I don't do many of these, but have had a request from a number of users from the website to provide a trip report on my holiday to Hong Kong, when I flew Qatar Airways MAN-DOH-HKG-DOH-MAN...
There were four sectors to my trip, and I have decided to just focus on the one these sectors and this was HKG to DOH, this was because the QR experience was extremely similar on all four sectors. This doesn't mean they were bad in anyway, but the airline offers an extremely good and consistent service, which in my humble opinion was excellent!
(Also this was the only sector I took some photo's on, as could not sleep being high on Red Bull and made some notes! )
It probably won't be the quality of other posters on here, but bear with me! Also the photo's are not all that brilliant on my rubbish GE E1050 TW compact camera, which seemed great and a bargain at the time on buying!
Hong Kong (HKG) - Doha (DOH)
Aircraft A330-202 - A7-ACG
(I read this aircraft use to wear the Summer Games 2006 livery until very recently, before getting the latest QR livery)
Flight Number: QR 813
Date 04 June 2009
Scheduled Departure Time 01.50
Actual Departure Time 01.40
Scheduled Arriival Time 05.20
Actual Arrival Time 05.26
Duration 8hrs 46mins
I had been there for five night on a bargain holiday, I had managed to book about 4 weeks before...
I only paid £280 for return flights to Hong Kong from Manchester with Qatar Airways after receiving an email from an online booking agents (which I think is about £100 cheaper than even Oasis Airlines use to offer before their demise), it was one of these destinations I had always wanted to go to, but never thought I could get prices this cheap, so was too good to miss... Plus to travel with "the worlds five star airline" was a big bonus and keen to see what they were like.
Flights from LHR were about £30 more expensive, I live in Northamptonshire, about 60 miles from LHR and 140 miles from MAN... On paper LHR would sound like a no brainer, but parking at LHR is a rip-off and the motorways can be hell too! It was only my second time of using MAN and decided to use them again after a positive experience previously. Also there was only a 2 hr connection wait in DOH, and the LHR flights had a 5-7 hr connection flying on the available cheaper flights.
I managed to obtain a 4 star hotel on HK Island, in the Wan Chai district to add to the bonus for £128 for 5 night!
Hong Kong Airport (No photos in this section)
I checked out of my hotel on the 3rd June and left my luggage at the hotel, and did a day of sight seeing up the "Peak" and some shopping in Mong Kok... I went back to the hotel at 8pm hoping they could let me have a shower and get changed, but no luck (I really needed this due to the heat and humidity, being in the same clothes all day)! I just collected my luggage and took the courtesy bus to Central/Hong Kong Station, there was 4 other people on the hotel bus also on my QR flight and also found out after chatting to them they were flying onto MAN too!
They did the smart thing, and did late check-out on their hotel rooms and had showered before the flight, so managed to drop off their luggage at the Hong Kong station check-in facility... I just took the airport express train direct to the airport (which is excellent first class facility), with my luggage hoping their would be facilities there to have a shower before check-in, no such luck again - so just had a wash and change in a disabled toilet!
I was at the airport very early and hoping check-in would be open, but was advised only opens 3hrs before the flight so meant lots of hanging around and none of the restaurants or eateries will allow you in with your luggage and I was not willing to leave it outside unattended like others had done.
Many passengers also arrived early for the QR flights and was queues at the check-in desks about 4hrs before the scheduled departure. I just read my book in the mean time, as I had done online check-in, I was the first one to use the fast drop facility when it finally opened at 10.30pm, while all the others waited to be processed! The check-in staff seemed to have a lot of problems with some African passengers trying to check-in three or four trolly loads of luggage when your allowance is a cumulative total of 20kg in economy with a maximum of two bags! I didn't hang around to see what happened but the queue was very slow moving for passengers waiting to check in!
I proceeded through security and this was quick and painless and thought I would have my last chance at getting some traditional cantonese food before leaving and chose to eat where lots of other locals were eating at a place called the Coral. It cost 28 HKD for Rice, a Pork dish and Spring Rolls with a Coke - Bargain! While eating I could hear the rain lashing down outside and thought nothing about it... Buy this time it was approaching midnight, and thought I would check out duty free, and to my amazement the duty free shop (and all other shops were closing)!
My flight was departing from gate 21 so was right in the centre of the airport, straight after security, so all I could do was get a coffee at Starbucks and use the free wireless internet... I looked out the window and noticed lightning and there was a big thunderstorm approaching the airport, the lightning was flashing in every direction every few seconds and thunder shaking the airport. As the flight got closer the storm was intensifying, as was some people getting a little hysterical at the gate seating area, keep mentioning the events of the recent AF disaster and then some other person mentioned our flight was on an A330-200 too! I just kept out of those stupid talks and focused on wanting to get home as I was tired, but was inevitably expecting a delay until the storm cleared nd possibly missing my connection to MAN at DOH!
With the rain and lightning lashing down on HKG, to my surprise 1hr 30mins before the scheduled departure they suddenly called our flight was boarding and asking everyone to assemble at the gate as soon as possible... We were quite hastily boarded calling people to the gates by seat numbers but they had not already boarded the previous group before calling the next seat numbers. Everyone was onboard in about 15-20 mins, which isn't bad for boarding 200+ passengers...
The crew checked my boarding card and welcomed me aboard by name, and then asked if I was OK finding my seat or needed help with my hand luggage to put in overhead lockers. They offered to show passengers to their seats... Really nice touch! When getting to your seat, there is a small amenity pack with socks, blindfold, toothbrush, ear plugs (they are not tablets!) and head phones.
Once on board you could still see the lightning but was moving over to the Chinese mainland and could see it light up the mountains... I think they wanted the aircraft to depart at the earliest opportunity, when their was a clear gap in the weather. The pilot came on before departure, and stated their was a lot of "storm cell activity" throughout the south China area that evening and over Northern Vietnam, plus with India experiencing its monsoon season we would be taking a slightly longer route and could be quite bumpy until we clear the Indian Subcontinent.
While on the ground at HKG, there was a lot of rushing around by crew and ground staff coming through the aircraft, but nothing seemed to be done quickly... I was sat in my seat for over 1hr before push back and was getting a little in-patient by that time, just wanting to leave and be on our way. Many passengers had already reclined their seats and fallen asleep with their pillows and blankets! Push back finally happened at 1.30am and was an extremely short taxi to runway 25L... By this time crew were having to wake up passengers checking seat belts and asking them to open window blinds, put seat upright and watch the safety video...
The QR safety video is very boring and goes on for 10 mins, with it both in English and Arabic, but funnily enough the crew only used English on all announcements between DOH and HKG while they used both languages between DOH and MAN.
We finally departed and left the ground at 1.40am (10 mins ahead of schedule), and was a powerful take off with the take off run being about 35secs, but nothing too extraordinary. Once airbourne the A330 did its usual graceful turns, while being buffeted about the stormy skies over the China Sea. I loved seeing the A330's huge wings being flexed and bounced about by the turbulence and was quite bumpy for about 15mins before smoothing out for the rest of the flight. The crew were seated for about 20mins after take-off before being given clearance to move about. For passengers it was about 30mins before the seat belt sign was turned off...
I was sat in seat 33B in the rear economy cabin, soon after the seatbelt sign was turned off, a crew member came up to me and said their are empty seats at the back of the aircraft if I wanted to stretch out... Not sure why she chose me, but was not going to argue, so had seats 40 D and E to myself, and it still had the full recline of the other seats, but soon realised I was right by the loos and could continuously hear the vacuum pumps on the lavatories and those loos were in big demand for the whole flight!
Also I could no longer look out of the window...
The crew on the Hong Kong flights in both directions, seem to be a mix of Korean and Indian crew and maybe one or two English crew members. As I was at the back of the aircraft, I could hear them talking... They all seemed to get on really well and worked good as a team, each knowing their roles and what each other was doing and at what times.
After the seat belt signs were turned off, the crew came round with hot towels which is a nice feature and just freshens you up a bit...
About an hour into the flight they did a drinks run and handed out the menu card with the meals for the flight and some stickers. The stickers are different pictures you stick to your seat back, for example saying not to be disturbed for the meal or to wake you up when duty free comes around, I thought this was a simple and clever feature. (Not sure if other airlines do this?) All drinks were offered including two types of red and white wines, beer and spirits. I was surprised if you asked for a spirit they had full size bottled vodkas and whisky and poured out measures, instead of individual miniatures... I just stuck to orange juice and water throughout the flight...
The first meal was served about 1.5hrs into the flight, this is considered a "snack" in the menu, but was very substantial. I chose the Wok Fried Noodles with Sauteed Beef and was really nice, it does genuinely look nicer than the photo makes out... It was very delicately flavoured and noodles not over cooked. The fruit selection turned out to be Melon, which is not my favourite, but you can't please everyone! :P
"ORYX" Inflight Entertainment
After the mreal I decided to have a play with the IFE which is called "Oryx" and is quite impressive. For some of you reading this, and have experienced SQ or EK's system you might say "big deal", but it isn't a bad system at all and proabably still up in the ranks of one of the better systems available! The screen in economy is about 10 inches, on the down side there are boxes under every window seat and under the outer seats of the middle row, which does impede on legroom some what.
The A330's do not benefit from the touchscreens like the 777's in the QR fleet and the 777's have more content but there is still a huge library on the A330's. I read the IFE book and noticed there was a whole series of the BBC's Fawlty Towers available and was looking forward to occupying the flight watching it. But them noticed the asterisks stating that was only available of the touchsceen system.
I counted over 120 films available to watch (sad I know), these included a number of "Premieres" plus films ranging from Australia, Beetle Juice and Bolt right through to the Wrestler...
You will notice there is a section called Satellite TV, I never got this to work throughout the flight, and screen just flickered. I wasn't too concerned!
There is a good selection and genre of TV programs to watch too:
Games were also available to play on the system and I played good old Battle Ships, Tetris and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire...
There is also a live news text service:
You are also catered for if you want to listen to music with the IFE guide claiming there is over 10,000 tacks available and allows to create a juke box... I had my iPod with me for this purpose!
You also get your usual details on the information of the flight and maps. The maps however seem to be a little "glitchy", you can choose different views and these can take ages to load!
Unfortunately there are no camera views...
The Seats and Cabin
I have nothing but praise for the seats QR have installed into Economy on their A330's they are so comfy - I can't point to one thing why they are so good, but you can sit in them for hours without getting any discomfort like seats with other airlines!
You get the usual wings and adjustable headrests on them and the recline on them is excellent and go back further than other seats I have been in. The claret coloured seats with the grey plastic backings on them really completments the cabin giving them a modern feel.
The legroom also seemed to be far greater than the advertised 32 inches...
Im not sure if you really would consider QR's A330's to have mood lighting, when they allow you to get sleep in the cabin the lighting does go blue, but it does not change to other colours from what I could notice. With the normal lighting, I noticed this can be dimmed and not just a case of it being turned on or off!
Heres some pics of the cabin and let you make your own judgement:
The routing we took, travelling back to Doha was about 4-500 miles further than the outward journey. As previously mentioned this was due to a lot of bad weather en-route we seemed to be avoiding...
Travelling to Hong Kong we more-or-less travelled in straight line following the coastline of Pakistan, over northern India, Bangladesh, then Nepal and into China. On the route home we took a southwesterly direction towards Thailand for about 400 miles before turning west and then flew over the middle of India, then having to head in a slight north westerly direction up to Doha.
(Unfortunately I checked my US Arways Dividend Miles online today, and they not taken account for these additional miles! )
I noticed on all the flights we started cruising at about 33-35,000ft and as the flight got on we increased altitude and usually got to about 40-43,000ft toward the last hour or two... Im no expert why this happens, but suppose this is to do with the fuel burn and weight of the aircraft.
The Flight (Cont...)
After the first meal was cleared away, the cabin lights were turned down for about the next four hours... Some people could accuse the cabin crew of hiding in the galley at the back of the aircraft, but this really cannot be helped when about 90% of the passengers want to sleep.
Every 30-40 mins crew would come through the cabin with glasses of water and orange juice and just quietly offer them to people who were awake, but would not disturb anyone purposely... There was one person on the flight rather partial to the wine, and about every 40 mins he would go to the back of the cabin, have a joke with the crew and come back with 2 minature bottles of wine. All drinks seemed to be in free flow, so if you wanted them and it was only a matter of going to the galley if required.
I went up once for some water and did not feel like I was intruding or disturbing the crew in anyway...
About 2hrs before landing, the crew turned the lights on in the cabin and started distributing the main meal... Again they were all bright and bubbly and if passengers had the sticker stating not to be disturbed they respected this. Some passengers declined the meal who were awake and the crew would joke pretending how offended they were, as they had been slaving over a hot stove for the last few hours... Made me smile, but some of the chinese passengers did not get it!
I chose the Chive Omelette and again this was of an excellent standard, and was not over cooked! The also served a warm croissant that was a nice touch too... During the meal they offered 2-3 rounds of drinks and cleared away.
They then came around with hot towels again and did a quick round with the duty-free... One or two passengers enquired about spirits, and the crew advised them not to buy on this flight if they were connecting onto somewhere else, as Doha security would confiscate liquids over 100ml. It was nice to see them being honest and not just trying to sell duty free for the sake of it!
About an 45 mins before landing the crew came round asking for blankets to be collected and I loved the way they put the used blankets into this like body bag which they are then taken away to be laundered. By this time we were over Dubai, and the pilot came on advising we were starting our decent into Doha and be landing in about 35 mins.
I noticed on all approaches into Doha the decent starts quite late and is a rapid decent from 40,000ft(ish) straight into Doha. Ears are popping away and on the ground quite quickly... The approach into Doha was on runway 16, which was very smooth and very few turn and if not familiar with the area, it seems like an alien environment with the dust and deserts.
On the ground at Doha
Upon landing at Doha, the taxi is usually quite short and you may end up parking on either side of the runway, as the apron has recently been extended to the east. Fortunately we parked on the western side...
As many people has stated before, boarding and deplaning is all done via steps. All economy passengers, have to exit via the trademens exit at the rear of the aircraft , even passengers in the forward cabin right by the second door premium passengers de-plane from. Upon exiting the aircraft the crew gave a warm and friendly goodbye and was on to the bus to the terminal... As I came down the steps, I took this photo:
I then got my ass whipped by an Indian ground staff member and you could then really tell in his voice no photo's should be taken... It definitely made me put away my camera!
We was the first flight to arrive of that early morning batch at 5.26am, when boarding the bus I then saw QR aircraft after another landing within minutes of each other... Four landed in the space of about 5mins as we drove the terminal. Once inside the terminal, it is a case of just following the transfer signs and having to go through security again and you are then in the departure lounge and just waiting for your next flight.
Some people have knocked Doha airport in the past, and really do not think it is all that bad... I did a spot of shopping in the Duty Free shop which is a really good size. There is plenty of seating over two floor, and there is 2-3 restaurants and snack bars and also a quiet room. Once many flights arrive it does get busy and a little noisy, but nothing unpleasant. I would imagine it could be a little boring if there for more than three hours.
I had my netbook with me and provide free internet access... I had a two hour connection for my onward flight to Manchester, but by the time you have cleared security and been on the bus to the terminal you are there no longer than about 1.25hrs.
My main criticism is if your aircraft is on the eastern apron it can take up to 20 mins for the bus to take you to the aircraft, it has to take the perimeter road around the runway and they never travel anymore than about 10mph! Also I noticed Qatar Airways likes to bus passengers to the aircraft before it is actually ready for them, and you can end up standing on the bus or halfway up the steps for 5-10mins before the crew will let you on...
(All this happened on the outward flight to HKG)
On the whole I thought Qatar Airways was excellent, the crew on all flights were excellent, providing a friendly consistent service. The service they provide does not seem strained or false in anyway.
The A330's which are the backbone of their fleet, are all in excellent condition and offer a first rate product, from the IFE to the seating. I flew on three A330-200 and one A330-300 and genuinely could tell no difference. The A330-300 to Manchester maybe looked the slightest bit more tired with one of two marks on the carpet and a bit more wear and tear. But nothing to worry about...
On the Manchester to Doha sectors you only get one meal and about an hour before landing you get a pastry savoury snack. Also the menu's are displayed on the overhead screens instead of handing out paper menus, they claim this is to be environmentally friendly!
Here is one or two other photo's I took on other sectors, but nothing to write home about:
Menu for the DOH-HKG secter:
Few random (poor quality) aircraft pics at MAN and DOH on way to HKG:
Im sure I have bored you all long enough now, if you have got to this point - Thanks for reading!
[Edited 2009-06-05 16:04:02]