I saw another thread where someone was requesting this, so I thought I’d start a thread and keep updating it.
I’ll edit it to keep them in alphabetical order
American Airlines +44 (0)844 369 9899
Bangkok Airways +44 (0)1293 813961
British Airways +44 (0)3444 930787
Delta +1 (800) 241-4141
Emirates +44 344 800 2777
Easyjet +44 (0)330 365 5000
Etihad +44 (0)345 608 1225
Lufthansa +44 (0) 371 945 9747
Qatar Airways +44 (0)330 024 0127
Ryanair 0330 1006 996
Swiss +44 345 601 09 56
United Airlines +44 (0)207-136-0582
Virgin Atlantic 0344 412 2414
I redeemed a ticket in February 2018 using my miles through Qatar Airways Privilege Club.
At the time I asked the customer service officer if I could change the dates of my booking because I have not confirmed the dates of my trip, the customer service officer at Qatar Airways reassured me that I can change the dates of the award ticket with a fee.
However, recently I tried to change the dates of my ticket and Qatar Airways refuse to change the dates of my booking because as per the new enhancement terms and conditions that were updated on 27 May 2018, date change is not permitted in fully unutilized award bookings.
Qatar Airways offered to cancel my flight but because 48,286 Qmiles of my miles have expired on 30 June 2018, they can only refund 1,714 Qmiles and tax, effectively I have lost 48,286 miles.
I was not informed of the change in the terms and conditions and was not given any notice of it as well as how it affected my rights for this particular redemption. Surely the terms and conditions for this ticket should be as that of the time when I redeemed the ticket, as at the time of the redemption the new terms and conditions has not come into effect and therefore do not apply.
I have been sending emails to Qatar Airways trying to find a solution to resolve this matter but they continue to insist they cannot change the dates of the booking or refund the full amount of the mileage.
I am very disappointed at Qatar Airways and in that they would not honour their word.
In all my experience with different frequent flyer programs and redeeming tickets I have not encountered a situation where the airline will not allow their frequent flyer members to change a booking on a redeem flight ticket.
Now that I can’t fly on the original date and can’t use the ticket, I feel cheated by the airline into using my hard earned mileage.
I hope people are aware of the changes at Qatar Airways and not fall into the same trap as I did.
Istanbul – Jeddah. A330. six passengers. 3hr15min.
Boarding commenced 50 minutes before departure with priority boarding strictly enforced.
First impressions were great. The cabin looked near new and the finishes and colour scheme in the Business Class cabin were understated and elegant with cream leather seats. The cabin was immaculate and I was immediately welcomed onboard by one of the female crew and felt rather awkward when she offered to lift my heavy wheelie bag into the overhead locker.
Each seat already had a plush pillow and blanket in place as well as Saudia branded noise cancelling headsets.
I boarded quite early on and assumed that there is no pre depature service of any kind on the short sectors as nothing really happened. Then after sitting for a good half an hour (and only ten minutes before departure) the crew sprang into action.
First welcome drinks were served – a choice of lemon and lime juice (delicious), fresh orange juice or a date and walnut smoothie. Menus followed. Then a selection of newspapers and magazines (in arabic only). Thick hot towels were distributed. Meal orders were also taken.
The other passengers seemed all Saudis and I would at a guess say most worked for Saudia. The First Officer emerged from the flight deck to greet one of the male passengers with multipe (and I mean multiple) kisses and when the flight attendant was serving the passenger behind me I could hear her refer to him as ‘Captain’.
The door was closed a few minutes ahead of schedule and the safety video was played as well as a rather long prayer.
The seat –
Saudia has 30 seats over five rows in Business. They are fully flat seats on this A330-300 manufactured by B/E Aerospace (‘Diamond’ model). They are in a 2x2x2 configuration although slightly staggered so you aren’t at eye level with your neighbour. They aren’t the best lay flat seat out there as they do not offer direct aisle access for all. But for a regional flight they are absolutely superb. They are identical to the seats you’ll find on Qatar Airways reburbished A330’s or that AA has on its A321T’s. I doubt you’ll see a Saudia flight full in any class judging by the four sectors I flew so you can almost be guaranteed an empty seat next to you 🙂
The seat felt a little narrow although you can lower the armrest to be flush with the seat when it’s in bed mode to give you more width at shoulder level. Your feet slide into a cubby hole which didn’t feel too tight. Each seat had universal power adaptors and USB ports.
After take off the crew came around offering traditional arabic coffee then the dinner service commenced. A tablecloth was laid and then the tray presented which had the starter and side salad on it. An assortment of bread from the basket was also offered as was a glass of water. The starter plate was cleared and the main was presented. The food was fine. The starter was better than the main. After i’d finished my main I was offered a fruit plate, dessert, tea or coffee all of which I declined. For a three hour flight I found the catering pretty impressive. But here’s my main problem with Saudia’s meal service. The drinks. Of course I knew before booking that Saudia is a dry airline and that is really no big deal for me. But I would have expected that if you are an airline that doesn’t serve alcohol you’d have some REALLY good non alcoholic drinks. Especially in the premium cabins. Maybe mocktails, cocunut water etc. But during the entire flight as well as during the following Jeddah – Kuala Lumpur flight I was never asked what i’d like to drink once. Well, except for tea and coffee. Water is automatically served with each meal. A bottle of water is given out after the meal. There isn’t even a drinks list featured anywhere. And I think that is really really poor.
For those interested the menu was:
Appetizer – Traditional arabic mezze OR smoked salmon and prawns.
Mains: Grilled lamb rack with potatoes and seasonal veg. Baked Hammour seafood sauce, potato and veg. Chicken Zorbian with basmati rice.
Dessert: Fresh seasonal platter. Chocolate and amarena cherry cake. Arabic pastry.
I’ll write a little more about the crew than I usually would because the set up really is quite unique. On the Istanbul – Jeddah sector the crew were an even mix of male (all Saudi) and females (all expats, mainly from SE Asia, Egypt and Morocco). I’ll say from the outset that I never experienced a rude one. They all smile. They all seem genuine. And some of the expat female crew I spoke with had been at Saudia for nearly twenty years. Saying that, the male crew do nothing. I mean absolutely NADA. All of the cabin service is undertaken by the female crew. The males walk around a bit, play with their mobile phones on boarding, liase with the ground staff and cockpit crew. But as soon as the aircraft took off they plonked themselves in the empty Business Class seats, helped themseves to a Business Class tray and then either slept or watched a movie.
I would have thought the female crew would resent this kind of behaviour but it doesn’t seem to bother them at all. To be honest, I wonder if they are happy to just have the male crew out of the way as the ladies seem to have the service down to a tee and actually seemed more happy to be there than i’ve experienced with expat crew for the more popular middle eastern airlines.
I checked out the IFE and whilst the system is modern and the range was better than expected the censoring is just increible – and a little weird too. I watched an episode of Friends and while it seemed Lisa Kudrows upper bosom was acceptable, Jeniffer Anistons was continually blured out. I then put on the Hollywood comedy ‘The Heat’ a film i’ve seen before and enjoyed very much. I couldn’t watch it for more than ten minutes. The word changes were just ridiculous. Even the word ‘balls’ (referring to testicles) was replaced with ‘brains’. It just become tedious.
I didn’t have great expectations of Saudias IFE (which was realised) and was counting on Saudias WiFi powered by OnAir to keep me entertained. Wifi is free for First and Business Class passengers by using a code that they email to you a couple hours before flight departure. I had no problems connecting to the service but it was staying connected that was the issue. I had the same problem on all sectors. I would enter the code into my iPhone, it would be recognised and I was able to use the wifi. But then as soon as I didn’t use the service for a few minutes and my phone went onto standby I couldn’t reconnect with the same code. Its as if the service does not remember your device. And if you enter the same code you just get an ‘invalid code’ message. Paid plans are available. 20mins/20mb is US4.99, 60min/50mb 9.99, 3hrs/100mb 14.99 or whole flight/300mb 24.99.
The flight landed in Jeddah a few minutes before schedule and we taxiied to a stand where we were bussed to the terminal (there are no gate stands at Jeddah airport).
Jeddah airport – transit.
The Saudia Terminal at Jeddah airport is probably the very worst i’ve ever had to spend time in. And i’ve flown to a LOT of airports. Even Jeddah Airport several times (The North Terminal). And that is a dump too. But it has nothing on the South (Saudia) terminal. I have never been to Mogadishu or Kabul Airport but i’d imagine it would be something like the Saudia terminal in Jeddah. When the bus arrived at the terminal all I could think was ‘this place resembles a shed’. It is dilapidated, bursting at the seams, filthy, a total lack of facilities….I just cannot think of enough derogatory things to say about it. After following the signs for transit, I went up some stairs which emerged at the main departures security post passport control. It was a zoo. I ran like a demented horse to the Saudia Lounge trying to find some refuge from the craziness.
When I got to the lounge I think the panic really set in (I have 9.5hrs here on my return). It’s one medium sized room, packed, limited food (not a single hot dish at least while I was in there) and constant boarding calls are made for every flight. Thankfully on this outbound journey I didn’t have long until my next flight. I thought i’d quickly use the facilities in the lounge before heading to the gate however there was a line up for the TWO toilet stalls they have in there for the entire lounge. So I thought i’d take my chances in the terminal. BIG mistake. The toilets are the most disgusting i’ve ever seen in an airport. You could almost swim in the water sploshing around on the floor. There was no paper anywhere to be seen. I decided to hold my bladder until I reached the plane for my next flight. There are literally two or three coffee shops. Not one proper restaurant. And just people EVERYWHERE.
Jeddah’s new terminal is due to open sometime this year. The Saudia staff take this with a pinch of salt however. One member of staff told me ‘they’ve been saying ‘this year’ for the last seven years’. It can not happen too soon. Saudia will never, ever be able to compete on a world stage or attract passengers using the facilities they have in JED. I think many will be willing to forgo booze on board (i’m more concerned with food and hard product) if the fare is right but I can honestly say if I ever found a fare that was an absolute bargain but involved transiting in that hell hole they call a terminal building again, I wouldn’t do it. Especially as you cannot even take the decision to book a local hotel room for a long transit (Saudi does not issue tourist or transit visas but will start soon).
Jeddah – Kuala Lumpur. 787-9. 8hr1min. 11 pax.
Boarding is done via bus and is a free for all. There isn’t even an announcement for boarding let alone any form of order or zoning. They simply open the gates and the masses flow through. I never get my knickers in a knot about such things though. The plane isn’t going to go anywhere until everyone is on so i’m not obsessed with being onboard in the first wave anyway. The bus was full and when we arrived at the aircraft side cleaners were still running up and down the stairs. The 787 was obviously late inbound and we were kept on the bus for around fifteen minutes before we were allowed to board. At the top of the stairs I was welcomed and turned left to take seat 3A.
This business class cabin seemed so familiar as it is almost identical to Qatars 787 business class cabin. The seats are a little more private and the casing is higher than on Qatar. There was the same style pillow and blanket as on the IST-JED flight as well as noise cancelling headphones at my seat. The seats are configured 1-2-1 and all have direct aisle access, oodles of storage and universal power/USB points.
On this flight the crew were all female with the exception of the Purser (who like on the previous sector plonked himself in 5A after take off where he remained until just before landing). Once again the crew came around with thick hot towels, pre departure beverages (same selection as IST-JED), newspapers/magazines and menus. The only addition to this sector was an amenity kit by Porsche design which is one of the nicest i’ve received in Business Class.
The other customers in business were mainly Saudi couples as well as an extended Malay family.
There was to be a ‘breakfast service’ after take off and then a ‘main meal’ before landing. The meal order for both meals was taken before take off.
We pushed back thirty minutes late.
After take off tablecloths were laid and the trays delivered from a meal cart with the fruit and cheese already on. The pastry basket was also offered and I took a croissant which looked good but was disappointed that it wasn’t heated. Also, as par for the course, a glass of water included. The main followed swiftly (I had the beef which was tasty) and I passed on dessert.
I again had the same issue with the wifi as on the previous sector and the IFE was pretty much identical to the previous sector so thought i’d get some shut eye instead. I slept well for a few hours and woke up just under two hours before landing. I went to the galley and asked for a coffee which was promptly served. It definitely tasted like it was from an espresso machine.
The second meal started about an hour and thirty minutes before landing and by now I knew the drill – tablecloths laid, tray presented, glass of water, clear in starter plate, deliver main. I selected the salmon which was dry and tasteless. I had some fresh fruit and another coffee for dessert.
1st meal – breakfast
Appetizer: Fresh seasonal fruit and Continental cheese selection with dried fruit and nuts.
Mains: Beef Tapa – marinated beef with garlic fried rice. Egg frittato with ratatoullie and beef brochette. American pancakes with Mixed berry compote.
Assortment of breakfast breads and pastries.
2nd meal – dinner.
Appetizer: traditional arabic mezze. Grilled prawns and smoked salmon.
Harira or chicken mushroom soup.
Mains: baked salmon with potatoes and veg. Slow braised rolled chicken with ginger sauce and steamed rice. Lamb Biryani.
Desserts – fresh seasonal platter. Pistachio and sour cherry gateaux. Ice cream.
I am a little conflicted about how I feel about Saudia. I found their onboard hard product really good. Their crew were very friendly and efficient (well the ladies anyway). I have absolutely no idea what happens if a flight happens to be full and all the crew are needed to serve. I enjoyed the general relaxed vibe onboard (as well as the near empty flights). They have a good APP and website. Food and onboard amenities were definitely above average. And they offer very competitive fares. Does all this outweigh the cons? For me, the biggest negative aspect is Jeddah Airport. Until they sort that mess out i’d probably avoid flying with them. They also don’t have a very extensive schedule – my near ten hour stopover on my return is not down to my doing. When I booked I had a four hour transit but then one of my flights was cancelled and I was booked onto a later connection. I guess this is the kind of thing that happens when you are flying near empty planes around the world. Some of the issues unfortunate passengers could face are out of Saudia’s hands. On my outbound journey my connection was 95 miniutes – 5 minutes longer than the minimum allowed. If my flight had been late into JED and my connection missed you are basically a prisoner in a hell hole for god knows how long. Saudia has no ability to get you a visa to leave the terminal even if they wanted to provide you with a hotel. And I wish they’d sort the drinks out. A dry airline doesn’t mean you don’t have to make an effort. They spend hundred of millions buying new aircraft, refurbishing cabins on older aircraft, installing wifi – how about spending some on some decent non alcoholic drinks as well! I’m sure Saudis enjoy drinking stuff other than water, tea and coffee too.
Topic: Qatar trip report.
I recently travelled to asia after purchasing a crazy cheap Qatar Airways fare ex Brussels to Tokyo. I paid GBP570 return (yes, i’m not missing a ‘1’ at the beginning)! Five hundred and seventy pounds for a return flight from Brussels to Tokyo all in. Who could refuse?
My final journey was Brussels – Doha – Narita – Taipei – Hong Kong – Shanghai – Haneda – Doha – Brussels using QR, CX and JL and all in J class (apart from NRT-TPE which I flew ‘Vanilla Air’). I’ll do a separate report on the intra asia flights.
I’ve done a few QR reviews so will keep this one a bit more general instead of going into detail on the seats etc.
Check in swift and given boarding passes all the way to Narita in a very swish glossy silver premium boarding pass holder. Exit passport control was swift thanks to the multiple e-gates that take biometric passports of all EU nations. This was not the case on my return to BRU. The e-gates were closed and there were long queues at immigration both arriving and departing.
Qatar uses the BA Galleries lounge. I wasn’t expecting much given the general standards of BA’s lounges especially those in europe but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a modern, spacious and airy lounge with a really good range of food. Much better than what one would normally find in the flagship T5 business class lounges actually. As is normal for Qatar they call the flights crazy early for boarding and I made my way to the gate.
Priority boarding was enforced and I think given the fact they start boarding so early it always seems to be a pretty leisurely affair. I’ve noticed when departing other european cities on Qatar and monitoring the inbound flights that the aircraft spend a lot more time on the ground at outstations than most other airlines. I was chatting to one of the staff in Brussels about it and she explained that QR tends to do the reverse of what other airlines do. Instead of longer turnarounds at their home base where QR have an army of people to turn a jet around quickly and almost all ground services are inhouse (let’s face it – Hamad airport is basically ‘Qatar Airways Airport’) they roster the longer turnarounds at outstations where they are more likely to incur delays operating in congested european airports and relying on third party contractors. Also as they are effectively a bridging airline with 80% of its passengers in transit they can afford to delay flights ex DOH if they are waiting on a large amount of transfer passengers from another late inbound flight without the return flight to Doha being impacted. Pretty clever. Despite all this we had a delay departing BRU. We were all closed up and ready to go fifteen minutes before STD but had a slot delay of around an hour.
Three of my sectors were operated by new generation A350’s with one sector (DOH-NRT) operated by a 777-200ER. The A350 has the reverse herringbone seat and the 777 the older style more conventional 2x2x2 fully flat seat. I won’t go into detail as many of us have done so in plenty or trip reports previously. Each seat has its pros and cons and I know i’ll be in a massive minority now but I actually prefer QR’s third generation seats on the 777. What they lack (not direct aisle access for all, little privacy from a neighbour, limited storage) they more than make up for in overall spaciousness, a feeling of being less cluttered and enclosed. I ALWAYS feel more comfortable and sleep better in these seats than the newer style which all that I like and dislike is pretty much the reverse of the 777. All have direct aisle access, there is an abundance of storage space and plenty of privacy. But I just feel more cramped and enclosed in these seats and I just don’t sleep as well as I do on the older style ones. Part of this is down to QR’s custom design where the TV and table is fixed in front of you. I don’t have the same cramped sensation of say CX’s seat which is the same bones as QR’s seat but with a TV and table that flip out. Or perhaps i’m just being a princess. Lol. On reflection perhaps I prefer the reverse herringbone for the shorter daylight flights and the old style 777 ones for the longer night flights. Regardless, they are still streets ahead of what many other airlines offer and i’m pretty sure that regardless of longhaul aircraft type you are guaranteed a fully flat bed (not 100% sure on the handful of A340-600’s though).
Service elements –
Although there were small variations (on the longer flights you get PJ’s, on some sectors the amenity kit was waiting at the seat on others it was distributed) the standard was pretty consistent. Crew member welcomed you, introduced themself, asked for your pre take off beverage (champagne, fresh OJ, signature mocktail or water) which was delivered with your choice of hot or cold towel then gave out menus. On two of the sectors the crew took the drink and meal order on the ground on the other two after take off. I guess it’s a ‘time permitting’ thing. A bottle of Evian, headseats and a large pillow and duvet were on the seat.
To be honest, a mixed bag. And i’m very careful to find fault here with Qatar as they put a lot of other airlines to shame in Business Class in terms of their service style – a la carte dining at any time, entire service run by hand. My critisism is more levelled at the choices available – and the amount carried of each of these choices, particularly on the european sectors. If you are a vegetarian you will LOVE the catering on Qatar. If you enjoy sinking your teeth into some form of beast you could be left a little wanting. An example is the BRU-DOH sector.
There is one meal service and you can have this at any time. Perfectly reasonable for a six hour flight. The starters comprised 1) Garden pea soup. 2) Classic arab mezze. 3) butternut squash and feta cheese salad. And the mains 1) chicken biriyani 2) fillet of fish with sweet pepper sauce 3) cheese filled pasta with tomato, olives and basil. So three out of three starters vegetarian and only one ‘real’ meat dish of the mai courses. On the longer sectors the choice is much better. I imagine its because my longer sectors were on a japanese route but there was a lot more variety and choice as well as a second substantial meal. The variety is not across the board on the long routes though. On my BRU-DOH flight I found a left over menu which was for ADL-DOH which I believe is their longest route? The first meal was identical to the BRU-DOH menu. Very ‘veg’ heavy. The only difference being that the ADL-DOH flight also had a substantial second meal (breakfast) listed. QR also offer an amuse bouche which is a really nice touch.
The other issue seemed to be the ratios of each meal. On two of the four sectors I did not get my choice despite being sat in the third row (of eight). QR does offer the option to pre order your main meal on some routes now although at the moment its only on flights ex DOH.
Despite not being crazy about the choices and the issues with the ratios the delivery and presentation of the food was on par with what many airlines would serve in First Class. The japanese meals on the DOH-TYO-DOH routes were superb.
I did not indulge in the cellar but there were the same choices on each route: 1) Lanson black label champagne. 2) Lanson brut rose 3) Jean-Marc Brocard chablis premier cru 2015 4) Attems Venizia Giulia 2016 5) Viognier Clarksburg, 2014 6) Chateau Branaire-Ducru, Bordeaux 2011 7) Mount Langi Ghiran, The Hollows Shiraz, 2013 Aust. 8) Castle Rock Pinot Noir 2012, Sonoma County. 9) Valdivieso dessert wine, 2013, Chile. 10) Grad Crus Port, 1992.
In short, exceptional on all four sectors. I’ve flown Qatar for quite a while now mainly due to their exceptional J class fares. One thing I was not particularly keen on in earlier days was their crew. They were perfectly fine and hard working but seemed to be trained to be extremely robotic and not deviate from a certain script. The head cabin crew manager at the time was known as ‘the dictator’ and there were very strict rules the crew had to adhere to, even in their own time downroute and on their days off. In short, the crew were strictly controlled and it showed, well to me anyway. A couple of years ago a new manager took over the crew (perhaps due to bad press QR was getting regarding their employee policies) and loosened the reins a little. Qatar is still well known for keeping a close watch on its employees and imposing curfews and such. And although these still exist they have been significantly relaxed. And it’s shown on its crew. On every sector the crew looking after me were fantastic. Relaxed, professional, friendly, helpful, efficient. A few of them were absolute standout really showing their personality and one that was even a little quirky and cheeky in the most fun way which I love. I made sure I sent my comments to Qatar.
Hamad Airport and Al Mourjan lounge.
Hamad Airport is like a well oiled machine when it comes to a transit hub as any newly built facility should be. It is literally seething with staff and as you walk around the usual airport customer – staff relationship is turned on its head. Instead of the customer seeking out a staff member to help with directions staff all over the place approch the customer to direct them and keep an eye on those running late for their transit flight.
An interesting thing happened on the flight from BRU. As I mentioned earlier the flight was running around an hour late and I guess most of the passengers on board were in transit, many at risk of missing their connecting flights. The transit procedure that i’ve always followed had been the same as that in most airports worldwide – you follow the signs for transfers, have your boarding card checked, pass through security again and emerge back in the departure hall. On this delayed flight something different happend – the ground staff directed transferring passengers not to go along the indicated ‘transfer’ path but instead to go through another door – which led directly back into departures area completely bypassing any security. I found this odd. I’d always assumed that the transit security was a requirement but I guess it must just be a ‘best practise’ measure? On my return flight via DOH I was routed via the regular transfer path and it was the whole laptops out, belts off affair. In fact I had a bottle of water confiscated. I knew it was in my bag but given they didn’t bother with ANY security on the outbound transit I assumed they wouldn’t be too strict generally. Wrong!
I like the design of Hamad but I am amazed at the amount of remote stands flights have to operate from as there are no gates available. It seems astonishing that a brand new airport built on virtually limitless land is almost full in terms of on pier parking stands.
The lounge i’ve reviewed many times. It is a solid offering and not a lot has changed.
Haneda Airport JAL lounge.
QR uses the JAL lounges at HND and with my BA Gold status I had access to the First Class lounge. The lounges at HND are relatively new and i’d say the JL HND First Class lounge is a step up from the JL NRT First Class lounge although that isn’t really too hard. The lounge is basically one long rectangular space broken up into separate areas. The general lounge area has plenty of seating with most seats having multiplug power close by. This led into a dining area with some tables and chairs. The food choices were OK. The best option was the live cooking station that seemed to have a dish of the day. On my day it was a kind of tepanyaki beef which was delicious. The remainder was pretty underwhelming. A few different hot dishes, some canape sized bits and pieces. There was one display of sushi with two varieties. Everything is pre plated and self service. So for the cheese plate you get two little cubes of cheese and that’s it. The same with the canapaes. Each plate would have one small cocktail stick of say a bit of salmon and an olive on it. I could have easily piled my little tray high with six or seven plates but was self concious i’d look greedy.
Beverages were also not particularly varied. The usual spirits. One each of red, white and champagne. Soft drinks from a soda dispensing machine (!!). And really really basic coffee machines.
Beyond the dining area is a different themed lounge area that kind of doubles as a library come museum and exhibits a lot of old school JAL memorabilia. Then right at the end of the lounge is a games room. There were also showers, a smoking room and a room which comprised of six or seven massage chairs. I read a display that the JAL lounge was discontinuing its massage service due to the increase in the massage chairs so i’m guessing that they used to offer actual spa treatments in the lounge.
IFE – On the A350 controlled via the touchscreen or via a (very fiddly and sensitive) touch stye handset. There was decent content (especially in the music category) but movies are heavily edited. There’s also the usual maps, games as well as a multi directional camera views from the aircraft. On the 777 the content seemed pretty similar although much easier to control via the old school handset.
Power – All flights had multiplug power charging points and USB outlets.
Wifi – fitted on the 350. Free for the first 15 minutes. USD5 for one hour. USD20 for the whole flight. I used the free 15 minutes on each sector and it worked perfectly for general browsing, whatsapp, messenger etc.
Electronic window blinds – if I had to have one moan at the crew it would be the control over the electronic window blinds. I completely get that there is nothing worse than someone opening the window blinds letting the sun flow in when they are the only person awake on a ‘night flight’. However on a day flight straight after take off when everyone is awake I think is a different story. On the BRU-DOH sector the wheels had barely left the ground before all the window shades were closed. This was on a 17:30 departure. The crew didn’t lock them at least so at least I could open mine. The HND-DOH flight departs at 23:45 and lands in DOH at 05:35. In other words complete darkness the entire flight except for the last hour where the sun is just coming up. Yet again the blinds were not only automatically lowered after take off but also locked closed. Call me a weirdo but sometimes when I wake up at a random hour on a night flight when its pitch black outside (especially on a clear night and when over land) I like to have a look out the window at the lights on the ground below. It doesn’t interfere with anyone elses sleep (it’s pitch black) so i don’t understand what the problem is. The joys of modern aircraft!
What is up with Qatar Airways and their unadvised schedule changes recently? I get they have had some significant issues with the Gulf ban, but they appear to be changing their flight schedules regularly and not bothering to notify customers. I have 3 long haul business class trips (two Asia and one South Africa) booked with them over the coming few months and each one has at least once had a schedule change that I have only become aware of once I’ve logged into the Manage My Booking facility on the site. In the past I always received emails from Qatar with even the smallest of changes.
One of the recent changes was not small at all- in fact they had inexplicably moved the dates of one of my flights (even though the plane was still scheduled to go and they were still selling business class tickets for that flight) and bumped me on to a later connection out of Doha which would’ve left me with 9 hours in Doha rather than the originally scheduled (and still available for sale on their website might I add!) 2 hours. When I called them to discuss, I waited for 45 minutes to speak to an operator (they don’t appear to have a priority line for business class from what I can see?) and when I got through, the quality of the line was so poor I couldn’t hear the operator properly. He told me he was unable to call me back, email me or give me a direct number to call- in fact my only option was to call the call centre and wait for 45 minutes again. I found this extremely poor, especially given that I later tried calling the call centre from various different phones and the quality was as poor on each. Eventually I got some response via Twitter although this in itself took 3-4 days to finalise. I’ve always found the service on board Qatar to be exemplary and have never experienced this sort of thing with them before- I hope it isn’t the beginning of a downward spiral!
One of the best things about living in Scandinavia is being able to take advantage of some of the crazy sales that Qatar often has and not have to position to another city to take advantage. I purchased this itinerary from Copenhagen to Australia for just a little over (post brexit money) £1500.00. I used gotogate.com as I have done before and have never had a problem with. Their website is a pain in the bum – you literally have to go through about three pages of ‘un’ticking around thirty optional extras but the savings they tend to offer always makes it worth it. Once Qatar tickets the gotogate booking you can find your QR PNR in there and then use qatarairways.com to choose seats.
CPH – DOH. Qatar Airways 787.
I had selected my seat at the time of booking and had a bag to drop so didn’t worry about checking in online. I arrived at Copenhagen airport around an hour and a half before my flight and dropped my bags at the check in desk and were issued with my boarding passes through to Melbourne. Fast Track security was just that and I made my way to the lounge. The lounge is a contract lounge and is fine. The only other lounge in the terminal is the SAS lounge.
Boarding had already commenced when I reached the gate and I made my way down the jetbridge to door two left where I was greeted and directed to my seat, 3A. First impression of the cabin on the 787 are WOW. Qatar has gone for the the sweeping ‘arch’ entry at doors two which gives a great sense of openess and space. Yet the cabin feels intimate with only 28 seats. Within minutes one of the friendly cabin crew was at my seat and introduced herself and asked what I would like to drink. It was not yet midday so I just had some water. Along also came a washbag, menu and hot towel. As is most often the case with Qatar the meal order is taken prior to take off. All flights offer a ‘dine on demand’ service however this is seldom proactively offered especially on these short sectors. Once i’d made my selection my stewardess asked when i’d like it served which was a nice touch. I just said after take off whenever is good for the crew. The main meal selection on each sector consisted of a choice of three starters and three mains. There is also a ‘light bites’ section which generally comprised a salad dish, warm sandwich option and a pasta. And on the longer sectors a second full meal. The safety video was then played which is quite funny the first time you see it although it’s played twice, once in english then in arabic. It has a football theme (check it out on youtube). We pushed back a couple minutes ahead of schedule and was airborne a few minutes later.
I won’t say too much about the seat as there are loads of reviews with in depth information on the net about them. Qatar uses the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond reverse herringbone seat the same as which is found on Air Canada, Saudia, Virgin Australia and China Airlines. They differ slightly from the Cirrus reverse herringbone (found on CX, Air France, Finnair etc) mainly as with the Cirrus ones the IFE screen flips out and the tray table comes from a side panel. With the Qatar style seat the table and IFE screen is fixed in front of you. I prefer the Cirrus design personally. It feels a little less claustrophobic for me.
After take off drinks were served along with a small bowl of mixed nuts. This was followed by the meal service. There are no trolleys or trays in Business Class on QR. The whole service is done individually by hand. I noticed the ‘tempt the palate’ course (amuse bouche) had been removed. Nonetheless the catering is superb and the choices wide. What I did find odd was that there were three starter choices, each of which was vegetarian. I also noticed that QR has a dislike of beef in main courses. Of all sectors I took not one of the main courses featured a beef dish – not that i’m saying that as a bad thing, just unusual. I had the arabic mezze to start and the chicken for main course served alongside an individual break bowl of a few different breads. The presentation was superb, the taste average.
I passed on cheese or dessert for now and explored the IFE a little. The content was decent and the screen perfectly sized with excellent resolution but I found the IFE controller fiddly and annoying. It’s ‘touchscreen’ and like a cheap version of an android smartphone set up. The touch keys are not reponsive when you want them to be and overly responsive when you don’t.
The crew were attentive throughout the flight and seemed to attend to call bells etc quickly. One thing really noticable to me (as was mirrored on each of the four sectors) was that the ‘CSD’ is completely invisible throughout the flight. I’m not sure what they actually do, perhaps they work in the galley. On no sector did the CSD show any cabin presence in Business. And on two of the sectors the CSD did not even introduce themself on the PA – another crew member making the announcements introduced their name. I don’t quite get that.
On these short flights QR doesn’t offer a second service per se however if you want anything you just ask. Most passengers seemed to order something from the ‘light bites’ section of the menu. I had the octopus salad which was superb.
We landed on time and taxied onto one of the closest stands to the main transit areas of Hamad International Airport. There are priority lanes for Business Class and I was through the security check point within minutes and headed to the Al Mourjan Lounge.
Doha Al Moujan Lounge
The lounge is superb. It’s huge with two distinctly different dining areas (one a buffet style restaurant the other a ‘deli’ kind of set up) and multiple tea and coffee stations. There is a huge business centre, smoking room and good showers (which often have a wait). One thing I always notice when I fly QR is the number of DYKWIA passengers they seem to carry. I don’t know what it is about the airline that attracts them. Is it that they know they can publicly berate the poor immigrant workers whom they know will just stand there and nod? In the lounge there were two really unpleasant european guys that seemed to take great pleasure in doing this for the most trivial of reasons. An example – I watched the commotion in the buffet restaurant of a male passenger demanding the chef prepare him some of the chicken dish as the same dish on the buffet ‘ran out half an hour ago and has not been replaced’. Errrrm I helped myself to this same dish literally three minutes before. Of course the QR lounge staff obliged and massaged this mans overwhelming ego. I then saw a british man publicly berating a staff member in the business centre because the printer was low in ink. He was so patronising I felt like telling him so.
DOH – MEL. 777-300.
Doha to Melbourne despite being one of the longest routes QR operates uses a 777-300 an aircraft that many will say now has QR’s weakest J class hard product. This is true to a degree – most of the A330/320/340 that previously offered angle flat or cradle seating have now been upgraded with the BAE Diamond flat bed – the 777’s still offer an older 2x2x2 fully flat product. Personally, if i’m flying with a travel mate the 777 product is my favourite. The sense of personal space and openess of the seat is immense, there are no nooks or cubbyholes to fit your feet into. The downside is if you are travelling solo the privacy is minimal and there is no direct aisle access for the window seat passenger.
The aircraft is configured with four rows of six seats each row in the front cabin and then a mini cabin behind with three rows separated by the galley and toilets. I’d selected seat 6E which is an aisle seat second row from the back as I was hopeful the seat next to me might stay empty. Alas a few days before departure the seat next to be showed as occupied. I know that QR always block out the two bulkhead rows (row one and five) until they have to release them if the flight fills up. When I arrived at the lounge I asked the lounge desk staff if they could unblock a row one seat for me if the seat next to it was still showing as empty. Of course there was no guarantee it would remain empty but it was worth a go. The attendant printed me off a new boarding pass for 1K. 1J was still showing as unoccupied.
I boarded through door 1L and made my way to my seat. When I reached my seat there was an eastern european lady dressed up to the nines sat in it. She immediately apologised etc etc to me, and as cabin crew myself it was instantly obvious this lady was a staff passenger/family of staff. Her boarding pass was for 1J on the aisle next to me. She went over to the other side of the aircraft to chat with whom transpired to be her teenage daughter in 1B – they’d obviously been allocated the remaining seats and separated. The (revenue) passenger in 1A then become involved in their conversation and the next thing I know this revenue passenger is making herself comfortable in my seat as i’m putting my stuff away in the overhead locker. Urgh I have to have this conversation for the second time in five minutes. ‘Errm i’m sorry but that’s my seat’. ‘Oh no it isn’t! I just swapped with the lady sat over there so she could sit with her daughter’. I glance over and staff travel lady is now sat in 1A. ‘Yes but that lady has a boarding pass for 1J on the aisle not 1K by the window.’ ‘Oh. Well she didn’t tell me that. I can only sit near the window. I specifically booked that seat for the same reason’. Further back in the cabin I don’t mind sitting on the aisle. But at row 1 right in front of the galley for a fifteen hour flight – not a chance. ‘Unfortunately, so did I. If you want the window you need to swap back with that lady, i’m sorry’. GREAT start to close quarters with a stranger for fifteen hours. As it turned out we ended up chatting for almost all of the flight when we weren’t sleeping and before landing I was given a hug goodbye and an invitation to this lady and her husbands estate in the Barossa Valley.
The meal service was more or less the same as the CPH-DOH with a similar amount of options. Again presentation was great, taste so so. There was also a full second meal on this flight which was breakfast (despite the arrival time in Melbourne of around 18:00 local).
What I love about the long 777 sectors is they give you a mattress protector for the seats. I hands down find these seats the most comfortable to sleep in and slept well for six or seven hours. QR also give out PJ’s on the longer night sectors.
The crew on this sector were superb. Friendly, professional, relaxed. Could not have asked for better. An example – my new best friend sat next to me commented to our stewardess how lovely the hand cream in the loo was. The next thing we know the same stewardess presents a large bottle of the hand cream wrapped up in a duty free bag accompanied with a ‘shhh. Hide it’! OK, this is probably a no-no and may cost QR 50 pence but the halo effect was immense and gained QR a lot more. There have definitely been winds of change at QR with their crew. I’ve not always been complimentary of them as in the past i’ve found them to be overly robotic and to lack any personality. I believe their ‘dictator’ Cabin Crew manager (how one of their crew years ago described him to me on a previous flight) has moved on from QR to be replaced with a less strict regime. This makes a world of difference to me in terms of their attitude on board.
With such a long sector length most customers were awake some time before landing into Melbourne with nearly everyone eating breakfast. We landed in Melbourne on time.
SYD – DOH. A380
I was due to fly back to DOH from Melbourne but unfortunately become ill in Australia and contacted QR to change the date of my flight. I wasn’t sure where i’d stand as I was on a heavily restricted ticket but I was offered the opportunity to rebook providing I could fly out of Sydney. This was no problem at all and when I realised it was an A380 I was actually chuffed.
I arrived at the airport three hours ahead of my 8:30PM departure so i’d get a good couple of hours in the what is usually fantastic Qantas First Class lounge in Sydney. I was checked in within minutes and the airport is considerably quieter at night than earlier in the day. I made my way to the lounge which was nice and quiet – it seemed the only QF flight to depart was the HND service and I guess the other passengers were for the final CX and MH departures. Given that the lounge was so quiet I was surprised how poor the service was in the usually brilliant restaurant. As always I ordered the salt and pepper squid signature dish, followed by a main course of fish with the rocket and parmasan salad as a side. A few minutes later a gentleman sat down at the table next to me and I heard him order his meal – same starter as me, lamb main with steamed greens as a side. One thing I love about this lounge is that it overlooks both the tarmac and beyond to the Sydney skyline. And it’s great I had a nice view and wasn’t in a rush as I waited….and waited. As did the chap next to me who it transpired was on the earlier departing Tokyo flight. Twenty five full minutes later my starter arrived (which was excellent). As did my seat mates main course. ‘I haven’t had my starter yet’ the chap said. Apologies made, the main course whisked away and starter brought ten minutes later. Easy mistake I guess. I finished my starter and waited and waited for another twenty minutes for my main course to arrive – which came with a side of steamed greens instead of the rocket i’d ordered. To be honest the food wasn’t great. The fish was quite dry and tasteless. Around the same time my seat mates main of lamb was delivered – alongside with my side dish. I saw him take a few mouth fulls then put his culterly down. When the waiter came over ‘This meal is stone cold. When you forgot my starter and took the main course away you’ve simply given the same back to me twenty minutes later’. The man didn’t put on a show like my Qatar Airways lounge friend in DOH but just got up and left. Not a great show.
Boarding started nice and early and Business Class is 48 seats in one large cabin on the upper deck on the A380 with the same seats as found on the 787 with boarding done directly onto the upper deck. First impressions were good although the cabin obviously seemed less intimate and had a less ‘wow factor’ for me that the 787 – although that would change later when I visited the onboard bar.
The cabin was almost full on departure. My friendly cabin steward introduced himself and gave the usual amenities and also promoted the dine on demand concept. I figured i’d just go for the ‘traditional’ after take off/ pre landing times. Once again, like out of CPH, all three starters were vegetarian. We had a delay of around half an hour departing SYD as a passenger had become ill on boarding and it was decided they would be offloaded. We were soon in the night sky and the dinner service commenced. The main meal menu on this sector (which was similar to all the others was):
Starters: Roasted red pepper and tomato soup. Classic arab mezze. Roasted pumpkin and goats cheese salad.
Mains: Seared fillet of snapper with potatoes. CHicken Kaspa with rice. Sweet potato gnocchi.
Dessert: Warm chocolate and ginger cheesecake. Gourmet ice cream. Seasonal fresh fruit.
The crew were fine on this sector but were probably the least interactive of the four sectors I guess due to the bigger cabin. I polished off my meal and decided to get a few hours sleep when the lights were dimmed. This is where my thoughts on whether dine on demand is a good thing or not arose. I woke up to much clincking of cutlery and cluncking crockery whilst the lady sat in the aisle seat across from me decided to have the full on offering. If i’m honest even though she was across the aisle I found it a disturbance. That’s the double edge of the sword with these new super quiet aircraft – every little sound carries.
At this point I decided to get up and check out the onboard bar. I’d never quite ‘got’ the idea of onboard bars and thought they were just some unnecessary gimmick. What can I say, i’m a convert. I loved it. QR has a fantastic onboard bar, it’s massive (the crew there were quick to point out it is slightly bigger than Emirates). There were some delicious tapas and canapaes on the bar, cocktails made to order and a nespresso machine for lattes etc. On a sector of this length (15.5hrs) it really comes into it’s own. It’s great to be able to get away from your seat and what I liked was that in this area the crew were really chatty and personable. The bar really made this flight for me and I would definitely seek out a QR 380 in the future.
A great four sectors. Even though some of the little things at QR have gone (the amuse bouche, the leather bound menu folders) others have definitely improved – namely the crew have become more relaxed and seem happier. I really think that their CSD’s should make themselves a little more ‘present’ though. Although there are several incarnations of seats you are pretty much assured a fully flat bed of some variety these days. The onboard service and catering mirrors what some airlines provide in First Class. I guess when you look at the crew complements on their aircraft it’s easy to see why so much attention to detail is achievable. On their two class 787-8 they had ten crew with five solely for the 28 Business Class customers. Compare that with eight crew in total on a three class BA 787-8. On their 777-300 they had 16 crew for a two class aircraft. A whopping EIGHT crew dedicated to the 48 Business Class passengers (at BA 13 crew in total – five for 56 Business class customers). And a small army of 26 cabin crew on their A380. The Doha lounges are great and the masses of ground staff everywhere in Doha ensure that conenctions are smooth.
Add into that the sometimes almost unbelievable Business Class sales they offer ex EU and choosing QR for me is a no brainer.
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