s new Upper Class Suite.
For an ultra-long-haul flight, I’d try to route myself on a plane equipped with Qsuite, even if it meant leaving at an undesirable time or adding a (quick) connection.
But for shorter routes, like the 6 1/2-hour hop between Doha and Madrid I took, I’d absolutely fly the new Dreamliner again — especially if it meant getting to my destination with fewer stops.