On request of a special friend of mine I will let you guys in on the “ wonderful world of flying” of Qatar Airways.
This is a trip report about a business trip that I made from 17/9/2002 until 21/9/2002. Let me show you why I consider this as my best flight ever….
Date : 17/9/2002
Flights: QR 002 LHR-DOH (Business class)
QR 100 DOH-DXB (Economy class)
Aircraft: QR 002--> A330 QR100--> A300/600
For this occasion my flight started from London Heathrow.
QR 002 leaves LHR at 21:30 local time from the well-known Terminal 3. For the ones among you who have ever had the joy of having to depart from T3 during the evening, this part will sound very familiar. T3 is one big chaos of people cueing for the check in, children running before your feet, nervosa and a lot of noise. It was my first time out there in the jungle and although I do not panic very rapidly now I was beginning to sweat…. I was running a bit late and how in gods name would I be able to check in on time with all these waiting people before me?
I looked for counter E, which can be found all the way in the back of T3. I was fighting my way down there when all of a sudden I saw the check in counters of QR. They looked like an oasis of peace compared to all the other desks. Although the flight was 100% full there was no one cueing there…what a joy!
A very friendly hostess welcomed me and asked if she could see my ticket. When she noticed I was flying business class she guided me towards the special check-in desk for business and first class pax. In all the chaos I had walked past these counters….
I received a very warm welcome and before I knew it I was checked in. What is more is that they told me I could use an express customs clearance, called fast track. Not knowing what that was I said goodbye and I went upstairs to the departure lounge.
When I arrived there again there was this enormous line of cueing people. There the sweat was again….now what? Luckily I spotted the fast track signs. I followed them and by doing so I was cleared within 5 minutes. No cues, no difficult custom agents, 5 X-ray machines on a row all waiting for me!!!!
Once cleared I went to the business lounge of Virgin Atlantic which is also accessible by QR passengers. I had a quick drink in this very nice lounge and than I went to Gate 14 to board the aircraft.
I was pleased to see that it was the A330 of Qatar Airways that was waiting for me. Not only do I find this one of the prettiest aircraft flying around these days but as a professional pilot I just love to fly in this very safe and state of the art airplane. I was very curious as well to finally see its interior.
The purser welcomed me and one of the flight attendants guided me to my seat. The female flight attendants have this very nice Bordeaux uniform and together with their hats it really is a classy appearance. And you know what they say…the smile comes with the uniform!
Immediately after we sat down we where offered a welcome drink. I had a freshly squeezed orange juice, my partner a glass of champagne. We installed ourselves in one of the 18 very comfortable seats. It took us a while to figure out the exact function of all the buttons but finally we managed. The lumbar adjustment is just fantastic! I measure 1m94 and normally I have this terrible backache when I fly as a passenger but now I did not feel a thing! I could even lie down if I wanted to!!! In general the interior of the aircraft is very relaxing and comforting…just perfect.
After that we where offered a trip kit containing everything you could possibly need on a trip. Even a bottle of Hermes perfume and a Labello stick! We also had the choice between 8 newspapers and we received a very comfortable “active noise reduction “ headset for the entertainment system.
By the time we took a look at everything the aircraft was pushing back already. During taxi we had a speech by the captain, the purser and off course the obligatory safety demonstration on the personal screens. Just before take off one of the FAs came a last time around to ask what we would have liked to drink after take off.
Even tough I am used of being in an aircraft (I spend more time on board an aircraft than I am on the ground I think) I always get “Goosebumps” every time I do a take off in an A330. It just seems to fly so smooth and graceful.
10 minutes after take off our ordered drinks where there together with the menu for dinner. We had the choice between three “entrees”, four main courses, a platter of cheese and a dessert! I do not remember all the choices by hart but they all looked exquisite! Anyway, the choice I made proved to be a good one because it was delicious. My main course was fish prepared by one of the Big Chefs of London. Apparently QR offers one of their courses as a choice on each flight.
With dinner we had the choice out of 4 wines. Two white and two red wines. Al these where in the normal glass bottles and like in a restaurant they where opened in front of your eyes and you get to taste first…. The tasting part is the privilege of the first row of seats but anyway this was the first time that I had seen this on an aircraft!
With the cheese I asked for a glass of port wine, which arrived almost instantly…
Then there was this delicious pudding as dessert, served with a cup of coffee. For the coffee service they came around with a trolley like a riding restaurant table, with a white table-cloth and a vase with fresh flowers. Tea and coffee where served out of shiny pots. I had a little brandy as well to make it all look and taste perfect!
After this “bourgondic” experience I was totally satisfied. I reclined my seat, dimmed my reading light and installed myself to watch a movie. The entertainment system is very good as well. You have 15 music channels, 24 movie channels (do not shoot me if this should be 25, you have more than enough choice!), an air show and a satellite telephone. I think it is a 10.4” screen that you have all to yourself in order to watch all this. I started watching Spiderman but before I knew it I fell asleep. The next time I woke up I had a pillow underneath my head and a blanket covering my body…then again I wandered of to dreamland!
I must say as well that I think that the “ANR” headset helped a lot to make me sleep that deep as well. It is amazing how much noise that headsets eliminates!
1:20 before arrival in Doha I was woken up by on of the flight attendants. She did not mean to wake me up, she was just asking the already awake passengers if they where interested in breakfast. Thinking back to that delicious dinner I ordered one myself as well. Again I received a platter with a real tablecloth, real porcelain, etc…. As a result of 11/9 we still had to eat with plastic forks and knives but hey…
As breakfast I had
an omelet with sausages, fresh fruit, freshly squeezed OJ, a choice of pastry, toast and hot chocolate. Again of a quality that I until now had not seen on board of an aircraft.
15 minutes before schedule we arrived in Doha. When, after a smooth landing, we taxied to the gate we noticed a fleet of the notorious QR BMW 7 series rushing to the airplane. I remember thinking “oh well, that will probably be for one of the VIPs traveling in first class”. After having received a personal goodbye from the purser, who came by to our seat to shake hands, we got of the airplane. It was only 6 o’clock in the morning but I found it already hot. Well, a person like me, used to a European moderate climate, can regard 33°C and a humidity of 75% as “heavy”.
To my surprise we there was one of the drivers immediately walking towards us in order to guide us to his limousine. At first I thought that this was a mistake but apparently all business and first class passengers received this service!
I must say that this is very nice, being driven in a Luxury car with A/C and leather seats towards the terminal. One could easily become used to that…(ouch…stop dreaming!)
Upon arrival in the airport we immediately got through customs in order to enter the transit zone where we ad to take our next flight.
The terminal is nice with lots of facilities and shops available. I did have the impression by looking on the Internet that the airport was bigger. Although being very nice I think that Qatar will need to invest in its National airport. Certainly with the expansion plans of Qatar Airways and its new fleet of over 12 A320’s, 8 A330 and 4 A380’s.
We immediately checked through to board QR100 with destination Doha. Because of the short trip (only 40’) we opted for economy class on this leg. The aircraft was a A300-600 with first/economy lay out. Although the service was, off course, not so extensive as the one we had received on our first leg it still was above standard from what I have experienced. The same smile, the same hospitality, the same professionalism!
From a pilots point of view I do not like the A300 the way I love the A330. I can feel that it is an airplane of an older generation. You have less space, it makes some more noise….etc! By this I do not want to say that this airplane is not good or less safe. On the contrary, the A300 has a very good safety record and there is no doubt that it is technically as well a very good airplane. It only tends to be a little less comfortable than the new generation Airbuses. Passengers seem to like it tough. (I am a bit of a freak considering airplanes, do not pay attention to this partJ)
But as I said before, the service on board again was perfect and this trip as well was a very nice experience.
Again we arrived 15 minutes before schedule in DXB! I guess there are no problems with slots and departure saturation in the Middle East….
This was the end of my wonderful flight with Qatar Airways and the beginning of a hard days work. Luckily I felt surprisingly fit thanks to the hospitality on the flight….And I could already start thinking of my return flight home.
On the 21st I had to take the exact route back to LHR. QR101 DXB/DOH and QR001 DOH/LHR.
I will spare you all the details because the flight was just as perfect and enjoyable as the previous one. This proving that we did not just get lucky on the first flight, no, it proves that this level of perfection is the standard at Qatar Airways!
In between these two flights I went upstairs in Doha airport to visit the Business class lounge of QR. Again I found the same atmosphere of peace and comfort, again there where hostesses serving fresh OJ…amazing!
Upon arrival in LHR I had to take SN3830 back to Brussels. Now this was a shock! I guess there is nothing wrong with SNBA s an airline but the difference between these two airlines is just so big.
As I said before, it is easy to get used to the luxury and service offered by Qatar Airways! One would need to fly another carrier just to see how special QR really is!!
I guess it is true: “Qatar Airways, Taking you more personally!”