I’m often asked what I consider to be the world’s best business class, and my response comes without pause or qualification: Qatar Airways’ Qsuite.
This spacious bespoke suite – created for Qatar Airways by feted UK-based design firm PriestmanGoode – hits a triple-play which no other airline’s business class can match.
Most obvious are the sliding ‘privacy doors’ intended to narrow the gap between business and first class...
... and the ability to have paired middle suites converted into a shared suite with a double bed.
More outrageous is that sliding panels can transform two pairs of middle seats into an open ‘quad’ arrangement.
But once ensconced in the Qsuite you begin to notice the degree of space, the thoughtful design, the attention to detail and high-quality finishes. These private suites could pass for first class on many airlines.
Beyond the seat itself come two other critical factors for the business traveller.
Qatar’s ‘dine on demand’ approach lets you order anything for the extensive menu at any time during the flight – so you can eat what you want when you want, rather than having to sync your schedule to that of the airline.
And during those many hours spent getting from A to B in style, the appeal of high-speed Internet shouldn’t be underestimated.
When you pull all that together you’ve got what Australian Business Traveller rates as the world’s best business class, as we discovered during a recent flight from Doha to Sydney on one of Qatar Airways’ Boeing 777-300ER jets.
The Qsuite is currently being rolled out across Qatar Airways Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A350 fleets, including the Boeing 777 which runs daily on the Canberra-Sydney-Doha route along with onward European flights from Doha to London, Paris and Frankfurt.
The look of luxe
The Qsuites business class cabin is luxurious just to look at.
Washed in LED lighting, the colour scheme is built around ‘Qatar burgundy’ offset by satin rose-golds, charcoals, slates and even some marble-finish whites.
Each suite’s sliding door is 1.35 metres tall, so they provide ample privacy but still allow the crew to peer over and check in with you as needed.
The big question here: how does it feel with that door closed? Do those doors on each suite make for privacy or claustrophobia?
Some passengers will no doubt experience a sense of confinement, for which there's an easy solution: leave the door open – although this can sometimes leave you with a view into your neighbour's suite.
That said, across the stretch of a 14 hour flight from Doha to Sydney I found the suite doors easy to live with.
Whether working, dining, watching a movie or just lazing in the reclined seat, pulling the door closed was the finishing touch in transforming the well-appointed suite into my own little executive crib.
To really guarantee sky-high serenity, hit the Do Not Disturb button along the control strip on the edge of the corner console.
All the same, during quite a bit of the flight I left the door open. It just felt more ‘natural’ and I always enjoy a bit of interaction with the crew, even as they wander by.
When sitting backwards is better
If you do think the door might make you feel a bit hemmed in, consider getting one of the seats which face backwards.
Yes, backwards. Almost half of the Qsuites face in opposite directions due to the cabin's staggered ‘ying-yang’ layout, as you can see by carefully examining the photo below.
The window seats facing backwards happen to be located directly next to the window, with a wide shelf and stowage compartment between you and the partition and sliding door.
The other seats face in the direction of your flight, but put that shelf between you and the window.
As a result, it's those backwards-facing Qsuites which provide the greater sense of space and privacy.
The paired middle seats also have a similar alternating pattern between forwards and backwards, and having both seats at the aisle or closer to the centre.
Here’s the cheat-sheet on choosing your Qsuite, regardless of which type of aircraft you're flying on:
- seats with the letter B, D, G or J are forward-facing (D and G are the middle seats, and are furthest apart)
- seats with the letter A, E, F or K are rearwards-facing (E and F are the middle seats, and are closest together so they can become a shared suite with a double bed)
If you want maximum space and extra privacy but don’t like ‘flying backwards’, there’s a tough choice in your future. But if this is the hardest decision you have to make, life’s not really all that bad!
The paired middle seats have a tall privacy screen between them...
... but, seatmate willing, some of those middles can be converted into a shared suite with a double bed…
… or that heroic ‘quad’, which opens up four suites.
No matter which Qsuite you’re in, the experience is unparalleled and there’s definitely a first class vibe.
The Qsuite's seats are wide (55cm, or 21.5 inches) and superbly comfortable, which is just as you’d expect.
They extend to a 2m (79-inch) fully lie-flat bed, which the crew dress with a quilted mattress pad, plush pillow and a soft blanket with a velvet-like feel, with lightweight White Company sleepwear as the finishing touch.
The spacious footwell shows that Qatar Airways and PriestmanGoode not only listened to business travellers, they probably looked at and measured their feet.
Unlike some of the more restrictive and sometimes vice-like footnooks we’ve seen on other airlines, those of the Qsuites provide freedom of movement for average-sized feet.
Facing the seat is one of the largest video screens you’ll find on any flight: a huge 21.5-inch HD touchscreen panel to funnel an extensive movie and TV library of Oryx to your suite.
This is paired with a remote control with its own touchscreen display.
Off to one side is a wide and deep shelf…
… with more storage space in a recess below (a handy place to tuck away your laptop or amenity kit while keeping the top off the shelf free).
Wrapping around the curved edge of the console is a set of controls for the seat and the suite, including lighting and the Do Not Disturb indicator, with AC and USB sockets below that.
A second place to stow your stuff is under the wide armrest next to the seat.
I found the armrest to be a useful surface on its own, but lift the lid and there’s storage for your laptop or tablet, amenity kits and what-not, plus a water bottle pocket and a shelf for smaller loose items such as your reading glasses, watch or smartphone.
That armrest can even be pushed down to the same level as your seat, so that when you stretch out for a kip there's a little bit of extra space at your elbow.
Oh, and if you're looking for somewhere to tuck your shoes, this nook next to the side shelf will do nicely...
When you sit back in the Qsuite and just look around your space, taking it all in, you notice how thoughtfully everything has been positioned for the convenience of the passenger. (Well, almost everything – if your laptop has a large AC power plug you could end up bumping against it or even dislodging it each time you leave or return to your suite.)
And if you look a bit closer, a bit more carefully, the quality of finish becomes apparent.
In the choice of materials, textures and fittings, right down to details such as the detailing on the leather seat, the stitching next to the lamp, the patterns on the seat shells ands walls, even the curve of the tabletop console – every surface and every part of the Qsuite has been carefully considered for unobtrusive elegance, to deliver a premium and undeniably luxurious effect that’s unheard of in business class.
Another key component of the Qsuite proposition is Qatar’s dine-on-demand à la carte meal service, which is available on all international business class flights.
The menu runs on for pages and pages – with a seperate ‘snack platters’ menu – and you can order anything you fancy at any time during the flight.
Like most business travellers, I’m a staunch advocate of dine-on-demand. I tend to enjoy a main meal in the lounge, especially to get some greens and grains into my system to aid digestion – so the last thing I want to do is to be told that I have to put away another large meal within the first hours of the flight, or I’ll miss out.
Qatar’s ‘anytime dining’ approach meant that I could graze on a light platter of flatbreads and dips a few hours into the flight, for example, and leave those heartier mains for later – or just graze my way through to sky on several smaller dishes.
And of course, you can't go wrong with espresso coffee and some Godiva chocolates.
It’s the cabin crew who really make this all work, though. Dine-on-demand places much more of a load on them compared to a set mealtime for the entire cabin, yet on my flight the crew saw to it that every meal for every passenger in my part of the business class cabin was promptly prepared and served.
The Qsuite as your ‘office suite in the clouds’
As nice as it would be to turn your Qsuite into a cocoon for a slice of increasingly rare downtime, most business travellers find there’s still some work to be done en route. That’s the job, after all.
Happily, the Qsuite proves itself to be a superb inflight office suite.
There are AC and USB power outlets, of course – in fact, there are two USB sockets, with the one directly atop the AC outlet being a high-power port with sufficient juice to quickly charge up a tablet or larger smartphone.
These sockets are all located in just about the perfect position, on the curved edge of the suite’s console/shelf combo. There’s no fiddling around at floor level, nor swivelling around to plug your cables into some port over your shoulder. They’re highly visible and within easy reach.
The table which slides out from under the video screen is massive but pleasingly solid and stable, as it’s anchored on both edges – this makes a welcome change from all those tray tables which wobble and bounce as you type away on the keyboard.
The table’s split folding design and the gap between it and the housing for the video monitor means that if you need to leave your seat, you can just close the laptop and slide the table out of the way.
However, when the table is needed for meals you can easily slip your laptop into that crevice beneath the side shelf.
Finally, on my flight the aforementioned Super WiFi delivered a very useable and responsive 5-8Mbps on the download side, which made for zippy loading of webpages and quick dispatch of emails.
Those speeds are faster than most international aircraft WiFi and more on par with what you might get at your local cafe hotspot (uploads were more variable, from 0.32Mbps to 5Mbps).
Your first hour of Super WiFi is free, with unlimited usage throughout the rest of the flight for just US$10.
This turned my spacious Qsuite into a cosy office above the clouds, but one with the added benefit of room service. I doubt that a business traveller could ask for anything more...
David Flynn travelled as a guest of Qatar Airways.