Qatar Airways' old 777 business class is uncomfortable, and the service and food on this flight weren't great either. It's a shame that last-minute swapouts from their shiny QSuites to this configuration are so common.
While three out of our four Qatar Airways flights were operated by the spectacular QSuite, the segment from Brussels to Doha was operated by Qatar Airways’ older 777 product. I knew going in that the product would be inferior, though I was excited to try out a new product nonetheless. This flight served as a nice juxtaposition between the experiences you get on Qatar Airways’ QSuite-equipped 777s versus these planes, as the QSuite experience was superior in almost every way. This sounds obvious on the surface, though I was surprised by how different some of the soft-product elements were, too – keep on reading.
It also seems like we drew the short end of the stick – I’ve seen reviews of Qatar Airways’ Brussels-Doha route operated by 787s and A350s, which feature Qatar Airways’ newer, reverse herringbone business class product. I’ve flown it before, and find it a very nice product. Occasionally Qatar even swaps out this flight for a QSuite-equipped 777, which would’ve been a nice treat, though that wasn’t the case today.
Boarding Qatar Airways’ Old 777 Business Class
So with that in mind, I made sure to catch one last glimpse of our 777 before boarding through the jetbridge onto the plane.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Brussels Airport
Qatar Airways Flight QR194
Sunday, August 11, 2019
Origin: Brussels (BRU) Gate: B29 Dep: 17:20 (17:35)
Destination: Doha (DOH) Gate: B8 Arr: 00:35 (00:50)
Duration: 6 h 15 min (6 h 15 min)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER Reg: A7-BAP
Seat: 4K/1K (Business Class)
Qatar Airways’ Old 777 Business Class Cabin and Seat
I boarded through door L2, and turned left into Qatar Airways’ old 777 business class cabin. Since I didn’t make it to the gate when boarding started, I was happy to see that the cabin hadn’t filled up yet.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Cabin
Qatar Airways’ old 777s feature forward facing business class seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. While most of their older 777s feature 42 business class seats (24 in the front cabin, and another 18 in the rear cabin), our 777 was one of Qatar Airways’ higher-capacity planes, and only featured 24 business class seats set across four rows.
The cabin itself is filled with burgundy, though not unattractively so; even from a design aspect it’s far behind the QSuite, though it’s important to remember that the hard product has been around for countless years. Since Qatar Airways’ A330s and A340s used to feature angled flat beds, these flat beds were the first generation of fully flat seats that Qatar Airways owned.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Cabin
I picked the right side window pairs in rows 3 and 4 for our family. I assigned seats 4J and 4K to my dad and I, which was located in the last row of the cabin – my preference, normally.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Seats 4J and 4K
While I personally would’ve chosen a middle seat for the privacy even if travelling alone, I do see merit to selecting a middle seat in this configuration, since no one steps over you during the flight. If you normally prefer selecting aisle seats, you might want to select a center aisle seat in this configuration.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Seats 4E and 4F
Anyway, about the seat. Now, I knew it wouldn’t be as private as the QSuite, though I’d heard that the seat itself was comfortable enough. The greatest asset of the seat was space – other airlines fit the same seat in a 2-3-2 configuration on the 777 (such as Korean Air), and Qatar Airways configures the same seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. As a result, the seats and aisles are both tangibly wider, to the point where it’s super inefficient, as Qatar Airways fits the same number of QSuites in the same space between doors L1 and L2 as they do these forward-facing seats. Egyptair also has 777s with the B/E Minipod seat, and they can fit four more seats in the same space – yikes!
However, the actual seat comfort was pretty bad. I can appreciate a hard seat, but these seats were incredibly lumpy. They did have electronically controlled lumbar support, though I couldn’t get myself comfortable in these seats no matter what.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Seat 4K
Qatar Airways made some modifications to the B/E Minipod seat, and these start with the side table, which slides open to reveal a tiny storage area with a bottle of water.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Side Table
The seat controls are located on the right. They feature four preset positions, and each aspect of the seat can be individually controlled, including lumbar support. There’s also a massage function, which was (as is the norm for airline seats) rather crappy.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Seat Controls
Apart from bed mode, the preset reclined positions consisted of a “relax” mode, and a “lazy-Z” mode. The relax mode was decent enough for reading a book.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Relax Mode
The lazy-Z mode was more apt for watching a movie, or getting comfortable prior to going to bed.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Deep Recline Mode
In addition, I was impressed by the storage compartments that this seat featured. Standard forward-facing business class seats are normally a little short on storage, but this seat featured a large storage bucket fit for a small bag by the foot area, and another storage compartment for a phone or tablet located by the console between seats.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Storage
In addition, the seat featured a reading light, as well as a privacy divider.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Reading Light
During boarding, the privacy screens were all extended, with an amenity kit on either side. I regret to say that the privacy screen extended so little it was borderline useless, but I personally wasn’t bothered since I was with my dad. Privacy screens make flatbed window seats much more “cocooned”, so I was sad I wouldn’t be able to experience that on this flight.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Privacy Dividers and Amenity Kit
In terms of power, there was a USB port as well as a headphone jack right beside the seat. The USB port, while functional, charged quite slowly.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class USB Port
Meanwhile, under the seat was a 110V power port. I was quite intrigued that Qatar Airways invested in a “flap” that covered the power port when not in use – while surprisingly premium-feeling, that was very style over substance, as you wouldn’t be able to use it if you had a “wall climber” plug.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Power Port
The tray table slid out of the armrest, and featured a classy wood finish. While I had many issues with the seat, class was not one of them.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Tray Table
In fact, despite not being a fan of the padding, I still managed to settle into my seat well with some pre-departure champagne. Cheers!
Qatar Airways’ 777 Business Class Amenities
Provided by the seat were headphones, which were decent, though not particularly noise-cancelling.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Headphones
Also featured at the seat was Qatar Airways’ pillow and blanket, which I’ve already mentioned that I love. Qatar’s pillow is sized quite nicely and I love that it’s substantially firm (while not overly so), whereas the blanket was very plush.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Pillow
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Blanket
Boarding Qatar Airways’ 777 at Brussels
While I was settling into the seat, a crewmember approached me and welcomed me onboard, saying that if there was anything I needed, I could let her or her colleague know. She also advised me of our flight time of 5 hours and 46 minutes. I was also given menus for the flight.
My sister was originally assigned the seat next to me, though she wanted to sit with my mom instead. Qatar Airways has his-hers amenity kits, and a flight attendant was sure to swap the amenity kits around, which I thought was very good attention to detail.
While we did have a nice, clear view out of the window, there wasn’t much traffic by the neighbouring gates, unfortunately.
Leaving Brussels Airport
The cabin eventually filled up, and most seats ended up being taken. I believe the friends sitting across us were flying business class for the first time, as they were marvelling about the seat’s functions, taking selfies, and giddy as ever. I was a little sad for them that they didn’t get to start off with the QSuite (though I guess it managed their expectations quite nicely, since once you fly QSuite you can’t go back).
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Cabin After Doors Closed
Takeoff from Brussels Airport
While morning in Brussels was gloomy, the weather eventually cleared up upon our departure. Despite that, captain Rikardo announced that we’d been subject to a 20 minute ATC delay. We had a two-hour transfer, though I wasn’t sure if we’d end up with a bus gate, which would eat up some of our time; that being said, I was glad that we weren’t delayed further after that, and pushed back at around 5:30 PM.
Captain Rikardo did also say that there were good weather conditions throughout the flight, and we’d start off at 35,000 feet and gradually ascend to 39,000 feet by the end of the flight, and also said that we were in the good hands of 15 “professional” cabin crew. He had an American accent (I point that out because most Qatar Airways pilots I’ve flown with seem to be either European or Middle Eastern).
It was a 10-minute long taxi to the runway, though we were first in line for takeoff. Interestingly we didn’t pass a single taxiing aircraft during our taxi, despite it being the middle of the day.
Taxiing Brussels Airport
This was also a time for people to get comfortable – the guy in 3G was enjoying himself a little bit too much. It’s a shame that Qatar Airways’ older 777s don’t feature ottomans in business class, though the side table isn’t a replacement for that…I think!
Feet up in Qatar Airways business class
At 5:40 PM, not only feet, but wheels were also up as we soared up and away from Brussels and began our six-hour journey towards Doha.
Takeoff from Brussels Airport
The clouds got gloomier as we headed east, but as we soared past the outskirts of Brussels and eventually Leuven, the sky did clear up a bit, which made for some nice views.
Cruising above western Europe
Qatar Airways’ 777 Business Class Lavatory
Shortly after the seatbelt sign was turned off I visited the lavatory in front of the cabin. It wasn’t pimped out the same way the QSuite lavatory was, though the paper towel tips were folded immaculately, and the toilet also featured Rituals toiletries.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Lavatory
Qatar Airways’ 777 Business Class Front Row Seats
I noticed that the windowside seats in row 1 were empty, and moved there so my dad and I could each have two seats to ourselves. I’d recommend against picking row 1 if possible, as it features neither the storage bin by your feet nor the side storage compartment in the console – this wasn’t a problem for me as I could just leave my loose items on the seat next to me, though I wouldn’t have appreciated the lack of storage space on a full flight. In addition, there was occasional galley noise, which did pose a problem (though I didn’t bother moving back to my original seat).
Legroom was as abundant at the bulkhead as it was in the other rows, so no complaints there.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Legroom (Front Row)
Another reason to avoid the front row would be that the screen came out of the armrest, which meant I wouldn’t be able to use it during takeoff and landing. I’ve already reviewed the entertainment system on my way from Hong Kong to Doha, and the selection here was similar, so I won’t rehash it. If you’re flying on Qatar’s older 777 with 42 business class seats, row 6 also features the same problems, so I’d avoid that row as well.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Screen (First Row)
Qatar Airways’ 777 Business Class Dine-On-Demand
The menu read as follows:
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Menu
The drinks list was different from the drinks list on my outbound. It read as follows:
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Drinks List
I was most looking forward to trying the dessert wine on this flight, as I loved the dessert wine served on my outbound. Unfortunately they had a wine rotation in the middle, and I didn’t enjoy this dessert wine nearly as much. It was the 2008 Hetszolo Tokaji Asuz 5 Puttonyos, and actually retailed for at least twice as much as the dessert wine on my outbound, so it was too bad I wasn’t a fan. The bottle was brought to my seat, and a glass was poured there. I loved that beverages on Qatar Airways are always served with hot nuts.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Dessert Wine
The male flight attendant set my table, and I asked if I could have my photo taken.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Table Set
The first course was an amuse bouche, which was off the menu and described as a “stuffed pasta”. It’s a bit weird to have stuffed pasta as an amuse bouche when I’d ordered stuffed pasta as a main course, though it tasted alright – somewhat flavoursome, though overpowered by the overly thick pasta.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Amuse Bouche
I was then served the arabic mezze, which I ordered as an appetiser. It was the high point of the meal, with the hummus flavourful, the chopped vegetable paste punchy and citrus-y, and the muhammara tangy and delicious. I thought the flatbread served along with it was decent, though a little too thick, since the mezze was very filling.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Appetiser – Arabic Mezze
This was followed by a soup of the day. I asked the male flight attendant what the soup was, and he replied that it was a lentil soup. It was mixed with another flavour (pumpkin?) and actually was a little bit on the watery/grainy side, though I still thought it was quite flavourful.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Meal – Soup of the Day (Lentil Soup)
Then came the main course. I was particularly looking forward to the main course, since I fell in love with a dish I’d been served on a Qatar Airways flight two years ago from Hong Kong to Doha which had pretty much the exact same description. That cannelloni was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had, and certainly the best dish I’ve had in the air overall.
Unfortunately this dish did not come close to the wonderful dish I had in 2017. The pasta was thick and raw (!), the filling coarse and separated, and the tomato sauce didn’t do me any favours. Miss me with the appalling broccoli on the side, which wasn’t seasoned either. There’s airplane food that tastes bad because it’s stereotypical plane food, and there’s airplane food that tries to be restaurant quality, but instead falls flat. This fell squarely into the latter category. Qatar Airways touts their industry-leading catering, but the only thing industry-leading about this dish was the beautiful plate it was served in. I had a couple of bites and sent it back – hard pass.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Main Course – Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni
In comparison, here’s what the same dish looked like on a Qatar Airways flight, in business class, two years earlier:
What I expected my main course to look like
My mom said that her short ribs were okay, whereas my dad found his chicken tagine quite decent as well, so I did draw the short end of the stick. However, even with my parents’ meals, the overall feedback was a resounding “meh” – award winning it certainly wasn’t.
Thankfully, due to how filling the arabic mezze was, I was full after that, to the point where I couldn’t really stomach dessert. I was also very tired for some reason, so just asked for the mixed berries for dessert. They were fine. I asked them to be delivered on the side with my main course, and the flight attendant obliged, which was nice of him.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Dessert – Mixed Berries
While the main course was appalling, I do have to give Qatar Airways credit for serving up a decent arabic mezze. I don’t actually think the quality of Qatar Airways’ catering is industry leading at all – after eight flights on 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. The variety of food is outstanding, but the quality of food just isn’t great across the board, whether we’re talking about protein-heavy dishes or pasta dishes.
Where Qatar Airways does deliver is with their dine-on-demand programme, which is executed flawlessly. On a flight where everyone is on a different body clock, it’s a luxury to be able to dine whenever you want, and Qatar Airways has been doing that for so long that the service procedure works like clockwork.
After I finished my meal I looked outside the window to find a nice sunset.
Sunset over Serbia
Qatar Airways’ 777 Business Class Service
While I was welcomed onboard by a female flight attendant, most of the time on this flight I was served by a male flight attendant who worked my aisle. Now, I hate to criticise, since he was a very nice guy, and even asked for my Instagram handle; if he’s reading this, I hope that the below service observations can be of constructive criticism to him, so he could be more polished in the future. Qatar Airways’ service standard is in another league to other airlines, and the entire service process in business class is also quite demanding for cabin crew; the crew member serving me on this flight struggled with some of the more intricate interactions.
For example, I left my menus at my old seat when I first moved to seat 1K, and informed the crew member so when he asked if I wanted a drink. He replied with “oh”. A proactive thing to do would’ve been to get me another menu, or at least recommend a drink off the menu. This is incredibly nitpicky, but such an easy way to please. I eventually asked specifically if I could have another set of menus, and those were provided.
A couple more nitpicky things during the meal service – when my sister was asleep, the 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”. That doesn’t exactly set an “eager to please” tone, and maybe “alright, if you feel like anything later in the flight, let me know” would’ve been better? I didn’t think it was a big deal, especially since I knew the guy was well-intentioned, but it left a bit of a sour taste in my mom’s mouth (not as unpleasant as the main course, though).
Qatar Airways’ 777 Business Class Bed
Afterwards I went to the galley to ask the flight attendant if I could have a mattress pad. I was informed that Qatar Airways’ European flights didn’t have mattress pads. I said “oh, that’s interesting, my Doha to Amsterdam flight had mattress pads”, and I was replied with “oh, because that’s a night flight”. Hmm, Qatar Airways’ only Amsterdam flight leaves at 7:50 AM, so I wasn’t sure what he was on about – nevertheless, I made my own bed, first by reclining my seat into the fully flat position.
The bed was not comfortable at all. I’m generally fine with firmer surfaces, though the seat was worn and lumpy, and the bed was flimsy. I felt like putting any sort of weight onto the bottom half of the bed would break the seat – that’s characteristic of all B/E Minipod seats (including Korean Air’s version), though I thought this seat was especially flimsy. I was also an idiot and wore jeans on the plane, which I doubt helped either. On top of that, while Qatar Airways’ 777s have air nozzles, the airflow was slightly weaker on this flight, and the cabin was kept somewhat warm – and I don’t think the champagne, dessert wine and beer from the lounge helped either.
Above all, though, Hong Kong was experiencing another turmoil-filled weekend, and I was keeping myself updated on WiFi, which made it all the more difficult to fall asleep. I think I tossed and turned for cumulatively an hour and a half, before giving up and going on my laptop.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Bed
The cabin lights were set to a blue hue, though they were never turned off completely, which didn’t help my sleep either. Eventually some attractive red mood lighting appeared.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Cabin
While I was filming the bed for my (upcoming) YouTube video, the flight attendant serving my aisle thought I was talking to him, so he came out of the galley to say “what?” I appreciated that he was being attentive even when he was in the galley, but…
Qatar Airways’ 777 WiFi
Since I couldn’t sleep, WiFi really came in handy on this flight. I ended up purchasing a Super WiFi plan for USD 10, which I find to be very good value. Do note that WiFi is only available on select non-QSuite equipped 777s, so I’m very glad that this 777 was one of the WiFi-equipped ones. WiFi measured a decent 7.45 Mbps down and 0.39 Mbps up, though there were rougher patches while flying over the Mediterranean.
Qatar Airways’ 777 Economy Class
I figured I might as well briefly check out the economy class cabin. Economy class is the same on QSuite and non-QSuite equipped 777s, since they retrofitted the economy class cabins first. Economy on Qatar Airways is outfitted in a tight 3-4-3 configuration.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Economy Class Cabin Inflight
While I didn’t feel like ordering anything else to eat during this flight, the female flight attendant caught me awake at some point throughout the flight and asked if I’d like anything to drink. I asked for a pineapple margarita off the mocktails menu. Apparently there’s supposed to be salt around the rim, though that wasn’t present – despite that, the drink was a perfectly decent thirst-quencher.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Mocktail – Pineapple Margarita
Landing into Doha Airport
At around 11:50 PM Doha time, 45 minutes before touchdown, a landing video on Doha was screened.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Business Class Landing Video
The purser then came by my seat and noted that I hadn’t slept much during the flight. Indeed I hadn’t, though we struck up a conversation about my videography. She apologised that this flight featured a seat that was “completely different” to the QSuite, and I reassured her that it was fine.
The male flight attendant then came out to ask if I was a travel blogger, and he also asked for my Instagram handle. I gave him my Instagram profile, and shook his hand. I feel bad for putting him on the spot, as I thought he was a pretty nice guy. If he reads this review, I hope he takes my observations constructively.
We began our descent into Doha Airport, and wheels-down occurred at about 12:35 AM.
Landing into Doha Airport
We taxied for around 15 minutes, and eventually pulled into gate B8 – no remote stand this time!
Taxiing into Doha Airport
We parked at the gate at 12:50 AM, and from there it was a quick and painless (though crowded and WiFi-less) transit to our onward Hong Kong-bound flight.
Conclusion: Qatar Airways’ Old 777 Business Class
One of the most important aspects of a business class seat is sleeping comfort, as that’s the reason most travelers book business class to start with. Unfortunately, Qatar Airways’ old 777s have lumpy, worn-out seats, and while I appreciated the modifications that afforded each seat some extra storage, Qatar Airways’ old 777 business class seat simply isn’t comfortable. Obviously I knew going in that this wouldn’t hold a candle to the QSuite, though what disappointed me was the actual seat comfort. For example, Qatar Airways’ leased LATAM A350s also feature a 2-2-2 forward-facing configuration, but the actual bed is much sturdier and better padded.
The padding issue would’ve been easily saved by a mattress pad, though I was disappointed to learn that even the soft product on Qatar’s QSuite-equipped 777s is superior to the non-QSuite equipped 777s. If there’s anything that can narrow the gap between hard products, it’s a consistent soft product. Qatar Airways should either offer mattress pads on Europe flights no matter what plane you’re flying, or they should manage expectations better by not offering mattress pads even on QSuite-equipped Europe flights. Giving special attention to the soft product on QSuite flights just makes non-QSuite flights even worse, in my opinion.
The service on this flight was well-intentioned yet fell short of expectations. In addition, the food on this flight was generally unimpressive, though I do commend Qatar Airways for their impeccable dine-on-demand service structure and their extensive beverages list. The biggest saver of this flight was WiFi, which is one of the best-value onboard WiFi services out there; for one hour of complimentary WiFi and a mere 10 USD for full-flight unlimited WiFi, this served as an excellent way to pass time when sleeping just wasn’t on my body’s agenda.
My biggest complaint continues to be the sheer number of equipment swaps that Qatar administers, from QSuite-equipped 777s to these planes. I don’t even think it’s fair that the two seats are sold as part of the same cabin class (no, this isn’t meant to give Qatar Airways any ideas). With the right aircraft and a good crew, Qatar Airways may blow every other airline’s business class experience out of the water – though the high possibility of getting swapped to this product really reduces the appeal of booking Qatar Airways business class.
Read more from this trip:
What has your experience been like in Qatar Airways’ old 777 business class?