Qatar's first Airbus A350 at Toulouse, ready to fly to Doha - Photo: Chris Sloan | AirwaysNews

Qatar’s first Airbus A350 at Toulouse, ready to fly to Doha – Photo: Chris Sloan | AirwaysNews

This story was written by Chris Sloan and originally published on AirwaysNews

At 9:28 PM LT on Tuesday, December 23, Qatar’s first A350 XWB landed in Doha–under the cover of darkness–with approximately 70 Qatar employees, VIP’s and media on-board the delivery flight from Toulouse, France.

On Monday, Airbus handed over the first A350 XWB to launch customer Qatar Airways, and shortly after taking delivery of the aircraft, several executives and more than a hundred members of the media flew on a short demonstration flight over the Mediterranean.

The Qatar A350 Bar. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / JDL Multimedia

The Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350 bar – Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren | JDL Multimedia

The delivery flight to Doha would be operated as a normal commercial scheduled flight, but just with fewer people then typical. Business Class was full while approximately ten passengers–who were all employees of Qatar–would have the two economy cabins to themselves.

A Business Class Seat on the A350. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / JDL Multimedia.

A Business Class seat on the Airbus A350 – Photo:  Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren | JDL Multimedia

As much as I was anticipating experiencing the Airbus A350 XWB in a true commercial flight, I was equally as curious in putting Qatar’s renowned SkyTrax 5-star rated Business Class, marketed and self-proclaimed as “World’s Best Business Class,” to the test. Burning questions include: Would it live up to all the hype and marketing expectations? Is it truly a First Class product at a Business Class price? Is the Airbus A350XWB cabin truly an “eXtra Wide Body” experience in the same league as its 787 competitor from Everett?

Continue reading Flight Review: Taking Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350 Delivery Flight to Doha on AirwaysNews.com

The Snowball Express folks lined up on the tarmac - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

The Snowball Express folks lined up on the tarmac in Atlanta with some familiar faces – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

The sun had yet to rise over the control tower at New York’s JFK Airport on the cold December morning, but the party at Terminal 8 was already well underway. This was no ordinary day at JFK. For the ninth consecutive year, American Airlines was beginning a long day of charter flights, celebration, and remembrance with the Snowball Express program.

Since 2006, Snowball Express has partnered with American Airlines to provide a weekend of fun for families that have lost a family member in active military duty since September 11, 2001. American Airlines provides the flights from around the country free of charge for all families, and the scope of the operation is absolutely massive.

The New York passengers of Snowball Express pre-flight at the Christmas tree in American's terminal - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

The New York passengers of Snowball Express pre-flight at the Christmas tree in American’s terminal – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

Throughout the day, flights operate from their origins and converge on Dallas while picking up additional passengers at 62 cities. This year, American utilized ten aircraft to support Snowball Express flights, ranging from regional jets to Boeing 757s and Airbus A321s. In total, over 150 American Airlines pilots and flight attendants donated their time to the charter flights. The Snowball Express operation is larger than that of some entire airlines.

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The Snowball flight out of New York, operated by a Boeing 737-800, made two stops along the way to Dallas – Norfolk, Virginia, and Atlanta, Georgia. Before departing JFK, the day kicked off with an upbeat party adjacent to the Admirals Club, complete with DJ, photo booth, and emotional support dogs dressed up like Santa. Before long, it was time to depart for Norfolk, but not before a touching send off from the NYPD, FDNY, Port Authority Police Department, TSA, and JFK employees. Once on board, however, the real fun began.

The Qatar First Class product on the A380. For our flight, there were no First Class Passengers

Qatar First Class product on the A380. For our flight, there were no First Class passengers.

The more that I fly the Airbus A380, the more I like the aircraft — as a passenger, but I am not so sure as an AvGeek. It is so smooth during take-off and landing, one might not even realize that they happened. Turbulence is mostly absorbed by the jumbo jet, making the flight smooth. The windows and walls are so thick, the aircraft stays quiet and passengers are removed from the flying experience.

As an AvGeek, these are some of the reasons why I am not a huge fan of the A380. I want to feel the take-off, I enjoy a little turbulence, and I want to stay connected to the entire flight experience. But this doesn’t mean I cannot enjoy an A380 flight, especially when it is on a Qatar Airways aircraft with an impressive on-board product.

Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 in flight - Photo: Clément Alloing | Flickr CC

Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380 in flight – Photo: Clément Alloing | Flickr CC

Recently, I was invited to participate in the inaugural Qatar A380 flight from Bangkok to Doha, and who am I to refuse? Overall, it was an amazing flight, but I wished it was a bit longer — it was only about six hours.

One of the biggest disappointments I had regarding the flight was not being able to get an exterior shot of the A380. And believe it or not, that was partially due to both Bangkok and Doha airports being designed where photos are hard to get, and also because of the King of Thailand.

Qatar Airways' First A350 (MSN006) at the Airbus Delivery Center. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Qatar Airways’ First A350 (MSN006) at the Airbus Delivery Center – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Qatar Airways, to much fanfare, took delivery today of the first commercial A350-900. Not only is this the first serial production A350 to be delivered to a customer, it is also the first of 80 A350s headed for Qatar Airways. Qatar has 36 additional -900s on order as well as 43 -1000s.

An easy way to understand the technology in the A350. Image: Airbus

An easy way to understand the technology in the A350 – Image: Airbus

The A350 itself represents a technological leap for Airbus, as it is their first aircraft to be over 50% composite materials; 53%, technically – including the longest manufactured single pieces of carbon fiber that make up the wing assembly. The remainder of the aircraft is made up of modern metallurgical feats that manifest themselves as lighter titanium and aluminum alloys.

BONUS: OMG YES! Photos & Video of Five Airbus A350s Flying in Formation

If that wasn’t enough to impress you, the A350 is the first aircraft certified by the EASA to operate ETOPS 370 missions prior to entry-into-service (EIS). ETOPS 370 is the next phase of Extended-range Twin Operations, allowing an aircraft to be certified to fly on one engine for more than six hours. This opens up a whole host of new destinations for twin-engine aircraft, as well as adds efficiencies to existing air routes as airlines will no longer have to “hug” strategic alternate airports as tightly.