Qatar Airways firmly planted its flag in South Australia this month with the launch of Australia's first Airbus A350 flights, zipping daily between Adelaide and the Qatari capital of Doha.
The service allows business class travellers to sleep on lengthy fully-flat beds and dine when they wish before continuing their journey onwards to major destinations such as London, Paris, Frankfurt and Rome.
Australian Business Traveller hopped aboard Qatar Airways to bring you this exclusive first review of the country's first Airbus A350 service and newest international route.
- Frequent flyer scheme: Qatar Airways Privilege Club. Australians can also choose to earn points and status credits via Qantas Frequent Flyer and other Oneworld programs on eligible fares.
- Priority check-in, boarding: Dedicated and clearly-signed lanes meant no time spent queuing, although the 'Express Path' concept doesn't exist at Adelaide Airport for security and passport control.
- Checked baggage allowance: 40kg, plus 10kg for Privilege Club Silver, 15kg for Privilege Club Gold and 20kg for Privilege Club Platinum members and other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers including Qantas Platinum and above.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x112cm bags up to a total combined weight of 15kg, plus selected personal items.
As both domestic and international flights depart from the same terminal at Adelaide Airport, Qatar Airways business class passengers can visit the domestic Qantas Club lounge: also used by Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Malaysia Airlines before their international flights.
Located beyond the first security checkpoint but before clearing international passport control, you'll find full cafe and bar facilities with barista coffee, wines, beers and spirits all on the menu... ... plus ample spaces to work with supplied iMac computers or desks for using (and recharging) your own laptop or tablet, along with free WiFi plus private shower suites to freshen up before the long flight ahead. The terminal layout also gives Qantas Chairmans Lounge members easy access to their private lounge before clearing passport control, and on arrival in Doha, all business class travellers can stop by Qatar Airways' arrivals lounge. With private shower suites of its own and an a la carte restaurant, you can maximise your sleep on board before enjoying a full breakfast and heading straight to your first meeting, or to you hotel once check-in opens.
Just a hint: you'll clear Qatari passport control in a private room that looks like the arrivals lounge, but this space has limited facilities. The 'real' lounge is found after passport control and customs.
For most business travellers, the type of aircraft you're flying on is much less relevant than the seat, service and hospitality enjoyed on board, but the Airbus A350 is the exception to that rule.
It begins as you board a mood-lit aircraft with a large welcome dome, and feel the spaciousness of the cabin which comes without central overhead lockers at the pointy end for a much more open feel: A higher cabin pressure and lower effective cabin altitude also takes some of the dryness out of the air to help smack down jet lag, while the aircraft's computers automatically tweak the plane to reduce the effects of any turbulence for a smoother ride.
And hey, you'll also find funky and modern touches like a colour screen where you'd expect to find the seatbelt sign... ... plus a central area with snacks and a place to mingle during the flight underneath the dome area: It's not a full bar, of course, but the crew are happy to serve drinks here whenever the seatbelt sign is off.
If you've previously flown Qatar Airways from Sydney, Melbourne or Perth which adopt the airline's older business class seats, you'll be pleasantly surprised to find all-new seats on the A350s from Adelaide... ... configured in a 1-2-1 layout to offer direct aisle access for all and extending into an 80-inch, 203cm fully-flat bed: The wrap-around shell of your seat gives you a little extra privacy when in bed mode without being in the way when sitting upright... ... and finding the perfect position is easy with separate controls for every element of the seat and pre-sets for the most common modes.
We also like that you can hold the pre-set keys for a few seconds and then release while the seat continues to move until it's reached the spot you'd selected. Nearby you'll find plenty of storage space to use throughout the flight, beginning with a literature pocket large enough to house tablets too, adjacent to a bench space for bigger laptops: There's more room on the floor for shoes and laptop bags which can slip underneath the footrest, later forming part of your fully-flat bed... ... within the aisle-side armrest where you'll find your headphones and a bottle of water stashed away... ... directly below the bench and seat controls in all but the bulkhead seats... ... and then on top of that lid: a great place for the slippers and pyjamas you'll receive until you're ready to get changed: The seat's tray table also comes sturdy when deployed (below), but even when folded away still provides a small cocktail shelf that's ideal for your welcome drink, amenity kit or smartphone: Of course, each seat also comes with an AC and USB power outlet – conveniently located near where you'd store your devices for easy charging... ... plus electronic shade controls for those in the window seats. They're of little use on our entirely-overnight flight, but would come in handy on the journey back to Australia.
The service begins with drinks before take-off and a second round once airborne, including a choice between the Billecart-Salmon Brut NV (white Champagne) and the Champagne Drappier Brut Rosé for something different. Then at chow time, Qatar Airways lets you dine as you wish: whether that's a full meal after take-off, dishes of your choice throughout the flight or breakfast as soon as you awake.
For tradition's sake we order as usual, but do appreciate having the option to settle in, get some work done and then have a bite to eat when it suits our schedule, rather than the airline's.
We follow our rule that you can't go wrong ordering a traditional Arabic mezze plate on a Middle Eastern airline and weren't left wanting, with Qatar's mix pleasingly including hummus, tabouleh, feta salad and Arabic bread... ... followed by a choice of the following mains:
- Seared fillet of snapper with lemon and spring vegetable sauce with sautéed potatoes and confit cherry tomatoes
- Chicken kapsa with golden fried onions, vegetable saloona and cucumber raita
- Sweet potato gnocchi in wild mushroom cream sauce with confit tomatoes and balsamic glazed onions (selected)
The gnocchi came perfectly cooked, incredibly flavourful and well-balanced with its sauce, despite our photo perhaps not doing it justice. Dessert proves an easy choice and we're not disappointed with our white chocolate and ginger cheesecake with strawberry coulis, served with a glass of the 2010 Château de Fesles Bonnezeaux Sweet Chenin Blanc. You could also end your meal with a nip of Dow's 10-year Tawny Port or a selection of liqueurs including Baileys, Cointreau and Kahlua, while whisky lovers will appreciate having the choice between Chivas Regal 18yr, Glenfiddich 15yr and a simple whiskey in the Jack Daniel's.
- Beef brasola with potato and chive salad, cherry tomatoes and grain mustard dressing
- Orange compote, Greek yoghurt and toasted granola with nuts
- Bircher muesli: rolled oats bound with yoghurt, fruits, almond and cinnamon
- Choice of breakfast cereals
- Traditional Arabic breakfast: labneh with za'atar, feta cheese, cucumber, tomato and mixed olives served with four medames and Arabic bread
- Salt beef potato cake with cheese omelette and béarnaise sauce
- Sautéed red onion, leek and potato with scrambled egg, horseradish and crème fraîche
- Buttermilk pancakes with caramalised banana, maple syrup, crème fraîche and walnuts
To really put Qatar Airways to the test, you might have noticed every dish ordered on today's flight was actually the vegetarian option: a meal type often overlooked by airlines in creativity and which my travelling vegetarian friends confirm usually involves the same pastas, risottos and salads.
However, the vege options presented on our flight from Adelaide were enough to satisfy even this meat-eating writer, for which Qatar Airways deserves to be commended.
Entertainment & Service
... jam packed with a huge range of movies and TV shows spanning recent releases, library favourites and even complete series, allowing us to finally watch the last instalment of Harry Potter, which had been on our to-do list for some time.
The system is controlled by touch but is much easier to navigate using the screen on your remote control, which also proves useful by allowing you to call up the moving map without disturbing your movie, or to play a game separate to what's happening on the big screen. The Airbus A350 also comes with a tail camera – as you'd expect of the larger Airbus A380 – which means you can watch the take-off from Adelaide Airport or your arrival into Doha: Service on today's flight was pleasingly perfect: the crew introduced themselves to each passenger and addressed each by name, never forgot a request and appeared quickly when the call bell was pressed.
Brief conversation was also customised to every person without becoming intrusive or invasive, and when we were enjoying a movie or getting some rest, we were naturally left undisturbed.
That is, except when Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio amenity kits are delivered, filled with a generous portion of after shave balm, plus lip balm, eau de toilette, an eye mask, ear plugs and socks... ... and Qatar Airways slippers and branded business class pyjamas which are yours to keep: All things considered, this new Doha-Adelaide service proves a great way for South Australians to travel to the Middle East and beyond, beginning with a good night's sleep on the A350 on the well-timed overnight flight.
Our only criticism? The pre-flight lounge being in the domestic area of Adelaide Airport rather than on the international side, but as far as the flight experience goes, this is business class just as it should be.
Also reviewed: Qatar Airways A380 business class, Doha-London-Doha
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Doha as a guest of Qatar Airways.
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