When Australia received its first Airbus A350-XWB service in May 2016 with Qatar Airways starting a daily Adelaide-Doha service, it came with an intriguing promise – reduced jet lag. That's only part of the story when flying Business Class on the new generation aircraft.
1. Welcome aboard
First impressions count, and this is a doozy. Business Class entry is more like a hotel lobby than a plane. Attendants greet guests in an area open the full width of the XWB (Xtra Wide Body) plane which becomes a gathering point once airborne to stretch the legs and chat with fellow travellers over self serve nibbles and drinks from curved counters. The other immediate impression is of space. Qatar has done away with overhead luggage bins down the centre of the Business Class cabin. Large luggage bins down either side of the aircraft are ample for all on board and fold upwards, adding to the 'space ship' effect. In décor, the airline's colour purple reigns.
2. Take a seat
The 36 seats all with aisle access in a 1-2-1 configuration are like snuggling into private lounge pods. Window seats are angled towards the panoramic windows, the centre row seats are angled inward with a moveable divider screen, up for privacy, down to chat. The 55cm wide seat – named Skytrax Best Business Seat 2015 – has 14 settings including a fully flat 2m bed position. Two lacquered wood side tables and large front table provide room for work or play, and the seat comes with USB port, iPort and WiFi. The 17 inch HD touch screen offers more than 1000 entertainment options. A side storage compartment is handy for personal items such as iPad or handbag. Checked baggage limit is 40kg, carry on 15kg.
3. Time to dine
Forget the trolley, or even set dining times. An a la carte menu designed by Michelin starred chefs Nobu Matsuhisa and Vineet Bhatia offers superb choices prepared to order by obliging staff. The chicken and coconut soup starter was tasty, as was the classic Arab mezze plate. Some time later I felt like the Thai beef curry with jasmine rice, then a little later a cheese plate which came with grapes and chutney as well as crackers.
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Qatar has a small wine list along with champagne and spirits, although the Islamic nation's flag carrier emphasises its non-alcoholic choices such as their faux-champagne.
4. Hit the lights
The large windows have electromagnetic shades which can be positioned to opaque or fully shut and each seat has a discreet personal light. However the major lighting effect is the cabin's LED system where 16.7 million combinations calmly lull passengers through time zones, helping body clocks naturally adjust and warding off the worst of jet lag.
Also helping combat jet lag is the aircraft's extensive use of composite materials, allowing cabin pressure to be cut by about 25 per cent and so easing strain on the body. Corrosion resistant materials also allow higher cabin humidity, reducing that dreadful dried out feeling after a nap. Air purified every two minutes, and advanced air conditioning without the sudden cold gusts add to comfort. Tapered wing design means cabin noise is 15 decibels quieter than required by regulation. All these factors combine for a restful flight.
Frette linens for the table, Armani toiletries kits, Rituals skincare products in the lavatories, pyjamas for night flights, noise cancelling headphones – all very nice. Flowers in the lobby area add a warm touch.
Hamad International Airport at Doha has a separate business class exit, making disembarkation a breeze. Check in for the return flight is at a dedicated Business terminal, then guests can enjoy the many comforts of the 10,000 square metre Al Mourjan Business Class lounge such as 'quiet' rooms, showers, buffet or a la carte dining, and using a private workstation. The terminal also has a hotel with pool.