The experience you get from flying business class can vary so massively depending on which airline you book with. On a recent trip to Doha, Qatar, I was lucky enough to fly business with Qatar Airways on my return journey. And while I have only flown Business Class a handful of times, this journey made me realise how your experience of six or seven hours in the air really can vary depending on the quality of the airline. In other words, I was very impressed!
A few facts: Qatar Airways has been running for 18 years and is now one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, with services running to 152 key business and leisure destinations across six continents (from the UK, they fly to around 140 destinations worldwide). It also has one of the youngest fleets in the world and has picked up a string of awards – this year for example, Qatar Airways picked up three accolades in the World’s Airline Awards, including Airline of the Year for the third year running and Best Business Class Airline Seat. So it goes without saying that passengers expect standards to be high when they book Qatar.
In a nice easy need-to-know summary, here are the things that stood out for me during my recent Business Class experience. Hopefully it will help inform you if and when you go to book with this prestigious group.
And if there’s anything you think stood out on your recent travels with them, leave a comment in the box below and let me know.
1. The Check-in experience
Arriving at Heathrow Airport at 7am for a super early take-off is never going to be a pleasurable experience. But when you are able to jump ahead of a queue of 100+ passengers, eagerly awaiting to check their bags in, things immediately feel a bit less painful. If you book with business, you are able to check in via a separate queue. And at busy times of year, this is a godsend. We had a super speedy check-in and within a matter of minutes, we were passing through security and one step further to sitting down with a cup of coffee, making the whole airport experience feel incredibly civilised.
2. The Fast Track security
Removing your shoes and belts, unpacking your laptops and having to then put everything back on/ back in your hand luggage again – security is often the annoying bit of travelling through an airport. So it was a real privilege to find out that once we’d checked in, our Business Class tickets enabled us to enjoy a Fast Track experience through security, avoid the queues and have more time for the shops!
3. The Qatar Airways Airport Lounge
All passengers who fly either Business or First Class with Qatar Airways are entitled to free access into the Qatar Airways airport lounge.
I was blown away by the airport lounge experience offered by the airline offered at Heathrow Airport, Terminal 4. From the moment we set foot in the lounge, we were treated to first-class service. After a tour of the shower facilities and lounge we were seated in a very plush dining area for breakfast. I have to say, I didn’t expect such a luxurious start to our journey – we could easily have been in a high end restaurant in Central London!
Aside from a lovely cold breakfast buffet, unlimited tea and coffee, bar and a plethora of newspapers and magazines, you can also order freshly prepared hot dishes from the menu. When in Rome right…? I had the smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel and a pot of tea which was lovely. Although I could easily have sat here for hours watching the planes and taking in the very swanky surrounds – complete with tropical flowers, leather armchairs and marble floors – we had a flight to catch.
4. The super comfy plane seats
Qatar Airways have won awards for their aeroplane seats and as I discovered, in Business, they are everything you need for a long haul flight.
The amount of leg room you get is impressive alone – plus you have plenty of compartments to stow away your shoes and belongings. But the seat itself is wonderful. As you would expect, they have 180 degree lie-flat bed capability and with a gradual incline, you can put your feet up and read a magazine or watch a film.
The fact that the seats in business are nice and wide and comfortable alone, makes for a very relaxing flight. The only downside I would say about the seats on the plane I flew on, is that the two-seaters are quite close together with no dividing screen which I believe you get on some of their other aircraft.
So if you are sitting next to a stranger – as I was – it can sometimes feel a little intimate (especially if you’re not in the mood for being sociable!) That said, the spacious walkways and space between each ‘pod’ is impressive. It’s so comfortable in fact, you may not even feel like getting off the plane.
5. The service
From making sure we had the drink of our choice at take-off (champagne, water, juice) to providing restaurant-standard ‘table service’ throughout our in-flight meal, I was hugely impressed with the inflight service by the Qatar Airways cabin crew. They were gracious, patient and nothing seemed too much trouble for them – even a cup of tea 40 minutes or so before landing. I felt like a real VIP on this flight and everything was delivered in a way that almost made me forget I was on an aeroplane.
6. The inflight meal
The inflight meal in Business was exceptional. Shortly after take-off, all passengers are handed the a la carte menu which gives two or three options for appetizers, mains and desserts and your order is then taken ahead of meal service.
I enjoyed a delicious asparagus and morel mushroom soup and Arabic style mezze of hummus, tabouleh and moutabel served with Arabic bread. This then followed by the Hammour (a fish commonly served in the Middle East, similar to the grouper) served with black-eyed bean stew, beetroot rice and tempered asparagus.
This then followed by the most divine La duree dessert (made up of coconut dacquoise biscuit, white chocolate mousse, exotic fruit compote and mango and raspberry dices).
I admit, I was so full by the end of the main course that I only tried a bit of the dessert, but I have to say the whole meal was absolutely stunning and tasted as good as some high end restaurants I’ve visited, which doesn’t come as too much of a surprise really when you see that they’ve worked with international chefs such as Nobu Matsuhisa and Vineet Bhatia to create their menu.
7. The drinks menu
Alongside the delicious food, Qatar Airways have worked with some of the best wine producers to provide a varied menu of vintage red and white wines and champagnes. I enjoyed a delicious glass (or two) of their Brut Champagne which went down very nicely whilst reading the festive issue of Time Out Doha.
8. The inflight entertainment
Qatar Airways are fitted with Oryx One – their newest inflight entertainment system which when installed, increased their number of TV shows and films from 950 to an impressive 2,000. I have to admit, I’m quite often so distracted by the good selection of magazines (which they have), food and fellow passengers (mine was very talkative) to really get into a good film. But when I do, it makes such a difference to your journey when you have the impressive selection that this on-demand service offers. Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that the screens in Business Class are nice and large. They display lots of interesting info and maps relating to your journey too.
9. The toiletry bag
Aside from the standard blanket and pillow, in Business Class, each passenger receives a lovely Giorgio Armani toiletry bag complete with ear plugs, socks, comb, lip balm, eye mask and the very lovely Si perfume and body lotion by Giorgio Armani. So you can feel beautifully fresh when you set foot off the plane!
I was very impressed with the Qatar Airways experience. It made a six and a half hour flight pass very quickly and I can now see why they’ve picked up a string of awards for their service.
Have you flown Qatar Airways with Business Class? Let me know what your experience was like in the comments below.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to sharing my experience of exploring Doha itself.