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British Airways is wetleasing a number of Qatar Airways Airbus A330 aircraft to help cover three of its routes to/from the Middle East while its own aircraft are having the reliability issues surrounding their Rolls Royce engines attended to.
I wrote about the consequences for passengers booked on to the affected flights yesterday (here’s a link) and today I thought I’d take a look at the Qatar Airways A330’s that BA is leasing and what passengers can expect.
The Qatar Airways A330
The Qatar Airways Airbus A330 aircraft only come in 2-cabin configuration which means that they only offer Business Class and Economy Class seating (if you’re booked into BA First or World Traveller Plus read this post to find out your options).
Qatar Airways A330 Business Class
Let’s get the big news out of the way first – Qatar Airways A330 Aircraft do not come with the latest Qsuite Business Class cabin. In fact they don’t even come with all-aisle-access seating like you’ll find on a number of the airline’s other aircraft types.
The A330 Business Class cabin come fitted with 24 seats set out in a 2-2-2 layout…
…and, in my opinion, is the weakest Business Class cabin in the airline’s wide-body fleet.
Although the seats are perfectly comfortable when they’re not in bed mode they offer a limited amount of space for a passenger’s feet when fully reclined….
….and this makes for a sub-optimal sleeping experience.
On a daytime flight this may not be an issue but on a night flight quite a few people will find this uncomfortable.
I reviewed the Qatar Airways A330 Business Class cabin quite recently and the best tip I can offer is this:
See if you can reserve one of the seats in the 1st row of Business Class when you get to the airport (you can’t reserve these seats ahead of time).
The first row doesn’t have any seats ahead of it (obviously!) so it has a different and larger housing for where a passenger’s feet go when the seat is fully reclined:
The difference in comfort between row 1 and the other rows is noticeable and, having tried out both on a number of occasions, I can say that it makes a lot of difference.
I generally find the Business Class food on Qatar Airways to be pretty good and, if BA isn’t catering these flights (I don’t know if it is or not) you can probably expect it to be better than what you’d receive on BA.
The service in Business Class should be very good too.
I’ve been fortunate with the crews I’ve had on British Airways over the past few months in that they’ve all been friendly and helpful (regardless of what cabin I’ve been flying in) and they’ve all left me with a positive feeling about my flights even if the hard product wasn’t all that great.
Because of this I’m not about to say that the Qatar Airways crews will definitely offer a better level of service that you would have received had you been on a BA aircraft but I will say that the service is unlikely to be mediocre.
Ask (politely) and you’ll probably get whatever it is you want from a Qatar Airways crew and you’ll almost certainly get it with a smile too – that goes a long way to making a flight particularly nice.
Qatar Airways A330 Economy Class
I can’t offer any advice on the Qatar Airways A330 Economy Class cabin as I’ve never tried it out but I can give you some information that should let you know what to expect.
All the Qatar Airways A330 aircraft offer a 2-4-2 seating layout in the Economy Class cabin and that should be good news for couples.
The British Airways 777 and 787 aircraft that the Qatar Airways A330s are replacing all offer a 3-3-3 seating layout meaning that a couple would almost certainly find themselves seated next to a stranger on BA. On the Qatar Airways aircraft that situation can be avoided by selecting the seats on either side of the aircraft.
From a comfort point of view there shouldn’t be too much in it but the Qatar Airways aircraft have a slight edge. Both the BA and Qatar Airways aircraft offer seats that are 17.5″ wide but the Qatar Airways A330s offer an inch more legroom (32″).
Based on what I’ve heard from those who have experienced Qatar Airways Economy Class I would expect the food to be better than what you would get on BA (if it’s Qatar Airways doing the catering) and I’d suggest that the service levels will be similar or slightly higher than on BA.
The truth is that crews can vary wildly from one flight to another (within the same airline) so trying to predict what sort of service will be on offer in Economy Class is far from an exact science.
Last year it was nothing but good news if you found yourself booked on to a Qatar Airways aircraft instead of a cramped BA A320 – this year things aren’t so clear.
I had a perfectly nice Club World experience on a British Airways Dreamliner earlier this year and I’d probably choose that over the Qatar Airways A330 Business Class offering if I wasn’t booked in row 1.
The British Airways 777 Club World cabin is an abomination so, even with the restricted room for a passenger’s feet, I’d probably choose the Qatar Airways A330 (I’d book one of the two center seats to make sure I had direct access to the aisle and then I’d try to snag row 1 at the airport).
In Economy Class the Qatar Airways A330 probably just shades it with its improved legroom and a seating layout that’s more couple friendly….but there isn’t anything that either airline offers that really makes it stand out above the other.