Route of the month
Alex McWhirter looks at how new services can benefit business travellers. This month: options from London to Doha and beyond
If everything goes according to plan, August should see Qatar Airways operate one of the first B787 Dreamliner flights into London Heathrow.
Initially, the plan calls for the B787 to operate one of the Gulf carrier’s five daily London flights, although schedule details were unavailable at the time of writing. The carrier’s Dreamliner accommodates 254 passengers, with 22 seats in business class and 232 in economy. There is no first class.
The business cabin will impress – Qatar Airways has unveiled the most luxurious B787 premium product to date. Passengers will be able to spread out in roomy four-across (1-2-1) fully-flat bed seating. This is in contrast to Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA), the only other B787 operator serving Europe, with a Tokyo-Frankfurt service: its business class passengers enjoy fully-flat beds but in a denser six-across (2-2-2) layout.
With a width of 22 inches (56cm), the business seat on Qatar’s B787 converts at a touch of a button into different cradle positions before reaching an 80-inch (203cm) long, 30-inch (70cm) wide flat bed. Android technology control units will debut on this plane offering access to a huge number of entertainment options.
The downside is that space for business class has been taken from the economy cabin. Compared with ANA’s eight-across (2-4-2) layout, economy flyers will be in a nine-across configuration (3-3-3) with seats measuring 16.9 inches (43cm) across.
Qatar has this route very much to itself. Its sole rival, British Airways, operates a single daily one-stop flight via Bahrain, which extends the journey time. So BA’s flight takes eight hours 35 minutes outbound and nine hours 15 minutes on the return. The equivalent trips with Qatar take six hours 45 minutes and seven hours 25 minutes, respectively.
What Qatar offers
There are five flights a day. In June, the timetable showed two services operated by an A340-600 with the remaining three rostered for an A330, a B777-300ER and a B777-200 LR. It was not yet clear which of these flights would be operated by the B787. Flights depart Heathrow at 0800, 1050, 1505, 1600 and 2130. The inbound services leave Doha at 0350, 0640, 0755, 1230 and 1635.
Qatar can justify so many flights compared with British Airways because of the strength of its Doha base (see Hubs of activity). The Gulf carriers are cagey about divulging statistics but airline experts reckon that about two-thirds of Qatar’s passengers flying to Doha are connecting to destinations farther afield. Our readers report that Doha can be a crowded hub, but matters will improve significantly in December when a brand new, spacious airport will open 5km east of the current facility.
New onward destinations of interest to passengers starting their trips in Europe include Perth in Australia from July 3 (initially three times a week, rising to daily in December), Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on July 25 (daily via Nairobi), Mombasa in Kenya on August 15 (daily via Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam), and Myanmar’s Yangon, where it will operate three times a week from October 3 – the plan is to operate daily from later in the month.
What BA offers
BA’s single daily flight operates in a four-class configuration of First, Club World, World Traveller Plus and World Traveller. It competes with Qatar with its Heathrow hub – so just as Qatar carries Britons and Europeans beyond Doha to Asia, Africa and Australia, BA can offer many connection possibilities via Heathrow to destinations in the UK, mainland Europe and North America. Its B777 departs Heathrow at 1040, returning from Doha at 2320.
Return fares in August
When we checked in June, typical lead-in prices with Qatar were £4,612 for first class, £3,432 for business and £681 for economy. First class is unavailable on B777 or B787 aircraft. Visit qatarairways.com. With BA, typical lead-in prices were £3,571 in First, £2,519 in Club, £914 in premium economy and £636 in economy. Visit ba.com. Note that availability may be limited and flight prices may be higher over the Olympic period.
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