After a fantastic A350-1000 delivery gala dinner Tuesday night at the Airbus Delivery Center in Toulouse, AirlineGeeks was also invited to join Qatar Airways on the ferry flight to Doha for the very first Airbus A350-1000 delivery.
Arriving at Delivery Center early Wednesday morning for the flight, a lot had changed from the night before. The welcoming reception that had greeted us before the gala had given way to three check-in counters for the flight and upstairs, the event team was still busy putting away all the event equipment. A wall had also been removed to lead us to a security checkpoint and to the passport control counter.
After some pre-flight snacks in the Delivery Center, the flight started boarding with 90 minutes to go before departure, ample time to acquaint ourselves with the aircraft and take more pictures.
The new business class cabin was almost full. In addition to a few VIPs, including Qatar Group CEO Akbar Al Baker, there were scores of invited media and social media representatives. The economy cabin on this flight was almost empty, seating 30 Qatar Airways employees and technicians.
I found my seat, 11A, and got comfortable for the long journey to Doha. On the A350-1000, Qatar Airways installed 12 rows of QSuites, their new business class seat design. Rows 11 and 12 are the only ones behind the L2 door and make up a small cabin of 8 passengers, at most.
The 2 middle seats in row 11 can be transformed into a double bed and, when the passengers seated there wish to talk to the passengers in the middle section of row 12, the dividers between the passengers can be removed so they can communicate with each other with ease.
Although it was quite early, nobody onboard wanted to miss the welcoming champagne that was given to us after the cabin crew stored our jackets. Qatar provided every guest on the A350-1000 delivery flight with branded amenity kits and menus.
We pushed back as planned at 7:30 a.m. and took off approximately 15 minutes later into a beautiful French sunrise, the beginning of a new dawn for Airbus, Qatar Airways and the A350-1000.
After the seatbelt sign was turned off, it didn’t take long for Qatar’s CEO to personally come by and check to see if we were able to connect to the WiFi, as well as to explain the double bed and the four-people conference feature of the QSuites to us.
Despite being given access codes to the WiFi, it never worked for me on the flight, whether on my phone or laptop, where it kept dropping out until I gave up. Other people had similar issues but kept trying. However, it didn’t work consistently throughout the flight. The issue was most likely due to the fact that the contract with the service provider doesn’t start until the beginning of March, which we were told after the flight.
We passed to the south of the Alps and had a great clear view of the mountains, though the clouds would block our view for most of the flight to follow. While passing the Alps, the cabin crew came around and took our orders for breakfast.
As it took quite some time for the food to arrive, I opted to watch a movie. However, the audio for the entertainment system did not work. After the second headset I tried didn’t produce any audio from my seat, but did when testing with a different seat, it was clear the fault was confined my seat.
The flight attendant assigned to my section did two separate resets of the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system, one reset of the entire seat, followed by what he called a “hard reset.” As this didn’t work, the purser turned off power to my seat and the seat facing me, both to no avail. The two flight attendants tried everything they could to fix the problem while still doing their regular service, but, unfortunately, could not.
Not giving up on me, the flight attendants went to the back and got help from two engineers from Thales, which supplies the IFE system. They worked and tried different things to fix the seat for around 30 minutes and later came back to tell me that they believed the seat’s audio plug was the problem.
To my knowledge, this was the only seat with the problem. As there was only one open seat in the cabin, a middle seat, I elected to stay in the window seat for the view.
In the meantime, the snack platter before breakfast was served, for which I had ordered smoked salmon. The main breakfast course, for which I ordered the Arabic breakfast, was served around the time the two engineers arrived at my seat. A little later, I was served a plate of fresh fruits.
Even though I waited for the food for quite some time, it was really delicious and presented in a very appealing way. The fact that Toulouse is not a standard Qatar destination and the aircraft wasn’t catered by a usual provider for Qatar might be a reason for the delay in food service. But, without any experience on a regular Qatar flight, it’s difficult to say.
Since my rest the night before was short-lived due to the early departure time, I put the seat into fully lie-flat mode to lay down and rest (I recommend standing up to change the seat position into lie-flat). For me, at 6 foot, or 1.83m, the bed was plenty long and offered enough space to sleep comfortably. The pillow and blanket that were provided were also extremely comfortable.
With 90 minutes until landing, I ordered the burger and the cheese plate as my final meal. It, as well, took quite some time to be delivered, but, the presentation and taste did not disappoint.
On the arrival to Doha, Qatar Airways had something special planned. The flight descended down to 1000 feet and flew a circle over the pearl, crossed over the airport and descended on the approach until shortly above the runway to fly a low approach along the whole runway before putting in TOGA power shortly to circle around for landing.
Upon arrival at Hamad International Airport, the flight was greeted by the traditional water cannon salute and local press. Ending the delivery was a few words by Al Baker and a group photo of Qatar officials and pilots in front of the aircraft. The first delivery of the Airbus A350-1000, the newest and largest variant of the A350 family, had been a success.