This is our review of the new business class seat on Qatar Airways’ new Boeing 787-9 aircraft.
The backstory behind this seat is a little convoluted. After introducing the award-winning Qsuite seat (review here) on the A350 and Boeing 777 fleet, Qatar Airways found itself stuck: Qsuite was too wide to fit on its other aircraft, including the 787, A330 and A380 fleets.
To tackle the problem, Qatar set about designing a modified version of that product but appropriately sized for aircraft with narrower fuselages. This seat was designed to be launched with the arrival of Qatar’s 787-9 fleet. This never came to pass and we will never know what this version of Qsuite looked like, as the seat manufacturer defaulted and left Qatar Airways in the lurch.
This left the airline in a bit of a pickle. One option was to install the same, older business class seats featured on the existing 787-8s and A380s, but this seat is now ten years old and the antithesis of Qsuite with its wide-open cabin with virtually no privacy:
Instead, Qatar went back to the drawing board and opted for an entirely new seat from a manufacturer that could deliver at short notice, rather than the 4+ year lead-time normally afforded.
This led Qatar Airways to the Adient Ascent seat now installed on the aircraft. Designed by a subsidiary of Boeing, the seat could be designed and installed relatively quickly with only minor modifications to an existing template.
Here is a PR image:
However, there is one further twist in the tale. Whilst Adient was able to provide the seat at short notice, Qatar Airways will be making further modifications to the existing Adient Ascent seat for later aircraft deliveries, starting with the 9th 787-9. This will leave Qatar’s 787-9 fleet with two different, albeit similar, products.
This review is of the first generation Qatar Airways Adient Ascent seat on the Boeing 787-9.
For clarity, this seat is not (yet) flying to the UK although it undoubtedly will appear soon as more aircraft arrive from Boeing. I flew from Doha to Copenhagen specifically to try it out. Qatar Airways provided my flight as part of its campaign to promote the new Qatar Privilege Club / Avios partnership.
Checking in at Doha Hamad International Airport
Like British Airways, Qatar Airways offers a premium wing for its First and Business customers, with a special drop off zone if arriving by car:
It is a very classy affair:
…. with plenty of dedicated check-in desks which meant I didn’t have to wait:
Onboard the Qatar Airways 787-9
Unfortunately, our aircraft was on a remote stand which meant we were bussed out. As it turns out, we were as remote as we could possibly be – about 10 minutes from the terminal!
Qatar Airways operates dedicated buses for business class passengers which are very smart inside with burgundy leather seating.
It did mean we got a nice engine view upon boarding, which you don’t get everyday with a widebody!
Inside, the 787-9 is configured with 30 business class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration across a single cabin. If boarding via the second doors you are greeted with a console table and additional aisle-transfer corridor:
Qatar Airways has installed overhead luggage bins on both the window sides and down the centre, so there is plenty of storage.
The centre seats have a fully retractable divider, as you can see here, in case you are sitting next to a stranger:
I was in seat 1A:
The fit and finish of the seat is incredibly similar to Qsuite, with a lot of the colours, textiles and patterns matching perfectly.
The seat itself is comfortable, although not quite as comfortable as Qsuite I thought:
To the right you have a wireless phone charging holder, a small storage unit and personal light:
The wireless phone charger is a game changer – no faffing about with cables and I was surprised how well it worked. The arm holds it in place securely so there’s no change of it flying around during turbulence and also clears up some space on the side console.
Storage options are not this seat’s strong suit, and the little storage cupboard is the only at-seat unit available. It is big enough for a bottle of water and a pair of noise cancelling headphones but nothing more:
Meanwhile the personal light offers several brightness levels that you can adjust. Separate, overhead reading lights are also available, as is one of those tiny puck-like lights.
Underneath the storage cupboard is a second screen and remote for the IFE, as well as USB and mains charging ports.
The side console is split level and finished in marble effect:
The split level is quite neat, with the smaller lower end bit acting quite nicely as a place to put drinks.
The seat controls are along the edge, with just a handful of options as well as a ‘do not disturb’ sign:
In front of you is a large in-flight entertainment screen, with some ambient lighting above and below:
The tray table is neatly tucked underneath, flush with the screen:
It is a very clever mechanism – one of my favourite tray table designs. It comes out in ‘portrait’ mode before swivelling around into ‘landscape’ dining mode:
It is adjustable, so you can push it closer or further away from you, or keep it in portrait mode as an extra console table which I found very useful. Underneath this is the foot cubby hole. As I was in a bulkhead row mine was slightly wider than you would find in other rows. Here is my (size 10.5) foot for scale:
A good size and very comfortable actually. Here is my seat in bed mode, with the two pillows and the fluffy fleece blanket Qatar Airways provides:
You’ll notice the armrest is adjustable and increases the size of the bed when fully flat. It’s great that it’s adjustable but it seems slightly wobbly when fully up.
To the right of the TV is a small magazine/safety card/menu rack:
This seat also comes with a fully closing door. Well, almost fully closing – there is a 1cm gap:
The doors and walls of the seat are slightly lower than that of Qsuite. However, it is still enough to obscure your view of other passengers, even when you are as tall as I am.
Whilst not at your seat, crew come round and hand you a Diptyque amenity kit, this time one of the faux leather pouches rather than the gift box I received on the outbound flight.
The contents are the same however, with a pair of socks, soft eye mask, ear plugs plus Diptyque toiletries including face cream, body lotion, lip balm and eau de toilette.
Qatar Airways in-flight Wi-Fi and entertainment
The in-flight entertainment screen isn’t as big as on the Qsuite – I would guess it is something like 18″ diagonally. It is loaded with Qatar’s Oryx in-flight entertainment system, which varies slightly from aircraft to aircraft but is largely the same. It was very responsive:
The entertainment selection is good, which a solid pipeline of recent releases as well as a good spread of classics including a bunch of Marvel and Harry Potter titles. After spending most of my flight asleep I decided to watch a couple of episodes of David Attenborough’s The Green Planet, which was great, although sometimes the streaming quality dipped due to the heavy-handed compression on board.
As I mentioned in my Qsuite review, we are now getting to the point that the resolution of the IFE screens are no longer the limiting factor – instead, it is the bitrate and compression that results in a substandard picture, especially in fast moving scenes. This was especially noticeable with The Green Planet, when scenes with lots of details (ie blowing leaves) became very blocky.
Qatar offers what it calls ‘Super Wi-Fi’ on some aircraft, including this one. Super Wi-Fi is high speed satellite broadband that it touts as being up to ten times faster than standard airplane Wi-Fi.
If you are a Qatar Airways Privilege Club member then you get an hour’s free access to test it out, and by my reckoning it is definitely faster and more reliable than most airline Wi-Fi offerings.
Best of all, the Wi-Fi is reasonably priced at $10 for the entire flight, with no usage caps or speed throttling. This is a steal given that BA charges up to £25 for full-flight access.
Service in Qatar Airways business class
The service pattern is the same as you would expect on any other Qatar Airways flight, starting with a drink and a hot towel. As it was 8am I went for a glass of lemon mint:
A second round of drinks is offered after takeoff, but my plan was to go straight to sleep for a couple of hours and then dine before landing so I declined. At this point the cabin crew also ask about your meal preferences – smartly, Qatar Airways offers a few breakfast items as light snacks whilst reserving the main meal service for a ‘proper’ meal. I was hoping this was the case as airplane breakfast is never that impressive.
Light options including a brunch platter, pulled oxtail on brioche, quiche lorrain and freshly baked croissants.
After a few hours of very restful sleep – I had some bizarre dreams so I definitely slept well! – I had lunch. This time around I opted for Qatar’s classic Arabic mezze starter:
This was followed by the trio of seafood with saffron lemon sauce, which I had actually pre-ordered via Qatar’s pre-select dining service:
To finish it all off, a dulce ginger and orange cake, very delicious:
Fortunately, unlike on my outbound flight, the airline had stocked more than two bottles of the Taittinger Prestige Rose champagne so I also enjoyed that!
Just before landing the crew come round and hand out Läderach chocolates and I also asked if I could have some Karak cardamom chai which is delicious:
So, what’s the verdict?
Despite being an off-the-shelf product, I’m impressed by Qatar’s Adient Ascent seat. It’s obviously no Qsuite, but it remains a really strong product. It is comfortable and well thought out, with everything where you would expect it and an excellent tray table mechanism.
It will be interesting to see where Qatar goes from here, because I’m really not sure what else you can do. At-seat storage could be increased, and the movable arm rest is a little flimsy, but I really don’t know how else Qatar could improve the seat short of reducing the cabin density to increase personal space.
Head for Points made a financial contribution to the Woodland Trust as part of this trip. The Woodland Trust creates and manages forests in the UK in accordance with the Woodland Carbon Code.