- In early March, before the coronavirus
became a pandemic and health officials had advised everyone to stay
inside and keep six feet of space between ourselves outside, my
wife and I left for a huge vacation to South
Africa, a trip we’d been planning for about a year.
- Unfortunately, we weren’t able to finish the trip. The COVID-19
outbreak worsened around the world, and South Africa instituted new
travel bans. We
had to book an emergency flight back home to New York.
- We used frequent flyer miles to fly on Qatar
Airways in its award-winning “QSuite” business
class, which has been widely cited as the world’s
best. After our experience, I’d definitely say it deserves that
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It feels like years ago at this point, but in the days before
“social distancing” entered the global lexicon — just over a
month ago — I went on vacation.
It was early March, as the coronavirus outbreak was spreading
and getting worse, but before we knew anything that we know today.
It was before the virus was running rampant through New York and
the US at large — or at least, before hospitals began seeing a
surge and before testing was available enough to confirm the
spread. At the time, we thought nothing of concepts like flattening
the curve and social distancing.
My wife and I had been planning a huge vacation to South Africa
for more than a year. Even though travel is one of the most
important things to both of us, and we’re lucky to have traveled a
lot, this trip was going to be a special one, and a major item
knocked off of our lifetime bucket lists.
on what we knew at the time, we decided to leave for the trip,
calculating a relatively low risk to us and others (again, this was
before we knew what we know now). Part of our motivation was the
fact that we’d invested a lot into the trip, compared to what we
normally spend when traveling, it was nonrefundable, and since
there were no travel bans and we were both healthy, our travel
insurance would not cover anything if we canceled.
As part of the trip — really the impetus for it — we had
booked our flights to and from South Africa in Qatar Airways’
business class using American Airlines miles. Qatar’s
groundbreaking “QSuite” product has been widely acclaimed as the
world’s best business class, and I was incredibly eager to try
Ultimately, we weren’t able to finish the two-week trip. After
five days on the ground, the COVID-19 outbreak had dominated hearts
and minds across the globe. The situation had gotten significantly
worse in New York and the US, and so many airlines had canceled
routes that we weren’t sure we’d be able to get home.
Then South African officials announced a new travel ban that
included Americans. We had to get back to the states.
booked an emergency flight home, and while we were disappointed
we couldn’t finish our vacation, we’ve been working with our travel
agent to get credits to use later for the parts we couldn’t enjoy.
Now, we have a trip to look forward to once this pandemic is behind
I’ve been torn over filing a flight review while we’re all
social distancing and none of us — aside from essential workers
— can fly, even though the review is from a flight we took before
this all began.
However, I decided that even while we stay distant from each
other and watch the world as we know it change, possibly forever,
it’s worth remembering what we have to look forward to when we
emerge from this.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to
fly with a ton of different airlines, in a
ton of different seats and cabins,
both for my job, and
for fun. Based on my own past experiences, I can confidently
say that Qatar’s business class is, indeed, unique, and deserving
of the accolades it has received.
Here’s what it was like flying the world’s best business class
on the Airbus A350-1000 from JFK in the days before the coronavirus
outbreak reached pandemic proportions.
booked an emergency overseas flight home to New York because of the
coronavirus pandemic, as countries close their borders and airlines
ground entire fleets. Flying back was a surreal
We got to JFK Airport a little bit closer to the flight time than
normal, but there wasn’t much of a line at either the coach or the
business class check-in.
Terminal 8 was almost empty. It was morning, and the terminal
usually gets busier in the afternoon and evening, but it was still
noticeably quieter than normal.
We stopped by the lounge for a quick breakfast â€” QSuite
passengers can access American’s Flagship business class lounge â€”
but we didn’t spend too long there. Before boarding, we went by
Hudson News to grab water bottles. In a true sign of the times,
there were prominent displays of cleaning wipes, vitamin C, and
We got to the gate just as boarding was about to start, and walked
pretty much right onto the plane.
Qatar’s QSuite business class features enclosed suites, with
sliding doors that you can close for privacy. The wall doesn’t
quite reach the ceiling so it isn’t fully enclosed, but it’s
arguably the most private business class in the sky.
We were in seats 1E and 1F â€” rear-facing middle seats that are
situated next to each other within the suite, instead of farther
apart, right up against the outer wall. The middle seats in each
row alternate between being close together or farther apart.
Here’s a rendering, for a sense of what that looks like.
There’s a privacy divider that can be raised if you’re traveling
solo. Of course, the fun of these seats is being able to share a
suite with a companion, so if you’re flying by yourself, it’s worth
trying to choose a window seat instead.
The seats feature large touchscreen entertainment monitors, but if
you’re traveling with a big group, you can actually slide these out
of the way to open a big four person suite with the next row.
Here’s a rendering of what that looks like.
Window seats alternate between rear-facing right up against the
window, and forward facing up against the door, with the side
storage area between your seat and the window.
Each seat has one of those side storage areas. The top is padded
… and flips up to open. There was a water bottle and a pair of
headphones, and plenty of room for your own stuff.
There was a reading lamp on the wall of the suite, right next to
the door, which could be moved and pointed in different directions.
In front of me and to the right, there was a small side table.
Just under the table, there was a storage shelf. Under that, there
were controls for the seat, the in-flight entertainment remote,
power outlets, and the headphone port.
Directly in front of me was a tray table, which slid out toward me
and unfolded, and the foot cubby for when the seat was lowered into
The wall between the two foot cubbies was fixed in place â€” it
didn’t lower like the other divider between the seats.
When we got to our seats, there was a plastic-wrapped blanket, a
pillow, and an amenity kit waiting on the side table.
It was a Brics-branded amenity kit …
… and came filled with in-flight essentials, including a sleep
mask, earplugs, and toiletries from Castello Monte Vibiano, like
moisturizer and lip balm. Strangely, there was no toothbrush or
toothpaste, but it turned out those were available in the lavatory.
I took most of the previous pictures a bit later in the boarding
process. The first thing we did when we got to our seats was wipe
down every surface with Clorox disinfecting wipes we brought from
When we walked on board, a cleaning crew was just walking off after
their own pass disinfecting the cabin.
In the past, I’ve scoffed at the idea of wiping down my seat a la
Naomi Campbell, but given the rapid spread of COVID-19 and all of
the uncertainty about the virus, we figured it was prudent.
We were meticulous; wiping down pretty much every surface we could
reach, not just the obvious touch points like the remote.
I even gave the tray table a second full wipe down.
Once that was finished and we settled into our seats, a flight
attendant came by to show us how the suite worked, and to offer a
pre-flight drink. We both went with the fresh lime and mint juice.
It was quite tasty â€” possibly even better than Etihad’s version
of the same thing.
Soon enough, the boarding door closed and we took our seats. As we
finished our drinks, we watched the six-minute long soccer
(football)-themed safety video, featuring current and former stars
from various teams Qatar Airways sponsors.
As we taxied to the runway, flight attendants came around to hand
out pajamas …
… As well as menus. They also took our first drink and lunch
orders, so that they could serve everything as quickly as possible
once we took off. Although Qatar offers dine-anytime service, it
seemed like most people ordered lunch to start the flight.
There was a decent wine list …
… Spirits and cocktails …
… And a decent lunch menu.
There were also breakfast options for a pre-landing meal …
… And non-boozy drinks.
After just a few minutes, we made one last turn onto the runway,
and moments later, we were in the air.
One feature I love on the A350 is the camera view. There’s
something so fun about watching takeoff from the tail of the plane
… or just behind the nose.
A few minutes after takeoff, as we were climbing, flight attendants
came by to release the suite doors. They’re latched open for
takeoff and landing, but can be freely opened or closed throughout
the rest of the flight.
A few minutes after that, a different flight attendant brought my
first drink â€” champagne â€” and a dish of mixed nuts.
The flight attendants were incredible throughout. They were
super attentive, and while they made occasional passes through the
cabin to see if anyone needed anything, encouraged us to use the
call bell if we wanted anything. They came almost immediately if we
did, and were just really friendly and helpful throughout â€”
especially when walking us through the features of the suite, like
how to open the door in an emergency, or the different ways we
could set the seat.
I logged onto the plane’s Wi-Fi around then. Business class
passengers got a free hour, but I ended up paying for it for the
rest of the flight. Normally I’d try to disconnect, but given the
outbreak situation, I wanted to stay on top of developments in case
they affected our trip â€” I was also chatting with a few sources
and keeping in touch with work.
A few minutes after I finished my champagne, a flight attendant
cleared my glass and the dish, and set up my table for lunch. I
especially liked the electric “candle,” a fun touch.
There was a seared tuna amuse bouche to start.
For my appetizer, I had the Arabic mezze, a delightful platter of
hummus, baba ghanoush, and tabbouleh served with a side of pita.
For my main, I had the chicken machboos, a Middle Eastern dish
that’s very similar to the Indian biriyani. It was fantastic,
pretty much the perfect flavor profile for an in-flight meal.
I decided to skip dessert â€” I still got a box with two Godiva
After lunch, I had a glass of wine, and went to the lavatory to
change into my pajamas.
The forward lavatory in the A350 has a window. It’s a bit of a
novelty, but I just love it.
If there’s one critical thing I..
Source: FS – All-Travel destinations-News
I flew the 'world's best' business class on Qatar Airways
just before the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the airline industry and
changed the world as we know it.