Airline Review: Qatar Airways QR008 Doha-London

Flying to Europe via Qatar is an opportunity to not only break up a long trip but also experience some world-class hospitality, discovers Nick Walton.

Qatar Airways set the benchmark high for itself when it launched its global World’s Five Star Airline campaign, but the Qatari national carrier has performed in leaps and bounds, with a modern fleet, an international cabin crew, an ever-expanding network, and a great service ethos laced with traditional Arabic hospitality.

The Lounge
Business class passengers departing from Doha have access to the airline’s ground-breaking Premium Terminal, a separate airline terminal set aside for first and business class passengers that not only includes exclusive retail, a dedicated bell host service and concierges on hand, but two dedicated lounges with a host of amenities catering to premium travellers.

As I was half way through a journey to London, I took the opportunity to take a shower once arriving at the business class lounge, a sprawling yet tranquil space divided into dining rooms, live cooking stations, bars, and lounge settings. While the business class lounge features modern shower facilities, the adjacent first class lounge also offers sauna and whirlpool facilities as well as innovative sleep rooms for guests with layovers of more than four hours. After my shower, I grazed my way through the world deli counter, where fresh salads and some great traditional Arabic dishes were on offer, and matched my selection with a brilliant New Zealand sauvignon blanc. When our flight was boarding, lounge staff escorted passengers downstairs to departure counters and awaiting buses for the remarkably long transfer across the tarmac to our flight.

Our night flight to London was operated on an Airbus A340-600 aircraft, which was boarded efficiently from the tarmac. Cabin crew greeted us at the top of the boarding stairs and once seated, served a choice of Lanson Brut 1999 or Taittinger Prestige Rosé, as well as both hot and cold towels. They also dished out Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kits and signature Qatar Airways sleeper suits. The cabin crew was welcoming yet impressively efficient and served with a diligence and precision often lost on crews starting their shift at 2am and dealing with travel-weary passengers in mid-journey.

The Seat
My window seat on the three-class A340-600 was Qatar Airways’ penultimate design (the newest version can be found on the airline’s new 787 Dreamliners operating on selected flights between Doha Hong Kong), and one of 42 seats in two business class cabins, configured in a 2-2-2 pattern.  Each lie-flat business class seat features a 165-degree recline, a 20.5-inch width, a 60-inch pitch, a 15-inch personal monitor with access to the airline’s acclaimed in-flight entertainment system, three pre-programmed seating positions, lumbar support and massage systems, and in-flight AC power access. The seats don’t feature USB connectivity, which is a shame as it’s much easier to charge devices with USB cables rather than with power adapters. A small drinks tray slides out of the centre arm rest and a small tray lowers from the seat in front, but overall, despite its comfort, the seat lacks storage space.

Cuisine, both in the lounge and in-flight, is something the airline has championed and despite many passengers deciding to skip the late night meal and sleep, the crew still offered a full dinner service, which started with a choice of soups, from Mediterranean tomato and basil through to Thai tom yum.

This was followed by a choice of organic Scottish salmon with saffron and dill and a ginger butternut purée; braised lamb shank with biryani rice; Oriental chicken with egg noodles and stir fried Asian vegetables; a beef fillet with mozzarella, red pepper coulis, and a mushroom risotto; and roasted guinea fowl with cracked wheat stuffing. Vegetarian options included a spinach and ricotta tortellini in a tomato sauce, with stuffed yellow peppers; and a spicy vegetable curry with yellow lentil dhal and paratha naan.

The beef was cooked to perfection and was beautifully matched with a glass of The Footbolt Shiraz from Australia’s McLaren Vale. After a comfortable sleep en route to London, a full English breakfast of sautéed wild mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, parsley and herb potato cakes, baked beans, and chicken sausages, served with scrambled eggs and piping hot coffee, seemed the logical choice.

What We Loved
The crew on our London flight couldn’t have been better; they served with both charm and efficiency despite a full business class cabin, and regularly patrolled during the night flight, unlike crews on other airlines which tend to hide during night flights.

What We Hated
Doha Airport is in the process of shifting which means bus transfers as long as 25 minutes to reach flights, a daunting prospect at 2am. Also consistency is an issue; our crew on the Hong Kong-Doha and Doha-London flights significantly out-performed their counterparts on the return flights.

Qatar Airways lives up to its lofty persona as a five-star airline and its inflight service, dedicated business and first class terminal, and attention to detail ensure that they are setting new benchmarks for other regional and international airlines to reach.

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