Tried & Tested

Qatar Airways A340-600 business class

31 May 2012 by BusinessTraveller

CHECK-IN I took the tube to London Heathrow T4 and arrived at 1805. I headed to business class check-in (there were no queues throughout the different classes of check-in). I dropped my luggage off and was directed to gate six. A couple of minutes’ walk brought me to security, where I went through the fast-track queue (again, there were no queues at either fast-track or regular security) and I was through by 1815. Gate six was a minute or two from here, and directly opposite was Qatar Airways’ recently opened T4 lounge.

THE LOUNGE As you enter, the first things you notice are the mahogany moucharabieh frescos and the silently-flowing, meditative water feature. The lounge was extremely peaceful, and although it was dotted with people, it was almost silent, apart from the soothing music that was playing. The warm lighting, neutral colours and incredibly comfortable armchairs that you just sink into made it a relaxing space to be – most people were engrossed in a magazine or their iPad in the main area.

There were two slightly separate areas with corner sofas, one of which had a medium-sized flatscreen TV (this was the family area). I settled into one of the armchairs by the window wall, and about a minute afterwards, a member of staff greeted me and offered me a drink. There was a fridge in the main area stocked with soft drinks (water, cola and energy drinks) and a choice of magazines laid out on coffee tables (including Business Traveller).  

Leading on from this main lounge area is the martini bar. Potted baby trees sprouted through the centre of the chic white tables, which surrounded the dazzling silver circular bar. A turquoise cushioned leather wall with alcove seating forms a corner with a glass case wall stocked with wines – past the wine wall is the dining area.  High-backed wicker chairs adorned with floral patterns and a sleek mosaic floor added to the eclectic feel of the design.

The intimate dining space had black walls supporting light fixtures that hung low over white-clothed tables. There were two tables laid out with a buffet of Arabic food; one with savoury dishes and one with desserts. There was seafood, olives, hummus (smooth and chunky), tabbouleh salad, pâtés and cold meats with fruit garnishes, profiteroles, macaroons, mini cheesecakes and baklava.  There were roughly ten tables in total, and a couple of them were occupied by lone travellers.

I took a seat and was offered a drink by a friendly member of staff, who recommended a white wine to me and chatted with me about my trip to Doha. At the end of the dining space was what looked like a small private dining section, partitioned off with moucharabieh sliding doors, with seats upholstered in gold leather, and a light fixture with hanging candles.

As I left the restaurant at about 1910, cakes and savoury snacks were being laid out at the martini bar, which was beginning to fill out with people. I headed to the business centre, which leads off from the lounge area, and spent some time checking emails. The business centre had three PCs and a printer. I then left the lounge briefly to buy some batteries, and shortly after I returned, we were called to board at 1935.

BOARDING Although premium passengers have the option to board a little later, I decided to board straight away, and walked to gate six, which was a few seconds from the lounge. There was a long queue for economy passengers already, and just one person before me in the premium queue. I was greeted and shown to my seat, where I was settled by 1940.

THE SEAT Business class, with a seat configuration of 2-2-2, was divided into two sections, separated by a food preparation area and toilets. The section in front, had five rows, and the section behind, which I was seated in, had two. The seat was angle-lie flat, with a recline of 165 degree and a seat width of 20.5in/52cm. It was upholstered in red fabric with a leather headrest, with button controls in the armrest to control the recline. Sitting upright, I could stretch my legs out in front of me with room to spare.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? My seat was 17E, an aisle seat in the middle of the back row of the first section. I was occasionally disturbed by people going to the toilet ­– there were toilets at the back of the section, as well as a food preparation area – but at least the aisle felt quite wide. I would probably go for a window seat in rows 16-17 (because this section had fewer rows, and therefore more privacy) if you’d prefer to avoid this. For a seatplan of this A340-600 aircraft, click here.

THE FLIGHT Once I was in my seat, a member of cabin crew took my jacket to hang it up and asked me which newspaper I’d like and what I’d like to drink. My choices were brought to me straight away, along with a pyjama set. The grey cotton set had a purple and white-striped collared, long-sleeved top and drawstring, jogging bottom-style trousers, and there was a large eye mask with a Velcro strap. A thick blanket, a good-sized pillow and a Molton Brown amenity kit were already in my seat – the amenity kit provided body lotion, cooling spray, ”vitamin lip saver”, “moisture lock” a foldable hairbrush/comb and earplugs.

Take-off announcements began at 2015. Hot towels were offered to passengers and a smiley member of crew introduced herself and asked what I’d like to drink after take-off. The lights were dimmed and we took off on time at 2030. Ten minutes into the flight, the drinks we’d requested were served – I was brought a glass of champagne, which was served with olives.

It took me a while to realise that the control for the IFE (in-flight-entertainment) system was located within my armrest. The remote control attached to a retractable wire was easy to use, and there was a reasonable choice of films and TV shows, although a couple of options such as news channels and games didn’t seem to be working, or perhaps hadn’t been updated.

Just under an hour into the flight, a crewmember asked what I’d like to order for dinner. There were three choices for each course. About fifteen minutes after ordering, I was served some warm bread rolls and butter before my starter arrived. I chose a classic Arabic mezze (flatbread and olives served with a few dips including hummus and baba ganoush). Other options included seafood cocktail or broad bean and zatar soup with croutons. Then for my main I chose paneer jalfrezi, dhal makhani and safed pulao – it was mild, which was to my taste, and served with white rice.

Other options were stuffed chicken breast with pesto, ricotta cheese, red pepper coulis, lentil rice and roasted Mediterranean vegetables, or pan-fried seabass with green tea and bonito flake lemon butter soba noodles, braised shitake mushrooms and asparagus. A cheese plate was served before dessert, where I opted for vanilla ice cream and rose water and pomegranate sorbet with forest berries (instead of the other options, which were warm pumpkin and sultana brioche pudding with raspberry cream or sliced fresh fruit). After eating, I was offered a tea or coffee.

There was a good selection of wine on offer. The champagne was Lanson Brut, 1998 and there were three whites, three reds and a port, (Kopke Colheita Port, 1974, winner of the Best Business Class Fortified and Sweet wine in Business Traveller’s Cellars in the Sky Awards 2011).

I watched a film as I ate my meal, after which I reclined my seat to its flattest angle and slept for a couple of hours.  I found the seat was flat enough for me to sleep well, although I did wake a couple of times as I’d slid down my seat, and also because the cabin temperature seemed to be a little hot. I did have to bend my knees a little as I slept (I’m five-foot-eight) and found I was most comfortable on my side.

I woke when the PA announced that we’d begun our descent at 0445 local time. The cabin lights gradually turned on, and flight attendants passed around hot towels again. I was asked if I’d like my coat back and was offered a hot drink. A short video was shown on the IFE system about how passengers would be transported to the terminal and what passengers should do if they have a connecting flight to catch.

ARRIVAL We landed at 0534 local time. Business class disembarked from both the front and the back – I was one of the first people off the plane. An airport staff member with a sign greeted the group I was travelling with, and we were put straight onto a carpeted, air-conditioned bus with about 12 leather and fabric armchairs.

The drive to the terminal took under ten minutes, and we were dropped off by a set of doors that led straight through to passport control. We queued for about ten minutes in the fast-track queue. I was travelling as a group of four, and we all had to secure and pay for visas, which took about fifteen minutes). Afterwards, we walked for less than a minute to baggage reclaim and waited for five minutes for our bags. We were in our taxi by 0620.

VERDICT Qatar Airways’ Heathrow lounge is luxurious and sophisticated without compromising on comfort, and the excellent service I received from check-in to the end of the flight was a credit to the airline.

FACTFILE

Rose Dykins

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