To be honest I’m not so sure that the standards of the middle eastern carriers were as phenomenally high as they would all like us to believe to start with.
Eighteen months ago my partner was based in Doha for three months with his job and commuting on a weekly basis back to London for the weekend. I also travelled out thrice during that period. As my partner was being hosted by the Qatari Government they took care of all his travels on Qatar in J.
One the whole they were pretty good. Exceptional? By no means. Everything was nice and new. If you wanted you could ask some tiny little Thai flight attendant to put your 15kg wheelie bag in the locker for you and they would oblige (it’s amazing how many grown men I witnessed allowing this to happen) but apart from that everything just felt very mechanical and robotic. There is absolutely zero deviation from the service flow. For example on a morning flight from Doha back to London in J I wasn’t interested in breakfast and when the crew took the meal order I said I didn’t want to eat, I just wanted some coffee. Bizzarly this seemed just too much for them to deal with. Instead of just fixing me a quick coffee they insisted they went through the whole motion of laying the table etc etc and I got my coffee once it was time for everyone else to have coffee. For me, that isn’t excellent service.
On the ground in Doha their staff are nothing short of appalling. In fact if they were in Aeroflot uniforms you could believe you were at Sherametyevo. They are rude and even the most innocent query gets this look of contempt from them.
Like myself, my partner is a bit of an airline geek :-). During his stint out there he submitted three reviews to Skytrax – one excellent, one totally negative and one equally negative/positive. They posted the excellent one in full, edited out the negative aspect from the part negative/part positive one and did not publish the negative one at all.