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Qatar Airways is now the proud owner of the world's first Airbus A350 and – ahead of its Doha-Frankfurt inaugural on January 15, 2015 – took the advanced jetliner for a first flight following the delivery ceremony at Airbus' Toulouse headquarters.
Australian Business Traveller was on hand for the flight and to bring you a glimpse inside Qatar's A350.
We begin our tour of the Qatar A350 with the boarding area, which features a unique dome design – the first time this featured has been offered in an Airbus aircraft.
With over 16 million colour combinations available, airlines can customise the entry experience to their corporate colours.
Airbus' official name for this plane is the A350WXB, which standard calls for 'Xtra Wide Body' – and that feeling of spaciousness is evident as soon as you walk on board.
During our flight from Toulouse along the edge of The Pyrenees mountains, which mark the border between France and Spain, it was obvious that noise levels are reduced compared to any other twin-engine aircraft.
We'd go so far as to say the Airbus A350 is almost as quiet as the A380.
The Qatar A350 features an increasingly rare two-class cabin layout with only business and economy class, however we'd rate both as among the best in the industry.
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class
There are no surprises at the pointy end, with Qatar rolling out 36 of the same premium seats as seen on its Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 jets (as shown below).
The airline is still talking up its next-gen 'super business class' seat, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker is confident will also remove the need for a first class cabin across most of its fleet bar the A380 superjumbo.
“Our premium travel is business travel, mostly, so we will keep a very limited number of first class seats, only in the A380, and all the other airplanes will only have a business class product," Al Baker told Australian Business Traveller earlier this year.
“We have decided that we better not have first class, but give a very good business class product, and that is what we are doing – we are really giving a first class product with a business class price.”
Like many of the latest business class designs, a generous 1-2-1 layout in Qatar Airways' A350 allows for extra wide seats with plenty of leg room and direct aisle access for every passenger.
With the window seats facing the window and the aisle seats angled inwards to the centre of the aircraft
We loved the large 17” HD screen for inflight entertainment.
Although there's no full-service bar as on the Airbus A380, Qatar’s A350 offers a central area near the entrance to the plane where drinks and snacks will be served in the flight.
Qatar Airways A350 Economy Class
In economy class, 247 passengers get a generous 18in seat width and a 10.6in screen for entertainment.
As the A350 is around 13cm wider than the Boeing 787, airlines can add 18 inch wide seats to the economy cabin for a 9-across layout – as Qatar has done – or opt for a tighter 10-across configuration with a seat width of 17 inches.
The generous seat width was very noticeable and will definitely make those long flights more enjoyable less unenjoyable.
The 32 inch pitch meant there was even enough leg room for our writer's 6 foot (1.8 metre) frame.
Airbus also touts a sidewall that's less curved than a typical aircraft, which helps to increase the sense of perceived space.
Added to the high and ceiling, the overall feeling is of being in a large (if slightly crowded) room in the sky.
Like the A380 and Boeing 787 before it, the A350's cabin altitude is equivalent to 6000 feet above sea level so that passengers can enjoy a more comfortable flight.
Qatar Airways expects to put this first A350 into commercial service from January 15 2015 between Doha and Frankfurt, with seven more A350s joining the fleet across 2015.
The Gulf airline has signed up for a total of 80 A350s – 43 of this A350-900 version and 37 of the larger 'stretched' A350-1000 model, which can carry 10% more passengers over a slightly longer distance.
Siddharth Raja travelled to Toulouse as a guest of Airbus
Also read: First Airbus A350 flight test review, photos
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