Review Qatar Airways Business Class Stockholm (ARN) to Singapore (SIN): reverse herringbone vs Qsuites (A350-900 / B787-800 vs A350-900 / 1000)
So many times when I sit down to write these reviews and I think back through all the details of the flight I can’t help but think ‘what the hell were you thinking?’ about at least 2 or 3 features of the plane, the seat, the service. And then along came Qatar with its more or less faultless business class product and I find myself struggling to think of too many downsides.
I’ve flown Qatar economy in the past which I was very impressed with but this was my first time in business and Oh My God. These guys have really thought of (nearly) everything. My usual bug bears on business class flights often include the following and Qatar did not fall into one single trap:
- lack of slippers
- poor food choices
- lack of storage
- lack of mattress
- inability to get staff attention
- undrinkable beer / wine / champagne
- rubbish selection of non-alcoholic drinks
- noisy crew
- poor entertainment choices
- shit entertainment interface
- crap lighting
- uncomfortable lie flat bed (especially if you can feel the joints in the chair)
Ok, it was a shorter list in my head and writing it out like that makes me sound super high maintenance (which I’m not), but I do get annoyed by obvious oversights and unnecessary inconsistencies in service. Frankly it just highlights the gaping void between Qatar and its competition; it even puts Emirates in the shade. This definitely came top for me on every aspect I would cover in an airline review; service, comfort, food, drink and entertainment.
Inevitably there are some small gripes that it’s worth pointing out and I explain all the pros and cons below. As part of this trip I flew Qatar Business on the A350-900 reverse herringbone, A350-900 Qsuites, A350-1000 Qsuites and B787-800 (Dreamliner) reverse herringbone.
Outbound ARN to DOH (QR 172)
Aircraft: A350-900 (A7-ALU)
Flight time: 5:34
Outbound DOH to SIN (QR 944)
Aircraft: A350-900 (A7-ALZ)
Flight time: 7:26
Inbound SIN to DOH (QR 947)
Aircraft: A350-1041 (A7-ANA)
Flight time: 8 hours
Inbound DOH to ARN (QR 169)
Aircraft: B787-800 (AZ-BDA)
Flight time: 6:20
I usually cover the lounges I had access to as part of my journey but we didn’t have any notable lounge experiences on this trip due to originating the flight in tiny Stockholm Arlanda where the lounge is more an upscale holding pen than a lounge. We also wandered the vast expanse of the Al Mourjan lounge in Doha where it was impossible to get a seat to rest or eat breakfast and there didn’t appear to be any fair queuing system for breakfast tables which is stress you don’t need in your life when on a long journey. There were even queues for the toilets.
We were travelling in the middle of November so I can’t see a reason the airport would be unusually busy and can only conclude that the packed lounge must be a year round situation. So my top tip for Doha is to seek out the tiny and underwhelming business lounges where you can sit, eat and shower. Unfortunately I can’t work out which lounge I actually used – it may have been one of the lounges open to Oneworld status passengers. There are few options besides Al Mourjan including the Oryx Lounge and the Al Maha transit lounges – you’re better off in one of those. That said, as you can see from my pictures there are some Insta-worthy shots to be had in Al Mourjan which might tempt you in for a quick look.
Boarding and pre-flight
I could technically pick fault with this because on my Stockholm to Doha leg we were on a remote stand and there didn’t appear to be a cut off for Business Class / status passengers on the bus. They continued loading passengers, including Groups 4 and 5 until the bus was full and then took us to the aircraft. This approach (also adopted by BA) always has the consequence of meaning status and Business / First passengers board last as the later groups boarding the bus end up getting out first. This isn’t really a big deal in the context of the length of the overall journey but it does annoy me when this happens – perhaps it is a situation controlled by ground staff and not the airline? It never happened again and on all other remote stands we had a dedicated luxury bus which allowed us to board first.
Pre-flight was great, in common with other Middle Eastern carriers it was a hot / cold towel avalanche throughout the flight, beginning before takeoff (by my return leg I’d learned to refuse them…still don’t really get the point, I’d rather just wash my hands). They also serve a selection of pre-flight drinks including champagne and some great mocktails. I’m not a big drinker on flights, especially long haul, so it’s nice when an airline has an interesting selection of non-alcoholic drinks beyond the usual fizzy drinks.
For both legs of my flight I chose their signature lemon and mint pre-flight drink which was extremely refreshing and gives you the vague sense of health and pep before a long flight. Their So Jennie non-alcoholic ‘champagne’ is also pretty decent and my husband drank that on each leg. This was a stark contrast to my last BA flight where you’re lucky to get a grunt and anything to drink at all before take off. More details here.
In both configurations, Qatar’s A350s are roomy, airy aircraft in more or less every way, ditto the Dreamliner, although the business cabin is smaller (just 22 seats in total). The entry area in the standard configuration has a kind of bar area (but it’s not a bar, it just has random snacks to pick up during the flight), the toilets are on the large size and have windows (similar to the Emirates A380 as I recall and SQ) and the lack of central overhead bins gives a lovely open feel to the cabin.
This airy feeling is slightly compromised by the Qsuites configuration as the cabin is obviously cut up into little ‘pens’ so it feels more crowded than in the standard layout, especially in the aisle, but what you lose in overall cabin feel you more than make up for in privacy and your own personal space as well as vastly cutting down disturbance from people moving around in the aisle.
The lack of central overhead bins didn’t create a storage issue on any of my flights due to the size of the side aisle bins and the very low density of the cabin.
By way of atmosphere there’s mood lighting throughout the cabin on the A350s which changes throughout the flight designed to aid relaxation during the flight, especially at night. I don’t believe the Dreamliner has this.
What’s the layout of the Qatar Airways business class cabin?
First off I should clarify something I had been confused by. I had been under the impression that the standard reverse herringbone was on the A350-900 and Qsuites on A350-1000. It is the case that the A350-1000 is configured in Qsuites but the A350-900 has two different layouts; one with lie flat beds in reverse herringbone and one with Qsuites. For the route we took it seems that invariably the Europe to Doha route is standard and the onward Middle East to South East Asia route is Qsuites. I’m not sure this is a hard and fast rule but it held true for out outward and inward journeys.
If you’re looking on Google Flights or the Qatar website you can see the difference because it will indicate either a lie flat bad or an individual suite, otherwise I’m not sure what distinguishes the two planes.
Both planes have 36 seats in business and 247 economy seats – neither has a first class cabin. Both have two business cabins with 24 seats in the fore cabin and 12 seats in the rear separated by the entrance and toilets in the reverse herringbone and by the entrance and galley in Qsuites. Both have 3 sets of toilets, with all 3 to the front of the plane in Qsuites and one in the front and 2 others separating the business class cabins in ‘standard’ configuration. You can see the full maps on Seat Guru: Qsuites, ‘standard’.
You can also see the Qsuite configuration in the larger A350-1000, which I flew on during my return leg from Singapore to Doha. This is a larger plane with 46 suites in business, with the rear 8 suites separated by the central exit, galley and toilets. Economy has 281 seats.
The Dreamliner is smaller than any of the Airbus’ with just 22 business seats, with a very bizarre configuration where just 2 central seats are separated from the main cabin by the exit doors. These are next to the toilets and back straight on to Economy (232 seats) so I expect they are particularly noisy and should be avoided.
Where should I sit in Qatar business class?
This is a pretty easy job on any Qatar layout as the seats are effectively all the same with some minor variations depending on position in the cabin and row. For standard configuration you’re just choosing between a window or non-window seat and where in either business cabin you want to sit. On Qsuites the choice is slightly more complex (forwards / backwards, window / central, double bed / individual central seats) but there is no seat that is ‘worse’ than the others.
- Single window seats facing forward are: 2B, 4B, 6B (next to galley), 8B and 2J, 4J, 6J (next to galley), 8J (plus 12B and 12J on the A350-1000)
- Single window seats facing backward are 1A, 3A, 5A, 7A, 9A and 1K, 3K, 5k, 7K, 9K (plus 11A and 11K on the A350-1000)
The central seats don’t all turn into double beds, only the backwards facing ones, so if you’re one of those people who can’t deal with flying backwards then you will have to forgo the full Qsuites experience. The ‘proper’ suites which face backwards are: 1E&F, 3E&F, 5E&F, 7E&F and 9E&F (plus 11E&F on the A350-1000). The forward facing central seats are: 2D&G, 4D&G, 6D&G and 8D&G (plus 10D&G and 12D&G on the A350-1000). These can all also be converted into quad suites with the central panels pushed aside to make a four person suite.
The forward facing double seats have a rigid half-height separator (and a full height separator which can be pulled up during flight) between the seats which means they are suitable for both those travelling together and those travelling individually. There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ seats, unless you don’t want to fly backwards so the only choice you need to make is if you want a window and which way you want to face. The only way this configuration is going to disappoint you is if you wanted a double bed with your travel companion and weren’t able to book the seats you wanted.
In the reverse herringbone configuration (A350-900) the seats are all the same with seats A and K the window seats and the central seats E and F. Rows 1 and 6 are those close to the galley / toilets and row 9 backs onto Economy, so these could be noisier than other seats. However, the bulkhead seats in row 1 do appear to have larger footwells and more storage due to their position so could be preferable for some solo travellers, especially since there didn’t typically seem to be a lot of noise from the galley.
On the smaller Dreamliner the seats are the same (windows A&K and centre E&F) but there are just 6 rows with row 1 near the galley (but with more space as above). Row 6 only has central seats which are nestled between the toilets and backing on to Economy, so these are probably ones to avoid.
Seat feel and functions
Qsuites A350-900 and A350-1000
The seats are very comfortable and roomy and feature an over shoulder seatbelt for take off and landing. I found this aspect uncomfortable because the height isn’t adjustable and I’m on the short side (158cm) so it cut into my neck quite a bit – not really a big deal when you don’t have to wear it for long and I vastly prefer it to the bulky lap belts with built in airbags.
The seat functioning was one part I never really got to grips with on either leg of the flight in Qsuites. The seat adjustments felt slightly over-complicated, especially as the buttons seemed to function differently depending on what adjustments you’d already made. It reminded me a bit of hotel lights when you have to press a load of buttons in a seemingly specific order to make them go on and off (but when you do the same the next day it doesn’t work).
The buttons on the panel include:
- A do not disturb button (I don’t know why more business classes don’t have this)
- A button to turn the background lights in the suite on and off – these are in the footwell and in the small cubby hole between the side table and seat control panel)
- A button to return the seat to take off and landing position
- A pre-set dining position (this tips the seat a bit further forward and the back more upright than the take off and landing position)
- Adjustable lumbar support
- Back massager
- Lie-flat bed position
- Pre-set recline position (personally I find this an odd position, it’s a bit too close to lying down for me)
- A button to move the seat forwards and backwards to put you nearer or farther from the screen / table
- A plus / minus recline button to let you recline the seat to you liking.
What is missing for me is a leg rest you can pull out to support your legs. The only place I can put my feet is propped on the edge of the footwell which forms part of the bed. I find this an odd oversight for such a premium product because it does quite drastically impact comfort, especially for me as I’m on the short side and reclining the seat can pull my legs further and further from the ground.
Standard configuration A350-900 and B787-800
The cabins differ in size between the two aircraft but the seat product is the same, although I believe those fitted in the A350s are likely to be newer – our Dreamliner was a little on the tatty side. Both seats also feature the airbag type seats belts, which I don’t generally like but these seems to be rather lighter and less bulky than some I’ve seen (Finnair springs to mind) so I didn’t really notice them.
Reverse herringbone A350-900 and B787-800 for me has the better range of adjustments, although the seat is less roomy than in Qsuites (and obviously far less private). The big plus for me here it the ability to independently move a leg rest out from the seat rather than only having a full leg rest when the bed is fully flat as in Qsuites – for me this feels like a big oversight as it vastly increases comfort while sitting on a long flight. The range of movement includes:
- Pre-set flying position
- Pre-set dining position
- Pre-set half recline (which is about right for chilling and watching
- Pre-set recline further (about where I tend to sleep on planes)
- Pre-set lie flat position (personally I always find it slightly too much to be completely flat on a plane – maybe something about feeling vulnerable in public?!)
- Lumbar in and out adjustment
- Foot rest in and out (I hate so much that Qsuites doesn’t have this)
- Adjustable recline back and forth if the pre-sets don’t float your boat
- Back massage (which you can’t really feel)
- Armrest up and down at varying heights
It’s probably also worth noting that the armrests move up and down on all the products so they can be stowed at seat level or pulled up to function as armrests – this can give you a bit more space when sleeping and help you getting in and out of the seat, especially when the table is out.
How much storage space is there?
Quite a lot compared to some of their competitors. Storage is often a problem with business class products; there seems to be endless space but no where you can put anything without having to get up and down to access the overhead bin (which I can barely reach!)
Qsuites has a rather neat little bin in the armrest which stores water, has a space for magazines / laptops, a phone, other personal items (including your headphones and amenity kit) and a slightly larger (but oddly shaped) section which I could just about get a evening-sized handbag into.
There wasn’t really anywhere to put my small rucksack but there is a recess under the footwell that it fit into and I wasn’t asked to move it (some airlines don’t seem to allow stowage in this area for take off and landing). There’s also a good sized side table with a small cubby-hole underneath that can be used during flight. I didn’t feel I was juggling all my stuff during the flight, there was plenty of space to just put things down. It still comes up short on storage compared to the Emirates A380 product but it was enough and better than most.
The last handy bit of storage is a small space under the side table for your shoes. If you leave them anywhere else they’re either trapped under the bed once you recline…or they’re genuinely trapped in the mechanism (which the staff warned me about!)
In the reverse herringbone configuration there’s storage in both armrests, a slightly larger bin to one side that will fit a small evening bag or handheld electronic devices (plus it’s near to the plug for charging, which is handy).
There’s a smaller bin to the other side which fits water and headphones only.
There’s a bit more storage on the good-sized side table including more water storage and a space for magazines. Like the Qsuites product there’s a recess under the footwell for storing slightly larger items, although they tend not to stay put on take off and landing (and aren’t accessible once you recline the seat past a certain point) so you’re better off using the overhead bins once you’ve exhausted the armrest storage.
Other seat functions
There’s plenty of connectivity in the Qsuite and in the other products. Both have a universal socket as well as USB connectivity for charging, HDMI connectivity (this is under the screen in Qsuites, which is why you can’t see it in the picture) and obviously the headphone jack for their own headphones (it won’t sit other headphones). These are all in easy to each places and I never had a problem charging any devices in terms of the sockets being hard to reach.
I don’t get terribly excited by amenities and usually leave them behind. On Qatar I got two fairly attractive Bric’s amenity kits which contained everything you needed on a flight – additional items were available in the very clean and smart toilets (hand cream, body spray, combs, dental sets).
You can see in the photos everything the kits contain so I won’t say anymore except that I got a slightly better selection of items on the standard A350. In addition to the kits you are also given PJs to change into and slippers (neither of which I used).
This is top-drawer the same as Emirates and far superior to the other One World partners I’ve flown with (that means you, BA and Malaysia). There are so many films and programmes available that you could spend the first couple of hours of the flight just finding something to watch.
They do have a function to see what’s available on your upcoming flight, which I’m tempted to use next time around so I can make a plan and not fall back on watching Crazy Rich Asians yet again (may have watched a bit of it on this flight as a precursor to landing in Singapore…). You can access that feature here. Just checking out the London to Doha range will show you how crazy big the selection of films is and they always have some newer things you haven’t gotten around to seeing. This is a pretty important feature on a long flight – I’ve definitely been disappointed by BA’s selection in the past when spending 13 hours + on board but Qatar does not disappoint.
I didn’t check out the TV, music or games so can’t speak for those but can only assume they are as plentiful as the film selection. As with many airlines just about everything is ‘edited for content’ to some degree (more so on Qatar than others in my experience) so if you’re trying to watch something with a lot of swearing, references to drugs, etc. then some of it gets lost in translation.
The screen is huge and clear on both the ‘standard’ A350 and in Qsuites although I did notice a difference in functionality when reclining – the screens don’t tilt but on Qsuites it was still possible to see the screen well when reclined and lying down, whereas the screen darkened when viewed from below on the standard product on and couldn’t be tilted. This results in a loss of picture quality once outside the ideal viewing angles.
I’m a big fan of watching a film ‘in bed’ on a plane so this is a minor annoyance – this is also an issue on the Dreamliner product with the added problem that my touch screen (my preferred way of controlling the entertainment) was not very responsive, possibly as it was clearly much older and tattier than the other two planes. Aside from the touch screen there was always an additional hand held controller for working the entertainment, stored next to the seat on the B787 and ‘standard’ configuration and below the side table on Qsuites – you can see their size and position in the other photos in this post.
You get the standard noise cancelling headphones like pretty much all business class products although I will say these were especially comfortable which is what you need on a long flight. The sound was great and you can adjust the size to fit.
Food and drink
I’m going to have to get pretty picky to find fault with Qsuites, but here it is. Personally I really like it when you can slide the tray table back and forth to push it out of your way when you’re done eating and you’re waiting for everything to be cleared. This isn’t an option in Qsuites, although it was possible in the standard configuration and on the B787. Perhaps Qatar figured their service was so sharp this was a problem that didn’t need solving, and they’re probably right, I don’t remember having to wait for anything to be moved off my tables and if I had, I’m sure they would have fixed it quickly if asked.
All of the Qatar products have a table that folds in half to make a smaller table for drinks and snacks that does allow you to keep something there while getting in and out of your seat; alternatively there are plenty of other side table spaces available to store a drink in flight if you want the table totally out of your way.
Qatar likes to keep a bit of theatre around its dining and each time someone came to set my table it came with the standard table cloth and mini salt and pepper mills but also a cute little lantern which was a small thing but it did make it feel more like dining as opposed to mid-air feeding time.
As with all airlines, they will take your preference for breakfast towards the beginning of the flight, including whether you want waking 90 minutes before landing for a hot breakfast or 45 minutes before landing for drinks and a light breakfast.
My goodness did I eat a lot on the 4 Qatar legs I flew! We had a night flight from Stockholm to Doha so the menu featured a late-night menu plus breakfast. I chose the tasting menu which featured a soup alongside a range of small mezze style dishes and a dessert. The soup was absolutely fantastic as were all the tasty little snacks that came with it – this was a definite winner. I had the continental breakfast before landing (bit disappointed that there was no ‘local’ option) which was serviceable, especially the pastries which are very impressive.
There was more food on offer on the Doha to Singapore leg and I sampled the ‘light options’ on my flight out trying the stir-fried beef and fried rice which was surprisingly good and a nice little portion to keep me going in the night. The beef was tender and the flavours good.
I always try to go for the local and traditional foods when flying so for both outbound and inbound I had the traditional Arabic breakfast which was super tasty but very filling as I ate so much bread eating the chickpeas and feta – I definitely recommend it.
My husband availed himself of the light options and snack menu opting for the mini sliders and chunky chips as well as the panko coated crab cake stuffed with shrimps and the poached cod fish which came as a kind of soft paste on top of a little biscuit. The sliders are very decent (especially when you think about the logistics of serving them on a plane!) and should be on your ‘to try’ list.
I was a bit disappointed on the inbound flights, possibly just because I made bad choices. I had a vaguely decent cottage pie flying Doha to Singapore along with the tasty Arabic breakfast again.
The Doha to Stockholm route was even more disappointing but I think again down to my own choices (or perhaps it was just generally more shoddy on the older Dreamliner?), although there was a real lack of Arabic options.
The things I tried that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend are the aubergine and ricotta cannelloni with sweet pepper coulis, which was just flavourless with a slightly mushy texture to the pasta. I cannot believe I ordered that instead of trying the spicy glass noodle salad with kind prawns and scallops or the stir-fried kway teow kicap with shrimps…I guess you live and learn!
At some point on the inbound journey I had a craving for hummus and ordered a hummus selection which was also underwhelming (or had I just had too much bread by that point?) so I wouldn’t recommend that – I think I’ve had better on Emirates.
Can I dine on demand on Qatar Airways?
Yes (kind of)! On some legs Qatar has a snack menu you can randomly order from like Malaysia Airlines, and they also allow you to have your allotted meals whenever it suits you, meaning you can make good use of whatever food is in the lounge before your flight without ruining your onboard meal. I absolutely love this because it means you can make good use of the lounge food if there’s something decent on offer without then ruining your in-flight meal. It also gives you a bit of latitude to start adjusting yourself to your arrival time zone.
The snack selection is pretty impressive and not just the standard cup noodle you have to forage for yourself on BA. They have a selection of mini snacks (which you can order all of if you like!) and some flights offer a selection of mini sliders and chips. I was even asked ahead of time if any of these should be reserved for me for later and when I might like them so you can really plan out a comprehensive eating schedule on your flight!
I’m not a fan of boozing on a plane, not least because getting up to pee every 45 minutes on a long flight is not that much fun, but I’ve added photos of what’s on offer in Qatar business class. It’s a pretty decent selection but I didn’t sample any of the wine – there were some small variations in the wines on offer but I haven’t covered all of that here. What I did really like is the choice of a few drinkable beers, which some carriers lack. Alongside the undrinkable Heineken there’s a Peroni and even Hoegaarden on offer, which you don’t often find on flights and would be a lovely addition to their snack of mini sliders!
There’s also a fairly comprehensive mocktail list (of course) and a good selection of teas, coffees and juices. I had both the spiced tomato juice and pineapple margarita which were both very nice. The award-winning So Jennie non-alcoholic ‘bubbly’ is also a winner and worth a try, especially if you don’t drink or don’t drink on flights.
How much is a Qatar Airways business class flight
This depends a lot on where you originate your flight. From London to Singapore you are likely to pay £2000 – £3000 (typically £2500 – £2800). There are often very reasonably priced deals if you start your journey in Stockholm or Oslo. Which means buying (or redeeming) a flight there first. We flew from London to Stockholm to start our journey and paid just £1100 each return to Singapore, which was a complete bargain. Flights are often under £2,000 from Stockholm to Singapore / Kuala Lumpur with Qatar.
If I didn’t have to break my journey in Doha then Qatar would be my choice every time. I fly from London to Malaysia / Singapore about twice a year on average and given I like flying I do like to be on a longer direct flight where I can. The problem with the break in the Middle East is that you only ever get 6 / 7 hour legs each side making it hard to get a good night’s sleep, which is kind of what you pay for in business.
However, if that wasn’t a factor I really think you struggle to beat Qatar. I’d say that Emirates’ A380 product is of the same quality and comfort (and typically slightly cheaper), although you sometimes end up on legs in a B777 with 2 – 3 – 2 configuration which kind of ruins it for me, but I will always prefer Qatar for my One World tier points (560 return for this journey!)
Of the One World airlines Qatar really does have the best seat, the best food, the best service and best entertainment and, if you are happy to originate your flight in some of the cheaper locations (Oslo and Stockholm typically) then it can actually be very cost effective too.