Airline: Qatar Airways
Flight Number: QR823
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
Seat: 2A (Business Class)
Distance: 3410 miles
Duration: 6hrs 53mins
Our hotel in Chiang Mai had recommended a 5.40am pick up for our 7.25am flight but knowing how things can be at Thai airports I decided to overrule this and opted for a 5.15am departure with our Mercedes GLC pulling up curbside shortly before 5.30am.
The Qatar desks were handily just the other side of the entrance security check and with only a few passengers checking in, including none at the Business Class desks, we were handled as quickly as could be. Unbeknownst to us an agent had appeared behind us and with boarding passes in hand we were passed over to them for an escort to the Coral Executive Lounge. This included a whisk past the lines at immigration and security which was obviously welcome but if anything had cemented the view the hotel were right, as we were already in the lounge by the time of their suggested departure!
The lounge itself was fairly unimpressive but had a decent range of drinks and hot food options. However, with the flight ahead of us and breakfast provided by the hotel on the short car ride I wasn’t particularly hungry. A few other passengers were brought in by the same escort over the course of the next thirty minutes or so but the lounge, which was shared by a number of airlines, remained very quiet.
Shortly before the stated 6.40am departure time we walked the short distance to the gate. CNX’s international departures had the architecture of a large airport but on a shrunk down scale with a large number of duty free outlets, a baffling number of wifi networks (none of which seemed to work!) and even a lounge reserved for monks and, so called, novices!
Wheelchair passengers were boarded first without much of an announcement indicateing the rest of the plane was due shortly and when someone with a clipboard emblazoned with “Priority” on the back approached the boarding lane we, along with a few other passengers, walked up to the gate. After the boarding pass scan we were held at the top of the jetbridge by one of the Thai Airways handling agents that Qatar use, standing in the same corridor that we walked down on our arrival into CNX five days prior.
Amazingly this was my first flight on a Dreamliner and the entrance at door 2L was surprisingly bright and airy with the large open area in place of the usual galley. The male member of cabin crew that greeted me passed me on to his female colleague who escorted me to 2A. I had flown numerous B/E Super Diamond iterations on other carriers but the Qatar version was very nicely appointed and in this case had rolled up bedding and a gender specific Brics amenity bag waiting for me. Shortly after another member of the crew offered a choice of hot or cold towels along with a drink and the menus were then delivered and the dine on demand concept explained.
The light number of passengers in the waiting area explained why boarding was completed extremely quickly and the jetbridge was retracted within about 10mins of being the first passenger onboard, unfortunately though the condensation on the windows obscured any view outside with the changing position of the sun being my only indicator of us moving.
The business class cabin was extremely lightly loaded with just five other passengers for a total of seven spread across 22 seats. Despite that when the gentleman across the aisle from me was searching for somewhere to put his jacket he put it in the congested overhead above my seat rather than the empty one above 1A, oh well!
We taxied out to runway 36 and were off the ground at 7.25am, our stated departure time, climbing quickly to get above the steep hills that surround Chiang Mai. Thankfully the windows had cleared a bit by this time although by the time we hit 8000ft the clouds had obscured any good views below.
The crew came around the cabin about ten minutes in to introduce themselves and to take our orders for breakfast and any other items that we wanted held back for later in the flight. In addition drinks were offered and I took a glass of the rosé Taittinger which was poured at the seat and a little ramekin of nuts presented.
By this time I had reclined the seat a little further and had tried to navigate myself around the Oryx One IFE system. There was a moving map on a screen with lots of details at the front of the cabin, ahead of seats 1E and 1F, but this seemed different to the one I was seeing and didn’t see to have much detail to it. My first impressions of the IFE weren’t great, it seemed pretty clunky and slow to respond but the more I used it the more I got the hang of it. As we cruised up to 43,000ft I wasted time on one of the world’s worst golf games, the kind of which you only ever see on aircraft IFE systems. My wife was smart enough to ditch the IFE altogether and just pay $10 to use the WiFi.
Visiting the loo at the back of the cabin I noticed the beautiful shelf and entrance way had been used as a station to set up some snacks plus an ice bucket with champagne and flutes.
Right around 2hrs into the flight, as requested, the breakfast service started with the beautiful table set up. The fake candle was a nice touch along with the basket of pastries and separate water glass. All certainly more along the lines of service presentation for a meal in first class. I started with the delicious Greek yoghurt with raspberry compote and granola and the slightly less delicious cold pressed coconut and lime juice…
The second round of the Poached egg with beef hash, sautéed spinach, tomato and bearnaise sauce was equally decent and my wife was a big fan of the traditional Arabic breakfast.
The lead flight attendant came back to clear everything away then brought a hot towel, Smints and asked if I was interested in anything from the duty free selection. By this time we were over India, where apparently the wife-fi cut out never to return again. I reclined my seat a little and caught myself snoring a couple of times, the early start and late finish the night before catching up with me. I chose to cave in, enjoy the bedding and went fully flat waking up a couple of hours later not far off the east coast of Oman. At this stage, due to the political tension between Qatar and the other Middle Eastern states we turned northwest towards southern Iran flying abeam of the Omani coast.
Having leafed through the lighter options from the menu I chose to get an order of the sliders, this gave us more time to enjoy the day in Doha rather than having to look for something to eat out of necessity. The sliders came out remarkably quickly and were really rather good, once I’d removed the slice of tomato, obviously. Surprisingly the chicken one was better than the beef and after having seen how “light” they were my wife indulged too. Another warm towel and a mini box of Godiva chocolates rounded off the meal service.
With 250 listed miles to go I changed back into my clothes, although due to the circuitous routing we still had more than an hour in the air but just as I settled into my seat the announcement was made that descent would begin shortly.
Descending over the choppy Persian Gulf oil rigs and other vessels became visible but due to me sitting on the left side there wasn’t much else to see, particularly given that we were flying south along the east coast of the Qatari peninsula. Even when turning to the north there wasn’t much to see beyond some sand and power plants, though that changed after landing on 34R after almost 7hrs aloft. Unsurprisingly there weren’t many non-QR aircraft visible on our short taxi to gate E4.
As we parked up one of the flight attendants came over to my wife and passed some notes to her. Upon finding out she’d never been to Qatar before the cabin and flight crew had collaborated to come up with a list of things to see, do and places to eat in Doha on our one day stopover. How thoughtful!
After wishing them goodbye we emerged into the beautiful Hamad International Airport, right at the very end of the pier, with practically the longest walk to immigration. This was made even longer when it was apparent the train was out of service. A more than half mile walk to immigration for someone who recently had foot surgery isn’t ideal but slowly the end of the concourse became visible and we were directed over to the premium immigration lounge.
After our flight details for entry were verified we were directed over to the immigration agent in the corner, who was mid prayer. Then it was the cursory security and customs check before walking out into the public area to our chauffeur for the short ride to our stop for the night, the Sharq Village & Spa.
We had a great day in Doha, a nice way to break up the journey and tick off another country we’d visited before we flew on to Chicago the next day…