Food and beverage: 9/10
Qatar Airways are riding a huge upswing off the back of the opening of the new Hamad International Airport in Doha (DOH) in May and recently picking up awards for the Best Airline in the Middle East and the World’s Best Business Class in the industry benchmark Skytrax awards. Beating out Etihad and Emirates to the title of the best airline in the region is no easy feat so I was keen to find out how they did it.
In short, by throwing a lot of cash at their airline. They have one of the youngest fleets in the sky at an average age of just 4 years and Qatar Airways will be the lead customer for the highly anticipated A350. The airport cost over USD50billion and it shows, the whole place feels more like a chic hotel than the usual sterile airport feeling. It has a real buzz with one central area and the various gate areas feeding off of that. There are amazing glass and wood panelling and huge feature light displays, it looks and feels expensive.
I headed up to the lounge before my flight, you can read more about that in my review of the new Qatar Airways business class lounge, and started to get quite excited about boarding the 787 Dreamliner from Doha to Singapore. This was just my 2nd Dreamliner flight and quite the upgrade from economy on Jetstar’s 787. Upon boarding I turned left and headed for 2K, one row from the bulkhead. That’s always a gutsy move as that is where anyone with an infant will be and there was a beautiful little baby travelling in row 1 but he didn’t disturb me at all.
The seats are arranged in the class-leading reverse herringbone layout in a 1-2-1 configuration. The middle 2 seats face inwards with a privacy screen and are ideal for couples, everyone has aisle access. There are no overhead storage bins for the middle rows on the 787 so perhaps board early to secure the real estate if you travel heavy with carry on as I do. The seat is extremely comfortable and smart storage options abound.
The bed reclines fully flat and there is a nifty little panel to help adjust the seat.
The audio video on demand (AVOD) system is one of the best in the sky and extremely high tech. It essentially comes with a smartphone to control it, a touch screen system that could be a little tricky for seniors to master but was a lot of fun to play around with. There were plenty of choices for entertainment with many movies, TV shows and audio options.
Qatar really sets themselves apart in the amenity kit area. When I sat down there was just a small parcel with socks, a mask and earplugs and I thought at that stage perhaps that’s it…after all that’s all you receive on Singapore Airlines. Yet a few minutes later my flight attendant approached with a dedicated male amenity kit, I love the male/female distinction, by no other than Salvatore Ferragamo. This included hand cream, lip balm, a brush and eau du toilette. The latter was especially nice to see, I can’t recall ever receiving that from another airline. Only a moisturiser was absent. In the bathrooms they have a stack of toothbrush and shaving kits so that was taken care of as well. Just a few minutes later the goodies continued as I was presented with my sleep suit. It was a chic look, unlike the Virgin Australia pyjamas which are a little strange and they had a premium feel far above those I’ve received on Qantas. Some airlines, such as SWISS, reserve a sleep suit only for First class passengers as a way of having some differentiation for First but I feel like this will soon become a standard with airlines competing to stay in touch with one another.
It was a 2am departure so I declined the initial meal offering, which was a selection of On Demand meal items. They had clearly adjusted to the fact that not too many people are keen to eat at 3am. Instead, the breakfast service was a little beefed up and after catching 4 hours of sleeping and watching a movie I ordered a smoothie, museli and crepes.
Unfortunately they forgot to bring out my smoothie but I didn’t bother to chase it. The pastries were very nice as was the muesli but it was the crepes that stole the show. I’ve never had nicer pancakes or crepes on an airline, thin and perfectly cooked with a lovely whipped cream and raspberry compote on the side. I had a cafe latte which came out piping hot but was nice and also sampled a green tea. The meal was served from a trolley and extremely well presented, no tray in sight [I’m looking at you Etihad].
There really was very little to complain about as hard as I looked. The only thing I could probably pass on was a lack of personalised service, and coming off of a 45min Emirates flight where I had a personal introduction from the manager it really showed. There was no use of my name at any time and no effort made to make it special from the service standpoint. It was fine and efficient but nothing special.
All up get yourself on Qatar Airways before everyone discovers just how good they are and their price point increases, I would suggest that they are currently under-priced in Australia by 15-20% as they look to build their brand and network. If you’re from Sydney or Brisbane, don’t hesitate to fly to Melbourne to get onboard, it really is worth it.