_Qatar Airways (القطرية) is the national flag carrier of the State of Qatar (دولة قطر) in the Middle East. Founded on the 22nd of November 1993, the airline has gone through a rapid expansion in a short time span to serve 109 destinations using 103 state-of-the-art modern, and young aircraft. The airline, which employees a total of around 20,000 people world-wide, is based in the ultra-modern Doha Control Tower at Doha International Airport and serves its destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Australasia, the Indian subcontinent, and East Asia. At the time of writing Qatar Airways has a firm order for 136 aircraft to be delivered within the next 5-7 years. These include 5 Airbus A380-800 (Super Jumbos), 30 Boeing 787-8 (Dreamliner), and 90 orders for the Airbus A350 aircraft (Extra Wide Bodied).
The airline is the proud holder of a number of awards. The latest of these came in 2011, when Qatar Airways was named by Skytrax the "Airline of the Year 2011", at the Paris Air Show in June 2011. At the same time Qatar Airways placed an order for 6 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. The ultimate ranking, this rating is awarded to airlines achieving the highest quality performance. Qatar Airways is one of just seven airlines globally to be awarded the 5-star rating.
As the CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, says: ‘Travel by air has reached the point where it is now taken for granted in most corners of the globe. With a larger number of passengers and more choice available in the skies today, airlines looking to maintain or grow their position in the marketplace must provide high-quality service with ever-increasing efficiency.
In China, Qatar Airways flies non-stop between Doha and Guangzhou (7 flights a week), Beijing (4 flights a week), and Shanghai (7 flights a week), connecting passengers to over 101 destinations worldwide through its hub at Doha. In November 2011, Qatar Airways commenced services to Chongqing 7 times a week from Doha using the Airbus A330 aircraft with a two-class configuration (business and economy). Qatar Airways was proud to have been named Asia’s Most Preferred Airline Brand at the 2011 Asian Leadership Awards in October 2011. As mentioned by CEO Akbar Al Baker: ‘Over 30 per cent of Qatar Airways’ global coverage is in the Far East, South East Asia and South Asia’. The awards covered more than 20 categories, including business innovation, human resources, corporate responsibility and products and services.
I was on the flight from Beijing to Doha on Qatar Airways’ Boeing 777-300ER to check out their Economy Class seat, cabin and service. So enjoy the 5-star experience of this beautiful aircraft, and airline:
Route: BEIJING (PEK) to DOHA (DOH)
Departure date and time of flight: January 2012, 01:30am local time (Beijing)
Flight number: QR897 (ICAO callsign: “Qatari 897 heavy”)
Flight duration: 9 Hours and 25 minutes
Class: ECONOMY CLASS
Aircraft type: BOEING 777-3DZER (16 aircraft in service)
Unit cost of each Boeing 777-300ER: US$284.1 million (2011)
Aircraft registration: A7-BAF (First flight 16th September 2009)
Engine Type: GE90-115B (each engine can power a Boeing 747-400 all by itself!)
Aircraft Serial Number: 37661 - line 815
Frequent flyer programme: Qatar Airways' Privilege Club- Q Miles
Seat configuration for this aircraft:
Business Class: 42 seats in a 2-2-2 configuration,
Economy Class: 293 seats in a 3-3-3 configuration
Comments on the check-in process, and any issues:
Though I had checked-in online from the Grand Hyatt Beijing the night before (Qatar Airways passengers can check-in online 36-hours prior to departure), I still had to drop my luggage. My handpicked seat was firmly confirmed well in advance. I was well chuffed. Beijing’s HUGE airport was like a ghost town during the Chinese New Year. With the vast majority of Chinese people gone back to their hometowns, it left the airport feeling rather lonely! Beijing’s enormous Terminal 3 is used for international flights. The airport is so big that even after security and customs, you would need to take a monorail train to the gates (which takes about 5 minutes to get to the gates from the security).Beijing Airport is the 3rd largest building in the world. It houses the 2nd biggest terminal to Dubai and effectively you can fit ALL of Heathrow’s five terminals inside- and still have 18% to spare!
Any baggage issues:
Qatar Airways allows a checked-in baggage of maximum 30kg per passenger in Business Class, 40kg in First Class (but there was no First Class cabin on this flight!), and 23kg for Economy Class. Passengers can also take two pieces of hand luggage on board the aircraft, not to exceed 15 kg in total (or 50 x 37 x 25 cm). Passengers may carry liquids, gels, pastes, and aerosols in containers up to 100 ml (3.4 oz) in their hand baggage (I always take a small mouth wash bottle, contact lens solution, mouth spray, anti-perspirant, and an eau de toilette for long flights). Passengers are provided with a transparent, resalable, quart- or litter-sized bag no larger than 20 x 20 cm at the security gates.
Punctuality of the flight:
We departed on time, and landed on schedule in Doha. Normally the international departures terminal at night time is buzzing with activity all around, however since this was the Chinese New Year festive period in China, so therefore Beijing Airport was very quiet. The flight was not full, and majority of the airport concourse was simply deserted- a contrast to what it normally looks like. Along with Qatar Airways, there was also Emirates, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Air Koryo, and Singapore Airlines that were flying that night. For the first time ever I had seen all the Air China desks completely empty. Perhaps the best time to take a flight. After depature from Beijing, the flight took the standard route to Doha via Xian, then Chengdu, Kunming before leaving Chinese airspace to enter the Pakistan/India border airspace somewhere near the highest mountain range in the world (Himalayas). The captain did confirm with me later that we flew close to the 2nd highest mountain range in the world (Nanga Parbat, close to Mount K2) at a service ceiling of 41,000 feet (hence the turbulance we experienced!). Flights that take this route have to be extra careful because over that mountain range there are NO emergency landing strips! After crossing the mountain, we cleared the whole of Pakistan (from Peshawar to Karachi) in over 2 hours before entering the final 3 hours over the Arabian Sea for a early morning arrival into Doha.
Once we landed at Doha, a bus was waiting to take the passengers from the plane directly to the Transfer Terminal.
Comments regarding the pre-flight service:
Once you enter the aircraft, it feels like you have already arrived in Doha! The true Qatar Airways experience begins once you step your foot onto the aircraft. A welcome in either English or Arabic confirms that you have stepped into the oasis of Qatar in the sky. The Qatari hospitality makes sure that you have an authentic experience of their culture and customs. In a nutshell, outside the aircraft it may have been Beijing Airport, but within that metal tube, we were ‘effectively’ in Qatar!
Passengers are greeted with a choice of signature welcome drink (orange juice, apple juice or watermelon juice), and hot or cold refreshing cotton towels. On each Economy cCass seat there were a set of headphones, a rich cotton blanket, a luxury amenity kit, eyeshades, and a pair of Qatar Airways designer socks.
Comments regarding the pre-meal service:
I took plenty of water and orange juice as this was an early morning flight (to keep me from being dehydrated). The orange juice had a pleasingly fresh-squeezed flavour.
Comments regarding the first meal:
Inspired by culinary treats from around the world, Qatar Airways’ in-flight dining experience offers mouth-watering dishes created by award-winning chefs. A light snack was served around 45 minutes after take-off. Since this was an early morning/late night flight, so the meal service was not so heavy.
In true Qatar Airways style, before each meal service in Economy Class, the cabin crew place a coloured mat (paper mat) on the tray table. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, the mat is slightly static so it will stop your cup of drink from sliding away if there is turbulence; secondly it will act as a sponge in case you do spill your drink or drop food (keeps everything clean!); and thirdly it’s to give that extra personal service to passengers even in Economy (if Business Class passengers can get a luxury white cloth, then there is no reason why economy class passengers cannot get a similar service).
The meal tray arrived at around 40 minutes after take-off from Beijing. One of things you wonder on a night flight is whether there is any need to eat dinner at 2am! Yet, most passengers indulge into the 5-star meal irrespective if they are hungry or not just because it’s the luxury of flying and the ambiance is not your usual setting for a meal as it would be if you are on the ground. A tray full of goodies was staring at my eyes. There were two options for the main meal:
1. Italian style spaghetti with Italian herbs, garnished with plenty of homemade tomato sauce.
2. Chicken thighs with basil and tomato concasse, buttered liunguini, sauteed green bean and carrots
I opted for the Italian option. It was nice to see a creative dish such as this being provided as an airline meal. What you normally tend to find on some other airlines is that the quality of the ingredients’, the style of the cooking, and the type of the meal is not well cooked and nothing special (normally it’s just simple like chicken with rice, beef with rice etc.). An action packed dish with plenty of strong flavours of the homemade Italian sauce that balanced the flavours and spices of the mushrooms and the carrots. The active ingredients within the dish are for sure there to light up the aroma of your tongue. I could hear my Chinese seat-neighbour slurping on his noodles with delight. Now, if a Chinese person slurps loudly on their spaghetti/noodles, then that’s a pretty good indication that the food is good.
Accompanying the main dish was a bowl of freshly cut roasted eggplant salad (carrot strings, tomato, boiled eggplant, red onions, olives, and mushrooms all in one action packed bowl!). It’s ridiculously good to have salad to accompany a slightly heavy yet tasty dish as I had.
For dessert, Qatar Airways provided a low-fat pineapple cheese cake decorated with a dash of honey and baked maple syrup. Though it was low fat, it tasted just as good as a cheesecake would at room temperature on the ground. Slightly thick, but kind to the tongue nevertheless. All the in-flight meals at Qatar Airways are prepared according to strict Islamic traditions.
Chocolates by Dove (Chinese local brand) accompanied the main meal as a side snack. Free flowing bread from the basket with butter were also available (you don’t get this on other airlines. In economy class, Qatar Airways still provides plastic cutlery to the passengers.
Comments regarding the after meal drinks and in-flight snacks:
A second round of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks (including any coffee, tea and beverages) were offered. I opted to drink plenty of still mineral water. Tempting drinks such as Martini Rosso/Dry, Campari, Glenfiddich Single Malt Solera 15 years old, Chivas Regal, Baileys, and many more were available.
Plenty of fresh water (provided by Rayyan), Godiva chocolates, and boiled sweets by ‘Zoom’ were distributed throughout the flight. Passengers could go to the galley and get a free flow of pot noodles, drinks (alcohol and non-alcohol) if they wanted. Coffee and tea are offered in lovely Qatar Airways branded paper cups (that can be recycled), and milk is offered by local Qatari vendor, Rainbow. bottled water is exclusively offered by Evian, and Rayyan.
Passengers in Economy Class could go to the galley and get free flowing drinks, fruit, ice cream (Häagen-Dazs), Godiva chocolates, and a variety of hot pot noodles.
Comments regarding the second meal:
Qatar Airways are one of the few airlines to serve two meals during a six-hour flight. The second meal, breakfast, was offered around an hour and half before landing, was heavier, and more options were available than the first meal. I was just wondering how I would eat all that! A quick visit to the hotel style toilet to clean my teeth and refresh myself before the second meal felt good. The cabin crew started handing out hot (or cold) towels prior to the breakfast a la carte.
Served around an hour and a half prior to landing at Doha, we were treated to the following options for the second meal:
1. Onion and cheese omelette, hash brown potato, button mushrooms, and french beans
2. Cantonese style congee.
I opted for the English breakfast option. Hash brown potatoes always go well with flying, but just have to be careful with all those carbohydrates! Lovely button mushrooms mixed well with French beans provided a colourful combination - this is luxury airline food at its best! Airline meals are specially prepared to be fresh in a pressurised environment at 38,000feet, and are normally freeze dried in the fuselage belly before being served (!), so they have to be served as fresh as possible. Even as a normal meal, this dish would be just great for a quick lunch on the ground. The omelette was just perfect, and did taste fresh as it should.
Served alongside with the main dish was exotic fruit (melon and dragon fruit) with honey yoghurt. Every Economy Class meal tray contained a pot of fresh orange juice to wake up the senses after a long night time flight.
Various types of bread rolls, pain du chocolate, croissant, and brown and white toast were provides from the bakery basket.
A final round of drinks was completed. This included a selection of beverages, soft drinks, juices, eight types of teas (early grey, English breakfast, green, roasted Japanese, Moroccan mint, camomile, sencha green, and green jasmine), and five types of coffees (cappuccino, espresso, cafe latte, macchiato, and American) were offered after the main meal.
Comments on the in-flight entertainment system:
Headphones were offered in the Economy Class cabin. The 10.6 inch PTV screen is placed behind every economy class seat. Qatar Airways has 3 different IFE systems: Widescreen AVOD, PTV AVOD and Mainscreen. The digital AVOD (Audio Video on Demand) in-cabin entertainment system is known as Oryx entertainment system, is in use on all the routes. Passengers can select their program either from the panel in the arm of the seat or simply by touching the screen. The AVOD system fall into three categories: 'Information', 'Entertainment’, and 'Communications'. Altogether, there are over 120 channels and levels of entertainment to absorb during your flight (with a combined 700 different options for audio and video entertainment). Then there is, Oryx, the five-star quality in-flight magazine of Qatar Airways to keep you mesmerized with many stories and useful information. PTV AVOD is fitted on board all Airbus A330s and Airbus A340s. It has a PTV and a remote. This was Qatar's first AVOD system. It is the only system that offers live television. The PTV system on the Airbus A340-642 aircraft is not touch screen (as that’s only available on the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft).
The good thing is that on the Boeing 777-300ER all the seats have AC power plugs for passengers to do their work (or if you want to charge up your phone, camera, laptop etc.).
Connections enabling passengers to listen to, or watch on their individual screens, content on their personal iPods or USB devices are available on this aircraft (the Boeing 777-300ER).
Comments of professionalism of the cabin crew:
The cabin crew were very hospitable, and proud to work for Qatar Airways. There was a genuine smile on every crew members face and you could tell that they really enjoyed their job. There was a real sense of teamwork in the cabin. As a customer (or passenger) it is easy to tell if the cabin crew are not getting along with each other (it does happen like any other job!), and on this flight I could see that everyone was in a joyous mood. If there was something I wanted or a question I had, then no one objected to it. Instead, they tried their best to help me as much as they could. The senior purser was just gem of a person. The whole flight experience was like magic, and everything seemed to go smoothly. So, yes the world can be ideal sometimes.
It’s no wonder that Qatar Airways cabin crew were voted the ‘Best Cabin Crew’ in the Middle East for the seventh consecutive year at the 2009 Skytrax airline awards. Qatar Airways has over 100 nationalities as cabin crew who offer a consistent 5-star service to its passengers. Some airline companies have all kinds of motivated mottos that they will look after their customers, but sometimes they fail in this miserably. Qatar Airways however really does make sure that everyone enjoys a smooth, and comfortable flight.
On our flight, we had cabin crew from Thailand, India, Korea, China, United Kingdom, Jordan, and Morocco. The languages spoken were English, Arabic, Hindi, Korean, Chinese.
Comments on the interior of the aircraft (including seat comfort):
In the 2009 and 2010 Skytrax Awards, Qatar Airways Economy Class was named best in the world.
Qatar Airways have 293 Economy Class seats on their Boeing 777-300ER aircraft with a 3-3-3 configuration (better than most other airlines that have 10 seats across each Economy Class row). Each seat has a generous pitch of a 34 inch recline and is 18.9 inches wide. This is far better than most other airlines around the world. All the seats have a PTV displayed at the back of each seat, and a reading light. The one thing that Qatar Airways can perhaps improve is to have the hand rests to be reclined 90 degrees instead of the 45 degrees. The hand rests for the seats don’t go backwards completely. Nevertheless, the seat itself is very comfortable, and for a flight of 7 hours, it’s hard to complain about anything!
Even in Economy Class, the toilets are equipped with refreshing towels (various coloured packaging), eau de toilette, and a hand cream (Molton Brown). Another sign of why it’s the world’s 5-star airline.
Qatar Airways logo and livery:
Qatar Airways logo consist of the head of the national animal of the State of Qatar, the Oryx gazelle, as a motif, stuck on a round background of zigzags which resembles the background of the national flag of the State of Qatar. In line with the colors of the national flag of Qatar, the identity uses maroon as its primary color for all logos and branding.
The airline advertises heavily internationally including on international television channels like CNN, and BBC World. The airline’s motto is ‘The World’s 5-star airline that takes you more personally’, and this is certainly true when it comes to everything they do for their customers and passengers.
The word ‘’QATAR’ occupies the front of the fuselage, using a quite bland font, in huge letters on the livery. The whole logo on the airline portrays the perfect flair and distinctiveness that it deserves. There is a sense of luxury among that design. The grey and maroon colors are adopted from the national flag, and it essentially looks like a large Qatar flag on a plane (with those huge ‘QATAR’ letters on the front of the fuselage).
The Arabic name of the airline ‘Al Qatariyah’ is rendered in a much smaller, light grey font is is barely noticeable on the plane. All the Boeing 777-300ER, and Airbus A340-642 aircraft have the world ‘QATAR’ painted on the belly of the fuselage (it is easily visible from the ground when a plane is flying). In addition, there is the Qatar Airways’ Oryx logo on the winglets of the Airbus A340-600, and on the engine pods of all aircraft. Even the wheels have their interior painted in grey to resemble the brand identity. It looks cool!
The Oryx on the plane’s tail is itself a work of art, and suits the airline’s tailfins splendidly. It portrays the authentic culture and heritage of the Qatar people and country. Like most airlines around the world, Qatar Airways have adopted to a more modern and simple livery that portrays elegance, sophistication, and a smooth blend of comfort and imaginativeness. The airline logo stands out like a strong brand, and is proudly displayed on all tableware, cloths, in-flight seat covers, tissue paper, cups, airport buses, and on all the uniforms.
Overall rating 1-10 (worst-best): 10
About Airline PR
This is a special section on Airline Branding, and Airline Public Relations written by me on all the flights I have been fortunate enough to have been on. These are not records taken from somewhere else, but are actual flights I have been on. Most of the flight trips are officially sponsored by the airline companies in order to promote their certain routes, and aircraft. Airline promotion and PR related work in the aviation industry is one of my expertise.
Watch exclusive videos below taken in the cockpit of a Boeing 777-300ER in-flight over Chinese Airspace.
Special thanks goes to
B777-300ER Cockpit Video 1
B777-300ER Cockpit Video 2
Proud media partner of QATAR AIRWAYS