The A350 is now in service. The aircraft flew its maiden commercial flight on Thursday from Doha to Frankfurt and back for Qatar Airways. Plus the carrier has some 40 more of the type on order so it will be taking over a number of routes in the near future. And so, after solving the problem of booking a flight on the type, the question is where to sit on the Qatar Airways A350 for the most comfortable experience. Here are my thoughts on the topic.
The business class cabin offers 36 seats across 9 rows in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone layout which is similar to a number of other carriers. The Qatar Airways A350 version of the seat is a couple inches wider than other carriers offer. Everyone gets direct aisle access and each seat offers a universal power outlet and ample storage space.
But the business class cabin is not quite the same as many others. Rather than a bulkhead wall dividing the front and rear sections the entire cabin is open from tip to tail. It is a large open area.
And there is a bar area behind row 6 where the second pair of doors sit.
It is not a formal bar where passengers can sit to chat but it will have a bit more activity than just a bulkhead wall would. I’m disinclined to sit adjacent to that area because of potential noise issues. Also right in that area are the two lavs for the business class cabin. Row 6 – the last row in the first section of business class – is directly adjacent to the lavs and the bar area. That’s a no-go for me if I can avoid it.
Back in the second set of seats only row 8 seems appealing to me. Row 7 has proximity issues with the business class bar and row 9 has challenges with the economy class cabin and bassinet positions directly behind.
In the forward section I’d aim for rows 2-4 to get the optimal distance from other noise sources. In the rear section only row 8 seems reasonable but I have concerns about noise there still based on both the economy cabin and the bar area.
I will say that I mostly like the electro-mechanical blinds which offer open, translucent and opaque options, though no option to be half closed and still look out the bottom. Really, the sliding plastic just works. I’m not sure why there is such a desire to change it. And I’m really not sure what the translucent option is supposed to provide. Maybe no one outside will see you in your seat?!?
Also worth considering: There are no overhead bins in the center, though the outboard bins are large enough that they should accommodate everyone just fine. And the center pair in the first row has crew rest overhead, though typically that only affects access to overhead bins which is a non-issue here since those don’t exist anyways.
Business class is great but most folks are going to be in the back of the plane. Fortunately it is a reasonably comfortable layout in all seat, though some are definitely better than others.
The Qatar Airways A350 economy seats are fitted with an articulating recline; the bottom seat pan slides forward as the back reclines. In the case of these seats the front edge of the bottom also tilts up a tiny bit, making it a bit more of a cradle feeling as you recline. I’m a fan of that feature. The recline is pretty good on the seats which raises two potential issues: IFE access/viewing and knee room. With only 31″ pitch throughout you’re not going to have a ton of legroom no matter what. Still, my knees avoided contact with the row in front (you can almost see that in the photo above), though I cannot guarantee that would be the case for the duration of a flight. The 18″ seat width helps make up for the tighter pitch a bit.
On the subject of the IFE screens, two bits of good news:
1) The screens articulate out from the seat back so you can actually see them if the person in front of you reclines. I recently flew the AA 77W which offers a similar IFE system but without that feature. It made watching a movie quite challenging when the person in front reclined into me.
2) The IFE system includes a remote control, even in economy. That control offers a second screen (watch the map & a movie!) and also full control of the system which should reduce the annoyance of seat-back thumping from passengers playing games.
The bulkhead row will be the big winner, assuming you can score those seats. Plenty of legroom, though it is also a bassinet location so that might get in the way. The front bulkhead, just behind the business class cabin, has only two seats in the outboard sets which adds a bit more comfort for those passengers.
And if you prefer an aisle seat go for the row right behind that pair; two seats (one on each side) with nearly unlimited legroom await.
Finally, the flight attendant rest bunk is in the center at the rear so the overhead bins there are blocked. And there’s the galley and lavs; avoid the far back if you can. I do like the way the lighting and row number signage is integrated into the overhead bins.
And, while QUITE unlikely, if you can get either of these seats that’s definitely the way to go!
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