I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’t think I’m fated to ever review Qatar Airways Qsuites.
The first time I was supposed to fly Qatar’s flagship product was in August 2019, on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Doha. A few days before departure, the aircraft got swapped to an older A350-900 without QSuites.
A second attempt was scheduled for October 2020, after I managed to find award space from Singapore to Doha. I don’t need to tell you what happened during that period…
But I earnestly, sincerely believed that third time’s the charm. My first trip report for 2023 had me flying to Geneva on Emirates’ A380 and new B777-300ER, before returning from Milan on Qatar Airways’ B787-9 and A350-900, the latter of which had Qsuites.
Or so I thought.
Qatar has a lot of different Business Class seats…
Long-time Qatar Airways passengers will know the airline’s reputation for “pulling a QR”. In layman’s terms, this means swapping the rostered aircraft at the last minute, thereby replacing one cabin product with another.
The problem is that Qatar Airways has so many different Business Class products, which vary significantly in terms of comfort and privacy:
|💺 Qatar Airways Business Class Seats|
|*These are ex-Cathay Pacific jets, and have likely undergone some cosmetic refurbishment to convert them into Qatar colours. The photo depicts the seats during the Cathay days.|
Note in particular how some aircraft like the A350-900 and B777-300ER are fitted with a variety of seats. This means Qatar could keep the aircraft type the same, while still offering a radically different passenger experience- effectively a game of Russian Roulette.
QR-ed at the very last minute!
After arriving in Geneva on an excellent Emirates First Class flight, I caught a train to Milan where I spent a lovely 24 hours eating myself silly.
The following morning I did my online check-in before heading to the airport, and all was right with the world. My flight from Milan to Doha was still showing as a B787-9, which would let me review the Adient Ascent seat. More importantly, the Doha to Singapore seatmap was still reflecting Qsuites, with its alternate forward-backward window seats and four-seat centre cluster.
I landed in Doha ahead of schedule, spent some time checking out the new Al Mourjan North Lounge…
…as well as
Changi Jewel The Orchard.
As I walked towards the gate, however, my sixth sense started acting up. I sensed a great disturbance in the Force, as if a million voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I figured I was just gassy.
But when I walked up to the counter, my boarding pass triggered a disconcerting beep. The airline agent told me, in a matter-of-fact manner, that there’d be an aircraft swap and my seat had changed.
I actually laughed. It was the only thing I could do, really, because you couldn’t make this sort of thing up.
“It’s a different aircraft?”
“No sir, it is still an Airbus A350-900. But the seating arrangement is different.”
I knew at once what he meant. The only other A350-900 out there had the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seat, which I’d already reviewed numerous times.
Noting my struggle to process the news, he mentioned his supervisor would be around shortly to provide more details. In the meantime, other Business Class passengers kept arriving. Most took the news with a shrug (remember: the vast majority of travellers can’t tell one seat apart from another), but there were two others who were visibly unhappy about the change.
These people know what’s up, I thought. These are my people. So the three of us sat in a little corner of the boarding area and commiserated together, with one of them snapping “this always happens with Qatar. Always. I book one thing, they give me another”. I nodded sagely.
Finally, the supervisor came over to speak with us. He explained that a last-minute aircraft swap was necessary because of “technical reasons”. There’s no arguing with that, I suppose, but still.
One of the other passengers asked about compensation, to which he said we could write to Qatar Airways customer service “if we had concerns”. I wanted to tell her not to bother, since airlines promise you a cabin, not a particular seat. Qatar Airways could have given us a recliner-equipped A320 to Singapore and not owed us a single dime.
What’s interesting is that Qatar Airways used to offer a “Qsuite guarantee”. If a Qsuites aircraft was substituted for another, passengers could make a one-time free change of date, origin or destination, or refund with no penalties.
If the change to non-Qsuite is verified, you are entitled to 1) one-time free change (+/- 21 days of the original date; new origin or destination within the same country or 500-mile radius from the original origin or destination); and 2) refund without the cancellation fee.
— Qatar Airways Support (@qrsupport) October 1, 2019
I have no idea if this policy is still in place; in fact, you won’t find it anywhere on the Qatar Airways website.
I didn’t fancy waiting another six hours anyway, but just for the heck of it, I asked the supervisor if QR946, departing at 2.20 a.m the following morning, had Qsuites. He checked and said it did, but the flight was completely full in Business Class.
And so, I gathered my things and trudged down the aerobridge, where I already knew what to expect.
And look: as far as Business Class seats come, this is decent enough. All-aisle access, a full-flat bed, and Qatar Airway’s excellent blankets (shame about the nausea-inducing quote pillows which looked like they were created by someone’s tacky aunt) are a good way to start a red-eye flight.
However, it’s quite obvious this product is in a different league from the Qsuites when it comes to privacy. This is a very exposed cabin, and despite some token dividers between the centre seats, everyone can see what everyone else is doing.
So yes, this is still a heck of a lot more comfortable than anything at the back of the bus, but when it’s your job to review different types of airplane seats, you’d be forgiven for feeling just a little bit disappointed.
I’m still planning to write a review, of course. I mean, I already paid for the flight, and the last review I wrote came in 2019– it’s time to do one with better photos!
My latest attempt to review the Qatar Airways Qsuite has once again fallen at the final hurdle, as a last-minute aircraft swap put me with the old B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats instead.
In a way, Qatar Airways is a victim of its own success. Because its Qsuites product is so incredible, most of its other Business Class seats pale in comparison. And if a passenger makes a booking with the Qsuite in mind, any changes are bound to lead to disappointment.
Then again, I suppose it’s a good reminder of the vagaries of the miles game: specific seat types are never guaranteed. Sometimes the avgeek gods smile on you, sometimes they don’t.
For what it’s worth, we should see an increase in Qsuites supply over the next few months, as Qatar Airways has settled its dispute with Airbus over paint defects on the A350s. Dozens of parked A350s with Qsuites will be returning to the skies, and Qatar will reinstate its order for 23 more A350s with Qsuites pre-installed.
Qsuites: Call it quits, or keep trying?