Reclining on a chair that’s gently massaging your lower back, devouring a delectable plate of prawns with a side of succulent wine, watching a recent movie release in your gifted The White Company pjs; life can be pretty sweet as you fly above the clouds in Qatar Airways’ sumptuous Qsuite.
When heading off on myriad adventures, be it a splendid South African safari, to the World Cup in Qatar, to Sri Lanka’s culture-filled capital of Colombo, to step into the future at Tokyo, or to soak up the sun in Sydney, there’s only one way to enjoy a long-haul flight, and that’s with the world’s best airline.
Gaining numerous accolades over the years, including, as mentioned, World’s Best Airline for six years; World’s Best Business Class Seat; Best Business Class Onboard Catering; and World’s Best Business Class Airline Lounge, all from Skytrax – I could go on, but I think you get the picture – Qatar Airways certainly stands apart when it comes to ensuring their customers enjoy the ultimate experience wherever they are heading.
My March voyage consisted of a few days in and around Johannesburg followed by a safari at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in the south-western section of the Greater Kruger National Park. Though my journey could have been undertaken with another airline that would have seen me arrive in 10 to 11 hours, I was offered the opportunity to voyage via Qatar Airways in their Business Class Qsuite and I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity.
Taking seven hours from London Heathrow to Doha’s Hamad International with a quick change before the second eight-and-a-half-hour flight to Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport, with return flights too, of course, this certainly gave me enough time to experience all that I could in the innovative Qsuite.
Qatar Airways’ Business Class and the Qsuite varies slightly depending on the plane, so three out of my four flights were with the fully private Qsuite on a Boeing 777-300 and my final leg, from Doha to London on the Airbus 380, was a slightly different version with a walk-up bar and business, first and some of economy on an upper floor. I slept for most of this journey, so I’ll talk about the latest version of the Qsuite on the Boeings, as seen in the images.
When you’re used to flying economy, it’s quite the nice surprise when you first spot your spacious set up in the signature burgundy and grey-toned Qsuite. There are four rows of cubicles; two middle and one with each window, with the middle having the ability to create paired or even quad seating – a perfect configuration if travelling with friends, family or if you need to talk business in the air.
Service, food and drink
The service on all four flights was excellent, and it starts the moment you board. Once I was in my seat, it wasn’t long before I was offered a pre-take-off refreshment and towel along with a warm welcome and introduction from members of the cabin crew. They checked in on me throughout and made an effort to visit each passenger in the Qsuite at the end of the flight to check how the journey had been and to ask for feedback.
After take-off, I was directed to the menu to make my dining choices for the flight and there was quite the selection of, surprisingly impressive, dishes to choose from, which changed on each flight. Dishes included poached lobster with seared scallop, Irish beef cheek, a cheese plate, chocolate cake, Arabic mezze, croque monsieur, chicken with truffle, biltong soup and so many more delights with Champagnes, wines, cocktails, fruit juices, hot drinks and more to wash it all down with.
I tucked into a great selection of food and drink while in the air, from warmed nuts and a glass of Bordeaux while reclining my chair and watching Ryan Reynolds in his latest movie, to devouring one of the most delicious prawn starters I’ve tasted, all at 33,000ft in the air.
When mealtimes came around, my table was transformed with a white cloth and laid with a little (battery-powered) candle in a decorative holder, a glass of water, drink of choice, and a tray with butter, chilli oil and salt and pepper cruet set with a trio of warm breads in a basket. There’s even a dedicated chair setting for mealtimes.
The poached lobster with seared scallop and a tropical fruit and coriander dressing was colourful and simply delectable, I could hardly believe I was eating this on a plane journey, but then this was no typical plane journey! Other highlights included a butter poached king prawn starter with pineapple salsa and couscous salad; the cheese plate with international cheeses, grainex, lavosh and other accompaniments; while the cappuccinos were scrumptious, and the gin and tonics were so good I can barely remember sampling the Irish beef cheek with mashed potatoes!
The cubicle and extras
One of the main highlights of the Qsuite for me was the seat, which holds a multitude of features including a back massage setting, additional support for your lower back, the ability to move forward so that you can put your feet up on the footrest, a dining position, reclining and, of course, the full bed setting. Somehow with earphones on, feet up, a drink in hand, and a good film or TV show on the screen, even turbulence doesn’t bother you a jot.
When it came time to sleep on the overnight flight, my bed was made for me complete with a quilt – an excellent touch. Along with my pillow, cushion and the super-soft, deep purple quilted blanket (I really wish I had bagged one), it was quite the cosy set up, but that wasn’t all as I was handed a package of The White Company pyjamas (overnight flights only) and I opened up my toiletry bag to find socks, an eye mask and earplugs to aid in a settled snooze. There were single packaged toothbrushes and toothpastes in the toilets as well, and with a do not disturb button, my privacy screen across and my reading light off, I was able to sneak in a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Upon waking, dip into the toiletry bag (currently Monte Vibano, soon to be Diptique) and find a lip balm, moisturiser and refreshing face mist, all of which came in handy throughout the journey. There was also a little Covid package containing gloves, sanitiser and mask.
With longer flights, you’ll likely be looking for ways to pass the time, and when you’re not snoozing or eating, there are plenty of opportunities to keep yourself busy. If work is on the agenda, then you can join the privilege club and receive one hour’s free Wi-Fi in the sky, with a charge thereafter.
Oryx One is the entertainment system and features some 4,000 ways to keep yourself entertained, from blockbuster movies, both recent and classic – I was thrilled to find 80’s classic Overboard on there – to games, music, TV shows, including comedies, sports shows, cookery programmes and the like.
Of course, we all know that the journeys aren’t just limited to the flights themselves, but the all-round experience, and this includes the airport lounges that you can check into for fine foods, drinks, and a comfortable space to relax or work before your flight departs. At Heathrow, the executive lounge was my first stop after checking in my luggage and I found it to be a welcoming spot for a glass of sparkling wine to toast what was to be a thoroughly enjoyable trip. Hot meals can be ordered remotely while self-service hot and cold drinks are in good supply.
Before leaving Johannesburg, I checked into the Shongololo Lounge and was grateful for the Wi-Fi, comfortable seating, complimentary food and close proximity to the gate, but the Al Mourjan business lounge at Doha really stepped things up a notch. Spread over 10,000 square metres, the opulent décor sets the tone for the whole experience, while the service was unwavering. Guests of the lounge can enjoy buffet style and a la carte meals, including one of the tastiest sushi platters I’ve devoured (even at 1am); take a nap in one of the quiet rooms before showering; schedule a business meeting in a private space; or simply relax in the stylish surroundings.
Transfers and boarding
Leaving Heathrow there was a delay, which left us late arriving in Doha, however, when we arrived there was a representative there to meet us at the bottom of the steps who took us to our group’s own bus, before escorting us across the large airport, through security and straight through to the gate. With a transfer time shorter than our planned 55-minute window, I was really grateful for the special assistance.
The delay resulted in our luggage not turning up in Johannesburg with us, which was unfortunate, however a gentleman at the help desk was very helpful with filing a report, and our luggage appeared at our hotel the very next morning. These things can happen and it’s about how the situation is handled – this time it was dealt with swiftly and I only had a few waking hours without my luggage, so it was fine. Also, as this has happened to me before (on a different airline), my top tip is to pack a change of clothes, basic toiletries and valuables in your hand luggage whenever flying.
In a nutshell
Flying will never be the same after an experience in the Qsuite. From restaurant quality dining to excellent service to a superb set up that provides the wow factor when flying, I’m not sure I’ll be able to travel by air any other way.
As mentioned, my Qatar Airways journey was taking me to and from South Africa to London. The airline offers daily flights from London (Heathrow and Gatwick) to South Africa (Johannesburg and Cape Town). From Heathrow to Johannesburg, flights can be booked from £790 economy and £3,895 business (the Qsuite). For all other flight details, head to the website.
Delve further into my incredible South African experiences here.