Review of 4 QATAR flights December 2021

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  • MartynSinclair
    Participant

    Summary: this flight review summarises 4 Qatar flights, using 3 aircraft types, involving 4 international airports:

    ** Amsterdam to Doha – 9th December 2021 – QR274 – B777
    ** Doha to BKK – 10th December 2021 – QR836 – B777
    ** BKK to Doha – 22 December 2021 – QR839 – A350
    ** Doha to LHR – 23 December 2021 – QR9 – A380

    Background – visit to BKK for work. Have avoided ME shuffle in the past, but on this occasion, with so many flights cancelling, my TC recommended I should try QATAR based on cost, comfort, and my preference for overnight flights. Two firsts for me, first time on QATAR and first time in QATAR.

    Review – whilst there were individual aspects unique to each flight, overall, what impressed me more than anything was the consistency of the onboard service on all 4 flights. Therefore, it is easier to bullet points the outstanding features, because in the main all 4 flights were amazing!

    • Cabin crew interaction – what a welcome what a service. I lost count of the number of staff coming over to introduce themselves and asking how I would like to be addressed. Throughout all flights, I was addressed by name, cabin crew were smartly turned out, no gum chewers. Call bell test, answered within minutes. 3 of the flights were night flights and there was never an issue with galley chatter, crews with elephant feet stomping up and down the aisles or service trolleys bumping into my seat.

    • Meal Service – no trolleys, all service was individual seat service. Food choice was very wide, except for the last DOHA to London sector (380) as there were limited non-meat options. Cabin crew solution was to bring me the F menu on the proviso, if there is spare, which there was. Loved the fish and chips on the out bound flights. Candlelight service appeared for the return (a battery candle is placed on your tray). A faultless meal offering. Best of all though, the night meal services were undertaken without the cabin lights switched fully on a la Finnair style. This enable those who wanted sleep, to be able to sleep without the glare of bright lights and avoid service.

    • Cabin announcements – always frustrates me on BA, on the ground for ages, cabin announcements in multi languages & then straight after take-off, just as you start to doze off, on comes ‘my personal welcome’ by the cabin manager. Cabin announcements on all the QR night flights were kept to a minimum and on the DOHA to London, short and sweet by the captain and in English only. Safety briefing was football centric, but not overly long.

    • Transit at DOHA, both directions – both arrivals were at remote stands needing a bus transfer. However, first time in a long LONG time, transfer buses for business were not crammed like sardines. A maximum of 12 or so passengers per bus. The AMS – DOHA arrival, the bus took an eternity to reach the terminal, wondered if the remote stand was at another airport. One strange thing about the buses, you couldn’t see out, the windows appeared glazed, unless it was a sunscreen cover to block a bright sun. I would be interested to know the reason behind the restricted view.

    • Transit in DOHA – the airport manages the transit Q’s very well and the fact there was no need to take liquids out of the bag was a real pleasure. The airport was very busy but was through in just a few minutes. Lounges were understandably also very busy, but covid protocols were in place. As this was my first visit to DOHA I also wanted to see the teddy bear, you cant exactly miss it. This is one airport where I would love to have a long layover to enjoy the facilities. As it happens, QATAR have the transfer timings down to a fine art – outbound I had a couple of hours, inbound about an hour.

    • Gate / boarding / airport handling – this was the only part of the QATAR experience that differed between flights.

    o AMSTERDAM to DOHA, airport experience was a complete an utter mess with no QATAR transfer desks open or staff available (I had arrived from LHR). Resulted in me wondering around AMS for around 3 – 4 hours with no boarding pass. Lounge access was surprisingly not a problem, but it was strange and stressful not to have a boarding card. Eventually received when the gate opened

    o DOHA to BKK, boarding area in DOHA utterly chaotic with flight departure q’s merging with so many boarding gates in proximity. Airport was heaving and I was thinking at the time, how different this was to travel elsewhere. Sure, I was conscious of covid protocols, but conversely, it was also a pleasure to see passengers travelling again in such large numbers.

    o BKK-DOHA, with BKK airport devoid of passengers, I was still amazed both QR flights, inbound and outbound parked at the further point of their respective piers, causing long walks. Boarding gate for the 350, was OK, but still very busy.

    o DOHA to LONDON – the 380 boarding gate was a total contrast to the outbound gate. Never experienced a two-tier lounge before, where upper deck passengers were directed upstairs to a separate boarding area. Worked very well.

    • SEATS – to the most important – outbound on 2 x 777’s I was in the new Q suites, facing backwards. First impression of the Q seats was certainly a WOW. But a couple of observations.

    o I am 5’7’’. I would not recommend a rear facing seat because I kept slipping down the seat as I could not angle the seat properly.

    o The leg-well is very tight and with the mechanics of the tray table interfering with part of the space, I found it difficult to get comfy.

    o Return flights on the 350 and 380 were the previous older version of the QR business seat offering. All forward facing (1:2:1), but I found the design far more comfortable when horizontal, which on a night flight, for me, is the most important.

    o IFE was certainly easy to use, a very good selection of films and TV. The moving map did not work on both the outbound flights, not really a major issue.

    • Arrivals – passengers were all asked to remain seated on landing to be disembarked row by row, a la BA style. Except of course no one listened. I understand that airlines are trying to be safe but asking passengers to remain seated on small airbus or commuter is certainly easier than on a large heavy. It didn’t work and quite frankly, I am not sure it really mattered (and that is NOT offering any medical opinions on covid spreading whilst disembarking).

    Summary – QATAR business is certainly not an exclusive offering; for exclusive, use First class. What I found over the 4 flights, was a very high-level service, that I had certainly never received in such a consistent manner before, provided very well on an en-masse basis.

    How QATAR achieve, cabin crew performing in such a professional but respectful manner, a very acceptable food offering, presentation that matches any first class night flight offering, a clean aircraft, comfortable and modern seats… is quite astonishing, especially when most other airlines are struggling to operate the majority of their schedules.

    QATAR have the transit experience down to a fine art and respect that not all passengers on their connecting flights require full service, thus adjusting their cabin protocols accordingly, so those passengers who want to sleep are not disturbed. Mood lighting, especially during a night service, does its job very well.

    As for the 380 bar – again a first for me. Unlike the old VS bar, this was a dedicated and not small, isolated cabin space. I had to try the bar and would have ended up talking to a small group of travellers for the entire flight, had I not pulled myself away to sleep.

    My only real ‘complaint’, the flights were way too short to enjoy the QATAR hospitality and benefits to the fullest. Of course, I did compare to my usual BA long haul (LHR-HKG-LHR). From an onboard service perspective, QATAR beat BA hands down in all areas (remember this was a 4-flight experience), except, I can sleep far better and far longer in the dated club world seat, upstairs window, in the 380 on a longer 12-hour sector.

    HOWEVER,

    Would I use QATAR again to ASIA? My priority for 2022 is to book flights which are likely to get me to my destination. Currently (very sadly) there are very few airlines that offer this presently. I need BKK to open again, but I would certainly use QATAR. BA have already stated their BKK flights will not re start to Q3 of 2022. As for HKG, who knows when the authorities will allow UK business people and tourists in again without a 3 week detention.

    Finally, thank you QATAR for the 4 very enjoyable and consistently high service flights. I wonder what travel possibilities would be like if it wasn’t for the likes of QATAR and similar, providing such comprehensive long-haul options to the Middle East and beyond.


    rferguson
    Participant

    Glad you enjoyed your flights Martynsinclair, Qatar if anything are certainly consistent.

    I just flew back from BKK to the UK on Etihad and like your QR experience this was my first Etihad flight.

    Overall I was really impressed with the seats and the crew onboard. Unfortunately, Etihad is still using COVID as an excuse to offer a reduced meal service which was a little disappointing.

    The observation you make about the flights not being long enough is spot on. Not just from the enjoyment perspective but also the inability to get a decent nights sleep in. With a 6hr50min flight from BKK to the middle east and then roughly the same again from the mid east to western europe it really is a challenge to get a solid 8 hours sleep in (or even six) especially if you want to enjoy the onboard catering AND the zzz’s. I guess that’s how the european airlines with lower service standards can still win a crowd on the non stop routes, especially for those travelling on business. Although the business traveller seems few and far between these days!


    esselle
    Participant

    I sat on a JV board in Qatar for many years and flew out 4 times a year on QR.

    I enjoyed them for their consistency and seemingly constant willingness to innovate. Hamad worked well as an airport and was much more “human” in scale than DXB.

    I well remember one occasion flying from DXB to DOH in their regional business class, which they called First. As the only person in the cabin, I was asked if I would like a glass of champagne before take off. I then watched the attendant open a bottle of Krug. Once airborne, she offered a second glass which I gladly accepted.

    I then watched with horror when, having landed in DOH, she poured the rest of the bottle down the sink as we taxied in towards the terminal!

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    PaulHKG
    Participant

    I do agree with your evaluation. However, on said flights DOH-BKK they now fly A330’s in a 2-2-2 layout…
    In the past I had quite a few of these ‘changes of equipment’; only once for the better.


    Kopite
    Participant

    Superb report Martyn – thank you.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    Stefanol
    Participant

    I believe the A330s, having previously been retired from the QR fleet, despite being relatively young, are now subbing for the grounded A350s along with the A380s, also recently retired before returning to service.

    The odds of getting the A330 and it’s 2 x 2 x 2 business product are pretty high on the shorter routes and even LHR is served with them on a regular basis.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    That’s true Stefanol. DOH-BKK was previously scheduled for an A350.

    Swiss aviation site CH-Aviation reports that the A330s were reactivated last August.

    Initially they were deployed to operate cargo services but some/all later took on passenger flights.

    https://www.ch-aviation.com/portal/news/106296-qatar-airways-reactivates-a330s


    tsav
    Participant

    Excellent and very fair review. I too have been extremely impressed with Qatar Business, the crew, seats, food, everything. Unfortunately shows how BA have lagged behind.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    You may find the link to Trek Trendy’s You Tube channel interesting and it also includes an interview with QATAR’s Chairman. It seems the return of the 380 is short term..

    In case the link doesn’t come through search on You Tube for “IT’S BACK! Qatar Airways A380 First Class *Exclusive Review*” on Trek Trendy’s channel

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    Thanks for the link to Trek Trendy.

    Depends what you mean by “short term.”

    Checking QR’s website one can see that its A380s are being deployed from last month right through the summer season and continuing into winter 2022-2023.

    Yes I agree that nothing is certain in aviation and the schedules could change but QR has (at time of writing) scheduled the A380 for many months ahead.

    The A380 is the only aircraft in QR’s fleet which offers first class.

    Earlier last year blogger Sam Chui interviewed the CEO where he stated “there is no future for the A380.”

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    BPP
    Participant

    Esselle, regarding the ‘disposal’ of a bottle of Krug. Some years ago I had a similar experience in First (Qatar) when the remains of a 50cl bottle of Chateau d’Yquem which I had been enjoying with the desert course was also poured down the sink – sacriledge indeed!


    esselle
    Participant

    Esselle, regarding the ‘disposal’ of a bottle of Krug. Some years ago I had a similar experience in First (Qatar) when the remains of a 50cl bottle of Chateau d’Yquem which I had been enjoying with the desert course was also poured down the sink – sacriledge indeed!

    I am still traumatised; I imagine you are too!!

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