Qatar Airways’ Disappointing Non-Refurbished 777 Business Class

I’m currently flying over the Persian Gulf, on my way to Doha so I can return home. Between the derogatory customs department at Brussels Airport, keeping myself updated on Hong Kong’s depressing state, and a general deprivation of natural light/company, it’s been an exhausting day.

Assuming my Doha to Hong Kong flight doesn’t get swapped out, my Brussels to Doha flight is the only flight that I have scheduled in Qatar Airways’ non-refurbished 777 business class cabin (the remaining flights are all in their QSuite, which I love). While I’ve flown the leased LATAM A350 aircraft that Qatar occasionally flies, which features a similar configuration, this is my first time in Qatar Airways’ non-refurbished 777 business class product. It’s weird to think that Qatar Airways came to prominence as one of the world’s best airlines while flying most of their ultra-longhaul routes with this seat.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Brussels Airport

The reason I say that is that, as much as I love Qatar’s soft product, I can’t overlook how disappointing this hard product is even on a six-hour night flight from Brussels to Doha.

Qatar Airways 777 Business Class Seat

Qatar Airways’ older 777s feature standard forward-facing seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. While most of their 777s feature 42 seats, with 4 rows in a larger forward cabin and 3 rows in a smaller rear cabin, our 777 only featured 4 rows of business class, for a total of 24 seats.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class 

On the plus side, these seats afford a lot of space. Korean Air uses the same seat provider in business class on their older fleet, though their 777s feature a 2-3-2 layout, making these seats very spacious in comparison. I wouldn’t say that the seats are particularly wide, though the legroom is great, and the aisles are also really wide.

Wide aisles in Qatar Airways business class

The biggest downside was that the padding was terrible, and the seat was quite flimsy in bed mode. One big complaint I have about B/E Minipod seats (which Qatar uses on these planes) is that they’re very flimsy, to the point where you’re worried you’ll break the seat every time you crawl out of it  – especially considering the lack of direct aisle access.

In regards to the padding, the bed was lumpy and the seat was hard, which resulted in a combination that left me unable to sleep despite being dead tired (and I’m a person who normally sleeps well in premium economy). Qatar Airways doesn’t provide mattress pads on non-QSuite flights under 8 hours. I’m not actually sure what went wrong here, considering I found Korean Air’s version of this seat quite comfortable? In fairness, I was also kept awake by the news in Hong Kong, which made it all the more difficult to fall asleep, but the uncomfortable bed sure wasn’t helping…

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Bed

In addition, I’m not sure if this is due to the seat’s age, but the tray table was also quite flimsy, making it harder to work or eat. It’s needless to say that getting out of my seat during meal services wouldn’t have been an easy task, had I not had both seats to myself.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Tray Table

The redeeming quality of this seat is storage, as there are quite a few storage compartments at this seat. I moved to the first row to get two seats to myself, but the first row doesn’t have these compartments, unfortunately.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Storage

Also, every seat features an air nozzle, which is quite nice.

Even if you stripped away the doors and privacy partitions of the QSuite and removed the staggered walkways British-Airways style, this still wouldn’t be half as good of a seat. In addition to the bells and whistles, the QSuite gets the basics right, whereas this seat just…doesn’t.

Qatar Airways 777 Business Class Amenities

Sans mattress pad, Qatar Airways executes the same soft product on this flight as they would on QSuite flights. So I still got a nice blanket, a good pillow, and a really nice Brics amenity kit (the kits were gender segregated).

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Bed

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Amenity Kit

In addition, noise-cancelling headphones were provided on this flight too. As far as non-branded headphones go, these are some of the better headphones I’ve tried (though they don’t hold a candle to Bose, Sony or Bang & Olufsen) – I believe they’re from Phitek, but I’m not sure.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Headphones

The huge redeeming quality on this flight was Qatar Airways’ awesome “Super WiFi”, which was enabled on this flight. Everyone gets a complimentary hour, whereas you can purchase a 10 USD plan of unlimited WiFi that lasts you the full flight, as I did. Since I couldn’t sleep, Super WiFi came in very handy on this flight (though I did end up purchasing it on all four Qatar Airways flights I took).

Qatar Airways 777 Business Class Food

Prior to the four flights I took on Qatar Airways this year, I figured Qatar Airways had the best catering of any airline out there. I flew Qatar Airways’ 787 from Hong Kong to Doha in 2017, and the cannelloni I had was the best airline meal I’ve had anywhere. Even though some of the meals I had during that trip on Qatar Airways were mediocre, teetering on bad, I generally came out with a good impression of their catering. I no longer have the same impression.

We were provided with an amuse bouche, which consisted of a “stuffed” pasta of sorts. It tasted alright, with spinach-y notes, though nothing too flavourful.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Amuse Bouche

Afterwards I had the arabic mezze, which I have no complaints about. This was one of the better meals I’ve had during my flights on this trip, though it certainly was filling.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Arabic Mezze

Afterwards I took the soup of a day, which was a lentil soup of sorts – that was quite nice as well.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Soup

Okay, if I’d gotten the arabic mezze as my main course, maybe I would’ve come out with a better impression of the food on this flight. But I’d ordered the spinach and ricotta cannelloni on this flight instead, which turned out to be a huge mistake. This was the exact same meal I had on Qatar Airways in 2017 – which I named by far the best airline meal I’ve had – so I set my expectations way too high.

Oh, man. The sauce was the only thing on the plate that was decent. The pasta was thick, hard and raw (to the point where some bits tasted chalky), the filling was a mess, whereas the broccoli on the side was also poorly executed. Wow. Considering how great the cannelloni on my previous Qatar Airways flight was, this was especially disappointing in comparison. That being said, my mom and my sister said that their short ribs were okay, whereas my dad found his chicken tagine quite decent as well.

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Meal – Ricotta and Spinach Cannelloni

I haven’t had any impressive dishes on Qatar Airways besides the cannelloni on my previous Qatar Airways flight. Therefore, from watching the quality of this exact same dish fall so far downhill, I can’t in good conscience give Qatar Airways’ catering my compliments anymore.

After my recent flights with Qatar Airways, I’d rank their catering firmly below Japan Airlines’ and EVA’s catering, below Virgin Atlantic’s and Swiss’, and on par with Cathay Pacific – while that seems harsh, considering how many awards the airline has won in regards to catering, the airline has proven they cannot execute main courses, whether they are protein-heavy dishes or pasta dishes. While the first flight I had on Qatar featured amazing catering, I’ve taken seven flights on them since, and tried all cuisines on them, from Chinese to Middle Eastern to Western dishes; despite the attention to detail in the airline’s plating, none of these dishes were particularly impressive.

Qatar Airways 777 Business Class Service

I feel particularly bad about this, since every single person I interacted with was nice (and they were also interested in my filming, and even apologetic that this seat was so much inferior to the QSuite). They even asked which blog I write for at the end of the flight, so I feel obligated to make my criticism constructive. But they also need to know that service on this flight failed to impress.

Qatar Airways’ service standard is in another league to other airlines. This is the airline that folds toilet paper tips after every time someone uses the bathroom, where you’re given a hot towel seconds after waking up and asked if you want a drink, and where you’re welcomed onboard personally once you reach your seat. It’s also the airline that executes dine-on-demand better than any other. All of this happened on this flight, and it would probably still appear to be very impressive for someone flying the airline for the first time. In other words, the crew did their job, even if it seemed like they were going through the motions.

A couple of flight attendants I interacted with on this flight were still superstars, and provided genuine, attentive service. However, the below instances make me quite dismayed with the service on this flight:

  • When my sister was asleep, a flight attendant came around to ask if she wanted anything, to which my mother said no; he followed that up with “okay, but make sure you order soon, or we won’t be able to serve you” (maybe “alright, if you feel like anything later in the flight, let me know” would’ve been better?)
  • When I asked if mattress pads were available, I received an indifferent reply of “no, only long flights of over 8 hours have it”; I said “ah, that’s interesting, my Doha to Amsterdam flight featured mattress pads” and I was replied with “yes, because it’s a night flight” (the only Doha to Amsterdam flight departs at 7:50 AM every day) – I’m not complaining about the fact that I was misinformed, but rather the know-it-all way in which this information was delivered
  • I moved from 4K to 1K mid-flight. When a flight attendant asked if I wanted anything, I said I wasn’t sure what I wanted as I left my menus at my old seat, to which I was responded with “ah” (an offer to bring menus over to my seat would be appreciated)
  • Some of the flight attendants didn’t seem like they wanted to be there, which I noticed from the way things were put down on tables, the way drinks orders were taken, the lack of smiles/eye contact during crew interactions, etc.

These tiny things added up to a feeling that they were just going through the motions, even if “going through the motions” on Qatar Airways still results in intricate, attentive service. Flights like these are what make me worry about Qatar Airways’ labour ethics, as the airline is notorious for treating cabin crew harshly.

Bottom Line: Qatar Airways’ Older 777 Business Class

I understand that some might find my critique of Qatar Airways’ older business class quite harsh. After all, the food was still plated nicely, and I still had a nice appetiser; the crew, despite my harsh comments, were still very nice people; and the seat is currently being phased out. I’ve already expressed where I stand now on Qatar Airways’ catering, and I’m willing to take the service as a fluke, though I can’t overlook the subpar seat.

This is the same seat that occasionally gets swapped in place of the QSuite. Qatar Airways needs to do something about their constant equipment swaps, as this seat is far behind the QSuite. Despite being more spacious, this seat not only lacked direct aisle access or the bells and whistles of the QSuite such as a door, extra storage, and customisable seating options, but also lacked some of the basics of a business class seat, such as good padding, a stable sleeping surface, or a sturdy work surface.

Obviously on a six-hour flight from Brussels to Doha it wasn’t too much of a big deal, though this configuration is also used on 14-15 hour flights to the U.S.. If I needed to get to the U.S. on Qatar Airways, I’d avoid this configuration and choose the QSuite (or even their reverse herringbone configuration) instead, even if it means I’d have to book an extra transit flight.

One quick fix that Qatar Airways can do is provide mattress pads on flights by length, no matter if they feature QSuites or not. I get that they’re trying to make QSuites feel even more premium, but getting swapped out to this configuration becomes even more of a letdown – of course, if they could provide mattress pads on all Europe-Doha flights that would be a huge plus. If not, I don’t think it’s fair that mattress pads are provided on QSuite flights of similar length, but not non-QSuite flights, considering you’re paying the same price.

Have you flown Qatar Airways’ older 777 business class product before?

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