I was looking forward to trying out Qatar Airway's business class on the A350, since the airline prides itself as being the first airline to fly Airbus' newest model. The cabin and seats looked great in pictures, and from what I'd read in earlier trip reports, the experience was awesome.
Feeling refreshed and energized from my shower in the Al Mourjan business lounge, I made my way to the boarding gate and marveled at the super stylish, futuristic airport terminal. The transit trains even run overhead within the terminal - I promise to get a better shot next time.
But first, I had to go through my "SSSS" security check. I'd just read about it on One Mile at a Time a few days prior, but didn't think I'd be so "lucky" as to have been selected for it.
As luck would have it, I noticed the ominous four letters printed on my boarding pass after I checked in at Colombo.
Once at the boarding gate, I was pulled to the side for my secondary security screening selection (SSSS), which included the following: - metal detector - full body scanner - (very intimate) full body pat-down - swabbing of hands and all belongings to check for explosives - all pockets, bags and carry-on items are emptied to be individually inspected - all electronics to be powered on to show that they are what they ought to be
The worst part of this process for me was having to empty my carry-on bag. I'd packed my bag to the brim, since I was going to be away from home for several months, so when the TSA agent emptied my bag, it meant that I'd have to spend another 5 - 10 minutes to pack everything back in.
The screening process was done very respectfully, and I think the agent sensed my irritation when he offered to pack my bags for me. I didn't feel comfortable letting someone else pack my bag, though, and politely declined.
By the time I was done with the security screening, passengers had already started boarding, so I missed the chance to take pictures of the empty cabin.
Qatar's A350 business class is arranged in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration, with the window seats angled away from the aisle and the pair of centre seats angled towards each other.
This meant that the window seats are incredibly private, while the pair of seats in the centre are more suited for couples traveling together. If you're traveling alone, the privacy shield can always be pulled up so you won't have to see your seat mate.
The cabin was again awash in Qatar's signature blueish/purplish mood-lighting, and I just love how the cabin glows in that colour.
A pillow and blanket was already placed on my window seat 3K, and I took my time to settle down and explore the seat features a little.
The lie-flat seat felt incredibly spacious, and offered a decent amount of storage space. In addition to the overhead compartment (note that there is no overhead compartment above the centre seats, only at the sides), there was a small storage space underneath the both left and right armrests, as well as underneath the foot cubby.
Right next to the window was a small ledge with the magazine holder, which also allows you to place reading materials or various knick-knacks during the flight.
The seat can be manipulated into all sorts of angles and positions at the touch of a button, and I loved how the armrest on the aisle-side could be lowered to not only form a larger sleeping area but also facilitate ease of entering and exiting the seat.
The large IFE screen was touch-sensitive, and made for convenient movie-viewing during the flight. One could also control the IFE system using the handheld remote stored next to the armrest.
Not long after, the purser for the flight came by to introduce himself, and a flight attendant came by to offer me a warm towel and a glass of champagne.
I was also offered pajamas, a pair of slippers and a gorgeous amenity kit by Giorgio Armani.
The pajamas came in two sizes for men, and I chose the S/M size - they fit me nicely and were very comfortable for lounging around on the flight.
I absolutely adore the amenity kit - don't you think the black pouch by Giorgio Armani is gorgeous?
There was an aftershave and a small bottle of perfume, both by Giorgio Armani, together with ear plugs, eye shades, a pair of socks and a lip balm by RITUALS.
This is the inflight menu - I didn't take pictures of the drinks menu since it was largely the same as my previous flight on the A340.
As soon as the seatbelt signs were turned off, I made my way to explore the lavatory. It was beautifully lighted up by these hollywood/vanity lights around the mirror, and the small mirror in the center provided extra magnification for those who need to touch up their makeup/floss their teeth/pop some zits during the flight.
The lavatories were equipped with sensor taps, and were stocked with shavers, toothbrushes etc. Amenities provided were again RITUALS-branded, and I tried on some of the body mist - it smelled wonderful.
Qatar Airways provides dine-on-demand service on its business class, and I requested to have my breakfast right after takeoff - even though I'd just had my first breakfast on the earlier A340 flight from Colombo a few hours prior.
I opted for the carrot and ginger healthy energizer, which was zingy and refreshing. I was playing with my window shades a little at this point, since the two-layered, electronically-controlled window shades were so fun to play with.
The first layer is sort of like a sheer fabric layer (pictured above) that blocks out the glare but lets in most of the light, and the second layer is a black-out curtain that blocks out the light completely. It is operated by a small touch-sensitive button at the bottom of the large windows, and I must say the buttons were a little too sensitive since I accidentally activated the window shades a couple of times.
We were flying over Iran at this point, and the views were amazing. Cloudless skies stretching for miles over the dry barren landscape, and we could see some snow-covered mountains, villages and fields of crops laid out in neat plots.
The next course of the meal was bircher muesli with some fruits and nuts, and this tasted great as well.
Finally, my last course was emmental cheese omelette with chicken sausage, potatoes and mushrooms. The omelette was delicious, but this was let down by the chicken sausages which were limp and tasted like cheap chicken hotdogs.
I rounded off the meal with a cup of toasty karak chai tea with saffron, and watched a couple of in-flight movies before trying to catch some shut-eye on the lie-flat bed.
I woke up a few hours later over Greenland, and the icy landscape looked like a magical winter wonderland. I imagine it must be freezing cold down there (brrrrr), but still, it was beautiful. According to the flight map, we were flying over a fjord near the town of Julianehab.
Feeling peckish, I decided to order from the snack menu, as well as another glass of champagne and an apple cooler.
The Thai marinated beef and glass noodle salad with spicy lime dressing was light and refreshing, perfect for waking up my gut from its slumber.
This was followed by an assortment of hot savory pastries - there was a chicken skewer, some fried dough with lamb mince on the inside, and a grilled halloumi cheese (?) item. These were delicious as well.
We were halfway through the flight, so I continued with my in-flight movies and did some reading.
By the time we reached the eastern seaboard of Canada, we had about 2 hours or so left of the flight, and the crew commenced service for the pre-landing meal. Peering out the window, the sea was still covered in ice in the sub-zero temperatures of early February.
I started with the roasted tomato soup to warm my stomach - it was very flavorful if a little spicy for my taste.
As for the mains, I had wanted to try the Arabic spiced chicken, served with rice, minced lamb, herbs etc. - it sounded like chicken biryani. Sadly, I was told that they were out of the item already when I ordered it at the start of the flight. Qatar should seriously cater more of each item due to their dine-on-demand service.
I opted for the seared red snapper with saffron cream sauce and asparagus instead, but was sorely disappointed by it. The fish was dry as sandpaper, and the asparagus had wilted into a pile of limp yellowish sticks during reheating. I ate a few mouthfuls of it and had the flight attendant clear the course.
The dessert was dacquoise biscuit with chocolate ganache, which was pretty decent but nothing spectacular.
I ended my meal with a plate of fruit, but these were not very ripe and hence not very sweet.
Very soon, we started our descent and I could see the outline of what looks like Cape Ann rolling into view.
The plane positioned itself for landing, and we touched down at Boston Logan International Airport Terminal E.
The crew gave a box of Godiva chocolates to each passenger and thanked us for flying Qatar Airways.
As I took my last picture of the A350, it marked the end of my epic round-about journey from Singapore to Boston, traveling half the globe over more than 30 hours.
Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Lounge
Doha - DOH
Boston - BOS
Qatar Airways' A350 business class is a really comfortable way to travel long-haul, and the dine-on-demand concept meant passengers could customize meal timings and serving sizes to their liking, unlike other legacy carriers like Singapore Airlines. I was so pampered throughout the flight, I almost didn't want it to end.
The thing about Qatar Airways is that they have so many generations of different cabin products across different plane models, such that your experience is oftentimes determined by the age of the aircraft. Case in point being the awkward-ly configured seats on its A340 fleet.
Nonetheless, I'd still be happy to take them up on their cheap business class fares for long-haul travel.
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