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The Points Guy is introducing a brand new review format that includes numerical scores for each section of the experience. These scores were used to determine the winners at the 2018 TPG Awards, where Qatar’s Qsuite was named the Best International Business Class of the year.
Amazing suite with supreme privacy, loads of fantastic lounge options at HKG, comfortable amenities like PJs
Mediocre headphones, spotty Wi-Fi at times, the cabin was too dim.
Since it launched in 2017, I’ve heard that Qatar Airways’ Qsuite is the best business-class product in the sky. In fact, it’s a commonly said that Qsuite is better than many first-class products. With its all-suite cabin, great design, tasty food and the attentive service we’ve come to expect from Qatar, Qsuite is certainly an aspirational option.
For me, having already flown 17 hours with Qatar in economy, the opportunity to check out the Qsuite product was impossible to pass up. Was the product really all that it was hyped up to be? Were the seats really that comfortable? So I booked a one-way flight from Hong Kong (HKG) to Doha (DOH) for 60,000 British Airways Avios to check it out.
Put simply, Qsuite is not cheap. On this route between Hong Kong and Doha, a seat in the cabin hovered around $1,300 one-way, which is on the cheaper side for this product. However, we were able to find a great value for this flight using points. I searched on British Airways, a Oneworld parter of Qatar, and found availability in Qsuite for 60,000 Avios and $47 in taxes and fees. Based on TPG‘s most recent valuations, 60,000 British Airways Avios were worth $900, so I was able to maximize the points and get a far better deal than if I were to have booked with cash.
The best part about booking with Avios is that you can transfer them instantly from Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. So redeeming Chase or Amex points to fly with Qsuite when booking through British Airways is easy to do. Plus, you can book online — there’s no calling involved.
If you want to fly Qsuite and use points and miles to do so, your best bet might be to fly international routes like this. To fly directly from the US to Doha, you have to pay at least 105,000 British Airways Avios and several hundred dollars in taxes and fees. For just 60,000 Avios for this nearly nine-hour flight, I felt good about my redemption.
Because I was connecting from a positioning flight to Hong Kong, I arrived at HKG plenty early — too early. I had a solid three hours to kill before the check-in area opened. So I bided my time by walking around in the arrivals hall, grabbing something to eat and catching up on work.
Three and a half hours prior to departure, I headed upstairs to the check-in counter, thinking it would for sure be open at that point. I was wrong. Instead, there were about 20 passengers standing around in their appropriate queues — but no staff in sight.
As the minutes continued to tick away, passengers grew visibly frustrated — for those in Qsuite, it was time that could’ve been spent in the airport’s great lounges. Finally, at 3:20pm, a group of about 10 agents showed up at the gate, not appearing to be in any rush.
It took the group, all of whom were Cathay Dragon employees, about 10 minutes to set up the otherwise generic area with Qatar-branded baggage tags, checked luggage allowances and the like before passengers were finally permitted to check in. The agent whom I dealt with was very businesslike, with little enthusiasm. Even though this was not the airline’s home base, I expected better treatment at the start of a journey on one of the best business-class products in the sky.
Once I was finally checked in, I headed through security and immigration. Both processes took less than 10 minutes total, and I was on my way to lounge-hop.
Because I was flying Qsuite, a Oneworld partner business-class ticket, I had plenty of options as far as lounges. And given that I had a couple of hours to spend before boarding, I wanted to see as many as possible, ultimately deciding on the American Express Centurion Lounge and Cathay Pacific’s The Bridge and The Pier, its business-class lounge.
I started at the Centurion Lounge, on the upper level near Gate 60. It was much like a Centurion Lounge in the US: modern, chic and fresh.
Though on the smaller side, during my time, it didn’t get overcrowded, and I found it both cozy and open, especially with the high ceiling. Because I was carrying my Platinum Card® from American Express with me and had a same-day ticket, I was granted access to the lounge and its fresh buffet spread.
At the buffet, there was a variety of different selections, both hot and cold: root vegetables, pasta with mushrooms, salmon, beef and fried rice. I only snacked on a few of the offerings to keep my appetite fresh for more reviewing.
My favorite part of the buffet was the dessert selection, which featured French macarons. Though the one that I tried was a bit on the hard side, it was still a nice sweet option to see in an airport lounge.
And, of course, like any Centurion Lounge, one of the highlights was the bar, which was fully complimentary. I sat down and ordered a glass of Champagne — the perfect way to start my Qsuite journey.
From the Centurion Lounge, I made the five-minute walk to The Pier, in Terminal 1 near Gate 65. First- and business-class passengers and select Marco Polo Club and Oneworld frequent flyers were permitted to enter. And because I was traveling in business class with one of Cathay’s Oneworld partners, Qatar, I was able to access with just a scan of my boarding pass.
As soon as I entered the lounge, I quickly realized that it was the nicest business-class lounge I’d been in. It was grand in size and variety, with a number of different rooms to walk through, explore and sample.
Because access to the lounge was somewhat restricted and first-class passengers were likely to opt for the first-class Pier, this lounge was nearly desolate the entire time I was there. I was the only person in some of the rooms.
In total, the lounge offered 14 shower suites, a full relaxation room to sleep in, workstations and several cuisine-specific rooms. There was also the coffee room, which also featured the standard lounge buffet fare. But unlike a standard lounge buffet, it was all served out by a full-time staffer from behind glass.
Then there was the teahouse, the first of its kind for Cathay. For those looking to indulge with a wide selection of teas, the teahouse and its full-time staffer could help to customize the experience.
Like some other Cathay lounges, one of the rooms featured a noodle bar.
There was also a bar room.
The only drawback to the lounge, though really minor, was that because it was one level below the main terminal, it was closed off to natural light with the exception of one wall, though you could sit at one of the many chairs by the window. The dim lighting fit the aesthetic in many of the rooms, especially the tea room and bar.
The themed rooms and the emptiness of the space helped service feel personable. This was truly what a business-class lounge should be like — other airlines, take note. I wanted to stay, but I still had out check out The Bridge.
The Bridge was the exact opposite of the relaxed, enjoyable experience of The Pier — loud, crowded and near capacity. The Bridge was just below the Centurion Lounge, near Gate 35, and open to first- and business-class passengers and select Marco Polo Club members and Oneworld frequent flyers.
Given that boarding time was drawing near, I quickly left. I did get a glimpse of the buffet, which seemed also to be crowded.
If you’re flying Qsuite out of Hong Kong or business class with other Oneworld airlines, plan on spend the majority of your pre-flight time at The Pier. If you have time, the Centurion Lounge is worth a stop. If you want to avoid crowds, The Bridge may not be a good idea.
For my Qsuite experience, the plentiful lounge options throughout the terminal — and there were others that I didn’t have time to visit — was a fantastic way to start my journey. Given the poor check-in experience, the lounge experience within HKG was a nice rebound.
Wanting to be one of the first to board so I could get pictures, I arrived to the gate about 15 minutes prior to the set boarding time. However, as I started lining up by the gate, an agent informed me that boarding would begin later than expected and that I should take a seat in the gate area, though she didn’t give a time.
About 10 minutes later, I headed back to the front of the business-class boarding area. The agent again informed me that boarding would take place in 10 minutes. Once that time passed, we were again told that boarding would begin in another 10 minutes, though there was no reason given.
Finally, we boarded about at about 6:15pm for our 6:50pm departure, nearly ensuring that we would be at least a bit delayed.
Much like the ground experience at check-in, the ground experience at boarding — also staffed by Cathay Dragon employees — was not top-notch.
Cabin and Seat
The Qsuite cabin on Qatar’s Boeing 777-300ER was spread out, but it really felt like I was walking through a first-class cabin. It truly felt worlds apart from its business-class competitors.
Throughout the cabin were 42 Qsuites spread across two minicabins. Between the two, the forward cabin was slightly larger, with 24 seats, as compared to 18 seats in the slightly smaller rear cabin.
Both of the cabins were in a 1-2-1 configuration, offering each passenger direct aisle access. And, because Qsuite was, as one might guess from the name, truly a suite, each of the seats had a door, providing each passenger supreme privacy.
Because each of the suites was so large, the cabin as a whole felt tight — especially when suite doors were closed. The aisle felt a bit on the narrow side, and because there were overhead bins in the center of the cabin and no cathedral ceilings, the cabin felt squeezed from the top as well. That being said, I felt comfortable with the decision to sacrifice cabin airiness in favor of providing a hard product that is as stunning as Qsuite is.
During boarding and even while deplaning, Qatar kept the Qsuite cabin extremely dimly lit. During a nighttime or early-morning departure, it’d be very hard to see the entirety of the cabin and all that it offers because of the dim lighting. While I understood the idea was to set a calm mood for passengers, it was not very practical. When you’re boarding, it’s helpful to be able to actually see what you’re doing, like where you’re placing your belongings and the different features of the suite. Plus, it makes it harder to take pictures if you’re trying to document your trip, and walking from the fluorescent lighting of a terminal to the dark cabin is hard to adjust to. I hope Qatar rethinks the low-light decision in the future. It’s not as if the carrier should be hiding the product — it’s truly beautiful. It should consider highlighting its features, and that begins with light.
Each of the seats was truly magnificent. From its size to the coloring to well-placed features like the handheld inflight-entertainment control, side table and side storage, it was an aesthetically pleasing hard product.
Upon boarding, each passenger got two pillows, a blanket, amenity kit and set of headphones at the seat.
My seat, 9J, was in the rear minicabin. Seats A and B in both cabins were window seats on the port side, while D, E, F and G were middle seats and could be converted into a four-seat suite. J and K were window seats on the starboard side. If you’re traveling alone, you’ll want to grab either an A or K seat, as they were flush against the cabin wall and provided the most privacy, though they were rear-facing.
Because I was in 9J, my seat was closer to the aisle with the side table and side armrest, which was really more of a second seat that doubled as a storage compartment once lifted. (It wasn’t large enough to fit my 15-inch MacBook.) If there was one negative about the seat, I would say it was that the side storage compartment was a replacement for a side armrest. But because there was so much space in the seat, I didn’t find it to be an issue.
Once I was seated, a friendly flight attendant named Hana came to greet me and asked if I’d flown Qsuite before. Because I hadn’t, she gave me a brief tour of the suite, pointing out all of its spaces and features.
Notably, on the 777-300ER, each of the Qsuites had its own air vents, so it was possible to customize the temperature in my own suite.
One could easily tell that each of the Qsuites, mine included, was incredibly well thought-out. It was evident that hundreds, if not thousands, of hours went into designing the product to improve the passenger experience — designers succeeded in coming up with a product that was at once comfortable and private, warm and inviting, modern and simple. I was a big fan of the Qatar burgundy coloring throughout the cabin and each suite, coupled with gray upholstery, tasteful gold accents, black touches and white to brighten it up a bit, including at the top of the side table.
The seat itself was very comfortable, measuring 21.5 inches wide and 79 inches long. Not only was the suite private when the door was fully closed, but because of the way the cabin was configured and the extended partitions on the sides of the suites, there was plenty of privacy even when the door was open. Though the rear minicabin on my flight was about half full — about 10 of the seats were occupied — it felt very private when the door was open.
My suite was immaculate — it felt as though I could have been the very first passenger to have ever sat in it. That’s likely far from true, as the aircraft (registered A7-BEQ) was less than a year old, having been delivered to Qatar in March 2018.
The main storage compartment in the seat was below the side seat/armrest. Directly underneath the side table was a narrow slit large enough to store literature, a phone or an AirPods case.
Just below that space were the seat controls. The physical seat controls were illustrated well and easy to use, including a massage function. Also in that area of the seat were the power port, USB port, headphone port and IFE handheld remote. I was a huge fan of having all of these often-used seat features in one area. Included in the seat functions was a do-not-disturb button.
Once I placed my order for meal service, Hana closed my suite door, and it remained closed until landing. The door was extremely easy to use. Unlike the Delta One Suite, there was no lever to pull. Instead, you physically pulled the narrow door shut. It didn’t require much effort. And not only was the door easy to use, but the detailing in the curved design of the door — and the suite overall — was extremely well-done.
GIF by Zach Honig/TPG
When I reclined the seat to its lie-flat position after meal service, Hana came right over to the seat to ask if I wanted turndown service, which I gladly accepted.
The bed was incredibly comfortable. With the three pillows that were available (a third was presented during turndown service), the plush blanket and the wonderfully padded mattress topper, I forgot I was on a plane.
I managed to get about three hours of sleep, which was plenty, considering that I wasn’t that tired and that I wanted to spend as much time awake and enjoying the Qsuite as possible.
It’s worth noting that the seat, even in its lie-flat position, didn’t have any nooks and crannies for things to slip through. In my opinion, that’s a huge perk that often goes unnoticed. Without having to worry about your phone falling through 2-inch cracks on either side of the seat, it’s much easier to rest easy when you’re at 35,000 feet.
Overall, the Qatar Qsuite hard product cemented its position as the best business-class product in the sky. The seat itself was comfortable and private, aesthetically pleasing and very practical. It was the definition of luxurious for a business-class product without being gaudy. Qatar Airways and its designers really nailed this product from start to finish. My only legitimate complaint would be to add more light and show off the cabin. I definitely want to see more of it.
Amenities and IFE
When it came to the soft product with Qsuite, it was right up there with the fabulous hard product. Upon boarding, each passenger was given a set of slippers and pajamas from The White Company.
The slippers were pretty standard, but the pajamas were among the more comfortable that I’ve slept in. They were light, which is perfect in that I tend to get hot while sleeping at 35,000 feet. And they were phenomenally soft. I wanted to take the set home with me but didn’t have any room in my carry-on bag.
The bedding itself was also fantastic — the most comfortable I’ve had in the skies. Taken together, the several soft pillows, turndown service, padded mattress and plush blanket made me forget, again, that I was on a plane.
Though all the linens were comfortable, the highlight for me was the blanket, which not only had an on-brand design but was so comfortable I wanted to take it home.
In the Qsuite cabin, there were four lavatories split across the two minicabins. Two were at the nose of the aircraft, while two were between the minicabins. I stuck to using the latter and found them to be plenty spacious and easy on the eyes, from the wood-and-marble-look vanities to the drawers with toothbrushes and well-lit mirror.
The lavatory was stocked with Rituals products. I found the scents to be light and not overpowering.
After meal service, shaving kits and dental kits were left out on the vanities for passengers.
At each seat upon boarding was a Bric’s hard-shell amenity kit.
Inside was a pop of turquoise.
The contents were standard: socks, eye mask, earplugs (with case) and products from Monte Vibiano, an Italian company known for using olive oil. There was lip balm, moisturizer and a moisturizing facial mist.
In the side storage compartment was a set of headphones. The headphones were Qatar-branded, labeled Oryx One. If I had one major complaint about the soft product of Qsuite, it was the headphones. They weren’t entirely noise-canceling and not on par with what you might find on other carriers.
The Oryx One inflight-entertainment system was highlighted by a 21.5-inch screen, which operated by both touchscreen and by a remote control. I found the screen itself to be the perfect size for how far away it was from the seat in the upright, lounge and lie-flat positions.
I found enough to keep me plenty entertained for the almost nine-hour flight. The system had movies ranging from Hollywood to Bollywood, Arabic and more. I noticed “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “The Shape of Water,” “The Spirit of St. Louis” and “Parent Trap.”
As far as TV, shows were broken down by category, like Food Network, E! and National Geographic. I managed to watch a bit of my guilty pleasure, “Keeping up With the Kardashians” (I know, I know). There were also 64 games, from “Solitaire” to “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and “2048.”
I found the screen itself and the handheld remote to be incredibly responsive, which was to be expected for such a new aircraft. But compared to other airlines’ IFE systems, Oryx One fell a bit behind: Delta Studio, for example, offers many more options, highlighted by new releases that are constantly updated.
Qatar’s 777-300ER offered one hour of complimentary Wi-Fi, but I purchased the full-flight package for $10. Speeds seemed to be pretty consistent throughout the flight — not blazingly fast and not frustratingly slow.
Food and Beverage
Dine on Demand
Like the hard product of Qsuite on the 777-300ER, the soft product was top-notch, beginning with meal service. On this almost nine-hour flight, a total of two meals were served.
Just after boarding and after Hana showed me around the Qsuite, I was offered a predeparture beverage. I got the rosé Champagne, which was served with a choice of either a hot or cold towel. Both the Champagne and hot towel were delivered within one minute.
The flight departed at 7:25pm, and right after we reached 10,000 feet at around 7:38pm, Hana took my meal order and closed the suite door.
Qatar offered a dine-on-demand service, where you could order whatever you wanted whenever you wanted. Like most things with Qsuite, meal service was all about the little details. The menus were made out of quality, thick paper.
At 7:53pm, drinks were served with warm nuts. I ordered a glass of Max Reserva sauvignon blanc 2016 ($17 per bottle on the ground) from Chile, which was crisp with citrus and herbal tones. I was offered a taste before the full glass, like wine service at a proper restaurant.
Prior to getting to the meal, each passenger was served a shrimp and scallop starter, which was tasty and not too fishy. On the tray table was a flickering candle (battery-operated!), glass of water, personal bread basket and full-size salt and pepper shakers.
To start meal service, I tried out two of the starters from the à la carte menu. First up was the cauliflower soup, served with pesto and mint oil. The soup was amazing, with plenty of flavor.
Next up for appetizer was a mezze with hummus, tabouleh, baba ganoush and flatbread. Each of the dishes was extremely fresh and flavorful. And not only was the food tasty but I was a huge fan of the dishware.
For the main course, I ordered a pan-fried salmon fillet with pepper bulgur and lemon-cream sauce with fresh raspberries, baby carrots and cherry tomatoes. The salmon was cooked to perfection and tasted incredibly fresh. The meal was delicious — it was as if dining in an upscale restaurant on the ground.
Other choices for the main course included black-pepper chicken with fried rice served with sautéed vegetables and shimeji mushrooms; ravioli agnolotti with duxelles, served with truffle cream, buttered vegetables and arugula.
Shortly after I awoke from my three-hour nap, I pressed the call button to order more water. She asked if I would like anything else from the snack menu, offered throughout the flight, but because I wasn’t too hungry, I ordered just nuts.
About one and a half hours before landing, Hana came around once again, asking for orders for the final meal of the flight, a light option. I got the fresh garden salad, which was served with pumpkin, grilled sweet pepper and zucchini with Parmesan. The salad was good, not great. While the grilled veggies on the top were tasty, the lettuce was a little on the wilted side. That all being said, it was still a flavorful end to a great flight.
Other choices for the light meal included seafood with egg-white fried rice and Shanghai brassica, served with jasmine rice, spring onion and sambal; finger sandwiches, scones and pastries, served with tea; and chicken and beef sliders.
Service on this flight was above and beyond. The crew members, especially my flight attendant, Hana, were extremely friendly and attentive. When I rang the call button, Hana was at my Qsuite door within 30 seconds, popping her head over the top and asking what I needed.
Service can either make or break a flight. Thankfully, Qatar gave me both on this flight: great service and an amazing hard product that was hard to beat.
Though we departed from Hong Kong with a slight delay, Flight 817 arrived in Doha almost 30 minutes early. One frustrating thing about flying into or out of Doha is the high chance that you’ll have a remote gate — it’s happened to me both times that I’ve flown through DOH. On this flight, we were deplaned and driven to the terminal in buses. Qsuite passengers shared their own bus.
Upon arrival in the terminal, Qsuite passengers had access to expedited immigration and customs via the Al Safwa First Class Lounge and Al Mourjan Business Lounge. It was toward the general immigration area and to the left. I followed the signs and went to the business lounge.
When I arrived at DOH, the immigration line for non-Qatari citizens was several hundred deep. Meanwhile, I was the only passenger in the entire arrivals space for business- and first-class passengers. I was able to zip right through immigration within one minute.
If I’d wanted to spend more time in the lounge, there was food and drink, but it was almost 11:30pm, and I was ready to head to my hotel.
Having the business-class lounge on arrival to use for immigration likely saved me at least an hour. It was nice to get a glimpse of the ground treatment for Qsuite passengers when in Doha. Because my on-the-ground experience in Hong Kong was relatively disappointing, it was nice to see what the norm was for Qsuite passengers on flights originating in DOH.
Qsuite lived up to all of the hype. I was extremely impressed with everything about it, including both the hard and soft products. The seat is a spectacle in itself, the blankets comfortable, the food as tasty as you’d find in your favorite restaurant on the ground. Plus, the service goes above and beyond.
That said, there are still soft spots that Qatar could work on in order to take Qsuite to the next level. For one, the headphones weren’t top notch. In order to offer a truly great IFE experience, I’d like to see a better, truly noise-canceling set of headphones offered. In addition, it would be great to see a more consistent on-the-ground experience for non-Doha departures.
But Qsuite is still the best business-class product in the sky — and the rest aren’t even close.
Know before you go.
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