Good Advice Tried and Tested

Qatar Airways B777-200 business class

16/11/2012

First impressions: I arrived at Doha International Airport’s Premium Terminal at 0645 for my 0750 departure on QR11 to London Heathrow. I hadn’t checked in, so went to do so at one of the desks, sitting in a comfortable chair as I learned that the price for my failure was not getting an aisle seat (4J). Immigration and security were very quick, and then I went up the escalators and turned left for the business class lounge.

The lounge: It was busy at this time of the morning, with only a few seats left, but the service was excellent and within a few minutes I had got myself a cup of tea and some cereal, and had a lovely large cappuccino made and brought to the table. Half an hour later at 0700 someone walked around the lounge quietly announcing the London flight, and I went back down to the Gate and took a bus out to the aircraft.

Once on board my jacket as taken and I was offered a water or orange juice. The captain announced there would be a 30-minute delay because of air traffic congestion, and we were airborne by 0820 which was better than I had expected. The flight time was announced as six hours and 50 minutes, and our breakfast orders were taken before take-off. In addition the cabin services director came round and introduced himself and chatted about the flight and the weather we could expect on landing in London.

The seats: This Boeing 777 aircraft has a total of 259 seats in two classes: economy and business. The business seating was in two cabins of 2-2-2 configuration (AC- EF-JK., starting at row 1-4 and the continuing after the galley in 5-7 for a total of 42 business class seats. To see a seat plan, click here.

The in-flight entertainment was switched on before take-off, and though it was interrupted to show the flight safety video, it continued uninterrupted throughout take off and the rest of the flight, and the majority of passengers were watching it for most of the time when not sleeping. After take-off the cabin attendants closed many of the window blinds to allow people to sleep more easily (and also watch the IFE to stop the screens having sunshine on them).

Already at the seat were noise-cancelling headphones and a small cloth bag containing ear plugs, flight socks and eye mask. We were also given an amenity bag with hand cream, lip balm and eau de toilette (Attimo pour home by Salvatore Ferragamo).

Which seat to choose: In the two cabins I would avoid row four where I was, for potential noise from the galley, though there was very little of that on this flight and since it was a day flight it was quite useful having the flight attendants so close. Since the configuration is 2-2-2 you have the situation that the window seat passenger has to climb over the aisle passenger if fully reclined but there is a lot of room in these seats, and even when reclined fully flat (and these were the fully flat seats) it’s quite possible to do so if able bodied.

Food and drink: on offer was Qatar’s new Culinary World Menu with celebrity chefs offering some dishes. The breakfast choice was as follows:

  • Almond milk and yoghurt smoothie, orange juice, laban.
  • Toasted muesli, fresh fruits, smoked tuna with cucumber and spinach salad.
  • Main courses: Bombay masala omelette, chilli garlic sausages and grilled cherry tomatoes; wild mushroom frittata with wilted spinach, sautéed potatoes with onions, tomato and mushroom sauce; Arabic breakfast plate, foul medames, labneh ball with egg and mushroom spring roll. 

All main dishes are accompanied by a choice of rosti potato with radish, roasted tomato, chicken and herb patties and condiments. There was also a choice of coffees and teas.

Wines on board (though it was a little early for me) were Lanson Brut 1999, or Bollinger Rose, Albert Bichot Chassagne Montrachet, 2007, Burgundy, France; Craggy Range Te Muna Vineyard, 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand, Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Spatlese 2010, Mosel Valley, Germany. Chateau Monbousquet AC St Emilion Grand Cru, 2006, Bordeaux, France; Kangarilla Road, 2009, McLaren Vale, South Australia, Frescobaldi, Castel Giocondo, Brunello de Montalino, 2003, Tuscany, Italy, Kopke, Colheita, 1974, Douro Valley, Portugal.

The indulgence menu was king crab tacos, cauliflower soup, Arabic mezze, poached salmon salad, smoked turkey and mozzarella toasted focaccia, cheese plate (mature cheddar, castello blue and port salut), fresh fruits.

The service on the flight was excellent. I worked for most of the flight and was regularly offered delicious lattes and then mint tea from the menu (once they knew those were my choices), as well as a bottle of water for everyone, especially those who were going to sleep.

The staff took time to tidy the cabin, picking up litter as they walked through, the spacious toilets available both at the front and rear were kept clean throughout the flight, and there was a choice of reading matter in the magazine racks and a wide range of newspapers had been offered on take-off.

At both the beginning of the flight and when we landed the cabin services director chatted with us all and shook hands, while the flight attendant serving our seats had also introduced herself, and crouched down to talk us through the menu. This was a seriously confident performance by a very good crew.

Verdict: the seat is superb – fully flat, with several positions for sleeping and eating, the IFE top notch, the service excellent. It’s hard to see how Qatar could improve this seven hour flight. Only negative? A 30-minute delay on take-off which was shortened to 15 minutes by the time we arrived, and that was because of Doha Airport – and there’s a new airport coming next year. I wish Heathrow could solve its problems so quickly.

Contact: qatarairways.com

Tom Otley