With a Qatar Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on the tarmac at the Farnborough Airshow for visits, we jumped at the chance to get on board this relatively rare aircraft — Qatar has seven of them according to the Airfleets database — and check out the new Business Class (don’t call it Q-) Suite.
The doored mini-suite itself is a fairly stock version of Adient Aerospace’s Ascent product, down to the stock side lamp, layout of trim pieces, and shaping. That’s a surprising departure for an airline that has in recent years gone for fully customised — and indeed, with the Collins Aerospace Qsuite, exclusive — business class products.
Ascent is a strong offering for the 787, principally as a result of the structure of the footwell. Here, the cubby is open to the sidewall of the aircraft, eking out critical extra space when in bed mode. It’s clear that substantial design, engineering and certification effort has gone into this, which makes a noticeable difference when the seat is fully flat, particularly on a smaller widebody like the 787, designed before direct aisle access for every passenger was de rigueur.
The cabin is laid out in a hybrid herringbone, similar to Virgin Atlantic’s Airbus A350 business class. Seats by the window face out in an outward-facing herringbone, while the centre pairs of seats face towards the aisle in an inward-facing layout.
This layout is effective from a privacy point of view even without the door, since the fact that every passenger is effectively looking towards the windows means that any awkward eye-catching is minimised.
Thanks to a centre divider that retracts to the level of the beds, seats in the centre pairs combine to create a kind of “kissing class” double, where passengers travelling together can say goodnight with their heads together. It’s cute, and a substantially better proposition for partner leisure travel than a herringbone facing into the centreline.
Other positive notes include a smart mobile storage cutout with a retaining mechanism that neatly pulls the phone flush to the wireless charging pad. The size of this, slightly larger than a Pro Max-sixed iPhone, seems adequate for most passengers’ phones.
There is risk, however: consider the experience of Cathay Pacific’s previous regional business class, where the (non-charging) phone slot was sized right before the larger screen revolution of the iPhone 6 Plus.
Soft product questions in your author’s mind include the “Mount Pillows” problem, where passengers are welcomed with a Qsuite amount of throw pillow, head pillow, wrapped duvet, amenity kit, and so on, but without a Qsuite amount of side surface on which to store it. This is solvable with service pacing out the presentation of these items, but will require thought.
It was surprising to note the amount of visible wear on the seats, particularly in high-sight and high-touch areas like the top of the seat shrouding, and on the expansive horizontal surfaces at the front of the cabin.
Based on the aircraft’s FlightRadar24 history, it looks like it was performing packet freighter duties through August 2021 under QR8XXX cargo flight numbers before returning to service with regular flight numbers.
That’s not a massively surprising amount of wear and tear over this kind of period, but the reputation of the airline’s infamous leadership for stringency in passenger experience specification combines oddly with the fact that this aircraft was on show as a PR exercise and the state in which it was displayed.
Your author isn’t entirely sure what to make of the doors 2 entryway into the aircraft.
On the one hand, the low bar area when turning left into business class is attractive and feels premium. On the other, the high bank of six storage cupboards dominates and indeed overwhelms the space.
It will be interesting to see how Qatar manages this in service: a well-placed greeting flight attendant in front of the storage unit could mask it, but with the abundance of attractive thermoplastics available to airlines, it feels like a missed trick.
And at the front of the cabin, the enormous expanse of front row monument was frankly baffling, given that space is at a premium in the small galley ahead of the bulkhead wall — and there is no doors 2 galley on this aircraft.
Boeing and Adient have done a great job integrating the seat into the cabin in terms of width, so the lack of elegant, space-saving and storage-improving integration at the front of the cabin in terms of length was very much a surprise.
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- Hawaiian chooses Adient herringbone, Collins Aspire for 787
- Elegant Qatar Qsuite exceeds expectations, shows safety innovations
Featured image credited to John Walton