Qatar Airways “old” 777 business class (no Qsuites): Nick’s lone 3 Cards, Continents disappointment

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If there was one disappointment in my 3 Cards, 3 Continents trip, it was flying long-haul on Qatar Airways but not in Qsuites. In fact, during my planning stages of the trip, I was surprised to find that Qatar has quite a few routes to Asia that are not consistently operated with a Qsuites-equipped plane. During the challenge, I flew from Manila (MNL) to Doha (DOH) in Qatar Airways business class aboard a Boeing 777-300ER. Prior to this, I had it in my mind that all of Qatars 777s have Qsuites, but that’s not true. The equipment on the Manila route (and quite a few others) seems to rotate and it is sometimes operated with a Qsuites-equipped plane, but it’s worth knowing that there are quite a few routes where you won’t find QSuites and knowing what the product is like.

Booking the award

As I’ve previously covered, I booked this award ticket via American Airlines AAdvantage because they charge just 40,000 miles one-way for business class awards between Asia and the Middle East. My full itinerary was Manila to Doha to Dubai in business class for 40,000 miles and $51.10 and I leveraged that short leg from Doha to Dubai to get 15 hours in Qatar’s first class lounge in Doha.

Immediately after booking, I realized that this plane would not have Qsuites when I attempted to pick my seat and I saw a seating chart showing a 2-2-2 layout of seats rather than Qatar’s well-known 1-2-1 Qsuites configuration. I thought I took a screen shot of the seating chart, but apparently I didn’t. I was immediately disappointed and I Googled to find other reviews indicating that Qatar indeed has a number of 777-300ERs without Qsuites and Manila to Doha is a route where the equipment varies.

Not an exciting business class product aboard Qatar’s 777-300ERs with the old product.

Since American Airlines allows most awards to be cancelled without penalty, I could have cancelled for free and booked a different route (my Air Canada Aeroplan award was still flexible at that point). Furthermore, I could have booked on Qatar from Cebu, Philippines. I didn’t do that because Qatar flies a 787 from Cebu which has a product that looks reminiscent of Qsuites, but I gambled on Manila.

That was because the Manila route does get QSuites fairly often and Qatar had been rotating in a plane with QSuites pretty reliably within about a week of departure for most of the summer, so I took a swing at that and hoped that I’d end up with Qsuites. It missed — and by the time I realized that they just weren’t going to change it to a Qsuites-equipped plane, there were no award seats available on any of Qatar’s flights to Dubai for a straight month, so rebooking wasn’t really an option. Old 777 business class wasn’t a deal-breaker for me as I knew I’d still have no trouble reclining all the way and sleeping for a solid amount of time on this 9hr flight, but if I knew for sure that they weren’t going to put a Qsuites-equipped plane on this route, I would have booked something else. I still got a taste of the Qsuites experience on my short flight from Doha to Dubai, operated by an A350-1000 with Qsuites.

Qatar Qsuites, which I flew on their A350-1000 from Doha to Dubai. Unfortunately, the 777-300ER on my Manila to Doha flight did NOT have these.

Soft product is mostly the same

For those who might consider one of the non-Qsuites routes, it’s worth noting that the “soft product” is mostly the same. That is to say that passengers in old 777 business class get the same amenity kit (currently a gift box of Dyptique stuff) and essentially the same catering (complete with the cute little lantern on the tray that you may have seen Greg and Maisue comment on in one of their Instagram videos). I even got the same limited-edition Qatar World Cup 2022 pajamas that you may have seen Greg wear a few times during his trip and I had the same plush blanket I remember seeing in their pictures.

You mostly get the same in-flight product apart from the snazzy seat — and let me pause to recognize that Qsuites are indeed quite snazzy. Similar to how I felt about Delta One Suites when I flew them a few years ago, I think Qsuites look far more impressive in person than they do in photos (and that’s not to say that they don’t look nice in photos but rather that they still managed to surprise me despite the fact that I’ve seen a thousand photos of them).

And on my specific flight, catering was a bit light. My flight from Manila took off at a quarter past midnight and landed in Doha just after 4am. The menu was a little disappointing, but I realized that since this was a middle-of-the-night flight, most people probably don’t want a large meal. I later made up for my disappointment in the first class lounge in Doha :-).

Hard product has its downsides

You can immediately see that one issue with the seat itself on these planes is that not all seats have direct aisle access. This means that the person in the window seat on either side of the plane might need to step over their sleeping seatmate to get to the aisle if they need to use the lavatory / stretch their legs / etc. That’s unideal.

It also means no privacy at all since you’re sitting right next to your seatmate. I had a lovely chat with my seatmate, who also happened to be American but was living abroad, but I could see where that may not be preferable for everyone.

Further, if I complained about at-seat storage on Oman Air and Gulf Air, there was far less on this flight. There wasn’t really room for my seatmate and I to both have drinks and both put our phones down. There was indeed a nice-size cubby underneath the seat in front of me, but that was far enough away as to necessitate removing my seat belt to get to it, which to me kind of defeats the purpose of at-seat storage (I want to be able to get my stuff even if I can’t remove my seatbelt otherwise I’d put it in the overhead compartment.

Possible rebooking tip

I want to toss in one tip that may be completely meaningless, but I thought it worth reporting nonetheless. I had originally booked a ticket from Manila to Doha to Helsinki to Rovaniemi to go to Santa’s village (for 75K total miles in business class). I later landed on the first class lounge trick and decided that I wanted to fly to change and fly to Dubai with this award instead (for 40K miles). However, American Airlines couldn’t just change my destination from Rovaniemi to Dubai and reprice the award without cancelling and rebooking the entire thing.

Unfortunately, the problem was that there were no longer award seats on the leg from Manila to Doha. Obviously I had an award seat booked on the flight, so I wondered what would happen if I cancelled my booking from Manila to Rovaniemi — would my seat from Manila to Doha go back into award inventory? This type of thing is never guaranteed — it’s almost always a gamble.

I mentioned it while on the phone with American Airlines and the agent told me that she was 100% sure that Qatar seats do not go back into award inventory when you cancel. She said that she had seen this before and they never go back into inventory. She seemed so confident that I almost accepted what she said as fact. Regular readers know that I always advise that you should not take a customer service agent’s claims as rule of law since they are so often incorrect.

Luckily, I eventually listened to my own advice and I cancelled my itinerary from Manila to Rovaniemi (since American Airlines offers free cancellation / redeposit). Much to my delight, my seat from Manila to Doha immediately went back into award inventory and I was able to immediately book Manila-Doha-Dubai in business class, scooping that seat back up within minutes of cancellation of the first award.

As noted above, you can’t count on that to work — whether or not seats go back into award inventory is often variable and unpredictable. But I was glad that it worked out for me here.

Bottom line

My experience aboard Qatar’s 777-300ER with its old business class product was fine. I got a solid night’s sleep and ate a decent breakfast on the plane and I got most of the same soft product that everyone gets when flying business class on Qatar. I was obviously disappointed that I didn’t get to fly Qsuites on this long route and overall the experience was a reminder that not every plane in the fleet has the snazzy seats for which Qatar has become so famed. That’s not only true with Qatar — some element of award booking involves knowing your products and not only finding award availability but finding it on the planes that have the fancy equipment you’d like to experience. I really wanted to get that Qsuites experience on a long haul flight on this trip, so I was disappointed to take a swing and miss — though I was glad to learn that Qatar award seats can go back into inventory after cancellation and the short flight from Doha to Dubai both gave me a taste of Qsuites and got me access to the first class lounge, which certainly helped to ease the sting.

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Fenspinbi

I have the same problem. I booked QSuites on a return leg from DOH-ATL for a flight early next year, and they recently swapped in a 773 with the old business configuration a few days ago. I lost my assigned seat in 1K, and had to reselect my seat in 3K. I’m a few months out, but the whole point of that itinerary was to fly QSuites home, and I booked a separate one-way award ticket from CPT-DOH in economy. Should I stay the course and hope they swap it BACK to QSuites, or take the loss, cancel both awards and just book a unified itinerary in economy? There is no saver biz award availability on that route in the week I need to travel, but plenty in econ. I could also fly VS direct to ATL or AF to CDG and onward, but would rather recycle Avios I’ve already committed, rather than transferring more miles in a different currency.

Ryan del Mundo

Sorry to see you got the sad breakfast menu. I flew MNL-DOH and managed to get the Qsuites for the 9am flight. I was so disappointed as we had the same breakfast only menu as you did. Qsuites was quite nice but for a daytime flight, but it wasn’t much to take advantage of without sleeping. Especially without any signature meal, which was somewhat unbelievable for a 9 hour flight in total daylight.

How was the lounge situation in MNL for a 4am flight? I flew out of MNL in March at 4am and there were no lounges I could enter with priority pass, they all closed at midnight. I arrived to the airport around 9 and had a long evening of waiting around. IIRC, the Qatar lounge was a priority pass lounge, do they keep it open later for that flight? Maybe only for Qatar pax?

Ryan del Mundo

Oops thought u left Manila at 4am, I see thats when you arrived DOH. Yeah I got a bit of PAGSS lounge before my 9am flight. A good warmup to help me be overwhelmed by the lounge in DOH! (biz class for me, I’m still jealous of your 1st class finangle!)

Lee

DPS – DOH route is non-Q Suite.

mjonis

If you mosey over to flyertalk you’ll see that given the Airbus groundings, it’s almost always a gamble now to get a Q-Suite flight. I don’t think there’s any routes anymore that are 100% consistent.

Jerry

The herringbone seats on Qatar’s 787-9 are just as nice and probably more comfortable, better footwell, but not as private as qsuites

FabinhoBP

I’ve flown over 20 Qatar Airways long haul flights on Business Class and more than half of that on QSuites.
Despite if the amazing “look” I never understood the much celebrated travel bloggers love for the QSuites.
I find it extremely tight and everytime I travel I feel crampled.
Business class for me is all about comfort and a good night of sleep and I’d rather sleep on a larger seat without doors.
QSuites is the most overrated business class seat ever.

Jerry

I understand what you’re saying, my biggest gripe with qsuites is the footwell is tight when laying down sideways.

Stew podsso

It’s a bragging point and nothing else. I had same experience

Brant Stookey

“ purpose of at-sea storage”?
What is this “at-sea” storage you mentioned.
I haven’t heard of that.

CaveDweller

Looks like he fixed it since your feeble mind was not able to figure out he meant “at-seat”

Brant Stookey

This, from the intellectual acumen of a cave dweller. Made you look, didn’t I?

David

Nick, you should have just booked the Cebu-Doha flight on the 787. It’s not Qsuites but still one of the best business class products available, especially with Qatar’s soft product and on-board service. The old 777-300ER business product is still really good, but I agree, it does not match the 787 or Qsuites product. It was close to best in class a decade ago. I have flown it dozens of times and would still fly the Qatar 777-300ER business class over almost any other business class product. Most importantly, if you had flown directly from Cebu to Doha, you would have avoided the mess that is Manila airport. How did you get from Terminal 3 (Cebu Pacific) to Terminal 1?

David

That is good. I didn’t realize Qatar had moved to T3. They were at T1 for years

Ryan del Mundo

Qatar leaves from T3 in Manila thankfully. I’ve flown in/out of Terminal 1 a few times recently and the best option is to hop in the line for the meter taxi. They write down the taxi license plate so there’s no funny business with the driver. Costs less than $2 to T3. Uber is rarely cheaper than a taxi and they take forever to pick you up. Supposedly there is a shuttle, but good luck with that. I’d try as hard as possible to avoid Terminal 1 (which I think is only AirAsia these days). It’s a nightmare, tiny waiting area, long lines (I’d estimate hours!) if you have to check-in or check bags. Arriving is less worse. Stick with Cebu Pacific if leaving town.