Qatar Airways continued its aggressive global expansion today with its inaugural flight to Canberra and took the opportunity to show off its flash new business class suites downunder for the first time.
Its Qsuite offers the industry's first-ever double bed in Business Class, as well as sliding privacy doors that enable passengers to create their own private cabin.
While other airlines have double beds in First Class before, the airline says it is raising the bar in business to take them on.
The Qsuite has privacy panels that stow away, allowing passengers in adjoining seats to create their own private room.
Adjustable panels and movable TV monitors on the centre four seats allows groups of four travelling together to transform their space into a private suite, allowing them to work, dine and socialise together.
Cabin services director Ana Ciobanu said the seats were popular with families and work colleagues. Although couples could book four seats and use the compartment as a double bed, this was not so common.
Aboard the flight scheduled for 30 minutes were celebrities including former Miss Australia Erin Holland and Myer ambassador Kris Smith, travel industry representatives and journalists. A flyover of the capital added another 10 minutes to the flight and more time to enjoy the comforts of the aircraft's premium section.
The airline has rolled out seven of its Boeing 777-300-equipped with 42 Q-Suites on board and is fitting them to its new Airbus A350XWB-1000s which will start to join its fleet later this month after delays fitting the suites in the new plane.
Qatar is the launch customer of the A350-1000. Airbus is showing off a demonstration model in Auckland tomorrow but that will be fitted with a generic cabin.
The airline began flying daily flights between Auckland and Doha just over a year ago in what is the longest non-stop route in the world. It uses a 777-200LR on that route, the only twin engine plane capable of making the distance and it is not fitted Qsuites. There is no timetable for retrofitting that model of 777. Kiwi travellers can fly on the new suites out on selected routes out of Doha.
The new flight to Canberra allows the airline to service the bigger Sydney market twice a day. The short hop from Sydney to Canberra takes just over 30 minutes. No fare-paying passengers can board the plane in Sydney as the airline can't fly domestic routes in Australia.
Canberra is the latest destination for the Doha-based carrier which flies to more that 150 places but not to its immediate neighbours following a deep political and diplomatic rift that broke open in the middle of last year.
Qatar Airways has been hit by a blockade from neighbouring states led by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia which have closed off borders, airspace and landing rights.
Among passengers on board today's inaugural flight was the airline's chief executive Akbar Al Baker.
As part of its continued expansion the airline has just launched to Penang in Malaysia and is about to start new services to Greece in March, Turkey and April, Cardiff in May and Spain in June.
• The Herald travelled to Canberra courtesy of Qatar Airways