Qatar Airways has brought the cutting-edge Airbus A350 to Australia for the first time with the launch of its new Doha to Adelaide service. Strolling on board the high-tech, lightweight aircraft - dubbed the 'baby A380' - is like checking into a luxury hotel.
While most airlines make half the passengers scurry through a galley kitchen before taking a seat, the sleek A350 allows business class travellers to enter via a stylish reception area under a unique, circular dome-ceiling. During the flight, the space becomes a fully stocked bar for passengers to socialise and help themselves to refreshments such as Billecart-Salmon champagne and French macarons.
The new route was launched by the airline's colourful chief executive, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, with a lavish bash at Adelaide's InterContinental Hotel this week. It marks the fourth Australian destination for the airline, after landing in Melbourne in 2009, Perth in 2012, and Sydney in March this year.
Executive Style was one of the first on board to check out the business class facilities.
One of the first things you'll notice when you step into the spacious cabin is its undulating LED mood lighting scheme. Featuring soothing tones of pink and purple, the lights are designed to significantly reduce the effects of jet lag as they cycle through up to six million colour variations according to the flight time.
Panoramic windows are strategically aligned to each seat, and the cabin features lower cabin pressure and higher humidity, reputedly adding to a smoother experience from takeoff to touchdown.
Say goodbye to the clattering trolley being pushed down the aisle: Qatar's business class service is all about being 'on demand'. A range of dining options designed by Nobu Matsuhisa and dual Michelin star holder Vineet Bhatia are available throughout the 13-hour flight to Doha.
Smiling staff lay out crisp linen on large pull-out tables, offering Australian wines from Elderton, Fox Creek and Hollick. Kick off your meal with crusty grain bread rolls spread with handcrafted butter (they've finally banished rock-hard bread from the sky) and move on to Arabic mezze of hummus, bitey tabouleh and moutabel eggplant dip scattered with pomegranate.
Next, passengers can choose from several main courses, including tender lamb shanks with a rosemary jus and gratin potato, or seared barramundi with preserved lemon, feta and Kalamata olives.
Finish with a slice of rich citrus tart and fresh raspberries or a plate of cheese such as Maffra red wax or Taraga River shadows of blue slathered on crispbread. Still hungry? Order something else from the menu or attack the petit fours at the on-board bar.
After indulging in the food and wine, you may feel the need for a stroll around the cabin. Even the tallest passengers will notice the lofty headroom and increased sense of space. Each of the 36 business class seats offers aisle access in a 1-2-1 configuration, with huge overhead bins allowing for two pieces of baggage per passenger.
Need to get some rest? A sharp amenities bag features Acqua di Gio grooming products from Giorgio Armani, and the seats fold down to a fully flat bed of 80 inches (or 6 foot 6 inches) at the touch of a button. It also claims to be the quietest cabin in its class.
The 17-inch high definition mounted video screen is one of the biggest in the sky, featuring a state-of-the-art entertainment system with up to 3000 viewing options and chunky noise-cancelling headphones, of course.
The controls include a digital handset, which acts like an iPhone with a 'second screen' so you can keep an eye on your GPS location without interrupting the movie on the main screen. Speaking of phones – USB and Apple sockets are installed in each seat so you can plug in your own device and watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones.
Why go to Doha? Aside from being well over halfway to Europe, it's a fascinating time to visit the emerging Gulf metropolis as it prepares to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Qatar has also kicked off the Adelaide route with a drop in fares for the first three months, with return business class flights costing around $4600.
Flights depart Doha at 9.30pm and arrive in Adelaide at 5pm, then depart Adelaide at 9.25pm to land in Doha at 4.50am, six days a week for an initial 12-week period before moving to a daily service.