On my trip from Charlotte (CLT) to Kathmandu, Nepal (KTM), I booked Qatar Airways brand new A350 for the PHL to DOH portion. The whole trip was CLT to PHL on an American Airlines A320 in first class, the PHL to DOH A350 portion, and finally DOH to KTM on a Qatar A330-200 in business class.
Other posts on Nepal
The trip cost me 67,500 American Airlines miles. That is less than the 75,000 miles I received for the sign-up bonus for one American Airlines credit card. Purchasing this ticket would have cost around $5,000.
The flight to PHL from CLT only took 35 minutes. I had almost three hours between flights in PHL before the flight to DOH. I planned to spend the time in the British Airways Executive lounge near gate A18. As I was walking to the lounge, I saw my aircraft arriving at Gate A16.
I was expecting a decent business-class lounge and was disappointed. The agent at the door was nice and helpful, but the facilities were sorely lacking.
The seating in the lounge was uncomfortable. There was also a lack of electrical outlets. A smaller, first-class section on the other end was closed. Maybe I’m just unlucky, but the only other BA lounge I’ve visited was also disappointing. The BA first-class lounge at JFK Terminal 1 is also sub par in the bad sense of the term. The business-class lounge next door to it is preferable in my opinion. But the lounge in PHL was even worse than those. I was glad when it was time to board.
Qatar A350 Business Class
Arguably, Qatar Airways has the world’s best business class in terms of service. As far as hard product it varies depending on the type of aircraft. The best seat is now the Qsuite that I enjoyed on a flight from Doha to New York. On the other end of the spectrum for Qatar are some 777-300s where the seating is 2-2-2. Even on those planes you still get the outstanding Qatar business-class service as on a flight from Bangkok, Thailand to Doha, Qatar.
This flight was on an A350-900. Qatar was the launch airline for the A350, which is Airbus’ answer to the 787. The Qatar A350 has 36 business-class seats configured 1-2-1 in two sections at the front of the plane. I had seat 5K, a window seat on the starboard side of the plane in the forward section. The seat, and in fact the whole business-class section, was beautiful.
Business Class Seat
The business-class section had an ambiance and feel that reeked of first class.
When I fly a new aircraft, the first thing I do is check out the seat. The business-class seat on this A350 has all of the bells and whistles. It was lie flat, of course. Each seat has aisle access. No stepping over anyone to get up.
I expected that the A350 would have electronically dimming windows like the 787. Instead, the A350 has windows shades that can be raised and lowered electrically but no electronic dimming.
Like the electronic dimming on the 787, these shades can be controlled individually, or the cabin crew can set all of them at once as for a night flight or landing. There are two shades on each window so you can achieve a partial or total blackout. Personally, I prefer the 787 windows because you can still see outside even with the windows on maximum darkness.
The seat seems to be larger than the seat on the American Airlines 787 although the official stats on Seatguru say otherwise. The Qatar A350 is definitely more comfortable and has a more luxurious look and feel. Compare the drab “50 shades of grey” look of the AA 787 below. American 787 business class seat Chicago to Beijing
The seat controls on Qatar’s A350 are conveniently located and easy to understand and operate.
Power outlets and a/v connections are close at hand.
One of my biggest hang ups when flying coach is there is not enough room for things like glasses, cell phone, headphones, chargers, etc. The business-class seat in the A 350 solves that. It has storage space in spades. The aisle arm rest raises and lowers electrically and at takeoff, holds the headphones and a water bottle.
Beneath the side table is another storage compartment that can be used for a variety of things.
There is even a storage compartment for shoes.
Another nice feature of this aircraft is that there are controls for the air vents at each seat. This gives passengers more control of the temperature at their seat compared to most new wide body aircraft that lack this feature.
Qatar A350s come with exterior cameras that provide awesome views of takeoff and landing and other sights while in flight.
The initial route of flight took us over New York City. In fact we flew right over JFK. The downward facing camera and clear skies gave an excellent view of the airport.
After I had a few minutes to start exploring the seat, the head flight attendant came by to introduce himself. He was from the Philippines. The other members of the cabin crew were from various other non middle eastern countries like Hong Kong, Romania, El Salvador and others.
Shortly after meeting the head flight attendant, another FA offered a pre departure beverage that I gladly accepted along with the refreshing moist towel.
They also distributed the food and beverage menus for the flight.
As usual, the first meal service was the most refined and elaborate. About 40 minutes after takeoff drinks were offered. I had 15-year-old Glenfiddich single-malt scotch served with warm nuts.
Drinks were followed by the meal service. I selected Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Merlot and Cabernet blend Grand Cru Classe 2009 to go with the grilled filet entrée.
Roasted butternut squash soup and bread followed. Note that the dishes were served directly on white linen or nice looking trays and not the cheap faux wood trays Delta currently uses for its business class service.
My appetizer was the smoked salmon with pea and potato salad.
The steak was served with parsley mashed potatoes, maple glazed carrots and baby onions. The beef was prepared medium per my request.
Fresh fruit and ice cream finished the meal.
The food tasted as good as, if not better than, it looked. I was very pleased and also quite full after this meal.
Later I ordered the cheese plate for a snack or a “light option” as described in the menu. These snacks could be ordered at anytime during the flight, and more than one snack could be ordered if desired.
Before landing in Doha, I requested breakfast. The breakfast dishes could also be selected at anytime during the flight. I chose the smoked chicken and cream cheese croquet monsieur with chive scrambled eggs.
The Qatar A350 has no lounge. There is, however, a counter between the two sections of business class that is set up with some light refreshments. Passengers can help themselves.
Qatar provides an Amenity kit designed by Armani.
The amenity kit came with eye shades, ear plugs, socks, lip balm, and Gio aftershave balm and men’s cologne.
Pajamas or sleeping suits are normally a first-class perk. Qatar provides them in business class on the A350. I didn’t open mine. I kept them to use at home. Airline pjs are a great substitute for boxers for relaxing at home.
Qatar also provides slippers for walking around the cabin sans shoes. The slippers are even nicer than those I’ve had on some first-class flights.
Qatar’s noise-cancelling headphones gave great sound and blocked out most ambient noise. I always travel with my own headphones, a waste on this trip.
The headsets worked well with the IFE.
The In-Flight Entertainment and flight-following system on the A350 was excellent. The good news for those who do not have the opportunity to experience Qatar A350 business class is that while the video screen in business class is much larger than the screen in coach, the video and flight-following content is the same.
Qatar had a good selection of the latest movies from Hollywood, Bollywood, Asia and Europe as well as an extensive archive of older movies.
I really appreciate a good flight-following system so I can stay informed with as much information about the fight as possible. Things like the aircraft’s position, route of flight, time and distance to the destination, altitude, airspeed, etc. Not surprisingly, this plane has a system that supplied all the info I wanted and more.
By plugging a cell phone or other device into the IFE, you can view your pictures on the video monitor.
All in all I was very pleased with everything about this flight on the Qatar A350. The 6,792 miles and 12 hours and 30 minutes of flying time went by much too quickly.