Before I start I apologise for the poor quality and quantity of pictures. On IAH - DOH; we are asked to keep away all major electronic devices in our check-in and photography was strictly prohibited. But I still managed to sneak in few pictures. I was honestly not in a mind to write a TR for this trip due to lack of quality pictures, but given that
QR's IAH - DOH has not been reviewed so far on A.net, I thought I might gather the pieces and put something up. You can see in my past TRs that I have covered the JFK, IAD flights and now I'll be covering IAH.
After one year it was time to go to my home(s). Due to my residences in Qatar and India, it was obvious I will be flying QR out of the USA. I was at DFW and had to fly to BOM via DOH through either IAD, JFK, IAH. Since I had not flown the B772LR, I decided to fly out of IAH which meant that I pay an extra $110 for the ticket. Also my stay In Doha after one week as more or less decided as to which aircraft to choose to fly between DOH and BOM. From July 2009, QR has been operating A333/B77W/A346 alternatibely through the week. A quick check of aircrafts from 10th January onwards put me in a dilemma, whether to fly the A346 on 12th OR the A333 on the 13th as I had not done both. But given I was flying J on DOH - BOM I thought the A346 would be a better option. So here was the final schedule.
AA 1630 DFW - IAH 29th Dec 1240 1355 MD83
QR 078 IAH - DOH 29th Dec 1945 1940+1 B77L
QR 200 DOH - BOM 12th Jan 2145 0340+1 A346
QR started DOH - IAH non stop at the onset of summer 2009 as daily non stop flights. This is their longest route in the network and with competitve pricing and marketing they have a good market share out IAH to the Indian subcontinent. Having tried IAD - DOH, JFK - DOH it was now time for IAH - DOH to complete the triology. I was eager to find out whether QR can maintain the good service standards that they boast of. I particularly don't find their service 5 star per se, but I find it good enough for a 4 or 4.5 stars.
First leg of the journey: Houston, George Bush Intercontinental Airport - Doha International Airport
Flight no: QR 078
Aircraft type: B777-200LR
Aircraft Registration: A7-BBC
Photo © Andrew Compolo
Photo © Vasco Garcia (VDG-Images)
Terminal View and Check-in:-
Qatar Airways operates from Terminal D at IAH, the check-in area at the left end of the terminal is used by LH, SQ, EK, QR. The first impressions of the terminal were not at all good and it looked kind of outdated, dull and boring. Airports like DFW, MCO are much better places when compared to IAH.
Just as I stepped in the airport SQ had almost finished checking-in all its passengers and EK had started theirs. As and when SQ finished QR stepped in and opened their check-in desks. With just EK and QR the entire left side of the terminal was packed and at one point were merged with the BA check-in line towards the right portion of the temrinal. Now I was lucky enough to find out that Web check-in passengers and people connecting from elsewhere through IAH had a separate counter. I just walked in and collected my boarding pass as I had my bags checked-in at DFW all the way to DOH.
A quick check of ID and the lady issued my boarding pass which said seat 32A. I was pretty disappointed and told her I had reserved seat 22K formyself an exit row seat, the system did not honour my request? She was apologetic about it and was seeing what could be done. She just had a quick chat with the station manager and asked me to proceed through security, the seat assignment issue will be resolved while boarding.
Now while moving aroubnd there was a TSA announcement that was unusual and I found it quite funny." .. Any passengers passing inappropriate comments or cracking jokes about the TSA will be suject to arrest". I almost fell down laughing. Of all the airports I visited in the
USA it was the first time at IAH where I heard such a funny warning issued.
As I was watching the EK, QR passengers check-in barring 10-15 passengers each flight all were headed to the Indian subcontinent. It was a "desi mela" at IAH airport. I saw quite a few cancellations from Europe LH, one of the 2 BA flights and one more flight which was either KL or AF. Bad weather I believe.
With the heightened security alert after the NW aircraft fiasco on Christmas, it was best not to venture into anything risky and hence I did not take many pictures from my cell phone camera. Just enough to mark my presence on the trip :P. Passed through the security which was almost as normal as earlier no added measures. Taking the escalator to the duty free and gates, my disappointment was maintained with just basic facilities available.
There was just this one restaurant available where there was food available at reasonable prices. While having my sandwich I noticed EK 212 ready for its departure to DXB; I believe this is the longest non stop flight out of IAH. Chatting and saying mnay good byes on the phone took an hours time away and our flight QR 078 was almost ready for boarding. While I was sitting in the waiting area the QR crew were getting their flight briefing from the CS/CSD. Maybe they were mentally preparing themselves for a packed flight and almost everyone headed to the Indian subcontinent; including me albeit after a few days. And as usual, I saw some kids and ... already hallucinating the loud shrieks inflight. God bless me ! ( And those of you who want to be politicially correct, let me remind you that such a situation for 14.5 hrs is not something anyone is looking forward to)
Boarding & Flight Details:-
Flight No: QR 078
Gate No: D4
Seat No: 22A
STD: 1945 hrs
Pushback: 1953 hrs
Airborne: 2005 hrs
Flying Time: 14 hours 17 mins
Load: J: 42/42; Y: 217/217
Boarding through D4, was done in a systematic fashion. Elderly passengers, people with kids and special needs were allowed to board first. Now getting back to my seat assignment, I hope something would be done so as to restore my bulk head seat request. And yes .. it was done the gate agent struck off the 32A and I was assigned 22A. I was believed and finally went into the crystal maze ... yes the jet bridges at IAH are pretty confusing and there is every probability that you go into the neighboring flight. But before our imaginations run wild the men in blue were here to hush us to the appropriate one.
Stepped into the B777-200LR .... after one year I was flying an airline which is going to serve me food and drinks for free, FAs who would look like FAs, and other than duty free I wouldn't be paying for anything. The logo in front showing QATAR brought me few hundred miles closer to the destination. A very warm welcome by the two ladies at the door gave an impression I was going to have a pleasant journey. I walked down the aisle and saw my seat
22A occupied by a kid who was along with her family. The FA was quick to respond to the confusion and while the little girl shifted places I visited the washroom at the rear end of the aircraft.
Returning to the seat, it was vacated for me and the little girl was next me and her father besides her. I settled at 22A, a bulkhead seat with my blanket, headphones kept on the seat. The blanket was of better quality than before and the amenity kit consisted of eye shades, ear plugs and socks. In the mean time the little girl next to me was giving me an unforgiving look. I believe I had confiscated her seat and the woulnds were still raw. I gave her a smile and did not bother looking at her. Her father and me talked for a while and I learnt that they were passengers on a cancelled AF flight. They were flying to DEL and it was their first time on any Middle eastern carrier. The family was Indian - American and had all sort of apprehensions whether Osama bin laden and his comrades hold a FF card on all Middle eastern carriers and all those doubts. Having cleared those doubts they were relaxed. They said the initial impressions were good and the FAs aren't horrible like AF ( at the end of the flight he was a EK/QR convert), and when I told him QR flies to ATQ he was probably going to re book his reurn leg from there. Sweets and cold freshners were distributed.
At 1940, announcements were made for departure, cross check. The flight was packed, sealed and off we were to DOH. Pushback at 1953 hrs and after some 10 mins of taxiing we lined up for take off. The B777LR engines roared into the skies and after 3 hours or so we should be out of the American airspace. Now thanks to the Nigerian jerk, the moving maps wee switched off throughout the flight. And trust me that is an important part of IFE for me. However on the top right of the screen, there were flight details " QR 078; flight time elapsed and time left to destiantion". Which at least gave an idea as to where we might be. The Captain warned us that at 2 places we would be expecting some turbulence over the Atlantic.As we levelled off, the menu cards were distributed and here is where the disappointment begun. Was I reading it right? Were there only 2 main course options?
Drinks service commenced, had bourborn and coke and some cheese crackers along with that. The FAs came to top off the drinks once and we entered the turbulent area. It was a little scary as the B777 was shaking a lot. After the aircraft became stable, hot towels
were handed out and the dinner service begun. Here is the menu:
The mid flight snacks in the galley consisted of mini subs, oreo cookies and drinks; the mini subs were nicely done and I had 4 of them during the meal intervals.
#1: The presentation: I know airlines are in a cost cutting mode, but meals on a transpaernt plastic trays that you get at some Indian grocery store. It was totally apalling and unacceptable.
#2: The quantity: The quantity of the main casserole shrunk, however one more side dish was added as starters. The taste of the food was good including the dessert.
#3: The options: This is my 4th US - DOH sector, and on the first 3 I had 3 options to choose from, this time it was just 2. Another rip off...
If these were the places they were cutting costs, they were using a good quality paper mat on which meals were served which served no purpose at all. I mean cutting costs on presentation and then using expensive papers for table mats is the most ridiculous thing I have seen recently. An airline touting its supposed 5 star status cannot get away with such a presentation of food. But thankfully the quality had not gone down.
The crew amidst all this were at their. A full flight with demanding passengers is not an easy task, but everyone was doing well except for one American FA. She was kind of pissed off the moment we stepped in and she just did not want to see any electronic stuff in anyones hands. The rest of the bunch were charming and I chatted with them for along through the flight. Their origins varied from Thailand, India, Pakistan, Philippines and one USA.
Now here is what, the little girl next to me really was unable to find the screen (given it was a bulk head seat). When I got it out for her she actually thought I was one of the members of the "Incredibles" and that I magically got it out of her seat. The look in her eyes showed it all. Later the ice broke between us and I was just wondering how complicated a life of a 7 year old can be?? I would like to list out few things
* Parents not allowing her to watch 'True Jackson VP'.
* Restriction on consumption of "Hot cheetos" by certain adult members of the family who many of us call Mom
* An out-of-the-world homework by Mrs Asith and her ways to torture kids
* Lack of Christmas gifts .. she just got 6
* Not allowed to play after 7 pm
The list was too long. While we were discussing her complicated life the FA came over and offered her ice cream .... tears of joy ran down her cheeks. Within few minutes she had scooped off the entire Ben and Jerry's chocolate ice cream. Taking advantage of her asleep parents I asked another ice cream for the kid and the request was fulfilled immediately. She asked me " other planes don't give ice creams..this is soo good". The good thing was that this girl was very well behaved and not once was she cranky throughout the flight. She was now a proud owner of a kiddie bag and was displaying all the contents for me and was planning as to what she will do with all those crayons and drawing books. It was 4 hours into the flight and I dozed off while watching an episode of Simpsons.
The seats of QR's B777 are really comfortable with good legroom and a decent recline. You have all the facilities like the USB port, power port for Ipods, Laptops. Aircraft was equipped with mood lighting as most of the new generation long haul planes are.
My sleep lasted for a few hours and once I woke up I freshened up and had a cup of coffee and stood in the galley. I talked to the FAs etc etc QR, movies, Doha a boring place, no nightlife so on and so forth. Given the just recent press release of the annoucnement of CPH and BCN, I updated them with this information. Two of the FAs Mr. F and Ms. R and me had some common friends in Doha and we met on the 31st dec at the friends place.
Here are some pictures of a similar trip last year from IAD to DOH the service was identical.
From the passenger point of view there is practically no difference between the B77W and B77L except that the B77W has more Y seats.
Remainder of the flight was uneventful, juices, water coming, snacks, coffee, soda was exercising my mouth with all of this. The young lady besides me retired and she slept for the remaining flight. Finally we had 1.5 hours to go and breakfast service commenced. Hot towels given first, and then the poorly presented breakfast. Here is what was on offer:
I chose cheddar cheese omlette, which was tasty and the sausage too was nice. Here too the quality was good, however the presentation was as poor as the dinner. After gobbling up the breakfast, I settled down for a cup of coffee. As the tables were cleared, FINALLY the descend started and all got ready for arrival into Doha with the lights seen on the ground we aligned from the west bay and landed on RWY 16 of the airport
Scheduled: 1940 hrs.
Touchdown: 1922 hrs.
Docking Time: 1930 hrs.
It was a smooth landing and we parked at our bay at 1930 hrs. Apart from a sole Air Arabia A320 there was not a single foreign airline visible at Doha. As you know the arrival bank at Doha starts at 1830 and was expecting a crowd at the airport.
We were bussed to the terminal and OMG the lines were getting longer by the minute till the entrance of the terminal. The transit passengers lines was packed, thankfully I was heading towards to the immigration. It took around 15 minutes to clear immigration, another 10 minutes for my luggage to come and was out at 2000 hrs.
A/C : 10/10
Boarding & ground Formalities: 8/10
Few pictures at Doha
[Edited 2010-01-24 14:40:34 by ojas]