BACKGROUND Qatar Airways has daily departures from Doha to both Washington DC and New York JFK, with a new daily departure starting on March 30 to Houston. The first two routes use the B777-300ER, with the Houston route using a newly delivered B777-200LR. The majority of the B777-300ER and all of the new B777-200LR aircraft have Qatar’s new fully-flat business class seating on board, which will eventually be retro-fitted across its long-haul fleet.
CHECK-IN I was on the 1010 QR51 flight from Doha to Washington DC. There is a separate Premium terminal at Doha International airport for business and first class passengers and I arrived here early at about 0730. Check-in is completed at comfortable seats in front of desks.
THE LOUNGE The business and first class lounges are roughly the same size but the latter has a spa at the far end (treatments for a fee). On the first floor there is a large business centre, a games room, prayer rooms, and plenty of space to work.
BOARDING I was informed it was time to board at 0950 so I headed downstairs. For flights to the US there is a further round of security, and this took place on a bus immediately outside the door with another X-ray machine on board. Another bus then took passengers to the aircraft.
THE SEAT Having flown two days earlier on the London-Doha route in business class, the immediate difference between the old and new business class cabins is the amount of extra space passengers get – new seats have a pitch of 198cm/78in (up from 156cm/61.5in for the angled lie-flat seat) and seats A and K have three windows each (apart from in rows one and four). The B777-300ER has two classes with 42 business and 293 economy seats. Business class is configured 2-2-2 (A-B, E-F, J-K) with rows one to four in the front cabin and rows five to seven in the middle cabin. Storage is impressive – there are large overhead lockers and a good-sized bin under the seat in front. Nice touches include space for shoes, a side pocket for magazines, and a large table that comes out of the arm.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Avoid row one because of its close proximity to the washrooms and the lack of storage space in front. If you want direct aisle access, then seats E and F are the ones to choose. On the basis of this flight and the return flight I took, families are put in the middle cabin so business travellers would be advised to choose the front one.
THE FLIGHT The food order was taken shortly after take-off. Service was on-demand so one passenger asked to have it in a couple of hours’ time since he had just eaten. For lunch there was a “palate pleaser” of palm heart with herb cream cheese, then a choice of starters including curried butternut-squash soup and Arabic meze. The main courses were seared tenderloin of Australian beef with spring root vegetables, Atlantic salmon with gratin of horseradish potato and dill, and cellophane noodles with mountain vegetables. There was also a cheese platter, two choices of desserts, and tea and coffee. As well as lunch there were snacks and, later, another four-course meal. The wines were excellent and included Laurent-Perrier Brut Millésimé 1999 champagne.
The AVOD in-flight entertainment is impressive, although there was a lot of trouble starting it, but once up and running it worked well. In business class the seat-back screen is controlled by a handset, and three-point plug sockets have been fitted on board.
ARRIVAL We arrived slightly early at Washington Dulles International airport and disembarked on to a “mobile lounge”. At the airport, there was the customary giant queue for immigration.
VERDICT One of the best business class products available. A fully-flat bed, lots of space, great service, excellent entertainment and a good Premium terminal.
CONFIGURATION 2-2-2 (A-B, E-F, J-K) in business and 3-3-3 in economy (A-B-C, D-E-F, H-J-K)
SEAT PITCH 198cm/78in
IFE SCREEN 40cm/15.5in
PRICE Return business class flights from Doha to Washington started from £2,058.