Good Advice Tried and Tested

Qatar Airways A330-200 business class

04/10/2012

Connecting through Doha We arrived on time at Doha International airport from London (for the first leg click here) for the onwards connection to Chongqing on QR848 departing 0115. This was only the second week of operation for this flight, which departs three-times weekly and joins Qatar Airways’ four other Chinese destinations – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

Chongqing is the 110th destination to join Qatar Airways’ network. The launch aircraft is a A330-200 but the intention is for this to be upgraded (at least in terms of passenger capacity) to an A330-300 capable of carrying another 40 passengers in the future.

A bus took business class passengers directly to the premium terminal, where after an x-ray check of bags, we took the escalator up to the premium lounges (business class turn left at the top, first class turn right).

The lounge If you haven’t experienced the premium terminal here, you are in for a treat, but a relatively short-lived one since the New Doha International Airport is slated to open some time at the end of 2012. The lounge has pretty much everything you could need, from a buffet-style area for food to a restaurant, a spa (paid for if flying business) as well as lots of seats. At this time of the night (midnight) the lounge is busy with connecting passengers, but I still had time to get some noodles at the restaurant.

Boarding Our flight was called and, again, a bus took across the airport and then we walked up the steps to the aircraft. Once on board my jacket was taken and I was offered a choice of juices, soft drinks or water.

The seat Qatar Airways has many different configurations of the A330-200. This one was two-class, economy and business, with four rows of business class seating. To see a seat plan, click here.

At the seat were a bag containing flight socks, an eye mask and a toiletry kit with Molton Brown products. There is no seat pocket in front, instead it is like a magazine holder between the seats where a large leather folder contained the food and wine menus.

Which is the best seat? Very difficult to choose on this cabin since they are all very similar. If you are a light sleeper, avoid rows one and four in case of galley noise, and if you want uninterrupted access to the aisle, avoid the window seats. The overhead lockers seem smaller on the A330 than on the B777 we had travelled to Doha in, but I had only a laptop bag so it was no problem. I was in seat 4J but there was a problem with the recline and so moved to 3F which was vacant.

The flight We set off on time for the flight down to Chongqing. Since I had connected through Doha and had eaten both on the flight from London to Doha and again in the lounge, I was focussed on sleeping. Nevertheless, I had a look at the food and wine selection first. The wine selection was excellent:

  • Champagne: Laurent-Perrier Brut 2002
  • White wines: Meursault, Vincent Girardin Vielles Vignes, 2007, Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, Cellar Selection 2010, Riesling, Markus Molitor, Zeltinger Sonnenhur, Spatlese 2007
  • Red wines: Chateau Mobousquet St EMilion Grand Cru 2002, Sangiovese, Poggio Antico, Altero, 2005, Hollick Shiraz 2009
  • Port: Kopke, Colheita 1974. The port I had tasted on the way out and it summed up the list for me. Superb.

Menu selections follow, please skip if they are of no interest. Pre-dinner, there was a “Palate pleaser” of umaki sushi with ginger pickles and wasabi. Then a choice of stir-friend mee hoon with braised prawns, Chinese mixed vegetables; or classic Arabic mezze, or a warm chicken and cheese sandwich served with thai chilli sauce or sliced fresh fruit.

The IFE system is excellent on these flights, with seatback TV screens providing a choice of more than 700 audio and video on demand options. Instead of watching, I fell asleep. The seats here are lie-flat rather than fully-flat as on the B777-200LR aircraft, but it was only a seven hour flight and having put on the supplied sleep suit and socks, eye mask and ear plugs, I slept well for five hours before waking for breakfast.

This was a larger meal with a choice of orange juice, date and banana energizer or cranberry juice, then tropical fruit with greek yoghurt and balik style salmon and breakfast salad with pink grapefruit, spicy lemon dressing. Mains were omelette, congee, pancakes or an Arabic breakfast. There were croissants, pain au chocolate and brown and white toast on offer, as well as teas and coffees.

Arrival we arrived on time at Chongqing.

Verdict Very good. This isn't a fully flat business class seat, but of the lie-flat seats I have flown, it is among the most comfortable. The food and wine choice was good, and the IFE system top of class. The service was as faultless as I had experienced on the London to Doha leg (click here to read this review). All in all, a good flight experience.

Tom Otley