Qatar's Business Class Suites Have Sliding Doors So No One Can Bother You — Here's How to Fly in Them If You Don't Have $6,000 to Spend
Although Delta was the first airline to announce the concept of an all-suite business class in August 2016, Qatar Airways unveiled its own version of business class with all suites in March 2017 and beat Delta by putting them into service in September of that same year.
Since then, Qatar Airways has fitted its “Qsuites” aboard many of its long-haul jets, including some Boeing 777-200LRs and 777-300ERs, some Airbus A350-900s, and all its A350-1000s. Because some of these same aircraft types still have older versions of Qatar’s business-class seats, always check your specific flight’s seat map before booking to ensure it will have Qsuites.
Fliers can currently find Qsuites on routes from the airline’s hub in Doha to various destinations including Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York JFK, Washington, D.C., Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Shanghai, and Sydney, among other cities.
Why are Qsuites so extraordinary? First is the fact that they have closing doors that passengers can slide shut for privacy during the flight (along with a handy “do not disturb” indicator light, of course). Seemingly a small innovation, getting this feature past safety regulators was a huge hurdle, which is why you’ll only see it on a select few airlines in either first or business class.
The thing that makes Qsuites truly revolutionary, however, is that blocs of four seats in the center section of the cabin can be combined into numerous configurations. Qsuites are laid out in a staggered 1-2-1 pattern. The center suites are alternately closer together or farther apart depending on the row. Suites that are closer together can be combined into double beds (sort of — the lower portion of the seats are still separate) so that travel companions can share a larger but still private suite.
What’s more, groups of four traveling together can lower the privacy partitions between their individual places to form a four-suite space where co-workers can conduct high-powered, high-altitude meetings, or families can socialize without disturbing the rest of the cabin. Qatar Airways patented this mix-and-match mélange, so you won’t see it on other airlines for the time being.
Qsuites on the sides of the aircraft, meanwhile, are ultra-private for solo travelers. They are alternately positioned closer to the window or to the aisle with a wide armrest on the opposite side. All, however, have closing doors for total seclusion.
Using Miles to Fly Qsuites for (Almost) Free
I wanted to fly Qsuites since the airline put them into service over two years ago. Unfortunately, tickets between Doha and the U.S. can cost upwards of $6,000 each way. Instead, I was able to use airline miles to book a flight in Qsuites as part of a longer award ticket from South Africa to Los Angeles. Here’s how I did it.
Qatar Airways is a member of the Oneworld airline alliance along with other carriers including American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Japan Airlines. That means travelers can both earn and redeem miles with those airlines’ frequent-flier programs on Qatar Airways flights.
For U.S.-based fliers, the mileage program to focus on is American Airlines AAdvantage. According to American’s partner airline award chart, flights in business class between the U.S. and Doha, which is in the Middle East region of the chart, require 70,000 miles each way (or 140,000 miles roundtrip).
As I mentioned, though, I was actually traveling from South Africa. From there, a business-class award to the U.S. costs — wait for it — just 75,000 miles. So for 5,000 extra miles, I could add another nine-hour flight in business class from Johannesburg to Doha to my trip, and then still fly Qsuites from Doha to the U.S.
American Airlines’ website allows users to search for award tickets on most partner airlines, including Qatar Airways. To look for award flights, simply enter your origin, destination, and travel dates, and make sure the “redeem miles” box is ticked. Economy results pull up automatically, but you can click on the blue box for “Business/First MileSAAver” awards and you should see the available award flights in business class.
Now for the bad news. At the moment, there is not a lot of award space on Qatar Airways flights to the U.S. with Qsuites aboard. The most frequent availability seems to be on flights between Doha and Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Washington Dulles, though it does occasionally appear on the routes to New York JFK and Los Angeles. The more flexible you can be in terms of timing, the better your chances of booking a Qsuite award.
If you are using American AAdvantage miles, it can make sense to fly to Chicago, Dallas, or Los Angeles anyway since those are American Airlines’ hubs and you can book connecting travel on American’s own flights to your final destination as part of a single award ticket (i.e. without spending more miles or money).
I was able to find an award ticket from Johannesburg to Doha (on a 777-300ER without Qsuites — highlighting the necessity of double-checking your aircraft) and continuing on to Washington, D.C. (with Qsuites) on Qatar Airways, before a final hop over to Los Angeles on American Airlines. The price of my award was 75,000 miles and $61.53 in taxes and fees. A comparable paid ticket would have cost around $5,100. I decided to book it.
My excitement at being able to book a seat in Qsuites as an award was only overshadowed by the anticipation of actually getting to spend 14 hours in luxury on the flight from Doha to D.C.
In the days leading up to my trip, I continually checked on the seat map for my flight. The airline tends to block off the four-suite center sections for groups traveling together. As a solo traveler, I had been assigned a suite on the side of the cabin near the main galley and lavatories. However, I wanted to be farther away from the noise and activity, and to secure one of the side suites that was closer to the window rather than the aisle.
Sure enough, a few days before departure, I managed to snag 1K, a rear-facing suite closer to the window. I was set.
My flight departed at 8:20am, so I arrived at the gate early, not only to allow for extra time getting through additional security screening, but also to try to be among the first to board so I could take pictures without disturbing the other passengers. While I managed to do that, the plane filled up quickly.
As other passengers boarded, I was promptly offered water, juice, or Champagne by the purser. Flight attendants came by handing out menus, The White Company pajamas, and amenity kits stocked with Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio skincare products, socks, earplugs and eye masks.
I spent the rest of the time before pushback exploring my suite, playing with the seat controls and lights, finding noise-canceling headphones and a bottle of Evian in one of the storage cubbies, and perusing the in-flight entertainment options.
Each Qsuite seat is 21.5 inches wide and reclines to a 79-inch lie-flat bed. They have plenty of high-tech features like 21.5-inch entertainment systems and touchscreen remotes. There are plugs and ports to charge passengers’ personal devices and contactless NFC capability so passengers can stream pre-selected content playlists from the Qatar Airways app over the in-flight entertainment system via their smartphone.
A few minutes after takeoff, flight attendants came by to take meal orders and close passengers’ suite doors. Qatar Airways offers business-class passengers a dine-on-demand service where they can order pretty much anything off the menu at any time during the flight.
I was trying to plot out my meals to adjust to U.S. time, and I was already hungry, so I ordered a full meal at that point and planned to have another before landing, at what would be lunchtime in Washington, D.C.
Among the wines onboard were Lallier Grande Réserve and Ataïr Étoile Rosé Champagne, Spier Chardonnay from South Africa, Zuccardi Zeta Malbec from Argentina and Château Batailley Pauillac Grand Cru Classé from Bordeaux.
I decided to taste a few of the à la carte option and began with a selection of traditional Arabic mezze, including hummus and tabouleh, followed by a small portion of chicken tikka masala with baked papadams and pulao vegetable rice.
Afterwards, I changed into my pajamas while flight attendants made up my bed, placing a mattress pad over the seat, spreading out the duvet, and dressing my pillow with a fresh cover.
I stayed up working since the airline gives passengers an hour of free Wi-Fi (after that, you can pay $10 for the whole flight, which is a bargain compared to most in-flight Wi-Fi fees). I watched part of a film, then slept for several hours.
Although there was noise and activity on the aisle, the door to my suite ensured it stayed cozy and quiet inside, and I felt totally undisturbed. I suspect the doors also encourage passengers to stay in their suites rather than roaming the aisles, which reduces cabin traffic.
About four hours before landing, I woke up and ordered a cappuccino. Instead of breakfast, I had a selection of small bites including a king prawn crostini, lamb kofta with sumac onions, and a mini chicken shawarma with garlic tahini. They were all delicious, and just the fuel for a little more work before landing.
I arrived in D.C. rested and relaxed, totally satisfied by the experience. The flight attendants taking care of my cabin were always courteous and quick to respond to a service page. The amenities felt high-end and chic, and the food was delicious if not overwhelmingly gourmet. Overall, I’d say the experience was among the best I’ve had in business class, and it felt all the more so given that I was able to fly it for nearly free by putting my American Airlines miles to good use.