_ The world’s FIVE star airline- Taking you more personally
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.
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 Class). 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 Doha to Shanghai Pudong on Qatar Airways’ Boeing 777-300ER to check out their Business Class seat, cabin and service. So enjoy the 5-star experience from SEAT 1E of this beautiful aircraft, and airline:
Route: DOHA (DOH) to SHANGHAI PUDONG (PVG)
Departure date and time of flight: February 2012, 01:00am local time (Doha)
Flight number: QR888 (ICAO callsign: “Qatari 888 heavy”)
Flight duration: 8 Hours and 25 minutes
Class: BUSINESS 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-BAB (First flight 11th December 2007)
Aircraft Name: Um- Alamad
Engine Type: 2 x GE90-115B (each engine can power a Boeing 747-400 all by itself!)
Aircraft Serial Number: 36103 - line 686
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:
This was a connecting flight, and I had already checked in at London Heathrow Airport.
Any baggage issues:
Qatar Airways allows a checked-in baggage of maximum 30kg per passenger in Business Class, 40kg in First Class, 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 at the Doha gates. I was so relieved to get rid of my HUGE luggage bag (weighed less than 30kg) at the check-in desk.
Punctuality of the flight, and flight route:
Departed on time, and landed on time as well. The flight path taken was typical of most flights that are on the Middle-East to Shanghai route. We were provided with splendid views of the Ganges over India, Northern Thailand, Burma, and then entering the Chinese airspace around Kunming. Surprisingly, considering the hazy visibility I was expecting, I did however manage to get beautiful views of Wuxi, Wuxi Airport, Suzhou SIP area, and Guiyang. We landed on runway 17L at Shanghai Pudong Airport, which meant a long taxi (nearly 35 minutes!) into the arrival gate. The taxi from the runway to the gate took just as long as it took to get from Wuxi to Shanghai Pudong Aiport (took flight route A470 directing to 'dotmi' VOR/IFR). Click HERE to see the photos of this flight (and the one before this flight).
Premier Terminal Experience at Doha:
After landing from London Heathrow (on my previous connecting flight), I, along with other Business Class passengers, was transferred to the Premier terminal (the Economy Class passengers were transferred to the normal terminal). My experience of the Premier terminal is listed below.
Doha airport is simply an art of sophistication. It’s located only 5km away from the centre of Doha, but the airport may itself be considered as an oasis city itself. There are FOUR lounges at Doha Airport:
Privilege Club Gold Lounge
Provides a true 5-star service in all the elements that it offers. This lounge is to be used by Privilege Club Gold Card holders (irrespective of the class they travel in). Members will find a warm welcome and world-class facilities in this stylish lounge.
Privilege Club Silver Lounge
The Silver Lounge has all of the facilities as the Gold Members Lounge except baggage storage.
This is 5-star lounge with all of the above mentioned facilities, and can be used by passengers travelling on first or Business Class on any other airline except Qatar Airways.
This is the exclusive Lounge for those travelling on First or Business Vlass with Qatar Airways. Its looks and feels like a 5-star hotel rather than an airport lounge. Complete with luxurious bedrooms, Jacuzzi, nursery for kids, storage space, office facilities (fax, internet, and telephone), massage facilities, separate mosques for men and women, sauna facilities, and a Mecca for dining with a true 5-star service. You can eat whatever you like. The Premier Terminal has its own duty-free shop on the ground floor. Buses whisk passengers to/from their planes.
Overall there was an excellent atmosphere right from the conception phase to the point I had to take the connecting flight. If only airport lounges were of this excellent quality.
Service was exceedingly friendly. As I have mentioned numerous times, the staff all are well trained and offer a genuine hospitality. It shows clearly that the staff care for the customers from their heart. Their smile is a real one and not just to show that you are a customer of Qatar Airways. Its to make you feel special because they understand that:
1. It is not easy to fly Business or First Class
2. Not everyone flies First or Business Class, and those that do have to be felt special because they deserve it (because they or their companies have invested in flying First or Business class).
It’s all about providing a service where the staff offer a an amazing attention to detail, and this is remarkable.
Selection of both hot and cold food is available in myriad quantities as if there is no tomorrow. I was comfortably able to take a shower and jump into the Jacuzzi in the excellent shower room with quality amenities and excellent staff (Spa is the superlative part of the terminal which is unbelievably first-class). All toiletries in the bathroom, and showers are provided by L'Occitane en Provence.
In case you are not kept track of your flight, then don’t worry because you will be accordingly invited to board in a timely manner. The First Class lounge is not as busy as the Business Class lounge, nevertheless both are amazing. Perhaps the best lounge experience that I have had on any airline in the world. What you normally find is that some airlines are good, but their lounges are not good, but Qatar Airways is ahead of their game.
Comments regarding the pre-flight service:
Passengers in Business Class were offered hot towels and boiled sweets prior to departure. Passengers are greeted with a choice of signature welcome drink (orange juice, champagne, apple juice or watermelon juice), and hot or cold refreshing cotton towels. On each Business Class seat there were a set of noise cancellation headphones, a rich cotton blanket (each one weighs 2KG!), 100% cotton pajamas, a luxury amenity kit containing the Molton Brown toiletries, slippers, eye-shades, and a pair of Qatar Airways designer socks. The pajamas came handy for this long flight. They are very useful if you want to freely toss and turn in your flatbed while you sleep because wearing your normal cloths while sleeping on a plane is not comfortable at all!
Comments regarding the pre-meal service:
Passengers in Business Class can savour the outstanding in-seat service geared to suit their body clock. Passengers can pre-order and can choose to dine, breakfast, or enjoy a light snack at anytime they wish.
I took a glass of bubbly (Champagne Laurent Perrier Brut 2000 France), and plenty of water (2 litre bottle!), 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, and came with a fresh slice of an actual orange. The Champagne can be perfect for caviar smoked salmon lobster. A plate pleaser with uramaki sushi with ginger pickles and wasabi was provided to go along with the drinks service. The generous portions of the food provided on Qatar Airways are enough to put some other airlines to shame. You cannot go wrong when hideously delicious food like this is on offer.
Comments regarding the first meal:
Hot towels were handed out prior to the first meal. Inspired by culinary treats from around the world, Qatar Airways’ Business Class in-flight a la carte dining experience offers mouth-watering dishes created by award-winning chefs. A light snack was served around 40 minutes after take-off. Since this was a early morning/late night flight, so the meal service was not so heavy.
The choice of dishes included:
· Stir-fried egg noodles with braised oriental prawns, Chinese greens accompanied by pearl chilli sauce.
· Classic Arabic mezze
· Warm tandoori chicken sandwich served with mint chutney
· Assorted seasonal fresh fruit
I wish I had a huge stomach because even though I was hungry, there was no way I could have eaten all of the above dishes. The cabin crew were very hospitable and friendly.
As I had eaten enough food on the previous flight in from London Heathrow to Doha, so for this night time flight I opted to go for the ‘warm tandoori chicken sandwich served with mint chutney’. A simple yet artistic dish that looked more like a Mexican fajita wrap surrounded by saffron leaves and a healthy portion of mint chutney. The succulent chicken breast pieces tasted great. It was just the perfect portion for a night time snack. Airline meals were never really too healthy because healthy eating used to mean being condemned to a round of virtuous but dull meals. Modern in-flight meal chefs, however, are competing with one another to please their passengers (especially in First and Business Class), by producing airline meals that are light on calories, high on healthy ingredients AND above all, are delicious, and tasting fresh. Healthy food is one that keeps all its natural nutrients and flavours. Qatar Airways certainly does not fail in this department.
The gastronomic rejuvenation came to a finale with the healthy dish of freshly cut seasonal fruit. Slices of rich and exotic fruit such as dragon fruit, wild red grapes, melon, grapefruit, and pineapple were presented.
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.
Qatar Airways is proud to offer the finest wines from around the world. Every flight route has a different selection of wines. It’s another minor but important thing like this that differentiates Qatar Airways from the other airlines in the world. Wines and beverages available by the bottle on this flight included the following:
· Champagne: Laurent Perrier, Brut, 2002 (France)
· Chardonnay: Vincent Giradin, AC Meursault, Vieilles Vignes, 2007 (Burgundy, France)
· Sauvignon Blanc: Villa Maria, Celler Selection, 2010 (Marlborough, New Zealand)
· Riesling: Markus Molitor, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Spatlese, 2007 (Mosel Valley, Germany)
· Meritage- Merlot & Cabernet blend: Chateau Le Bon Pasteur, AC Pomerol, 2006 (Bordeaux, France)
· Sangiovese: Poggio Antico, Altero, 2005 (Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy)
· Shiraz: Hollick, 2009 (Wrattonbully, Australia)
· Twany Port: Kopke, Colheita, 1974 (Douro Valley, Portugal)
Passengers in Business 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. I had some English Breakfast tea with a few packets of Walkers shortbread biscuits (un-resistible!).
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, 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 beauty of sleeping in the Business Class cabin is that it really is a similar (if not equal) feeling to waking up in a hotel bed except that on a plane you may feel some slight turbulence, and the noise of pressurisation (use ear plugs!). The cabin crew started handing out hot towels prior to the breakfast a la carte.
To revive we were offered a selection of some fresh fruit juices. Check these tempting options:
· Freshly squeezed orange juice
· Date, and banana energizer.
· Cranberry juice
I opted for my favourite drink (I LOVE orange juice...got to love that pleasant balance of sweet and tart). Qatar Airways have sourced out the best partners when it comes to providing excellent food, and their orange juice with the orange bits and skin parts is just awesome. It is good enough to wake you up refreshed.
To commence the breakfast adventure, there were the following two dishes (in the order of writing):
· Tropical fruit with Greek yoghurt
· Balik style salmon, and breakfast salad with pink grapefruit, spicy lemon dressing.
I opted for the ‘breakfast salad’. A very colourful dish with a generous decorative portion of salmon that will take your breath away. The vibrant salmon is bathed in the not so spicy lemon dressing. The vibrant combination of the different ingredients, such as the pink grapefruit and the rocket salad, is just magical.
Following on from the above starters there was a choice to indulge into one of the following dishes:
· Creamy salmon omelette, button mushrooms, and sugar snap peas*
· Congee with steamed Japanese scallops
· Apple and cinnamon pancakes with sour cherry compote and vanilla sauce
· Classic Arabic breakfast
* Passengers could add their choice of seared vine cherry tomato, fresh roesti potato, and herb chicken patty.
It’s very tempting to try every dish on the menu. However, I opted for the ‘creamy salmon omelette’, with an added option of herb chicken patty. The colour of this dish is a bright pale straw like indicating a slight youth of the taste and a deep stainless steel cooking style. The delicious salmon is neatly tucked inside the omelette so that with every mouthful you taste both the salmon and the freshly made omelette. The rectangular shaped omelette is surrounded by a few pieces of button mushrooms, and plenty of snap peas. The snap peas are boiled and fresh, but their colour tends to fade a bit (perhaps because it’s a in-flight meal). None of the meals on Qatar Airways contain any artificial colours or excess preservatives are used in the cooking of all the meals on Qatar Airways. In actual fact a Business Class meal on a major airline as Qatar Airways should feel as close as possible to eating at a good quality restaurant (even though the saturated fat may top more than twice of what the recommended daily fat intake of 70g!).
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 Kreakfast, 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:
Huge headphones with noise cancellation technology were offered in the business class cabin. The HUGE 33cm by 22cm (15.6-inch) PTV screen, which can be easily folded away into the right hand side armrest, can be used to watch movies, choose any kinds of music to play, watch how your flight is progressing, catch up on current affairs, or play computer games with.
Qatar Airways has three 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 (Overall IFE has over 1000 Video and Audio on-demand options in Business Class). 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.
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. Though night time flights are usually easy to handle for the crew as almost everyone goes to sleep!
On our flight, we had cabin crew from China, India, Hong Kong, Philippines, Taiwan, Slovakia, and, Iran. The languages spoken were English, Arabic, Hindi, Slovak, Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin Chinese.
Comments on the interior of the aircraft (including seat comfort):
Qatar Airways have 42 Business Class flatbed seats on their Boeing 777-300ER aircraft with a 2-2-2 configuration. Each seat has a generous pitch of a 78 inch recline and is 22 inches wide. Generous legroom allows you to stretch comfortably and the built-in massager helps you relax. I had a wonderful sleep for around 5 hours in between the two meals. Slept like a log with my head on the soft cotton pillow. The senior purse even gave me a hand to cover me with the Qatar Airways blanket- such is the amazing service of the cabin crew. This is far better than most other airlines around the world. All the seats have a huge 15.6-inch PTV display screen, in-seat reading light, in-seat drinks holders, and in-seat power units.
In Business Class, the toilets are equipped with refreshing towels (various coloured packaging), eau de toilette, moisture cream, and a hand cream (all by Molton Brown). Passengers in Business Class are provided with cotton-lined pure wool blankets and 100% cotton sleeper suits. Another sign of why it’s the world’s 5-star airline.
Mood lighting is used throughout the flight to keep the passengers in touch with the time zones. So blue, orange, red and yellow shades of the mood lighting is used to highlight the different time zones (dawn, night time, evening and, afternoon). This is so that passengers’ eyes and body can adapt to the different time zones. All the Business Class seats have an electronic touch pad control system allowing them to easily control the seat settings.
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.
Special thanks to Qatar Airways
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