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It has been a while since I’ve posted a review of the Qatar Airways A380 aircraft and that’s probably because, despite the fact that I fly with Qatar Airways reasonably frequently, I rarely seem to find myself traveling on routes where the airline offers its largest aircraft.
On a recent trip to Australia that all changed and I found myself booked on the Qatar Airways whale-jet for the 11+ hour flight between Perth and Doha.
On this particular trip I was looking to book a premium cabin award for travel between Perth and Europe using American Airlines AAdvantage miles and, at the time I started my award search, the only awards available were for First Class travel between Perth and Doha and Business Class travel between Doha and London.
This wasn’t ideal.
When two segments of an AAdvantage one-way award between Australia and Europe book into different cabins the cost of the higher cabin prevails so, even though the second segment (between Doha and London) would be in Business Class, the cost of the award would be the same as if the entire journey was being taken in First Class – that’s 115,000 miles.
Because I’ve tried out the Qatar Airways A380 First Class cabin in the past (and didn’t think it was particularly special) and because I know how good Qatar Airways Business Class can be, I wasn’t overly keen to pay the 115,000 miles needed for this award but, with award availability being what it was, I had little choice.
Fortunately, in the months between my award booking and my flight, Business Class awards became available and I gave up my First Class seat on the Perth – Doha flight for a seat in the Business Class cabin.
At a revised cost of 85,000 miles, I saved 30,000 miles that it didn’t want to spend and then a further 8,500 miles courtesy of my AAdvantage Aviator Red credit card which, at the time, offered a 10% rebate on award bookings (up to a maximum of 10,000 miles).
That took the total cost of this portion of my trip to 76,500 miles + taxes and surcharges of $69.60.
I paid the taxes/surcharges using my Chase Sapphire Reserve card (which earned me 3 points/dollar) and I passed on the opportunity to earn a little more by using my Platinum Card from American Express (5 points/dollar) because, as I had a connection to catch in Doha, I wanted to have the backing of the Chase card’s trip delay protection in the event that things didn’t go to plan.
Note: The Platinum Card from American Express will offer trip delay protection from 1 January 2020 (more details here).
The Qatar Airways A380 Business Class Cabin
The Qatar Airways A380 Business Class cabin is situated on the top deck of the aircraft and is home to 48 seats set out in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone layout.
All seats in this cabin offer direct access to one of the aircraft’s two aisles (so there’s never a need to step over a neighbor if you feel the need to leave your seat) but some seats will be preferable to others depending on how you like to travel and if you’re traveling with a companion.
The 2 center seats in each row are generally regarded as the better seats for couples or those traveling with a companion because they’re quite close together and they make it easy for passengers to communicate throughout the flight.
Solo travelers who find themselves left with no choice but to sit in one of these seats (and next to someone they don’t know) don’t need to worry as the central divider between the seats offers a lot of privacy when raised.
Personally speaking, whether I’m traveling solo or with a companion, I prefer the single seats on either side of the aircraft. They’re very similar to the seats in the center but feel a little more spacious and offer a view of the outside.
Overall the cabin gives off a good feeling of space and that’s despite the fact that the center section of the aircraft offers large overhead bins which makes it easy for all passengers to find somewhere to store their carry-on baggage.
The Qatar Airways A380 Business Class Seat
The Business Class seat on the Qatar Airways A380 is almost identical to the seats that you’ll find on the airline’s 787 Dreamliners and on its Airbus A350s (the ones which have yet to be equipped with the Qsuite Business Class cabin).
I have spent more hours than I care to admit in this type of seat and while one aspect of the seat opens it up to criticism from certain quarters (more on this later), it’s still one of my favorite Business Class seats flying today.
Unlike a few other Business Class seats I can think of the Qatar Airways A380 Business Class seat offers passengers a lot of personal space and an abundance of areas where personal items can be stored.
To one side and slightly behind the seat is a shelf with a water bottle holder and magazine rack:
There’s a small shelf underneath the main window (where you’ll also find the seat controls and headphone input):
Under this shelf (and at around knee height) is a cubby which is big enough to store a 15″ MacBook and accompanying paraphernalia:
On the opposite side of the seat to the cubby is an armrest that opens up to reveal the airline’s noise-canceling headphones and a further water bottle storage space…
…and at floor level there’s a drawer that’s large enough to store a pair of size 10 trail runners:
The seat’s tray table deploys from underneath the inflight entertainment screen…
…and opens up to a very good size:
To give you an idea just how big this table is, here it is with a 15″ MacBook on it:
The Business Class seats in the Qatar Airways A380 are set at an angle with the seats on either side of the aircraft pointing in the direction of the windows.
As you’d expect of a premium airline, all the Business Class seats in this cabin can be reclined to a fully-flat position which is perpendicular to the floor and, as the seat reclines into this flat position, it joins up to the ottoman in the footwell under the inflight entertainment screen…
…to form a bed that’s 80″ long (~203cm).
It’s here that we come to the only real issue that some people have with this seat – the amount of space in the footwell when the seat is fully reclined.
Personally, I don’t have an issue with this seat but I know that some people feel that the area in the footwell is too confining and that makes it difficult for them to get comfortable when lying down – your mileage will vary.
Lastly, as far as the Business Class seat area goes, it’s worth noting that the Qatar Airways A380 offers individual air vents above each Business Class seat…
…so passengers are not at the mercy of the cabin crew when it comes to the temperature around them.
Power & Connectivity
The seats in the Business Class cabin all come with a universal power port and a USB socket which you’ll find underneath the seat’s smaller shelf (near the cubby)…
…and Qatar Airways offers wi-fi throughout the aircraft.
I never, ever use the wi-fi onboard Qatar Airways flights because of how the airline chooses to charge for the service – it charges based on megabytes used rather than the length of time the wi-fi is being used for.
As I rarely have any idea just how many megabytes I’ll need to use on any given trip this fee structure doesn’t suit me…so I stay away.
The Qatar Airways A380 comes equipped with the same Oryx entertainment system you’ll find on most other Qatar Airways aircraft….and it’s pretty good.
There’s a good (but not excellent) choice of movies and TV shows…
…and there’s quite a bit of dedicated programming for kids too…
…but the lack of many TV box sets is a definite negative and the fact that some TV shows seem to only have one or two episodes loaded can be annoying.
The IFE screen in the A380 Business Class cabin is a good size…
….and although there’s a very good remote control built into the seat (it can be removed)…
…it’s mostly surplus to requirements due to the fact that the screen itself is a very responsive touchscreen.
Qatar Airways A380 Business Class Amenities
Unlike a significant number of other airlines, Qatar Airways offers pajamas on all its nighttime flights and, at the beginning of the flight, one of the flight attendants offered me my choice of sizes.
Tip: It’s worth considering a larger size pajama than you’d normally wear (I’m a medium but always order a large pair) because…
- The larger pajamas are looser (obviously!) and that can help if the cabin gets hot and the air vents aren’t colling you down quickly enough.
- If you plan to re-use the pajamas a larger size will help negate the shrinkage which always occurs when you wash them in a washing machine.
In addition to the pajamas, Qatar Airways also offers a good-sized pillow, a thin seat cover (mattress topper) and a luxuriously big (and warm) blanket for each Business Class passenger.
Qatar Airways also provides all Business Class passengers with a Bric’s amenity kit (it’s usually waiting for you at your seat when you board) and this varies in color for male and female passengers.
There’s nothing particularly out of the ordinary about the amenity kits that Qatar Airways offers although the bags are usually notably better quality than the bags on offer on a lot of other airlines.
As well as the pajamas, nice bedding, and amenity kit (which you’ll find in all Qatar Airways long-haul Business Class cabins), the A380 offers one very special extra amenity that no other Qatar Airways aircraft offers – a bar.
This is definitely a highlight of the Qatar Airways A380 and it’s a great place to relax or to stretch your legs during a long flight.
The Qatar Airways A380 bar is positioned on the upper deck between the Business Class cabin and the Economy Class cabin and is staffed by a bartender for most of the flight.
In the bar area (which is a very good size) you can order your choice of drink (hot/cold, alcoholic/non-alcoholic)…
…enjoy a variety of snacks…
…chat to other passengers or even get some work done.
The bench seating has seat belts so passengers can buckle-up during turbulence and there are even power outlets around the bar area where passengers can charge their devices if they don’t want to return to their seats.
The Qsuites generally get all the glory when it comes to Qatar Airways and they usually eclipse most of what the A380 offers, but on very long flights (especially daytime flights) the A380 bar is a fantastic onboard amenity to have and one that deserves a bit more limelight than it gets.
Service & Dining
More often than not the service onboard Qatar Airways is very good indeed (across all cabins) and this flight was no different.
The cabin crew in the Business Class cabin were ready with pre-departure beverages and a choice of hot or cold towels from the moment boarding started…
…and within two minutes of being handed my drink, I was also handed the food and drinks menus for the flight.
Qatar Airways Business Class Dining & Non-Alcoholic Drinks
Qatar Airways Business Class Alcoholic Drinks
Qatar Airways gives Business Class passengers the option to “dine on demand” so, on this 11 hour and 40 minute flight I asked to have my meal served six and half hours into the flight.
When served (at exactly the time I had asked for it to be served), the meal started with an off-menu amuse bouche of smoked salmon and roe which was fresh-tasting and flavorful.
I had chosen not to have the pre-appetizer of creamy cauliflower soup so next up was the “signature Arabic meze” which is a perennial favorite onboard Qatar Airways (I don’t remember the last Qatar Airways flight I took where this wasn’t an option).
The mini pieces of pitta bread were nicely warmed and went very well with the three dips on offer.
For my main course, I ordered the “extra virgin olive oil cooked duck with braised lentils, figs and honey…
…and while the duck was ok (nothing special) I didn’t much care for the lentils.
For dessert, I had the “fresh berries with rose water syrup” which was incredibly refreshing and a perfect choice to follow a reasonably heavy main course.
Throughout the meal, the cabin crew were very good at keeping my water glass refilled (there was a choice of still or sparkling water) as well as being very efficient when it came to removing the remnants of various courses.
A significant skill that Qatar Airways cabin crews have is the ability to be on hand when you need them to be there (to clear away or to top up a drink) without actually appearing to hover nearby or to be too visible.
I can’t think of many other airline crews that do this as well as Qatar Airways crews (Singapore Airlines First Class crews are good at this too) so this is definitely a big positive side to the onboard service.
Note: On an overnight flight as long as this, Qatar Airways also offers breakfast (see the menus posted earlier in this article) but on this occasion, I declined that option and chose to rest instead.
- The main dinner course wasn’t up to the usual Qatar Airways standards – it was mediocre.
- The lack of full TV series (box sets) loaded to the onboard inflight entertainment system is disappointing.
- I don’t like the way Qatar Airways charges for in-flight wi-fi.
- Having somewhere as spacious as the A380 onboard bar in which to relax is a huge positive on a long-haul flight.
- The cabin crew on this flight were up to the usual Qatar Airways high standards
- The seat was very comfortable as a somewhere to sit back and watch a few shows/movies and it was a comfortable place to sleep when placed into the lie-flat position.
- The blanket supplied by the airline is a great size and very comfortable
- The huge tray-table is perfect for getting some work done.
As I said towards the beginning of this post, I fly with Qatar Airways quite frequently and with the exception of a disappointing main course this flight summed up why I like the airline as much as I do.
The crew was friendly and efficient, the seat was a comfortable place to pass the flight, the bar was a great place to relax and, where a lot of other airlines stress that the crew is onboard primarily for passenger safety, it was very clear that this Qatar Airways crew was in no doubt that providing a great customer experience was a key priority – I don’t really need (or expect) much more than that out of my Business Class flights.