As compared to the Dreamliner from the Boeing, the Airbus A350 XWB has been receiving greater attention, largely due to its appearance and comfort level. Whenever possible, I will always try to pick the flight which is operated by Airbus A350 or the A380. As of now, the only carriers that operate the Airbus A350 into Singapore on a regular basis are Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways.
During my Europe trip this summer, I flew with Qatar Airways again. Beside securing a good price, I needed to fly with them by the end of April to attain the silver tier in their frequent flyer program. This was quite an memorable flight, which was complemented with great in-flight service and spontaneous crew. I had a great chat with the crew and managed to get some insights from them.
Qatar Airways, Airbus A350-900 XWB
QR947, Singapore Changi International Airport - Doha Hamad International Airport
Dep: SIN 2120
Arr: DOH 2355
Total Duration: 7hr 35min
Seat: 42H (Economy Class)
Seat Config: 3-3-3
Check-in & Initial Phrase Of The Flight
It was about 5 mins before check-in closes when I arrived at the counters in terminal 3. During the web check-in, I was not able to select the seats along the emergency exits and the last few rows. The agent managed to put me on an empty row, second row from the back. Nevertheless, she stressed that she can't guarantee it will remain empty when I get on-board. Towards the end of the boarding, I was a little surprised that the window seat on my row was taken up by the last passenger. I thought I could have the whole row since I was the last few to check-in. All the rows at the back were occupied, except that some had the whole row for themselves.
When choosing a seat, these are my priorities:
- Emex (Emergency exit) seat
- Bulkhead seat
- Rows at the back of the aircraft
- Last row.
Typically, if the flight isn't completely or nearly full, the seats on the last few rows at the back of the aircraft have higher probability of not being occupied. As for the seats on the last row, the angle of recline defers between the aircraft types and the airlines. While the worst will be those that completely has no recline, the best would be those with the same amount of recline as others. Such kind of seats allow you to recline with no stress and worries as there is no one behind. For Qatar Airways, such kind of seats exist on the Dreamliner (Boeing B787). I am quite certain that it applies for the A350 as well. Do note that the overhead compartment on the last row may be occupied by some crew equipment.
Qatar Airways adopts the 3-3-3 seat configuration in their A350, with each economy class seat measuring up to 18" wide. As the seat base is flat and the arm rest is fully retractable, it is comfortable to lie down if you have the whole row for yourself.
More importantly, there is no entertainment box under the seat. The legroom is almost as spacious as those in the B777-300ER. If you wish to have more legroom, you have to request for the Emex or bulkhead seat at the check-in counter. These seats are not available at online check-in (except for elite members) and they are non-chargeable.
The 4th generation in-flight entertainment system is impressive. Each economy class seat features a 10.6" HD touch-screen TV and a touch-screen remote control. Having the same flexibility as the smartphone, both the TV and the remote control have similar sensitivity and zooming function. On its interactive map, I was able to zoom-in/out and rotate the world map freely.
One thing I love the most is the tail camera. While I had my TV screen switched to the tail camera for the take-off, I was able to have the airshow on my remote screen. Besides this, the remote screen had some games that could be operated separately from the main screen.
During the departure, the crew did a light service by offering some refreshing towel (aka wet wipes) and played the safety video before dimming the cabin lights for take-off. Those wet wipes used to be real wet towels years ago. In near future when you have the opportunity to fly on the A350, you would be surprised that the aircraft is really quiet. You wouldn't hear much from the engine during the flight.
Meal Service - Dinner
Shortly after the departure, I made a quick browse and chose a decent show to watch. I thought that the selection could have been better, with more varieties and recent movies. If you like to use your earpiece instead of their headphone, you do not need any adapter.
Not long later, the meal service began. The menu was already at the seat pouch when I got on-board. It is worth noting that not all the flights come with a menu, which I find it annoying when the crew do not introduce the meal options elaborately - "chicken or fish".
The meal service commenced from the front row. When it was my turn, they only had one option left, which was the "Lamb and Apricot Tagine". During that point of time, I was a little disappointed because I was afraid that the lamb had the lingering pungent smell. Upon raising up my concern, the crew went to the galley to check on the crew meal so as to offer me other alternatives. Such move actually amazed me as she could have insisted on that meal (although I am not sure if they really checked on it).
Moments later, another crew came to me and apologized as they did not have other alternatives. Yup... In the end, I had to accept the "Lamb and Apricot Tagine".
To my surprise, the main dish was fantastic. The lamb was tender and it did not carry the pungent smell. The couscous accompanied with some raisins were flavorful and well-cooked. I like it alot when the couscous carries some moisture. If it turned out dry, it would be difficult to eat.
During The Remaining Hours
After the crew had completed their service, I went to the lavatory for a quick wash-up. The amenities were kept to the basic. They used to have Salvatore Ferragamo and Armani amenities, even for economy class.
Amenity kit for economy class passenger
Before returning to my seat, I had a great chat with 2 of the crew. During the conversation, I managed to verify an interesting rumor that has been circulating around the industry. About 1-2 years ago, there was a rumor saying that the crew were not allowed to get pregnant. This rumor went viral and several media approached the CEO to verify the truth. However, the media was being told that the rumor was not true.
When I checked with the crew, they told me that this rule did exist but it was abolished recently. I guess this answer would be more accurate. Besides the management, no one would know the rule better than the crew members.
If you happen to fly with the Airbus A350, take a look at the back of the aircraft. If you are sharp enough, you may notice that the ceiling is more protruding on the last few rows. Those middle seats at the back do not have any overhead compartment. The space above these seats is actually a crew bunk. The entrance to the crew bunk can be found at the last galley.
Towards The End Of The Flight
"Joy" - starring Jennifer Lawrence
About 2 hours before arrival, another round of meal service was conducted. The snack box contained a citrus cake and a wrap which was either filled with red bean paste or chicken. I had the one with the red bean paste and they were just average tasting. During the flight, other snacks such as potato chips were available.
As our aircraft joined the queue for landing, headphones and used blanket were collected. Therefore, it is advisable to use your own earpiece instead. The peak hours at Doha Hamad International Airport would be around the late night and early morning. If you have a very tight connection, you should alert the crew so as to excuse yourself to the front seat if it is available. My flight was circulating in the air at the holding area for quite some time. When we arrived at the gate, I had to run for my next flight. If the connecting flight has a long turnaround time at the final destination, I am certain that the pilots would wait for passengers who are connecting from a late arrival flight.
Qatar Airways Airbus A350 at Frankfurt International Airport
When picking a flight, I would try to pick the Airbus A350 or the Airbus A380 whenever possible as they are quiet and comfortable. Otherwise, Boeing 777-300ER is a good choice as well. With regards to the in-flight service, their main meal always tasted good. However, I have noticed that they have cut down a lot of things. For instance, they no longer provide warm towels and the branded amenities in the lavatory. The choice of snacks has become very limited as well.
Another important thing I have noticed is that the aircraft type operating for the Singapore route is beginning to change more frequently. Instead of Airbus A350 (as marketed), your flight may be operated by Airbus A330-300. This is an aircraft that you definitely do not want to fly with. They have inferior seat product for both business and economy class. I had to cancel my upgrade due to last minute aircraft change to the A330-300. Frankfurt was the first destination to have the Airbus A350 on a daily basis. Currently, both daily flights are operated by the B787 Dreamliner instead, which offers terrible legroom in the economy class.
Lastly, Qatar Airways Privilege Club has recently set higher requirements. It will be more difficult to attain higher tier. For instance, with the old rules, I only need to make 2.5 round trips from Singapore to Western Europe within a year to reach the next status. With the new requirements, I would need to make 3.75 round trips if I were to purchase the promo fare. Nevertheless, I still think that this is the easiest frequent flyer program to attain elite status. Additionally, the benefits for elite members are very generous as well, as compared to other airlines. Given the amount of flight I predict to take in future, I guess it would be wiser for me to consolidate the miles into the right frequent program instead of chasing for status.
P.S: This is not a sponsored post. The above content is based on my truthful thoughts and experience. Opinions expressed here are not from any entity. If you find this blog post useful, you may consider booking your Qatar Airways flights via this link here. (Affiliate commission will be earned).
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