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January 19, 2015

Qatar Airways A350-900 World Inaugural Flight DOH-FRA

A350-900 World Inaugural Flight

AN EVOLUTION IN AIR TRAVEL

Innovations in passenger comfort and well-being takes your flying experience to a new level.
Feel the difference of a wider cabin while you sit back and relax into spacious seats; take in the view from the panoramic windows, with electromechanical shades that go from fully transparent to opaque at the touch of a button (In Business Class)

A model of efficiency by design, The A350 XWB is one of the lightest aircraft of its type, made from advanced composite materials and powered by two new-generation Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.  This also makes it kinder to the earth, with 25% lower CO2 emissions than the current generation of aircraft in this category.

Now you can travel at a cruising speed of Mach 0.85, whilst leaving behind the lowest of carbon emissions.  You can experience state-of-the-art technology while enjoying superior comfort.
It is air travel that is truly ahead of the curve.  Introducing The Qatar Airways A350 XWB.

 

15 January 2015 QR67 DOHA – FRANKFURT

 

I am very lucky and privileged to be in attendance for the inaugural flight of The A350.  It is a significant event, it is the last major wide body aircraft type entering commercial service in this decade.  Most of us have flown The Boeing 787, now it is time to see what Airbus has to offer in competition.

Many would argue that, as this plane will fly for the next 20 years or so there will be plenty of chances to sample its delights.  However an inaugural maiden voyage has its own significant meaning and it can only happen once!

I arrived from Abu Dhabi with only a short connection time in Doha.  The boarding gate A3 has been specially decorated for the occasion of The Inaugural A350 Flight. It is clear for all to see that Qatar Airways is very proud of this.

I must say about 60%-70% of the passengers were not aware that this was an inaugural flight; they booked their flight as per usual and only became aware how lucky they were at the gate, when a full ceremony took place.

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A gift pack was presented to every guest travelling on the flight.  Included in the gift pack was a model of The A350 and a flight certificate.

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Many aviation enthusiasts understood the significance of the flight and joined together in Doha.  Many of them belong to the “First to Fly” group, some of whom have flown all 13 A380 inaugurals!

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CNN’s Richard Quest would not miss such an important event, pictured here interviewing the lucky passengers!

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Me and Richard Quest.

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After taking the first flight group photo, we boarded the flight with 2 aerobridge’s separating Business and Economy Passengers.  As my usual custom, a photo with the welcoming crew at the door, Ms Jelly from Serbia.

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QR67

DOH-FRA
STD 0740
ATD 0749
Reg: A7-ALA, A350-941

The doors closed and we pushed back pretty much on time.  “This flight is bound for Frankfurt”
After a short taxi, we were at the threshold of Runway 34 of the new Doha Hamed International.  With a Northerly runway heading, we were airborne at around 08:05am.  Literally every passenger in the window seats was photographing and videoing this historical airborne moment.

It was such a smooth take-off and it was a clear, almost haze free, sky over Doha that greeted us that morning.  The background noise level is so low you hardly notice anything; the ride is smooth and quiet.  The first impression was excellent! It is much quieter than either The B777 or The B787.

 

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Over the harbor.

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Over Doha Skyline

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The curved wing!

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TOUR AND ONBOARD CELEBRATION

 

I was originally assigned to seat 36C and there were no window seats available at my time of booking.  (Guess you know the reason).  Business Class was booked solid and I knew I would have little chance of snagging a view, booking at rather a late stage.  A window seat, 35A came up when I used the online check-in so I immediately switched; I was very lucky, it was just after the wing, and with the sun behind for the duration of the flight it gave me a great view.

After take-off, I went upstairs to Business Class to join the few lucky enthusiasts up there.  The ambience was perfect; a wide cabin with no overhead bins in the middle, luxurious all aisle seating.  There is a self-service bar in the middle separating the two sections of Business Class.  The first section, located between door 1 and door 2, has 6 rows in a 1-2-1 layout for a total of 24 seats.  A smaller second section immediately after door 2 adds another 12 seats (3 rows) making a total of 36 seats. The same seating plan can be found on Qatar Airways A380 and B787.

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You can see my latest book is on offer at the A350 bar table.

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Meeting up and chat away during the flight

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With famous “One Mile At A Time” blogger, Mr. Ben Schlappig

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With Airbus CEO Mr Fabrice Bergier on-board.

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With Mr Thomas Lee, the only person who has flown on the inaugural journeys of The B747, A380, B787 and now The A350.

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A Japanese enthusiast, proudly wearing a custom made Qatar Airways jacket.

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After about 1.5 hours in-flight, we were treated to an amazing and beautifully clear view of The Northwest of Iran and Turkey.  Snow-capped mountains, crystal clear volcano crater lakes; our World is a breath taking place from 39,000 feet!

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There are huge windows at every seat, a welcome improvement from the previous product, well done Airbus!

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Breakfast is served, in Economy Class, with a choice of either an omelette or a chocolate/banana pancake.  I have the pancake, despite the dark brown look, they’re delicious. Others complained of the omelette being too plain.

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Economy Class is almost full.  The overhead bins are curved similar to the Boeing signature cabin design, providing much better headroom than on previous Airbus models.

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Guess who is the man getting all the attention from my fellow Avgeeks? Yes, he is the Qatar Airways Group CEO, His Excellency, Mr Akbar Al Baker.

We spent almost an hour chatting about various aviation topics with Mr Al Baker, his depth of knowledge is really admirable; he has a quick wit and always comes back with a smart comment! Unlike most western media outlets portray him, he is approachable and warm; he single-handedly manages the airline, from meeting the new recruits to closely managing the day-to-day operations and even calling customers, replying to their complaints personally over the phone! He is a real cult-figure.  I could not possibly think of any other airline CEO with anywhere near his level of cult status.

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A photo with Qatar Airways excellent cabin crew is a must.  We have over 10 different nationalities of crew on-board from: Poland, Serbia, Romania, Morocco, India, Singapore, Philippines and more.  I fly a lot with “The Middle East Big 3” and believe I am qualified to say, Qatar Airways crew have the best grooming and their overall look is more polished than their Middle Eastern peers; the service and soft product from Qatar Airways is the best.

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The crew were happy to show us their crew rest area, located near the rear of the plane and accessed by staircase.  It can accommodate up to 6 crew members at any 1 time.

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After all the touring and socializing, we were almost landing in Frankfurt as the excellent IFE shows.
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The IFE came with a high definition camera from the tail and provides a much clearer image.

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We flew over Frankfurt airport during our approach to the new runway 25R; this gave us a great view of the activity of Fraport from above.  After a good and hard rubber kissing on the runway, with a strong cross wind, The World’s Inaugural A350 Flight landed 25 minutes ahead of schedule.  We spent a considerable amount of time taxiing to our gate, providing a good opportunity for every member of The Fraport Staff to photograph our shiny new plane.

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After landing and before deplane, I was allowed to see inside the cockpit.

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Captain Konstantinos from Greece had the honour of flying The World’s First A350 Commercial Flight.

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CONCLUSION

I was truly impressed and wowed by The A350.  It is much wider and technologically advanced plane, which makes flying a real pleasure.  Innovations in passenger comfort and well-being take the flying experience to a new level.  The economy seat is wider and has more legroom than average.  Qatar is the first airline that fully integrated the in-flight entertainment box into the frame of the seat, no longer blocking your feet.  The Business Seat is as comfortable as a First Class Seat with every seat having aisle access.  On-board Wi-Fi is also available.  Qatar has successfully created a great on-board ambience that no other airline can currently match.  My flight with Qatar A350 was a real winner. 15 Jan 2015, a new milestone has been set in the history of aviation.  Congratulations Airbus and Qatar Airways.

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Feedback and comment always welcome

Sam Chui