This was Qatar Airways’ inaugural flight from London Gatwick to Doha.
I did a video review of the flight which you can watch below.
The carrier used to fly the route but ceased in 2012.
It recently announced the resumption.
Various reasons have been given for the return of the service. Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker, said the route was once again possible because of the feed gained from British Airways at Gatwick Airport. But it is also true that there were slots available as a result of British Airways owner IAG buying airline Monarch, leading to it gaining more slots than it had aircraft to fly them. It therefore leased some of these slots to Qatar Airways.
There have been doubts expressed as to how long the flights will operate from London Gatwick, however. At present they are only available until October 28, 2018, but the CEO said this was only temporary and the flights will be loaded onto the website and be available for booking.
As far as this summer is concerned, Qatar Airways will operate 95 flights to the UK per week, including six daily departures to London Heathrow, 16 weekly departures to London Gatwick and Manchester, and daily flights to Cardiff and Edinburgh, alongside seven flights per week to Birmingham. The schedule from Gatwick is as follows:
Doha – London Gatwick Flight Schedule:
Doha (DOH) to London Gatwick (LGW) QR 327 departs 0830, arrives 1330 daily
Doha (DOH) to London Gatwick (LGW) QR 329 departs 0210, arrives 0710 daily
Doha (DOH) to London Gatwick (LGW) QR 331 departs 1500, arrives 2000 Fri, Sat (from 15 Jun to 29 Sep)
London Gatwick – Doha Flight Schedule:
London Gatwick (LGW) to Doha (DOH) QR 328 departs 1525, arrives 0005 daily
London Gatwick (LGW) to Doha (DOH) QR 330 departs 0900, arrives 1740 daily
London Gatwick (LGW) to Doha (DOH) QR 332 departs 2130, arrives 0610 Fri, Sat (from 15 Jun to 29 Sep)
I arrived at London Gatwick at 1320 for my 1535 departure on QR328. There was no queue at check-in and I was given a card for fast track and also a piece of paper inviting me to the No 1 Lounge.
Apparently the plan is for Qatar Airways to use the Aspire Lounge but there was some kind of problem with the lounge (a flood was one rumour, though I couldn’t confirm that).
I was quickly through security and then made my way to the lounge, which as usual was absolutely packed, with superb staff retaining their sense of humour and service values in the face of overwhelming demand.
There was a bit of a party at the gate (you can watch the string quartet performance on the video).
Somehow I had left my passport at check-in, so this was given back to me before boarding.
All passengers were also given a slice of cake (well, it had run out by the time I got there), and a baseball cap, which you can see me wearing for a very short time in the video review to be posted shortly. That should be reason enough to avoid watching it.
The Qatar Airways B787 Dreamliner has two classes: economy (232 seats) and business (22 seats). We have reviewed this flight previously, in fact, on the delivery flight from Seattle to Doha.
By now you have probably flown on a B787, but it’s worth mentioning that particularly in this configuration, you have a real sense of space on entering the aircraft, partly because of the design with no overhead lockers over the centre seats and a sort of standing area with a table on one side and a magazine rack on the other. There are only 22 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration (A-EF-K) and the low profile of the seats means you feel very tall.
The seat is in the deep ruby purple of Qatar Airways corporate livery and the seat cloth has a Prince of Wales detailing. At the seat was a large purple padded blanket and the Brics amenity bag – blue for men, beige for women. The seat is large, reclining to a bed length of 80 inches, and a bed width of 30 inches and is comfortable in many different positions, from the upright take off / work and landing position to fully flat as a bed.
Storage includes large overhead lockers over the window seats, watch your head if you are sitting under these – I saw someone bang their head. There is a drawer for shoes (not easy to spot), a space under one of the arms for a bottle of water and the noise-cancelling headphones, a large side table area which has a magazine rack, and the tray table which slides out from under the large 17-inch IFE touch screen with a further fold-out portion. The tray table typifies the seat, being strong, practical, and designed in such a way that you can push it back under the screen when you want to get out of the seat without having to remove everything. Finally there is another storage space next to the power socket.
The IFE system (Thales i8000) has a huge amount of content on it, but I find the interaction between the handset and the touchscreen difficult. After struggling with it I asked for the system to be reset (this takes about ten minutes) and it never really worked, though the flight attendants were excellent and offered a couple of times to move me forward to the vacant seat in front (4F).
Luckily, the IFE screen is easy to turn off, so you are not disturbed by the light from it, and the smaller handset also turns off so it does not shine in your face from its position in the armrest. The armrest closest to the aisle can be electronically operated up and down via the seat controls, so if you want to trade off a narrower bed for the feeling of security of having the armrest there between you and the aisle, it’s an option, or you can lower it and take advantage of an even wider bed.
There is a reading light over one shoulder and an overhead one controlled from the handheld device, though because of the problems I had with that, I never got it to work. The seat is easy to recline and meets a small footstool tucked away under the IFE screen to create a comfortable and wide (22 inches) fully flat bed.
I was in a centre seat 5F. These are good if you are travelling together since they are angled towards one another and it’s easy to talk. If you don’t want that then there’s a central divider which can be raised (it is up when you first get on board) and that gives a fair amount of privacy.
The window seats are angled towards the window so you can make the most of the views and there is a control on each allowing you to dim them or lighten them according to how much light you would like in though the flight attendants ultimately control this.
The windows are also very obvious since there are no walls in their way except the shell of the seats – these larger windows (18.5 by 11 inches; 47 by 28 cm) allow a lot of light into the cabin.
At the far end of the bed next to the footstool on the window seats the side of the frame of the seat has been cut out, so you actually get a few extra inches for your toes to stretch out in these seats compared to the pair of seats in the centre of the aircraft, though I wouldn’t imagine anyone is promoting different seat lengths (and they aren’t really, but if you are tall I think you’d notice it).
When I boarded I was welcomed and taken to my seat. My jacket was taken and I was offered a choice of drinks (Champagne, orange juice, water, or a signature mint drink). Menus were offered (reproduced below).
The captain came on to tell us there would be a significant delay in the flight because of the latest French Air Traffic Controller’s strike. As it turned out, this delay stretched to 90 minutes, but the flight attendants kept coming round apologising, took our orders for food, topped up glasses and the captain made sure we got off the stand in good time to clear it for other aircraft and were ready to take-off if a window appeared earlier than the one we had been given. There wasn’t much he could do, however, and we had a 90 minute delay which during the course of the flight was reduced to 60 minutes.
It’s worth noting that a lot of passengers had connecting flights, including one lady I was speaking to at the gate who was flying to Perth. When we got off at Doha there were people holding signs with those flights on and Qatar held a number of flights so passengers could make their connections.
Once we had departed I tried to inflight wifi. In business class you get the first 30 minutes or 8MB for free. In all honesty, I think onboard wifi is still in its infancy and can lead to a very frustrating flight if you spend all your time trying to connect, so I connected both my phone and laptop using different emails, and let it download the headers of whatever emails it managed before it ran out, and then turned it off. You can pay for more wifi, but I don’t think it’s worth it on a short flight like this, and I had plenty of work to do without answering emails (such as clearing my inbox from the previous few days.
The drinks service was good, but because it was Ramadan the drinks were served from the galley and the staff didn’t bring around the bottles, so I don’t have photos of them.
The menu follows – please feel free to skip.
Food and drink
- Roasted butternut squash soup, drizzled with chive cream and toasted almonds
- Signature Arabic mezze, hummus, tabbouleh and baba ghanoush served with Arabic bread
- Smoked tenderloin of salmon with radish, cream cheese rillette, keta caviar and pickled apple dressing
- Chicken machboos, machboos rice, crispy onions with cashew nuts and mint raita
- Chargrilled fillet of beef, herb mash potatoes, maple glazed carrots, braised baby onions and horseradish jus
- Paneer tikka masala, coriander mint rice, tempered black eyed beans and makhana sauce with tarka dal
Bread selection with Monte Vibiano olive oils
- Steamed lemon pudding with crème anglais
- Fresh berries with saffron syrup
- Gourmet ice cream selection
The flight attendants asked several times what I thought about the food and to be honest I thought the mezze fairly flavourless and the chicken machboos very dry, although the mint raita helped, and some extra tabasco have it more flavour. The drinks choice was very good.
- Pommery Brut Royal, France
- Drappier, Brut Rose de Saignee, France
- Albert Bichot, Pouilly-Fuisse, 2015, France
- Villa Maria, Cellar Selection, 2016, Marlborough, New Zealand
- Discovery: Swartland, Chenin Blanc, Bush Vine, 2016, Cape Town, South Africa
- Chateau Lynch-Moussas, Grand Cru Classe Paullac 2012
- Killerman’s Run, 2015, Clare Valley, Australia
- Discovery: Terre del Grico, Primitivo, 2012, Italy
- Pedro Ximenez Solera, 1927, Spain
- Gran Cruz, Porto, Douro Valley, Portugal
- Chivas Regal
- Jack Daniel’s
- Belvedere Vodka
- Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin
- Bacardi Carta Blanca White Run
- Martini Extra Dry Vermouth
- Camus XO Elegance
I worked for most of the flight, but reclined the seat to get an hour’s sleep and found it very comfortable, though you have to make sure the table is fully stowed under the IFE screen or your knees get jammed under it when you sleep.
On day flights like this you don’t get pyjamas.
The lighting was dimmed for a few hours in the middle of the flight (and the windows dimmed accordingly). The flight was very smooth, with the seatbelt sign only coming on occasionally.
Before landing we were offered yet more food (‘Light options’) as follows
- Sliders and fries – beef and sweet potato burgers with melted cheese served with chunky chips
- Cheese plate – mature cheddar, Somerset brie and Stilton served with crackers and quince jelly.
I didn’t want anything else to eat so just had some water.
We arrived 60 minutes late and were quickly at the gate. I was staying in Doha so went to immigration where there was no queue. I only had hand luggage so was quickly airside.
The seat is still one of the best business classes and a variation of it is on the A350-900 (you can read reviews of that below). The seat has lots of space for working, resting or sleeping, and the service is excellent.
Qatar Airways has a very modern fleet of aircraft, so as a passenger you get the benefit of that, and excellent food and wine, though as I said, I was a bit disappointed by the food on this flight, and my IFE didn’t work, but I was offered the empty seat in front so that wasn’t a problem. Overall, a very good experience. I’m looking forward to comparing it to the QSuite.