Tell anyone that you’re flying Qatar Airways Business Class long-haul, and you’re bound to get looks of envy. After all, Business Class offers comfort and indulgence in equal measure. So where exactly does that leave Qatar Airways’ proper First Class cabin?
It’s not a secret that Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways Group CEO, is not a fan of the Airbus A380 anymore. In a 2022 media interview, he makes it clear that there is no long-term desire to keep operating the superjumbo jet.
But with post-COVID travel demand at an all-time high and new aircraft deliveries being continuously delayed, Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380s – including the eight First Class suites on the upper deck – are back and here to stay for the foreseeable future. That’s great news for travellers such as myself.
After a thrilling week in Jordan, including gliding through the Wadi Rum desert on the back of a 4WD, my journey home is blissfully booked in Qatar Airways First Class from Amman to Doha, with a one-night stop in the city. The next day, I make my way back to the airport, where the true First Class experience begins from the moment I reach the kerb.
Check-in, lounge & boarding
Once my ride pulls up at the first door, I’m instantly met by a porter and my bags are loaded onto a bellboy trolley. He asks which cabin class I’m flying, then leads me towards a concierge at the terminal entrance. Qatar Airways’ premium check-in hall is nothing short of impressive. An imposing barrier points Business Class passengers to the left, and First Class passengers to the right.
I’m a little let down when the concierge doesn’t seem to believe I’m actually flying First Class. (Is it my work backpack? My casual appearance? My non-Rimowa suitcase?) But after confirming that I am indeed in the right area, she leads me to the Al Safwa side of the check-in hall.
Here, check-in is effortlessly handled in a private booth while I’m seated. A staff member brings the first of many Diptyque cold-scented towels that I’m offered over the next 24 hours. Once everything is done, a porter wheels my suitcase away and I’m invited to proceed through a private immigration and security lane.
With no one else in line, I whiz through the formalities in minutes and emerge on the other side, where an elevator takes me straight into the Al Safwa First Lounge – read the full review for more details. But in a nutshell, I fit in a four-course restaurant lunch, a jacuzzi session in the spa and also get a private nap room.
Unfortunately, boarding is a bit of a shambles. We’re all left waiting an extra 30 minutes for secondary screening to open at the gate. Even after we get onboard, the departure is delayed by another 30 minutes or so (not that I’m complaining, as I’m onto my second welcome drink at that stage!)
Seating and pre-flight
Compared to other First Class products that I’ve flown before (Emirates, Qantas and Singapore Airlines), the Qatar Airways First Class seat is the plainest. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still extremely spacious and I am thrilled to be flying in it. But from an objective perspective, that openness comes at the cost of reduced privacy.
In my Emirates First Class flight, I could be forgiven for thinking there were no other passengers. That’s not the case in the Qatar Airways cabin.
Looking at the Qatar Airways A380 First Class seat
Arranged in a 1-2-1 layout, the middle two suites have an electronically-controlled partition. Similarly, all seats have an aisle-facing partition that can be raised or lowered with the press of a button. Beneath each screen is an ottoman that can seat a second passenger for inflight dining, or simply for you to stretch out on.
A small cabin bag can fit under the ottoman; otherwise, the crew will store your items for you. Today, I’m sitting in 2A, along the window in the second row. Luckily, seat 2E across the aisle from me remains empty, so I use that seat to dine after take-off while my original seat is transformed into a bed.
Each suite has two touchscreen controllers – one controls the seat mechanics, while the other is your portal to the inflight entertainment system. Since the 26″ (66 cm) entertainment screen is far away, I do find it easier to use the remote. Window seat passengers also have a button that can raise or lower all of the window shades by your seat. You can also adjust each window individually.
Each armrest offers a small amount of storage, though some space is already taken up by a water bottle and noise-cancelling headphones. But in a First Class twist, I spy a small closet behind the entertainment screen, where I later store my clothes once I change into the provided pyjamas.
Qatar Airways A380 First Class pre-flight service
While we’re delayed on the ground, the crew start bringing around an array of treats and goodies. I’m offered a pre-departure drink (and choose the lime and mint juice), which is served with a bowl of olives and cheese. Next is Arabic coffee and a pitted date (‘yes please’).
I also get an inflight Wi-Fi access voucher, a Diptyque amenity kit and pyjamas from The White Company. While nice touches, the amenity kit and pyjamas are identical to what’s received in Business Class. I feel it shows how Qatar Airways isn’t putting in 100% for its First Class product – after all, Emirates gives out bulging Bulgari amenity kits and special moisturising pyjamas in First Class!
As the ground delay drags on, I happily indulge in a second drink, uncorking a delicious bottle of 2007 Piper-Heidsieck Rare Brut Millésime (despite the menu saying 2006). For reference, Qatar Airways used to serve vintage Krug in First Class, but some wine enthusiasts may prefer the Piper.
Food & beverage
As expected, First Class passengers can dine at leisure. I still follow a semi-traditional timetable – a light supper after take-off, a snack in the middle, and the main meal before landing in Sydney. Breakfast is offered as well, but you won’t see me eating oats onboard when there’s plenty of seafood to go around!
Supper after departure
For me, supper is the opportunity to try a range of smaller – but no less indulgent – bites. Qatar Airways delivers in spades. If caviar is on the menu, I’ll never look the other way. This version ups the decadence with smoked salmon and the usual range of accompaniments. I just wish there were more blinis! And if one mother-of-pearl spoon wasn’t enough, I get to play with two.
Another hallmark of Qatar Airways is an off-menu amuse-bouche – today’s chef selection is a seared scallop on purple barley. My bespoke menu continues with crunchy duck croquettes (okay, not amazing) and the XO lobster on a toasted brioche bun (delicious, but a bit light on the lobster topping).
Mid-flight high tea
After a restful six hours of sleep, I crack the window shades open to see we’ve jumped ahead a few time zones. That’s the cue to order the afternoon tea. Three delicately-wrapped finger sandwiches come with an assortment of sweets and scones, along with jam, clotted cream and tea.
Every morsel is delicious and I just love how whimsical it is to enjoy a high tea in the clouds. The same set is even available in Business Class, just minus the elegant teapot set-up (you get a mug of tea instead).
As we inch towards Sydney in the evening, I ready myself for a final three-course dinner. I’m glad I start with the 250-day grain-fed Wagyu beef salad with Thai lemongrass sauce. That lemongrass dressing is a powerhouse, reawaking my tastebuds that have been dulled by the flight. The chilled wagyu beef is fragrant as well.
My main course is pan-fried king prawns with lemon butter sauce. Served with celeriac purée and garden vegetables, it’s a decadent pairing of juicy seafood and crunchy greens.
While I’m perusing the dessert menu, the pandan sago mousse with mango passion fruit compoté instantly catches my eye. I’m not disappointed when the sleek black plate is placed in front of me, bearing a perfectly-formed pandan mousse, coconut dacquoise bites and almond crumble. It’s almost too good to eat.
Qatar Airways already offers a very substantial beverage list in Business Class. In long-haul First Class, that’s taken up by a small notch – most notably with the inclusion of a vintage classic Champagne and an older Bordeaux red.
For teetotalers, Qatar Airways still puts out an impressive spread including TWG tea (at least nine blends on the menu), mocktails, French Bloom and So Jennie non-alcoholic bubbly and more.
But for the home sommeliers out there, here is the wine list for this flight:
- Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millésime 2006 (though the 2007 was served onboard)
- Laurent-Perrier Alexandra Rosé Champagne 2006
- Domaine William Fevre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2016
- Blind River Malborough Sauvignon Blanc 2021
- Keller Hubacker Dalsheim Riesling 2020
- Château Ducru-Beaucaillou Saint-Julien Grand Cru Classé 2008
- Ares Two Hands Barossa Valley Shiraz 2014
- Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino 2011
Dessert and port:
- Château Rieussec Premier Grand Cru Classe Sauternes 2010
- Dow’s 20-Year-Old Tawny Port
- Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch Whisky (19 years aged)
- Chivas Regal Blended Scotch Whisky (18 years aged)
Qatar Airways Airbus A380 First Class amenities
A good night’s sleep in bed mode
The seat reclines into an 81″ (206 cm) fully-flat bed – a few centimetres longer than in Business Class. But with the added width and not having a foot cubby, it’s definitely one of the best beds I’ve had the pleasure of slumbering on in the skies.
Unlike in Business Class, where the bedding is already on the seat so I can create the bed myself, all the bedding is hidden away in First Class. A cabin crew member proactively asks whether I would like my seat to be turned into a bed while I’m dining in the adjacent vacant seat.
Onboard bar and lounge
Whenever I fly on an aircraft with a lounge, you can bet I’ll be there at some point during the flight. This spacious and elegant area is perfect for breaking up the flight and chatting with other people, all while enjoying a new drink from the tended bar.
The onboard lounge is also an ideal destination to banish any mid-flight hunger pangs you may have, with a rotation of sweet and savoury canapés on offer.
You know you’re flying First Class then the lavatory is bigger than your suite. Tucked away at the front of the upper deck, the two bathrooms offer plenty of space to change into your PJs and back. The toilet itself is cleverly hidden under a large leather panel, which otherwise forms part of the long bench.
I like the design of the modern tapware, which wouldn’t look out of place in a hotel. Fresh orchids, mood lighting and Diptyque amenities add to the ambience.
Incidentally, this is also the space where Emirates and Etihad squeeze in shower rooms for First Class. But Qatar Airways has opted not to include shower rooms here.
Travelling is the perfect time to catch up on recent new release movies that I’ve missed. The 66cm screen is clear and responsive to the handheld touchscreen remote. Oryx One might not have the biggest inflight catalogue in the world, but it does have hundreds of movies across many genres, TV shows, music and games.
Noise-cancelling headphones are provided, though they are unbranded. If you’ll forgive another of my comparisons, Emirates First Class treats flyers to Bowers & Wilkins premium headphones.
One habit I’ve taken to on my recent string of Qatar Airways flights is to test my knowledge on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Unfortunately, the $250,000 question has eluded me on three separate occasions now.
First Class passengers are provided with a complimentary code that grants a free ‘Ultimate’ package for inflight Wi-Fi. This is a 200 MB package that usually costs US$20. While the voucher is appreciated, Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380s run on the older and slower OnAir connectivity system, which pales in comparison to the newer Inmarsat GX system that powers the airline’s ‘Super Wi-Fi’ offering.
How to book this flight with points
This flight is part of a Qatar Airways trip I booked with Qantas Points back in July 2022 for 259,300 Qantas Points + AU$1,176 in total, going:
- Perth-Doha-Amman in Economy, transiting through Doha.
- Amman-Doha in regional First Class with a stop in Doha for one night.
- Doha-Sydney in proper Airbus A380 First Class the following evening.
You can book Qatar Airways Airbus A380 First Class from Doha (or further abroad) to Australia for the following figures. Note that fees and taxes are estimated and will fluctuate due to currency movements.
|Route (one-way, First Class)
|Privilege Club Avios
+ 192 JOD
+ 196 JOD
If you happen to be collecting American Airlines AAdvantage miles, these offer the best deal. Fly in First Class from the Middle East to Australia for 100,000 miles + under US$137 in taxes (no fuel surcharges)!
You can add the Amman-Doha leg for no extra miles (just pay extra taxes), and also fly to Sydney or Perth for no extra miles. Ah, the beauty of region-based award charts…
Qatar Airways still offers a very good Airbus A380 First Class product from Doha to Sydney. Sure, it’s not cutting-edge like Singapore Airlines Suites, or over-the-top fancy like Emirates and Etihad with the onboard shower. Yes, the seats are rather open and lack privacy, similar to Lufthansa’s Airbus A380 First Class.
Having flown both Qatar Airways Airbus A380 Business and First Class within weeks of each other, I’d fully concur that Business Class is ‘good enough’. You still get dine-on-demand, the same amenity kit and pyjamas, similar wines and the onboard lounge at the back. I enjoy the lie-flat bed and sleep for most of the flight.
The cabin crew deliver excellent, bespoke service in both cabins. In First Class, they are particularly attentive since there are only eight seats in the cabin (and six passengers on this particular flight).
But if given a choice (or in our case, reward seat availability and plenty of points), I think most travellers would also happily experience Qatar Airways First Class at least once. The increase in seat footprint is substantial, and the finer touches such as Al Safwa Lounge access in Doha and onboard fine dining do hold greater value.
(There’s also the interesting quirk of more First Class reward seats being available than Business Class, at least on the Doha-Perth route.)
So if you go onto the flight with the mindset that ‘it’s not the world’s best First Class, but I’ll still enjoy the experience’, then I’d say you’ll have a very fun flight ahead of you. I had a fantastic time onboard!
Photography by Brandon Loo, who travelled at Point Hacks’ expense with points.