The new Qatar Airways A350 features a new Business Class seat, and is now in service between Doha and Frankfurt.
Qatar Airways A350 flights have become a reality, with the brand new jet carrying fare paying passengers for the first time.
Qatar Airways is the global launch customer for the A350, which is Airbus' brand-new wide-body jet. The first flight between Doha and Frankfurt also happens to be Lufthansa's home airport - which may not be a coincidence, as the two airlines go head to head.
Qatar Airways' A350 seats 36 passengers in business and 247 in economy.
Qatar Airways business class has seats of the latest design, which are of the same standard design used by Qatar on the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787.
The cabin of the Qatar A350XWB is wide, really wide, with the initials standing for "Extra Wide Body", and with an oval-shaped cabin with extra room along the line from the hip to shoulder, where it counts.
However the airline has resisted the temptation to fit an extra row of seats down the middle, and instead Qatar Business Class seats are in a 1-2-1 layout, which folds down into an 80 inch (205cm) long bed, and they are an inch wider than on the 787. The seats are the same as fitted in Qatar's Airbus A380 and Boeing 787, but respecting the wider cabin, have an extra inch of width. Indeed, the Qatar A350 is eighteen inches wider than the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Seats at the window are at a 30 degree angle into the window, making the most of the view, but the pairs of seats in the middle of cabin look inwards, which is great if you are travelling as a couple: for single passengers stuck in the middle seats, there is a privacy screen.
Qatar Business Class reviews on the first A350 flight from Frankfurt show that the seat really does work: when in reclined mode your feet stick into the small hole that is the side-seat table of the seat in front, but it doesn't feel unusually squashed. The side table is a great touch - if you are right handed, choose the right hand aisle, where your champagne glass is close at hand. Controls for the seat are on the panel inset into the smaller cocktail table in front of the side-seat table. However the nature of the seat-at-an-angle means that the headrest is rather small, certainly in comparison to say Singapore Airlines' huge seat.
Qatar IFE comes in the form of a 17 inch HD TV personal video monitor, with Panasonic supply a full AVOD system.
The business class cabin on the Qatar A350 isn't divided into two smaller cabins, making the most of the large aircraft; instead between the two sections of the cabin there is a small stand up bar at the entrance doors.
Unlike Qatar's A380 there is no large walk up bar; instead during the flight the stand-up bars just has some snacks and drinks placed on the worktop; overhead at this area there is a large lit dome. The first flight showed this area is great to walk up to grab a quick nibble, but not for socialising: indeed, the passengers sitting right in front of the bar wouldn't appreciate this anyway.
Qatar economy class on the A350 is not quite the 'five star' treatment that Qatar promise, but it still isn't bad, with a 3-3-3 cabin layout. Qatar airways economy class seat pitch is 32 inches on the A350, and an 18 inch width: again, Qatar have avoided fitting an extra column of seats giving an 18 inch seat width, which is just over an inch wider than on Qatar's Boeing 787.
Qatar airways economy class reviews are generally good from the first A350 flight, with a great 10 inch seatback TV screen. The A350's cabin altitude is at a higher pressure than older airliners, and is equivalent to 6000 feet above sea level, which does actually work: you can step off the plane in Doha and not feel quite so dehydrated.
In short, the Qatar A350 is a revolution in terms of aircraft technology, being quieter and cheaper to operate than the A330. However, the seat is only an evolution, and derived from earlier Qatar designs of seat. It is never the less very good, and Qatar promise that within the next two years it will introduce a new Business Class, including cabins with a double bed.
Qatar's second A350 will serve the Frankfurt route twice-daily route from March.
Qatar has ordered 80 A350s, with 38 of them the smaller A350-900 model. Eight of the aircraft will be delivered during 2015.
Lufthansa flies the older A330 from Frankfurt to Doha. It has ordered 25 A350s however they will not be in service for another year.