The Traveling Steve's

Outstanding Business Class on a Qatar Airlines A350-1000 from Houston to Doha!

After the horrible experience I blogged about the Air France Lounge in Houston in the last post, Steve (DOS) and I were quite ready to board our 14 1/2 hour flight to Doha. As bad as the AF Lounge experience was bad, the flight was a 180 degrees good!

Qatar Airways operates many of the Airbus 350 jets and some of the B777 aircraft with the Q-Suite, which offers 1 X2 X 1 seating across (every seat has aisle access). The Q-Suite is configured with a private pod-like seat, with an actual sliding door that closes, offered even more privacy (the door is perhaps 4 feet tall, but keeps the aisle traffic and noise from bothering you.). The individual TV screen is huge and offers a wide variety of TV, Movies, Music, Games, and Maps showing your current destination.

We boarded Qatar Airways flight #714 shortly before 6pm for our 6:50pm departure. As I was in a wheelchair, we were among the first to board. The jetway to the plane was quite wide and long, meandering into a U-turn on the ramp to the huge Airbus 350 jet.

Boarding early gave DOS and I a chance to take some quick photos before everyone else boarded the plane. I was in seat 3A while DOS was in 5A. We intentionally planned it this way as the odd number seats in the single seat configuration are closer to the window with the work table on the left side, allowing for a bit more privacy and more open feel to it. Seat Guru gives these a “Green” seat, meaning the best seats, although all of the Q-Suites are awesome.

DOS lugs our carry-on bags onto the plane. The Airbus 350-1000 boards from the the middle set of doors, directly behind the forward section of Business Class.

Stretching out in my massive seat area “suite” 3A after boarding.

The only disadvantage of having 3A and 5A, is DOS and I couldn’t easily communicate with each other unless one of us got up to visit the other, but with so many movies to choose from, as well as the attentive multi-course meal service, and of course resting, it wasn’t an issue at all. We thought it might me an issue flying “backwards” as these odd-numbered seats are arranged that way, but with only a couple exceptions it wasn’t noticeable at all. I actually liked facing backwards as I could see one of the engines and wing! Of course there is actually a guest seat located next to the window passenger’s seat, and DOS came to visit for a while before takeoff and for this photo.

Shortly after boarding, we were offered a pre-departure drink, with a choice of Qatar’s signature non-alcoholic drink, juice, water, or Champagne. I chose Champagne of course!

Pre-departure Champagne is served!
A full-size photo of my Q-Suite, seat 3A. Note the HUGE individual TV, along with large full out tray, remote control and seat controls, power outlets, upper table, and off screen is another storage area/guest seat.. Pretty comfy accommodations for a 14 1/2 hour flight!

The Q-Suite also have an individual retractable door (must be open for take off and landing), which offers even more privacy; effectively creating your own “room”.

DOS comes to visit prior to take-off! Open sesame!

Our lead attendant (the Purser) distributed menus prior to take-off, and came back to take our order shortly there-after. I chose the Beef Cheeks for dinner (much better than it sounds! It’s more like pot roast.), and pancakes for breakfast. She also asked for our first airborne drink selection, which I selected a Stella brewski as we were going to have a pre-dinner snack of warm mixed nuts, while I had a wonderful Bordeaux wine with dinner.

We departed Houston IAH Airport right on time, and lined up for taxi and takeoff. It was interesting facing backwards as it offered a great view, and was not at all awkward or uncomfortable. The take-off roll was long but smooth as it took this heavy Airbus 350 plenty of runway, being so heavy no only with passengers and luggage, but with the added weight of the fuel for such an ultra-long flight.

Taxing for take-off from Houston (IAH) facing backwards from seat 3A on this Airbus 350-1000 aircraft

Once we reached cruising altitude, the Purser came by (there were many flight attendants, although the Purser worked on my side of the plane) and prepared my table-setting. The fold down table was opened, which did indeed create a huge dining table. The Purser gently laid a white tablecloth over the table, as well as a white napkin, intended for my lap use. She then set the table per Qatar protocol, including the dinner “candle”, which like Turkish Airlines (the only 2 airlines I’ve seen candles served) was a battery-operated tea light, but looked authentic inside the cardboard lantern.

Nicely arranged table setting in my Q-Suite 3A. Nice touch with the candle and individual bread basket with 3 types of bread. While waiting for service I saw a short video on lizards; interesting to me as we love watching the green anoles and other lizards out by the pool in Florida.

During the dinner service, I watched a movie on the “big screen” of my individual TV. It was a murder mystery, but an easy-watching, almost Hallmark like, light-hearted film with a bit of romance thrown in of course.

A basket of bread was also supplied along with a separate plate of fancy butter. The bread basket contained 3 types of bread (Cranberry multigrain, Pretzel, and White baguette) which were served warm and delicious!

The three breads were delicious! No I didn’t eat all of them, but I did try each one!

There was a choice of three starters: Porcini and chestnut cream soup, Spanish style tapas, and Her crusted Balik Salmon with beetroot humus. I chose the Salmon appetizer and it was excellent.

Salmon dish appetizer.

For the Main course, there were four choices including: Beef Cheeks, Chicken Chettinad, Grilled Atlantic Cod, and Wild mushroom risotto. I had ordered the Beef Cheeks prior to take-off, and it was delivered hot with a delightful presentation. It was very tender and delicious!

After dinner, I skipped the 3 choices of dessert (NY Cheesecake, Fresh berries or Chocolate Brownie) and had the Cheese Course instead (Brie, and Point Reyes blue and white cheddar), along with another glass of the outstanding Bordeaux.

Throughout the flight, it was incredibly quiet, aided with the noise canceling devices supplied, but the plane itself was quiet and was pressurized to 6,000 feet instead of the normal 8,000 feet on most aircraft (factoid courtesy of Pilot Steve (DOS)). The Airbus 350 and Boeing 787 both being newer have the advantage of some of the latest technology (not to mention fuel, energy savings, building composites etc),, but the lower pressurization allows for a more comfortable ride and environment.

After dinner I finished watching the movie, and then had the Purser assist me with my “bed”. While the seat itself folds into a flat bed via the self control panel, I wanted a mattress pad seat cover, which the Purser happily supplied and made my bed for me. I then slept for several hours, covered with the large purple blanket and large pillow for my head. I always bring ear plugs and a mask, and oddly these were not in the nice amenity kit provided. I also leave the TV on, set to the inflight channel showing our progress to the destination, for when I wake up and wonder how much long the flight is.

Steve (DOS) slept several hours as well, and we looked in on each other the couple times we got up to use one of the four Business Class restrooms (two in the forward section, and two immediately behind the middle door in the smaller rear section of Business Class.)

Oh, I neglected to mention the complimentary pajamas issued aboard. Yes, we were issued pajamas which I changed into prior to the meal service, lest I mess up my clothes over dinner! LOL! The pajamas were quite comfortable and long sleeved. I was worried I would get too hot in them on the long flight, but wore them until about an hour before we landed, and they were quite comfortable. Also, (a Steve UNO flight tip here) I always wear compression socks on a long flight such as this for circulation in the legs. I also like wearing a Breathe Right nasal strip on overnight flights as it helps me breath better. Below: Here I am comfortably seated after my meal with my noise canceling headsets on (my own wireless ones, not the wired ones provided by Qatar), wearing a Breath Right strip, and my mattress has already been laid out by the Purser.

A couple hours before landing, we were served a delicious breakfast. I had the Buttermilk strawberry pancakes with creme, blueberries, blackberries and maple syrup, and these had to be the best panckakes I’ve ever had; definitely the best breakfast I’ve had on a plane! I also had a starter of Greek yoghurt and granola, as well as a Croissant. Quite a way to start the day, although it was actually late afternoon local time.

I did open my window shade a bit (actually had two windows), which provided a bit of daylight to help orient me to the time of day it was. (With the Q-Suite doors, the daylight does not bother other passengers like it sometimes does me when people keep their window shade open on shorter flights). It was interesting watching the inflight map screen and then looking outside to see how the terrain matched the map. As we got closer to Doha, it brought memories of our Middle-Eastern cruise on Seabourn last November/December in this region via the Suez Canal (in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Egypt etc.) to Singapore.

Prior to landing I had stored away everything but my phone, and the Purser came by and personally thanked me for flying. I had told her about our stopover plans in Doha, and onward to Australia and New Zealand. I asked her if we needed a landing card for Doha (as none had been passed out by the flight crew) but she said no as we had a tourist visa. The sun was just starting to set in the distance as the plane gracefully descended for landing in Doha.

We had a smooth landing in Doha after our 14 1/2 hour flight, and I (and Steve DOS) actually felt quite refreshed as we were able to sleep several hours on the flight, in quite luxury accommodations aboard.

Once we landed, Steve (DOS) and I were asked by one of the Flight Attendants to wait for a few moments as we (and probably two dozen other people) had requested wheel chair assistance. The other passengers deplaned, but as we had no connecting flight we had no problems waiting. As it turns out, there was not an airport jetway available, and the huge Airbus 350 was parked on the tarmac, along with many other planes due to lack of gate space. Deplaning would have required a large number of steps down to the tarmac, plus with our carry-on luggage.

A single aisle and smaller Airbus A320 was parked next to us and also had to deplane via the portable air stairs. Fortunately we were provided a lift down to the tarmac.

We took a portable lift down to the tarmac, and waited in the transit bus to the terminal for several other passengers doing the same. While waiting I was in awe at the close-up view of one of the two massive Airbus 350 engines – they are enormous! I also noted the rear wheel assembly has e wheels across (actually six, two sets of three on each wheel assembly). I’m not sure about the larger A380, but the only other plane I know with a “3 wheel” assembly (I say 3 wheels as that’s what’s most visible when looking at the plane from one side) is the Boeing 777.

Here is our Airbus A350-1000 as seen from our transit bus, after we were lifted down via the portable lift. Note the 3 wheel landing gear assembly (x2 for six tires, one set on each side of the plane), and one of the two HUGE engines that powered us thousands of miles and 14 1/2 hours to Doha!

Once the bus arrived at the airport, we were again glad we were met by an airport skycap, as the Doha Airport is enormous (and modern)!

While it took a while to get driven to Immigration and Customs (there was a bit of confusion as we got lumped in with connecting passengers instead of terminating in Doha), once we got to Immigration, there was no line, our luggage was waiting for us, and Customs, was a non-event with the green channel as we had nothing to declare.

As it was nearly 7pm (the flight arrived at 5:50pm), DOS called ahead to our driver to tell him we were slightly delayed, and he said no problem, and had a sign just outside the international arrivals once we got there.

The nighttime drive to our hotel, the Grand Hyatt was about 45 minutes (no traffic, just distance) and provided us a first time view of Doha and the colorfully lite skyscrapers along the way.

We arrived at the Grand Hyatt around 7:40pm, and had a very welcoming check-in from the front desk attendant and manager as well. We already knew about the facilities open and closed due to the month of Ramadan ,but he also explained the Club Lounge was temporarily closed as a result, but we could use the Rocca restaurant for snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. Alcohol would only be available from room service, as the restaurants were not permitted to serve alcohol during Ramadan, which we understood prior to arrival.

Entrance Lobby of the Grand Hyatt Doha, Qatar

The manager said our luggage would be delivered to our Suite number 584, and this was one of the largest suites in the hotel on the 5th (top) floor, with a huge wrap around balcony. He suggested we go to the Rocca Restaurant right away, as the lounge amenities closed at 8pm, and actually walked us to the restaurant which was outside adjacent to one of the pools.

We had our first dinner in Doha at the Rocca Italian Restaurant, and since it had been such a long day (and night) we shared a pizza, which was quite large and plenty for the two of us. The lounge amenities had a setup within the restaurant, but other than a couple Coke Lights and waters, we didn’t utilize these until the next evening.

After saying a prayer for our safety and arrival, food for dinner, we enjoyed our pizza! We later went to our room, after first admiring the nighttime views of the Doha skyscrapers across the water. More on our room in the next post and the day/night tour we took the next day.

Welcome to Doha!

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