Mustafa Ali Noor
Although the business class both are excellent but I preferred Qatar Airways to Emirates the attention to details I have found better and the overall experience from start to finish was near perfect. I have used both the airlines in economy class. For economy class passengers, Qatar Airways is better than Emirates in my opinion, but only slightly.
Despite such a fantastic record of ranked as one of the top-most airlines in the world, Qatar Airways has reported a sharp increase in losses in its latest set of financial results, as the airline struggles with a boycott by neighboring countries which has now lasted two-and-a-half years. The airline posted a $640m loss after tax for the year to March 31, 2019, in accounts released on January 15.
How about economy class in Qatar Airways?
Hot tarmac. Clear skies. Trundling suitcases. A bright Sydney afternoon and a prompt 4:30pm takeoff called more for sunglasses than the eye mask and blanket we were provided with on Qatar Airways’ Boeing 777-300ER flight to Doha.
Don’t get me wrong: they were appreciated. But once I dug them out from underneath the seat in front of me, several hours later, they didn’t hold the same appeal. But we’ll get to that. First, let’s set the scene.
Flying economy to Europe, you used to have two options. You either got a cheap red-eye stopping off in Bangkok, Helsinki, Beijing and the Polar North, or you booked a legacy airline that would transport you across the globe in two (relatively) swift bounds.
These days, however, British Airways, Emirates and Qantas are facing some serious competition from the likes of Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways. For this trip, I chose Qatar, flying from Sydney to Doha (on the 777), stopping over for 2 hours, then Doha to Madrid (on the A350-900).
While my expectations were admittedly lower than normal after a series of disastrous domestic Jetstar flights, I was pleasantly surprised by my experience with Qatar’s flagship airline.
That said: not everything was perfect. From meal mix-ups (and the garlic-infused feet of the woman who ‘stole’ my exit row seat) to the generous legroom and intuitive entertainment system, this is everything I loved and loathed about Qatar Airways’ economy experience.
Although I foolishly spent most of the flight with my bag under the seat in front of me (the struggle of having a laptop and wanting to use it), the first thing I noticed was the ample legroom.
While this may have something to do with my recent RyanAir and Jetstar experiences, the fact remains: compared to a budget airline, Qatar Airways’ 777 Economy feels like Business.
Side note: for the Doha to Madrid journey, I was on an Airbus A350-900, which had noticeably less legroom.
I bypassed the long check in queue by checking in online, and strolled up to the “online check-in” baggage drop off area. So far so good.
I then waited for my check-in attendant to finish her conversation with her supervisor. Just before I got annoyed (alright, I’ll be honest, it was a couple of seconds later) I realized she was a trainee.
I was then offered the chance to change my seat to an exit row. My mildly bruised ego restored itself, and I started stretching my hamstrings and wiggling my toes.
I then got onto the plane only to find she had booked me into the wrong side of the aisle; the woman across from me had lucked into the coveted 25D.
Not content with crushing my ‘extra legroom’ hopes, she then whacked her feet up, sans shoes, for the entirety of the flight.
Side note: I later discovered I had actually been booked into the exit row from Doha to Madrid, not Sydney to Doha, and all (except the garlic feet) was forgiven.
Having recently experienced cancellations, delays and general mayhem from Jetstar, I was so surprised when the fight announcement board switched from “relax” to “boarding now” on time that I barely had time to finish my chicken and avocado toasted sandwich, before rushing to the gate.
Although Qatar’s economy is mostly set up in a 3-3-3 configuration, this turned to 3-4-3 for the front two rows of each section, meaning you hit the jackpot with seats 25D and G (or each partition’s equivalent). For some reason, this bothered me more than the entirety of row 24 (an exit row) having extra legroom (although this might have had something to do with the woman opposite to my feet).
The handy little amenity kit handed out on take-off enhanced the first impression given by Qatar’s trademark blue and orange hues (and legroom).
The kit had toothpaste, a toothbrush, an eye mask, earplugs and- differentiating it from the other airlines I have previously flown with – a colorful tube of lip balm.
I’m no vegan, but as a cheese-averse carb-lover I thought I’d be extra clever by logging into my Qatar Airways account the night before this trip and selecting the vegan option. Unfortunately, as dinner rolled around, I discovered any dietary preferences must be made more than 24 hours in advance.
Fortunately, I’m not a real vegan and the “creamy chicken and mushroom” with penne pasta and green peas was pretty good. Sure: it looked like something you’d get out of a school canteen, but it (almost) tasted like something you’d eat in your local Italian. Almost. Just close your yes, child.
Oh, and to be fair: had I been vegan, I would have been able to order the Udon Noodles (it would have been a 20 minute long wait though, so I went with the chicken).
Fortunately for the man in front of me, this is the first airline I’ve ever flown on where I didn’t need to aggressively jab the screen in front of me to get it to respond; a light tap sufficed.
Oh, how times have changed. Just a few years ago, getting any kind of Wi-Fi was a blessing. Now it’s expected, and although you get a complimentary hour, if you want more the only option is to pay $10 US dollars, which entitles you to Wi-Fi for the whole trip (one way to get around this is by having a secondary device, which gets you a second hour for free).
Although we were grateful for the Wi-Fi we got, to stay ahead of their competitors (and so I don’t have to get Instagram withdrawals again) Qatar would do well to introduce a smaller payment option on their 777’s for those who want a second or third hour of Wi-Fi, rather than the current “all or nothing” scheme.
Having said that, by giving a complimentary hour they are still doing better than (or at least; keeping up with) most of the competition. It’s also more than you get on their A350-900 from Doha to Madrid, which gives you just half an hour, and which (in my case) stopped working after 10 minutes.
If you listen closely you can live vicariously through the flight attendants
I loved eavesdropping on the flight attendants’ dating gossip, as they talked about having a port in each call and breaking up with the clingy ones on Valentine’s day.
On a serious note: they were very friendly, professional, spoke more languages than a multi-tongued Oxford dictionary, and switched between them with ease. I didn’t ask them about their next hookup though.
Doha Airport is wildly underwhelming when compared to Dubai Airport
Considering the inflight experience was on par with Emirates, I landed in Doha half expecting the same exotic “bright and breezy” feel you get in Dubai. However, the airport experience was a little flat, and we had to take both a train and a bus to get to our next flight.
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