Qatar Airways / Cathay Pacific business class trip report – Europe – Australia.

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This topic contains 9 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  FrequentPR 25 Mar 2017
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  • rferguson
    Participant

    I recently travelled to Adelaide from Copenhagen on Qatar Airways for the bargain price of £1280. This fare was simply too good to turn down. I purchased the ticket before the actual commencement of the route and i’m guessing that Qatar was trying to fill seats on what was to be a daily service. I guess this was proving difficult as before the ‘daily’ route even started it was trimmed back to five times weekly. This resulted in some disruption to my booking as I was due to fly on one of the two days that the DOH-ADL flight had been cut. I was given one of two alternatives. A thirty-odd hour transit it DOH or a re-route via HKG and then with CX HKG-ADL. Thinking of the extra tier points (i’d net an extra 140 taking the total to 720) and Avios I took the latter.

    Part 1 – CPH-DOH. QR 787.
    Empty seats in J – six
    Crew number – four (plus supervisor dipping in and out).

    Check in:
    I arrived at Copenhagen Airport via the train around seventy minutes prior to departure. There was no line at the business class counters (and only a few people milling around the other counters) and I approached the absolutely miserable looking check in agent that instead of a smile or ‘hi’ just gave me a blank look as if to say by telepathy ‘give me your documents’. As I always do in these situations I smiled widely and say in an exagerrated way ‘GOOOOD morning. And how are you?’. This always catches such miserable staff off guard and he changed his attitude pretty quickly. I was given my three boarding passes and my bag checked through to Adelaide and made my way to the lounge.

    Lounge:
    Qatar uses the Aspire lounge at copenhagen which in my opnion was really poor. There aren’t any great lounges at CPH but this one was definitely the worst I have been in (and as CPH is my ‘locel’ I think i’ve visited them all now). As is typical of the lounges in CPH they are basically a mezannine above the shopping area. The Aspire lounge wasn’t easy to find and in truth I don’t think i’d even bother seeking it out if I had access again. It was small, dingy, very limited snacks available. And not even a proper bean to cup coffee machine but some heinous instant coffee system. I had a few sips of the awful coffee and left as immigration still has to be passed at the non-schengen pier and it can get busy. Thankfully today there was no line up and I was through in minutes.

    Boarding:
    The flight was pretty much fully boarded by the time I reached the gate (20 minutes prior to departure). As I arrived at the door I was warmly greeted by Mohammed the Senior crew member and was shown to my seat, 3A. The stewardess serving my side, Suchita, came to introduce herself and offered me a choice of welcome drink (lime and mint juice, water, champagne), one of the new Brics washbags and a menu for the flight. A bottle of water, pillow, blanked and noise cancelling headphones were already on the seat.

    An order for the meal and post take off drink were taken on the ground and the dine on demand option was actively promoted. With the sparse offerings in the lounge I chose to eat at the regular post take off stage.

    The door was closed and we pushed back on time and were airborne a few minutes later.

    The seat.
    The seat has been widely reviewd so I won’t harp on. IMHO it’s best in class with a choice of pre set positions including fully flat and direct aisle access. I chose a seat half way down the cabin to avoid disturbance from the galley at the front of the cabin or restrooms at the back.

    The flight.
    There has been some cut backs to the catering on the scandinavia to doha flights since I flew late last year. The menu had always comprised a selection of main meals and also a ‘light bites’ section. The light bites section seemed to act as the defacto pre landing meal. Well, light bights are gone and there is only one main meal for the flight. With a flight duration of 5hr50min and the ability to dine on demand this is adequate. On the flipside I felt the portion sizes of the main meal had increased a little and the amuse bouche has been reinstated. I’m not sure if this only applies to the eastbound flights or also to the slightly longer westbound ones. I will find out in a few days I guess 🙂

    The menu comprised a choice of three starters (roasted butternut squash soup, classic arabic mezze or smoked salmon with pea and potato salad). Three mains (arabic spiced chicken with machboos sauce, grilled fillet of beef with horseradish jus and mash, paneer tikka masala with coriander and mint rice). Dessert was a lime and coconut panna cotta, ice cream or cheese plate.

    Drinks were served first with a ramekin of warm nuts. Tables were then laid. This is completely done individually by hand instead of the use of trolleys or trays and is at a level often experienced in first class. Each course was then individally presented and the service was very proper. Wine was always poured at the seat with the offer to try for example. I chose the salmon and beef and the taste and presentation of both were excellent. When asked if i’d like dessert I requested a cheese plate be held aside for me to have as a pre landing snack.

    The crew tending to me were absolutely fantastic. My name was always used. They were polite, efficient, pro active.

    I watched a few episodes of Modern Family on the IFE and had a snooze for an hour an a half.

    When I woke up I requested my cheese plate with a cup of coffee (odd combination i know).

    IFE/internet.
    The IFE screen is large with good resolution and is in a fixed position in front of you. It is controlled via a handheld device which resembles a smartphone but can be quite a pain to use as it is quite fiddly. The selection of TV and films was reasonable – I noticed that there was a huge amount of Bollywood films.

    The 787 was wifi equiped and I did use the service. There were two options – 5mb for US$2 or 12mb for US$5. The wifi worked fine, I was just using it for whatsapp and facebook mainly, and it was great to be able to keep in touch while airborne.

    Arrival
    At the end of the flight the Supervisor Mohamed came to each passenger, thanked them for their business and asked how they thought the flight was. I thought this was a great personal touch and he was definitely the most visible senior crew member i’d ever seen on Qatar (I tend to find the ‘seniors’ seem to try and be quite invisible).
    The flight landed on time and I made my way to the transit area.

    Verdict of this flight:
    Fantastic. One of my best QR flights to date. Whilst there has been obvious cut backs to the catering it still remains streets ahead of most of the competition. And what I have been noticing is that the onboard service from the crew is getting better and better each time I fly with QR. Not just because they have good crew to passenger ratios but they seem to be happier and more engaging that i’ve ever noticed in the past.

    Transit/the lounge.
    With this re-route I ended up with a 9hr5min transit in DOH. This is where I find the Middle Eastern airlines very poor and inflexible and even to a point unable to follow their own rules. Originally when I was re-routed I was told I would be provided with accommodation as under QR’s own policy a transit over eight hours provides this. Five days later I was left a voicemail to say this had been offered in error. As there was a DOH-HKG routing available with a less than eight hour connection it invalidated my entitement. There was one small problem – the DOH-HKG flight with the lesser transit would miss by one hour the very flight HKG-ADL QR had re-routed me onto. I complained and escalated on the basis I WAS taking the shortest connection available and got nowhere. It was a ridiculous situation – I was using the shortest possible route CPH-ADL that they provided yet because the final sector was operated by CX as far as QR were concerned that didn’t count and there was a shorter transit to HKG. It was a bit like dealing with a bipolar airline.

    Suffice to say, I came prepared. After enquiring as to the price of the airside hotel at DOH for a six hour block (£205) I decided the lounge it would be (first worls problems I know). I did some research and found there was a ‘Quiet Zone’ in the lounge which I had never seen before. I stuck a Valium in the pocket of my jeans. And un-ashamedly stuck the pillow and duvet from the aircraft into my bag with the reasoning i’d return it onto the next flight to HKG so was only borrowing it not misappropriating it 🙂

    The transit check point was extremely efficient and quick a large part which seemed to be down to the fact it was a relatively lax security check point. I forgot to take my laptop out of my bag for example and I beeped when going through the metal detector and no action was taken on either.

    I made my way to the Al Moujan lounge which was pleasingly quiet and made a beeline to the quiet zone. This area was actually a much better set up than I expected. A semi-private room is allocated to you until your departing flight so you are free to come and go. Each consised a chaise longe and a second chair with footstool. There was an area to place luggage and hang coats as well as a large TV which unfortunately only displays the departure information.

    I left my things and made my way to the main dining area and had a light meal. Busied myself in the Business Centre for a little while to allow the food to digest before popping my valium. I don’t know why but every time I visit the Al Mourjan lounge I encounter diva-like european passengers intent on giving the staff grief. Whilst in the Business Centre a european gent of very much self important entered with a coffee. The sweet Business Centre host advised him that unfortunately drinks were not allowed in the business centre. This fool argued and argued instead of just following the reasonable request. I felt so sorry for the poor staff member who was still being so patient that I stood up walked over and said ‘listen, i’d love a flat white while tapping away in here too. But there is a clear sign on the door saying that there is no drinks or food allowed and I guess that’s so the equipment isn’t damaged. I have to follow the rules – why don’t you think you do’? He tutted, got up and left.

    It was definitely a fitting time for my valium so I retired to my little alcove and tried to sleep a little. I was comfortable enough but only managed a couple hours nap time. Not for next time – BRING EARPLUGS. There was a lot of snoring going on.
    By this time I had another three of four hours to kill so went for another feed (this time at the deli area) and then had a shower. I then left the lounge and had a wander around the shops. In the end the nine hours wasn’t too bad and I was glad I didn’t shell out £200 on a hotel room.

    I made my way to my Hong Kong flight which was boarding at the B gates.

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    Drsimon
    Participant

    i only wish i had persevered with the booking i had – as it appears we suffered exactly the same issue – i booked when daily and was then messed around with dates and times as you were – so in the end i went back to reliable emirates (not to all i understand but they have been good to me so far) i really wanted to try qatar but with their changes of flights i was unable to continue my booking – great read and really miffed i missed trying them!
    and totally agree with you re copenhagen lounges – even their SAS lounge is in no way comparable to a normal business lounge – at least emirates uses the novia apartment lounge which is better than the normal novia one – but i agree the aspire lounge is terrible in comparison (although is generally quieter?)


    TominScotland
    Participant

    rferguson – fantastic and informative review as ever. We did Pisa – Auckland as part of what must have been the same crazy pricing (€960 return!! in Business). Our schedule was also altered on the outbound via Melbourne as the start for the DOH – AKL was delayed by a week.

    I am sure the (only) Pisa lounge beats your Copenhagen experience for poor catering and general facilities except the seats which have old style sitting room comfort.

    Interesting that you like the 787 seat (I am booked on it next month). I found the A319 seat good for a daytime flight but the QR 777-300 seat one of the most uncomfortable I have been on when (almost) flat- a ridge in just the wrong place.

    Catering was fine – no real wow factor, I have to say.

    We had a long transit on the way back, no room booked and chose just to find a quiet place – some of the general seating is great and sleep was no problem.

    Safe return!!


    rferguson
    Participant

    Tominscotland – EUR960 rtn! WOW!!

    I don’t really buy into the ‘middle east airlines are subsidised’ theory but I definitely cannot see how they can be realistically turning a profit. Well definitely not QR or EY anyway. I paid £1280 return from CPH to ADL. They had another sale after I booked my ticket with J seats to Australia for around £1500. And on the day of departure the flight still left with six empty J seats. It was a similar scenario last year when I flew OSL-Australia.


    Alex_F.
    Participant

    Another great review/post rferguson. Thanks!

    Surprises me that there is such heavy discounting to Australia / NZ, especially to secondary ports like ADL. QR must be trying to chip away at EK’s market share (Qantas has given up on ADL for international and handed it to EK under the JV). That said, Adelaide is a small market and I wonder if there is room for more capacity there (hence QR pulling back?).

    As for AKL, I guess the QR brand is new there and they’re trying to get a leg up against incumbents Air New Zealand and even Qantas to Middle East and Europe.

    The QR product looks great. I’ve never flown them but your review has made me want to try them. Thanks also for the photos!

    Happy flying.


    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    Alex_F – Nothing unusual. There has been “such heavy discounting” to Oz for decades. Most passengers are flying sixth-freedom and these carriers can only fill their aircraft through creative pricing.

    Thai International, SIA, MAS, PAL and Garuda were the original discounters between Europe and Australia some 35-40 years ago. The Gulf carriers and, more recently, the airlines of mainland China are following in their footsteps.


    rferguson
    Participant

    Just got off a Qatar A350 from Adelaide. What a FANTASTIC aircraft. Such a sense of space it’s incredible – far superior to the 787.

    However….despite all the deals that have been going since the launch of the route (ie my £1280 round trip from europe) as well as deals in economy Business Class was still only around three quarters full and I don’t think economy was even half full.

    I also found the catering interesting. The main meal was exactly the same as my CPH-DOH leg. I mean identical not just similar. From the soup to the starters to the mains to the dessert. I found that a little disappointing. I know airlines often have the same or similar choices on routes but they usually have different menus at least for eastbound and westbound flights.


    rferguson
    Participant

    Part two – DOH-HKG.
    787.
    Full flight
    Seat 3K

    Boarding:
    40mins before departure. Warmly welcomed and shown to seat. I was cheerily welcomed by the eastern european stewardess serving my side who also took the time to introduce herself and explain the location of the bottle of water and headphones. The same pre departure drinks were offered as per the last flight along with the menu, drinks list, washbag (old style) and offer of a hot or cold towel. Qatar has obviously made it a focus that the onboard cabin senior give personal introductions in Business now. I was briefly welcomed by the Filippina CSD. PJ’s were also handed out on this night sector.
    The drink and meal order for both the post take off and pre landing meals were taken on the ground and the stewardess asked if I wanted to be woken up before landing.
    As was the case for all my QR flights the flight was boarded, closed up and ready to push exactly on time.

    The flight.
    This flight took on a very different environment to my daylight inbound flight from CPH. Departure time was just after midnight and the flight duration was a brisk seven and a half hours so most of the customers in business class wanted to bed down pretty quick or just have a quick snack instead.

    The crew were very switched on and conducted the snack service very efficiently. Most passengers seemed to have something but for those wanting to sleep there was no disturbance from trolleys in the cabin etc as the service is completely hand run.

    The ‘Late night dining’ menu had loads of options:
    Soup of the day. Asparagus, mixed beans, blueberry and walnut salad with choice of grilled chicken or goats cheese. Mediterranean vegetable sandwich in grilled ciabatta bread. Stir fried beef fillet in black pepper sauce. Wild mushroom and mascarpone raviloi. Cheese plate. Desserts.

    Breakfast menu:
    Starters: Fresh OJ. Strawberry and banana smoothie. Carrot and ginger energizer. Fresh fruit. Choice of cereals. Greek yoghurt with strawberry compote and granola. Bircher muesli. Smoked salmon with horseradish and chive potato salad.
    Mains: Traditional arabic breakfast of feta, cucumber, tomato, olives, balila and arabic bread. Tomato omelette with grilled beef patty. Buttermilk pancake with pineapple and ginger.

    I had ordered the chicken salad which was delicious and presented beautifully but most important was delivered and cleared away quickly. I slept for a good few hours and woke up around two hours out of HKG. It is very gentle the way the QR crew wake you up for breakfast. When the stewardess noticed I was awake she immediately brought me a hot towel, left me for a few minutes to compose myself and then came and took a drink order.
    For breakfast I only had the salmon starter which was a good portion and again beautifully presented. Once again the CSD came around and asked passengers if they enjoyed their flight.

    We were circling in a holding pattern and landed at HKG five minutes shy of our schedule.

    I made my way through transit security and off to the lounge to await my CX flight to ADL a few hours later.


    rferguson
    Participant

    Part 3 – HKG – ADL on CX
    A330-300

    Departure:
    Hong Kong is one of my favourite airports in terms of airport facilities, shopping and lounges so although I had a transit of around four hours it wasn’t too much of a drag. Transit security from my inbound QR flight was an absolute breeze and although I was close to The Pier I decided to give my legs some much needed exercise and walked all the way to The Wing where I had a coffee and snack.

    I really like how all CX’s lounges in HKG take on a really different design DNA and although I much prefer The Pier, I still enjoyed my quick visit to the wing. After a wander around the shops and forgot about Australias ridiculous policy on liquid Duty Free purchases. Basically anything over 100ml is not allowed – even when purchased beyond airport security and in a sealed duty free bag. There is a secondary security check at the gate for flights to Australia and any liquids are confiscated. I’d planned on buying a coffret of perfumes as a gift but when the sales assistant told me she would have to unseal the box, open it, take the individual bottles out and place them in a clear plastic bag I changed my mind. Oh! But of course you can buy Duty Free on arrival in Australia at inflated prices. Convenient that.

    I made my way to The Pier where I could easily spend half a day. I love the aesthetic of this lounge, it’s usually relatively quiet and the food options are better than The Wing. When boarding time came I made my way to the gate area where the Australian bound flights depart and proceeded though the secondary check. Boarding started about forty minutes before departure with priority to Business Class passengers.

    Boarding.
    It’s been a while since i’ve flown CX and i’d always been a fan so I was interested to see how they would compare to QR.

    I was greeted at the door by the cabin senior and directed to my seat. I’d chosen a window seat half way down the cabin to avoid any noise from the galleys at the front and back of the Business Class cabin.

    When Cathay first launched these seats they really were something special. And to a degree they still are far superior on what is found on many other airlines. The whole cabin appeared drab and tired however. These A330’s are definitely in need of a bit of TLC. The colours are faded, the lockers small, the toilets old fashioned and the lighting old school. The difference between the QR cabins (including the QR A330 I had for my final DOH-CPH sector) and this CX one was quite stark.

    The seat is pretty much the 1.0 version of the seat also found on QR’s newer aircraft although there are some noticeable differences. Stowage areas are very limited on CX and the TV flips out from a side console on CX whereas the TV and table unit are fixed in front of you on the QR version.

    Welcome drinks, hot towels, menus and wash bags were distributed.
    Boarding was complete and the door closed. At this point we were also notified of an ninety unspecified Air Traffic Control delay during which time we would be kept on the stand. The captain was very apologetic and explained it affected all flights departing HKG at that time and the delay completely caught the crew off guard. He was very good with the updates soon coming back on the public address to announce the delay would be around one and a half hours. And then again after that to give us the time we were due to be airborne. The CSD was lovely and took this opportunity to come and welcome passengers and she apologised for the delay also. During the delay the what would have been post take off drinks service was completed on the ground which was served with a ramekin of nuts. Around an hour later the crew began to prepare the aircraft for it’s departure. Ninety minutes later we were in the night sky.

    The flight.
    Once we were in the air the crew immediately began the dinner service. I’m not sure if some of the stewardesses had hot dates lined up in Adelaide and were unhappy with the delay or what but the crew (with one exception (the steward) plus the CSD) were generally a bit off. I appreciated the desire for them to get the service done ASAP – it would benefit both passengers and crew – but it was literally pretty much thrown out. Zero interaction, no smiles, no niceties whatsoever.

    Business Class catering never was one of CX’s strongest points even some years ago and that is still the case. It definitely lags behind it’s main competitors in asia and the middle east. There is no choice of starter, food is served on a tray from a trolley and the main courses are not ‘plated’. Other little things I noticed also – there isn’t even salt and pepper on the trays anymore. Sachets are available ‘on request’ now.
    That being said what I do like about CX’s catering is they always service two full meals on the HKG to Australia flights which are generally around eight to nine hours in duration.

    The dinner menu was:
    Starter: Herbed balik salmon with asparagus and dill mustard mayonnaise with side salad.
    Mains: Pan fried chicken with ginger and rice. Pan fried sea bream with bacon and vegetables. Lamb korma with saffron basmati rice. Mushroom agnolotti with truffle cream sauce.
    Dessert: chocolate mousse and crumble or baked lemon tart. Cheese and biscuits.

    I had the starter and chicken main and passed on the cheese or dessert and instead tried to get another cat nap in. I napped for a few hours and woke up just before the lights were switched on two hours before arrival into Adelaide. Another full hot meal was served and as always I enjoyed the chinese dim sum.

    Breakfast menu:
    Starters: juice, smoothie, fresh fruit, bircher muesli.
    Mains: Scrambled egg, sausage, bacon, tomato. Selection of dim dum. Salted chicken congee.

    WIFI/IFE: The A330’s are not wifi equipped. The IFE offers an excellent amount of programs a lot of which are dedicated to the various markets in asia they serve.

    Arrival.
    We ended up landing just over an hour late. I wasn’t sure what to expect on arrival in Adelaide. It only has a handful of international arrivals so that could mean passport control is super quick or dreadfully slow. Thankfully it was the former with most of the arrival (and departure) procedures automated. Another bonus with this great little airport is that International and domestic flights are combined in one very compact terminal unlike Sydney, Melbourne or Brisband where transiting is a pain.

    Cathay used to be my favourite airline to fly on. Whilst for me personally their HKG lounges are still the best in the world onboard could do with a refresh if it is to stay at the top of the league.


    FrequentPR
    Participant

    rferguson, great reports.

    However could I point out that transiting in MEL is not a pain in terms of transferring between terminals because unlike Sydney and Brisbane, Melbourne has its terminals 1 – 3 all together while 4 (the newest, but not great) can be accessed through a passageway from T3. In contrast Brisbane requires a train or bus transfer between domestic and international as does Sydney.

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