After reading a number of field reports on Qatar Airway's A350 aircraft, I would now contribute one as well. Apart on a review of QR's brand new A350, this report will also take a look at QR's other widebody aircrafts, the A330 with the oldest product and the rather new A380 as well. This trip was a rather short one, just managing 5 nights in London, but giving me a new perspective of London from my previous visit exactly a decade ago, as well as trying out Qatar Airways to determine of it deserves its 5-Stars status.
Background: Qatar Airways offered some very attractive fares from Singapore with the launch of its third daily flight. Seeing that my birthday is around the period of a national holiday, I jumped at the offer and booked the tickets at very a reasonable fare (or I would say budget fare) for the summer peak period, with prices almost half of what SQ is offering! The first SIN-DOH sector was originally booked on a B787-8, but QR moved forward the A359 3x daily services a week earlier and hence my itinerary ended up with 2xA359, 1xA333, 1xA380. All for the better as well after the many horror stories I read regarding QR's very cramped nightmare-liners.
Warning: This report will be very picture intensive!
Check-in was performed online 36hrs prior to departure and bags were dropped at Terminal 3, where QR has 5 counters opened for check-in. Judging from the lack of check-in queues, the flight was apparently not too full, partly as this is a newly launched morning departure and offers less connections than the 2 evening flights.
Boarding passes for both sectors were issued, along with a ticket jacket. QR is strongly advertising itself as a 5-Stars carrier.
Some plane-spotting at T3. As expected, most aircrafts were SQ, SQ and more SQ, including a whale preparing for departure.
A SQ albino B773 pulling into gate.
China Airlines A333. CI has just recently moved to T3.
Jet Airways B738
QR's A359 landed from Doha slightly behind schedule. I would be flying on A7-ALA, which is the first A350 aircraft in commercial service!
Departing from Gate A14 today. Apparently the A350s all wear sunglasses/eyeshadows. Cool look!
05 August 2015 Qatar Airways QR 943 Singapore (SIN) - Doha (DOH) A350-900 A7-ALA Economy Class
A7-ALA being prepped for the flight. Simply love the blended winglets! I would be flying on the World's Best Airline (Skytrax says so) on the World's Newest Commercial Airliner (A350-900) on my birthday!
Expecting a late boarding due to the late arrival of aircraft, I was surprised that boarding was announced just slightly behind schedule. Boarding was orderly with passengers needing assistance, priority passengers followed by zones.
Boarding the A350 soon. Excited!
Welcomed by a couple of very friendly crew and directed to the correct aisle. Passed the Business Class cabin, which will not win awards as the most bling-bling or widest seats, but comfort and functionality wise, read from reviews that they are not bad.
Stepping into the Economy cabin. First impressions are good, with bright, clean, colour-coordinated and stylish looking seats and cabin. Crew are also along the aisles welcoming passengers and assisting with boarding.
I will be seated at the aft cabin. More views of the economy cabin.
On each seat was a pillow. Blankets were later distributed by the crew. Amenity kits were not available as this was a day flight.
Digital display for all the signages. Took a while to get used to them. Individual air vents were fitted as well.
Towards the rear. The aft cabin was surprisingly rather empty. Guess flight was only about 60% full on this sector. There was also a cool strip of illuminated light where the seat numbers were located. Nice feature!
At the gate.
Review of the seat itself: For an economy seat in this era, it was very comfortable! Seat cushion is well-padded, seat width and pitch is very good, seatback is high, recline if good, adjustable headrest served its purpose well, IFE system and screen is incredible, and all the other nitty gritty details are well-though out. A very impressive economy seat for this day and age, I must confess.
A very responsive and high-resolution touchscreen IFE monitor with a touchpad controller. QR even offers 3 camera views, including a tailfin view, and the resolution is very clear! Headphone, USB and media ports are located below the screen.
Legroom is fantastic and there is no IFE box to hinder the legroom. The IFE box is inbuilt into the frame of the seat.
Seat buckle has QR's Oryx logo on it. QR definitely doesn't scrimp on its branding.
Inflight mags are placed in a plastic jacket. However, the aircraft is still stocked with the July edition.
Seat pocket stuff.
Pillow, blanket, headsets and a refreshing towel. The packed lemon-scented towel was distributed by the crew after boarding was completed.
Doors were closed on time for the 1040am departure but we remained at the gate as the captain informed that due to congestion, we were given a pushback timing of 11am instead.
Finally pushed back at about 11am, with the safety video played in English followed by Arabic.
A video of the safety instructions, seat and cabin before the start of taxi.
Loved the camera view, especially during taxi. Wonder how do the pilots navigate such huge planes along the narrow taxiways and turns.
Video of the taxi.
Holding to allow a few other aircraft ahead to depart, including an ANA B787!
Finally our turn to depart, 40min behind schedule for the 7hr flight to Doha. We departed from Rwy20C towards the south and making a turn back up north, allowing a quick view of Singapore as we flew overhead,
Watch the video of the takeoff here.
Cabin ambience after takeoff.
Breaking through the cloud layer.
Visit the lavatory after seatbelt signs were switched off. The lavatory has a very modern design and offers branded body lotion and mist as well. However no toothbrushes offered.
Cabin shot from the rear.
Another angle of the cabin. Look at the generous recline! Everyone seemed very comfortable in their seats.
Cruising high up. The cabin was very quiet, comparable to the A380.
What to watch? The touchscreen monitor is very sensitive and responsive. A huge selection of movies were offered, as good as or even better than SQ's Krisworld. Layout was also very user-friendly. Have not tried Emirates' ICE, so can't compare.
A menu card was handed out. Heard that this is going to be scrapped in the near future. But lets see what is offered on this flight.
Three choices of mains.
Beverages. Champagne is no longer offered in economy.
A drink run was first conducted. My aisle was served by a real lovely crew.
Tried their signature cocktail mix, which tasted like apple juice mixed with sprite, and a hint of mint. Very refreshing!
Decided to watch Paddington, since I am going to London haha.
Out the window. Unfortunately, the A350 does not offer dimmable aircraft windows but the more traditional shades.
Lunch is served, which came with a salad starter, main, dessert, warm roll with butter, a pot of drinking water and a kitkat chocolate bar.
I had chose the beef option.
Papaya salad is simple but crisp and refreshing. Though may not be appealing to some. Dessert is not bad.
Slow cooked beef in peppercorn sauce, gratin potatoes and carrots. Beef chunks were tender and flavourful. Thumbs up! However, QR uses plastic cutlery on this sector.
Chicken massaman curry with jasmine rice, stir fried vegetables. This choice is not bad as well.
Raspberry mousse cake to finish. Tasty! Overall a rather filling meal. Will not win awards but acceptable for economy standards. More drinks were offered but as the seatbelt signs were switched on due to bouts of turbulence over the Andaman Sea (as usual), hot coffee/tea were not offered.
In the clouds with bouts of turbulence for first half of the flight.
Over the Andaman turbulent area.
Cabin lights were dimmed and most passengers chose to lower the window shades and rested.
I and my travel partner struck up a conversation with the crew at the rear galley. The rear galley was huge and generally, the crew loved working on the A350 as the passenger load is not too large and it is equipped with spacious working space. 7 crew were working in Economy, with 5 or 6 others in Business. Also, upon learning that it was my birthday, a senior crew member went up to Business Class, prepared and presented to me an ice-cream dessert! Lovely surprise!
Mid-flight, crew came down the aisle offering snacks consisting of chips, Mars bars and Walkers chocolate cookies. Pleasantly surprised that QR offers mid-flight snacks on a mid-haul flight. Water and juices were also offered.
About 1.5hrs prior to landing, cabin lights glowed purplish and a warm refreshment was served.
The box contains a savoury and a sweet snack. Savoury was a puff with spicy chicken and potato filling, while the sweet was a warm fruit crumble. I am not a fan of the puff but the crumble was nice.
After the refreshment service, the lovely Asian crew serving my aisle came by and gave us a bar of Valrhona chocolates each, presumably from Business Class as well. Another pleasant surprise! QR has also printed its branding on the reverse of the chocolate bar as well.
Our location now.
Entering the middle eastern coast.
Before our descend into Doha, the crew came round to collect the blankets from passengers. Collecting blankets? Yep, first time I ever experienced it on any airline as well. QR crew did this diligent for every flight. I can only guess that from the profile of passengers on some QR flights, blankets could frequently had been removed from the plane by these passengers. Thus QR might have tried to reduce such pilferage by requiring crew to collect blankets prior to descend.
An arrival video of the new Doha Hamad Intl Airport was screened.
Leaving the coast of Abu Dhabi and descending.
Overflying man-made islands.
Video of the descend into Doha. Watch the landing gears being lowered through the tail-cam!
Landing on Rwy16L.
Touchdown, about 20min behind schedule due to late departure from Changi.
Watch the video of the landing here.
Taxi to terminal.
Parked at the gate.
Disembarking. Crew were along the aisle bading goodbyes. One of the senior crew even wished me a Happy Birthday again at the door while exiting the aircraft!
Cabin still looked reasonable clean and tidy after the 7hrs flight. Us SIN-originating pax are neat, aren't we?
Exiting into the brand new Hamad Intl Airport terminal where I would have a 3+hrs of transit. Just nice for me to explore the terminal as on the return, the transit would only be a short 50min.
Walking to Transfer security.
Transfer security was quick and painless as we were the only arrival at the time. Almost all passengers were transferring to connecting flights.
The mascot of DOH, the giant yellow teddy bear. This bear was reportedly auctioned and bought for USD$6.5million!! Heard that there is a red and blue versions as well out there. Anyone keen to buy?
Internet area with I-Macs.
The usual airport shopping. It was not too crowded in the afternoon.
Food court where we grabbed a bite.
Having some local food.
Play area disguised as art structures.
Singapore - SIN
Doha - DOH
Impression of the flight? I was blown away by the A350! QR has certainly done wonders with this new aircraft, offering an entirely spectacular flying experience. Comfort wise, this must be one of the most comfortable Economy cabins out there, surpassed only by premium economy offerings. With the reduced cabin noise and higher humidity in the cabin (no more dry cabin air!), one does not feel as much fatigue as on the earlier generation of aircraft. IFE is state-of-the-art and service ranges from good to excellent, but generally very polished and professional (such as showing wine bottles prior to serving of wines even in economy class, use of pleasantries similar to what one is used to on SQ). Catering may not be the best out there, but is certainly generous, with a main meal, snacks and refreshment service on a medium-haul flight. Qatar Airways is certainly worthy of its 5-Stars status and up there with the best of the premium airlines.
Overall, Hamad Intl felt spanking new but offers the generic airport experience. Understand that construction is still in progress and more facilities will be opened in the future, but right now, it is still not too bad an airport for a short transit.
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