Review: Qatar Airways A330 Business Class Day Flight (HEL-DOH)

the inside of an airplane

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I’ve flown in Qatar Airways Business Class quite a few times but this was my first experience of the Qatar Airways A330 Business Class cabin. Technically speaking I tried out an very similar product last year when I flew in the airline’s A340 Business Class cabin but, because I’m determined to review every aircraft Qatar Airways offers, I’m keeping this one separate.

If you’re interested in why I booked this flight and how much I paid then you should check out the introduction to this trip that I’ve already posted but, assuming you’re here to see what the Qatar Airways A330 Business Class experience is like, I’ll press ahead with the review.

Boarding

After a couple of hours of work in the Finnair Business Class lounge I headed towards the gates to find my Qatar Airways flight.

I hadn’t thought very hard about where the aircraft would be departing from but I should have suspected something when I noticed that my gate came with a number and a letter.

a screen shot of a computer

It turned out that gate 50J was a remote gate from which passengers are bussed to the aircraft parked somewhere on the Helsinki Airport apron.

a group of people standing in front of a counter

I’m not a fan of remote gates and the reason for this will soon become apparent.

The gate agents had set up a priority boarding area for Business Class passengers and oneworld elites….

a sign in a building

…and the few Business Class passengers present were called to wait in this area after having their boarding passes checked.

After about 15 minutes of waiting a bus pulled up outside and I and the other 10-or-so passengers in the priority waiting area were invited to board the bus.

a blue bus with white text on it

A few minutes later the rest of the aircraft followed.

a group of people on a bus

We weren’t too tightly packed but it certainly wasn’t the premium experience that I’ve become used to with Qatar Airways.

What made it even less premium was that when we got to the aircraft there was only one set of stairs through which we could all board.

a group of people boarding an airplane

I appreciate that this isn’t Doha where you often get a special bus just for Business Class passengers, but the airline should at least have had two sets of stairs through which passengers could board – one at the front and one at the rear.

As it was we all waited our turn to board in the ever colder conditions. For an airline that’s normally quite good at details this was an obvious miss.

After a while I was finally onboard and getting my first view of the Qatar Airways A330 Business Class cabin

The Qatar Airways A330 Business Class Cabin & Seat

The Qatar Airways A330 has one of the older Business Class cabins the airline offers and it’s a far cry from the reverse herringbone cabin you’ll find on the airline’s 787s.

It’s an even farther cry from the luxurious Qsuites product that’s currently being rolled out.

a diagram of a plane seatQatar Airways A330 Business Class Seat Map – courtesy of SeatGuru.com

The cabin is set out in a 2-2-2 layout so, if you’re traveling solo and want to have direct access to the aisle (and no one clambering over you when they want to get out) the best thing to do is to book one of the center seats.

the inside of an airplaneQatar Airways A330 Business Class Cabin

The best row in the A330 Business Class cabin is the very first row and it’s the best for the very same reasons that the first row of Business Class is the best on the airline’s A340’s – there is noticeably more room for a passenger’s feet in row 1.

Here’s what I mean:

Take a look a the space for a passenger’s feet in a standard row of the A330’s Business Class cabin (row 2 and back):

a close up of a seatQatar Airways A330 Business Class Seating

And now compare it to the amount of space for a passenger’s feet in row 1:

a two screens on a planeQatar Airways A330 Business Class Seating

See what I mean?

That extra space in row 1 makes a lot of difference but, regardless of your Oneworld or Qatar Airways status, these seats can’t be reserved before you get to the airport.

As I had flown in to Helsinki earlier in the day I hadn’t actually seen any Qatar Airways staff until I reached the gate….and at that point I’d forgotten to ask about row 1 availability.

I had reseved seat 2F in the centre section of the aircraft so, although I may not have had a of of room for my feet, I had direct access to the aisle and I wouldn’t be disturbed should the passenger next to me need to move.

a seat on a planeQatar Airways A330 Business Class Seating

After a few minutes of taking pictures I realised that the Business Class cabin was now fully boarded and that there were only 3 passengers in it…including me! (no wonder Qatar Airways offers so many good Business Class fares out of Scandinavia).

I could have taken this opportunity to move to row 1 but, in the name of research, I asked one of the flight attendants if I could move to one of the many free window seats with an empty seat next to it.

a seat on a planeQatar Airways A330 Business Class Seating

The window seat felt a lot tighter than the center seat I had just vacated and the space for my feet felt even smaller (even though it wasn’t).

a seat in a planeQatar Airways A330 Business Class Seating

I could have moved back to one of the center seats but, as I always sit in one of the center seats when Qatar Airways offers a 2-2-2 Business Class cabin, I thought I’d see the flight through in the window seat.

There isn’t much personal storage space around the seats on the Qatar Airways A330 so you need to maximize what you’re given.

The seats in the center offer some storage space under ottoman but, the closer you get to the aircraft’s hull, the less space there seems to be.

There’s a shelf behind the seat which can hold some small items (this is where you’ll find a bottle of water and the headphones the airline provides)….

a plastic bottle and a plastic bag in a holder on a tableQatar Airways A330 Business Class

…..and a there’s a small space under the armrest too (which looks a lot bigger in the image below than it actually is):

a close up of a seatQatar Airways A330 Business Class

That’s about it.

There’s nowhere around the seat to store a laptop or a full sized iPad (unless the floor counts) so it was just as well that I had an empty seat next to me on this flight.

Aside from the lack of storage and the tight amount of space for your feet the rest of what the seat offers is fine.

There are reading lamps at head height in line with the seat’s head rest….

a seat with a table and a bottle of waterQatar Airways A330 Business Class

…and each seat has access to its own universal power port (which you’ll find in the divider between the seats at shin-level).

an electrical outlet with green lightQatar Airways A330 Business Class

The seat controls, the inflight entertainment controller, the headphone socket and a USB port are all positioned by the seat’s center armrest….

a device with a screen on itQatar Airways A330 Business Class

a close up of a usb portQatar Airways A330 Business Class

…and, because the headphone socket is of an old-fashioned 3-pin variety, you’ll need one of these cheap headphone adapters from Amazon (or anywhere else you can find one) if you want to use your own headphones and hear the IFE in stereo sound:

a black adapter with metal plugs

Some of the more modern 3-pin headphone sockets will allow you to use your own single-pin headphones to listen to the IFE in stereo sound….but not the ones on the Qatar Airways A330.

The tray table is housed in the center section between the seats…..

a table on a planeQatar Airways A330 Business Class

…and is large enough to take a 15″ laptop with room to spare.

a table in an airplaneQatar Airways A330 Business Class

Amenities

A pillow, a blanket, basic noise cancelling headphones, a bottle of water and an amenity kit were all at seat when I boarded. The blanket was a nice weight and the pillow had some substance to it but, as this was a day flight, neither was all that important to me.

The amenity kit was a standard Qatar Airways Bric’s amenity kit (I preferr the old Armani kits)…

a brown bag on a tableQatar Airways A330 Business Class

…and, because the lavatories in Qatar Airways Business Class cabins come stocked with all the basic toiletries passengers are likely to need….

a group of toiletries in a plastic bagQatar Airways A330 Business Class

a group of bottles on a shelfQatar Airways A330 Business Class

…the contents of the amenity kits are quite basic:

a group of objects on a carpet

a group of creams and a bottle of cream

In-Flight Entertainment

This is going to be a short section for two reasons (1) I didn’t really use the IFE – I worked and (2) what Qatar Airways offered on my flight will probably have little or no bearing on what you’ll be offered if you fly with the airline.

Things to know:

  • There’s no wi-fi on Qatar Airways’ Airbus A330s
  • The IFE screen on the A330 is a very good size

a screen on a plane

  • The IFE controller is good and, in my opinion, preferable to the even more modern IFE controllers the airline offers on some of its other aircraft.
  • The headphones offered by Qatar Airways in Business Class (on all of its aircraft) are mediocre at best.
  • You can find out what Qatar Airways will be offering on any give route by accessing the airline’s IFE page HERE.

Qatar Airways Business Class Dining

Within minutes of taking my seat I was offered my choice of drink – I chose the brut champagne which came served with warm nuts.

a glass of champagne and a bowl of cereal on a tableQatar Airways A330 Business Class

The champagne that Qatar Airways offers in Business Class has gone down a few notches over the past 12-18 months and the offering on this flight was Lanson.

a person holding a bottle of champagneQatar Airways A330 Business Class

It’s not a terrible champagne by any means but it’s certainly not a premium champagne either.

Dining menus and drinks menus were handed out shortly after drinks had been served:

Dining Menu

a menu of a restaurantClick To Enlarge

Non-Alcoholic Drinks Menu

a menu of a drinkClick To Enlarge

Champagne & Wine Menu

Spirits, Cocktails & Other Drinks Menu

a menu of drinks with textClick To Enlarge

One of the best things about dining in Qatar Airways Business Class is that the airline offers a “dine on demand” service so you and not the cabin crew get to choose when your meal arrives.

I asked for my meal to be served half-way through the flight and, true to form, the flight attendants were right on time.

Unusually for Qatar Airways (at least in my experience) I was served an amuse bouche before my appetizer arrived – Salmon (possibly Balik Salmon) with a small helping of caviar and a horseradish & potato salad:

a plate of food on a tableQatar Airways A330 Business Class Dining

a plate of food on a tableQatar Airways A330 Business Class Dining 

This was an unexpected surprise and one which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I passed on the roasted butternut squash soup that was on offer as the first course and had moved on to the “classic Arab mezze” for my appetizer.

a plate of food on a tableQatar Airways A330 Business Class Dining

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had this on Qatar Airways and I still enjoy it as much now as I did the first time around….but it probably helps that I love Middle Eastern food.

For my main course I ordered the “Arabic spiced chicken which machboos sauce, machboos rice, fried onions and raita (horseradish potato salad again).

a plate of food on a tableQatar Airways A330 Business Class Dining

a bowl of food on a tableQatar Airways A330 Business Class Dining

The main course came with a bread basket too.

a bowl of bread on a tableQatar Airways A330 Business Class Dining

The chicken turned out to be slightly dry but it was salvaged by the very good curry sauce which meant that the meal ended up being quite flavourful.

I passed on the cheese plate and move on to dessert – I had chosen the lime and coconut panna cotta with mango and passion fruit coulis.

a plate of food on a tableQatar Airways A330 Business Class Dining

a plate with a white round object with a leaf on itQatar Airways A330 Business Class Dining

As an ending to the meal it was fine…but nothing more. I’ve definitely had better desserts on Qatar Airways.

After the dinner service was over and I had been offered my choice of drinks, tea, coffee etc… (all of which I politely declined) a flight attendant brought me a box of two Godiva chocolates.

a box of chocolates on a tableQatar Airways A330 Business Class Dining

Service & Other Observations

In my experience the cabin crews on Qatar Airways usually sit somewhere between good and excellent – it’s rare to get a poor crew.

On this occasion the crew were friendly, helpful, smiling and knew when to offer service and when to leave me alone – that adds up to a very good crew in my book.

We ended up departing Helsinki 50 minutes late because the aircraft had to be de-iced before we could be cleared for departure and that put a little bit of pressure on my connection in Doha (which had just been reduced to 90 minutes).

When we landed in Doha we were directed to a remote stand….which is not what you want to see when your connection time is now 81 minutes.

Still, unlike in Helsinki, Qatar Airways got things right in Doha (from my entirely selfish point of view) and the first bus that met the aircraft was reserved just for the Business Class cabin (all three of us!) so it took no time at all to shuttle us from the remote stand to the Hammad Airport terminal.

Now that’s the kind of service I like 🙂

Thoughts

Negatives:

  • Outside of Row 1 the space the seats leave for a passenger’s feet is too confining. It’s bad when you’re just relaxing on a day flight so it’s going to be worse if you’re trying to sleep.
  • The window seats feel confining so, if I was to fly in the A330 again, I would stick to one of the center seats.
  • The limited amount of storage space around the seat is disappointing – if an airline like American can give me enough space to store my laptop then surely Qatar Airways can manage it.
  • For an airline that brands itself as one of the best airlines in the world the choice of champagnes in Business Class is poor – it doesn’t have to be Dom, Krug or even Taittinger Comtes de Champagne as I was served in Qatar Business Class between Auckland and Doha…just something better than a Champagne I can buy for under $35 at home.
  • The fact that you need an adapter if you want to use your own headphones and get stereo sound when watching the IFE is irritating.

Positives:

  • Outside of the tight area for a passenger’s feet the seats are very comfortable
  • The crew on this flight were very good indeed.
  • Having a bus dedicated to the Business Class cabin when we arrived in Doha was nice….although it would have been nicer not to have to use a bus at all.
  • The food was mostly very good – some was just ok but, overall, I enjoyed what was on offer.

Bottom Line

The Qatar Airways A330 and A340 Business Class cabins are the weakest Business Class cabins in the airline’s wide-body fleet….and by some considerable margin.

The Boeing 777s that don’t yet have the Qsuite cabins installed may also only offer a 2-2-2 seating layout but their seats are far more spacious and they offer considerably more storage space.

It’s hard to complain too much when I got this Business Class fare for as a good a price as I did but, as I’m here to do a review and others may not book a fare as great as mine, I have to tell it as it is – I would probably avoid the Qatar Airways A330 Business Class cabin given the choice.

If another great fare came up and it involved flying on the Qatar Airways A330 I certainly wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand – it’s still a lot better than sitting in any other airline’s Premium Economy or Economy Class cabin – but I would make sure I had exhausted all my other options before I booked.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I am Qatar airways platinum member and I can not book the first row seats either. I think you can do it only at airport.

    • That’s really interesting to know – I’ll have to check this the next time I fly with QR because the phone rep. who I spoke to was the one who told me that the seats were reserved for top elites.

      If top-tier QR elites can’t reserve the better seats that’s quite a big negative of the loyalty program.

  2. The first row can only be booked at the airport, on a first asked first served basis, Gold or Plat members have no priority whatsoever.

  3. Even more absurd is that Top-tiers can’t even book bulkhead or emergency exit seats in economy.

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