Qatar Airways A320-200 first class
Having arrived on a delayed Cape Town to Doha flight (to read a review, click here), I had missed my connection from Doha to Hong Kong and was subsequently re-routed back to Hong Kong via Dubai.
The initial journey from Doha to Dubai was in First Class on QR1016 and scheduled to depart at 1300. The estimated flight time was a short one hour.
I did not have to check-in again at Doha as my bags were already on their way. I did receive a new set of boarding passes at Doha's Premium Terminal, though.
Qatar Airways offers a first and a business class lounge at their Doha Premium Terminal. The two are roughly of the same size, but the first class lounge is more premium as one would expect by virtue of its name.
I have experienced the business class lounge getting busy during the morning and midnight rush hours at Doha Airport, but having spent virtually one whole morning in the first class lounge I have never once seen more than a few travellers around.
I'm guessing this has to do with the fact that Qatar Airways has removed first class from many of its new long-haul aircraft (apart their soon-to-be-delivered A380s) and perhaps also the much-contested decision to not allow Oneworld Emerald members into the Premium Terminal unless they are actually travelling in Qatar's premium cabins.
The lounge was fantastic. There are several smallish, but staffed, food and drinks stations throughout, but having had a whole morning to spend in the lounge, I decided to try the for-order eggs benedict. The eggs were put atop a nicely toasted muffin cooked perfectly with the yolk still runny.
The hidden treat of the lounge is the spa area. There is a jacuzzi and sauna zone, as well as treatment rooms for massages and facials. The jacuzzi and sauna are complimentary, but you need to pay extra for the treatments. One-hour massages cost an average US$100.
The spa provides swimwear, towels and shower utensils but errs on the side of toiletries. Having taken a shower, I was unable to locate any moisturiser in the toiletry kit provided or the shower room. I then asked at reception but was told that they "had run out a while ago". Having been on an overnight flight from South Africa with dehydrated skin, this was not how I had imaged my first class spa experience to end. Luckily, there was a duty free store nearby.
A member of staff came to look for me in the lounge and informed me that boarding had commenced. She then escorted me to the gate where there were no queues and a small "premium bus" seating sixteen was already waiting to take the passengers to the aircraft.
Onboard, I was shown to my seat and offered a choice of pre-departure drinks, including Krug, lemon and lime soda and Arabic coffee.
The aircraft was one of Qatar Airways' older-generation A320s seating a total of 144 passengers – 12 in first class and 132 in economy. For a seat plan, click here. First class spans the first three rows and is in a 2-2 set-up. I was in seat 2A.
The seats were upholstered in Qatar's signature burgundy fabric and were a comfortable 22-inches wide, but only reclined some 30 degrees. Definitely fine for a short regional hop, but for any journey over three hours one would nowadays expect a little more.
There is not much storage space underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins on this older aircraft. So if you have larger carry-on items with you, the cabin crew will need to store them in the storage space behind the cockpit, adjacent to the small galley where they also keep passenger coats.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE
I recommend rows 2 and 3 as I personally do not like to sit in front of a cabin wall that has a TV screen mounted at face-level (that does not turn off during the flight). Also, row 1 offers slightly less leg room than rows 2 and 3.
We pushed back from the stand on time at 1300 and were in the air no five minutes later.
A quick round of drinks was served and hot towels handed out, but given the short flight duration the crew appeared in a hurry to commence the lunch meal service.
The menu read as follows:
- Seasonal Garden Salad with Celery and Grilled Bell Pepper
- Hammour and Lemon Grass Cake
- Paneer Tikka stuffed with Mango Chutney
I had a few issues with the menu as I did not know what "hammour" or "paneer tikka" or "moghli" really were. I think Qatar would be well-advised to specify this on their menu cards as western travellers may not be as well versed in Middle-Eastern and/or Indian culinary terms as they may assume.
A quick chat with the flight crew revealed that hammour is in fact a type of fish cake; paneer tikka is goat cheese marinated in spices and grilled in a casserole; and moghli is a traditional Lebanese dessert based on a floured rice pudding and spiced with anise, caraway and cinnamon.
I chose the hammour and was again surprised when two golf ball-sized pieces of what looked like crumbly bread dumplings arrived atop my salad, accompanied by a firm light brown mass in a small dish that turned out to be the moghli.
The salad was fresh and really all I needed at that point, but the hammour and moghli did not hit my taste buds as both had obviously been prepared with anise, which I do not eat.
The trays were cleared quickly and a few minutes later the Korean-born flight purser made a round of the first class cabin, thanked passengers for choosing Qatar Airways and informed us that we would commence our descent for an on-time arrival into Dubai shortly.
We landed at Dubai five minutes ahead of schedule and had a quick taxi to the gate. I had disembarked the plane no later than five minutes after touchdown.
As I had no luggage to retrieve I cannot comment on how fast this was delivered to passengers having Dubai as their final stop.
A good but not perfect short intra-Gulf hop improved greatly by Qatar Airways' Doha Premium Terminal First Class Lounge experience.
The seats and lack of IFE do not bother me on such a short flight, although they could certainly be improved. What peeved me was the fact that to me it felt like no real effort was made to address and accommodate western passengers (of which there were many) on this flight and the lack of storage space near the seat.
The cabin crew was fantastic and showed great enthusiasm and a willingness, if not passion, to interact with passengers onboard the flight, which for me more than counter-balanced the above criticisms.
- PLANE TYPE A320-200
- CONFIGURATION 2-2
- SEAT WIDTH 22in
- SEAT RECLINE 30 degrees
- PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight from Doha to Dubai in March start from £685
- CONTACT qatarairways.com
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MartinJ - 21/02/2014 10:48
I thought it's only in the USA that domestic business class is called first. Apparently, Qatar Airways are doing it too. Any others?
domlalk - 24/02/2014 10:19
Hi MartinJ - yes, there are a few more airlines out there following the same practice. Air China and China Southern are among them. Domestic business class is called first on their entire short-haul fleet and domestic network. See here for more info from http://www.seatplans.com/airlines/Air-China/seatplans; the seats are old-style business class recliners re-named first to appeal to local businessmen.
MartinJ - 24/02/2014 13:37
Thank you, Dominic. Interesting!
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