Review: back in Qatar Airways A380 business class after seven years
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This is my review of Business Class on a Qatar Airways A380, from London to Doha.
I was in Doha two weeks ago as the guest of the airline to discuss various Avios initiatives and take a look at the new facilities at Hamad International Airport. Qatar Airways provided my flight and hotel for two nights.
It was the future once
The last time I flew on a Qatar Airways A380 was 2016. Since then, Qsuite has become the dominant Qatar Airways business class seat. As with many airlines – including British Airways – the A380 fleet has previous generation seating and I was intrigued to see how it stood up.
Qatar Airways is currently flying a mix of Boeing 777-300ER (Qsuite) and A380 (non-Qsuite) aircraft between London Heathrow and Doha, with a Boeing 787-8 operating on the London Gatwick route. We may soon see the A350 fleet making a comeback to London now that Airbus and the airline have settled their differences.
I was on the 14.15 service which gets into Doha at midnight local time. This worked well in terms of being able to spend some time seeing the new Qatar Airways Frequent Flyer lounge (review here) and, slightly cheekily, revisiting the Plaza Premium departure lounge (review here).
Boarding the Qatar Airways A380
The Qatar Airways and Plaza Premium lounge complex at Heathrow Terminal 4 is by Gate 1 which, oddly, is not at the far end but about a third of the way down. Most Qatar Airways flights seem to use Gate 5 which is virtually opposite the lounge.
I’m not sure how this works with other aircraft types, but Business and First Class on the A380 use Gate 5B which feeds directly onto the upper deck. This wasn’t entirely clear when approaching the gate – I had to be sent down to 5B by a member of staff after accidentally trying to use the priority line for status cardholders flying in Economy.
Business Class seating on the Qatar Airways A380
The Boeing 787-8 and A380 aircraft use the same 1-2-1 seating layout which is very similar to British Airways Club Suite, albeit without a door.
There are 48 Business Class seats on the A380, all on the upper deck.
This is how the Boeing 787-8 cabin looks using a professional photographer and studio lighting (I can’t find a similar staged photo of the A380 cabin):
…. and this is what the A380 version looks like in ‘real life’:
I had a solo window seat. Whilst it is not a ‘suite’ (ie there is no door) this seat is still light years ahead of the offering in the old style British Airways Club World seat, especially if you are travelling on your own. Apart from the door, it is similar to British Airways Club Suite.
The flat area by the window is big enough to hold your newspapers, magazines and, erm, pre-flight Joseph Perrier Esprit de Victoria 2006 rose champagne.
The 1-2-1 layout, whilst still not universal when I first flew this seat seven years ago, has now been copied by virtually every other major airline. Your feat disappear into a cubby hole under the seat in front and you are angled in a herringbone pattern. Neither of these were, in any way, inconvenient – especially if you are in a window seat as you will be facing the window.
The only thing I did not like is that the TV is fixed in position. It does not fold away. Even if you don’t plan to watch it (and I rarely do) you are forced to look directly at it for the whole flight.
The armrest on the aisle side of your seat contains your headphones. Long-term readers will know that I don’t really ‘do’ IFE these days so you’ll need to go back to old Qatar Airways reviews from Rhys to get a feel for them!
It appeared that you could lift up this armrest to provide support at the same level as the armrest on the window side, but for the life of me I couldn’t work out how to do it. I had assumed it wasn’t possible until I saw another seat with it raised towards the end of the flight. It turns out that the control to raise and lower the armrest is in the same panel as the control for turning the seat into a bed.
Storage is excellent. As well as a storage unit under the console table:
…. there is an extra feature on the A380. Because of the way the fuselage curves, there is space for a huge bin between the seat and the cabin wall:
It’s just like having a huge waste bin at your seat. As you work through your magazines, or you unpack your blanket or headphones or you finish with your menu, you can just drop it in here. It allows you to keep the area around your seat perfectly tidy.
When made into a bed, which I didn’t do as it was a day flight, the bed length is quoted as 80 inches (2m) with a width of 30 inches (76cm).
Qatar Airways A380 amenity kit
The current toiletry bag – more of a box actually – is from Diptyque. It contains a body lotion, a generous 10ml EdT spray, face cream and lip balm.
Toothbrushes, razors etc are available from a drawer in the toilets, although if you didn’t know this I doubt you would find them.
Food and drink
The food and drink on Qatar Airways is generally of very high quality – I rank it above Emirates and Etihad in Business Class, and there is no comparison with British Airways, even with recent Do&Co upgrade.
The table is stored under the TV and comes forward when released. If you need to nip out during your meal to visit the loo or calm a small child, it is easy to release the latch and push it forward,
One benefit of the 14.15 departure is that you are guaranteed lunch. My last few Middle East flights were early morning departures which means that your main meal is breakfast – and, let’s be honest, with the best will in the world you can’t do much that is ‘special’ with an airline breakfast.
The menu was:
- Wild mushroom
- Classic arabic mezze, or
- Trio of seafood – balik salmon, seared pepper tuna and crab meat salad (see below)
The salmon was excellent, as was the bread trio that came with it. An amuse bouche came first:
…. and then the salmon:
The choice of mains was:
- Duo of beef – grilled angus beef fillet and braised beef cheek
- Seared Atlantic halibut with parsley barley risotto
- Gulf style chicken biryani (see below)
- Butternut squash ravioli
The biryani seemed a little low on chicken but I am prepared to put this down to a ‘quality over quantity’ approach. Perhaps I’m being soft, because if this was British Airways I would probably be accusing them of penny pinching ….
The dessert choice was:
- Cheese plate, plus
- Baked plum tart (see below), or
- Gourmet ice cream, or
- Fresh berries with orange syrup
I have a soft spot for proper puddings and the plum tart went down well.
Lighter options (afternoon tea, steak sandwich) were also on offer. In theory it is ‘dine on demand’ although virtually everyone, including myself, seemed to eat immediately after take-off.
The afternoon tea is similar to the British Airways version, with a slight tweak in that the exposed edges of the outer sandwiches were not dried out. I’ve no idea how they do this but if someone could email BA with the secret ….
Alongside the rose I had before take-off, the other champagne on offer was Laurent Perrier Brut. Wine options included an Albert Bichot Montagny Premier Cru 2018 and a Casa Silva Cool Coast sauvignon blanc (2021). Dessert options were a Nittnaus Trockenbeerenauslese Exquisit 2018 and a Niepoort 20 year old tawny port.
I try to avoid commenting on the crew in my reviews because you can never tell if what you had is average, better or worse than the norm. However, the Qatar Airways crew were excellent and I never felt, as I do with Emirates at times, that I may get the wrong thing due to the lack of English skills. They did, however, insist on putting my knife and fork the wrong way round, eg fork to the right! Looking back at my 2016 A380 review, they were doing the same thing then.
In the Qatar Airways A380 bar
There is also the A380 business class and First Class bar towards the back of the aircraft on the upper deck. This is a ‘proper’ bar unlike the small ‘table’ found on the Boeing 787 fleet.
Having also flown Emirates and Etihad on the A380 multiple times, I have to say that I prefer the Qatar Airways bar layout due to the curving seats:
…. which gives you more privacy. Emirates and Etihad make you sit in a semi-circle or full circle respectively.
Luckily I don’t need to run through the Qatar Airways Oryx IFE system, because the airline does it for you! You can see the full list of what will be available on your flight on the airline website here.
It claims there are over 6,000 ‘entertainment options’ available, including 1,100 movies – albeit not all of them in English, of course. You really won’t struggle to find something.
Business Class gets a 17 inch screen – if you want the a full screen experience then you need to head to First Class (yes, the A380 has an 8-seat First Class cabin) where there is a 26 inch screen.
I need to have a moan about the internet. I’m not complaining about the price, which is reasonable as airline wi-fi pricing goes – $10 for three hours or $20 for the full flight.
The issue is that these are subject to ‘fair use’ limits of 100mb and 200mb respectively.
Frankly, this is a joke. I did little more than draft this review (without uploading images) and replying to emails and got very close to the cap. Heaven knows how little streaming you would get from 200mb.
To put this in perspective, we work very hard at HfP to keep the site speedy but our home page is still 1.2mb. I tested another frequent flyer website and the home page was 7.2mb. A typical HfP flight review article is about 4mb. 200mb doesn’t cut it these days.
In terms of connectivity, there is a plug socket which takes an English 3-pin plug and looks like it would also take various other combinations. There is a USB-A socket below it.
You’re not going to get USB-C, Bluetooth or anything similar given the age of the A380 business class cabins.
The first time I flew Qatar Airways was when the A380 / 787 seat was the latest thing, and the Qatar Airways PR team in London – after putting me on an ageing 777 for one leg – reminded me that the crew, food, drink and service were no different even though the 777 seat wasn’t the best.
Seven years later, it is now the A380 / 787 seat which is somewhat ‘old hat’ with Qsuite (either the 777 original or the hybrid used on the new A350 fleet) being the seat to aim for.
As someone who never uses the door on a suite, I still find the Qatar Airways A380 package to be excellent. Whilst it isn’t the latest seat, you get the benefit of being on the Upper Deck of an incredibly quiet A380 (even after all these years, I still find it bizarre when you take off and feel absolutely nothing) and the bar. The food, drink and amenity kit are literally the same as you’d get on a Qsuite flight, as of course are the lounges on the ground.
If you’ve never flown Qsuite and you’re flexible with flight times then, of course, I recommend choosing a flight which has it. You might as well try the best when you get the chance. You certainly shouldn’t be too disappointed to do an A380 business class leg however and if you are transiting to a long-haul connection in Doha it is likely that you’d get Qsuite for your onward journey anyway.
If you want to find out more about the Qatar A380 service, there is a special page on the Qatar Airways website here.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (March 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
SPECIAL OFFER: Successfully apply for either of the Barclaycard Avios credit cards by 2nd April 2023 and you will be entered into a free draw to win ONE MILLION AVIOS! Full details are on the application forms here (free) and here (paid). This competition is exclusive to Head for Points readers. T&C apply.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard
25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review
Barclaycard Avios Mastercard
5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review
British Airways American Express
5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Until 30th March 2023, the sign up bonus on American Express Business Platinum is increased to 120,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. The bonus on American Express Business Gold is increased to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – click here. T&C apply, see the application forms for details.
American Express Business Platinum
Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 30th March) and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
60,000 points sign-up bonus (to 30th March) and free for a year Read our full review
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.