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 101 destinations using 100 state-of-the-art modern, and young aircraft. The airline, which employees a total of around 18,000 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 five 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 six 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 (seven flights a week), Beijing (four flights a week), and Shanghai (seven flights a week), connecting passengers to over 101 destinations worldwide through its hub at Doha. In November 2011, Qatar Airways will commence services to Chongqing seven times a week from Doha using the Airbus A330 aircraft with a two-class configuration (Business and Economy). When the Airbus A380-800 and the Boeing 787-8 enter into service, I am sure that Chinese destinations will be on the priority list. This is a hot market for the aviation industry.
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 Guangzhou on Qatar Airways’ Boeing 777-300ER to check out their Economy Class seats! What a flight it was…check this out:
Route: DOHA (DOH) to GUANGZHOU (CAN)
Departure date and time of flight: February 2011
Flight number: QR874 (ICAO callsign: “Qatari 874”)
Flight duration: 7 Hours 10 minutes
Class: ECONOMY CLASS
Aircraft type: BOEING 777-3DZER (16 in service)
Unit cost of each Boeing 777-300ER: US$284.1 million (2011)
Aircraft registration: A7-BAB (First flight 11th December 2007)
Engine Type: 2 x GE GE90-115B (General Electric)
Aircraft Serial Number: 36103 LN:686
Aircraft Name: Um-Alamad
Frequent flyer programme: Qatar Airways' Privilege Club- Q Miles
Seat configuration for this aircraft:
Business Class: 42 lie-flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration,
Economy Class: 293 seats in a 3-3-3 configuration
The CEO of Qatar Airways Mr. Akbar Al-Baker has announced in 2010 that Qatar Airways plans to eliminate First Class cabins from existing A340 aircraft, as well as new aircraft deliveries, except the A380 aircraft (of which Qatar Airways will have five aircraft in service). All the Business Class seats on the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft offer the same features that are offered by most airlines in most their First Class cabins (such as in seat massage, extra legroom, and more entertainment channels).
Punctuality of the flight :
Departed bang on time, and landed 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Doha airport gets exceedingly busy at nighttime with Qatar Airways flights connecting passengers to all parts of the world. Qatar Airways makes full use of the cost effective nighttime allowance to fly. Even though the airport is close to the city centre (only 5km), however noise is not a problem because most of the time the winds are prevailing towards the city, so planes can take-off in the opposite direction (i,e. towards the sea), and this also benefits the airlines timetables. Even though a 3am flight is not good for the body clock (this was a connecting flight that I had taken while coming in from London Heathrow), early morning flights provide some truly priceless and spectacular views of the sunrise (or sunset). We got a magical view of the sunrise over Asia while we were cruising somewhere over north-west India (please see photos). Just makes you realise how beautiful earth and life is.
Any baggage issues:
Qatar Airways flies from Terminal A at Doha International Airport. Terminal B is used by all other international airlines. No issues regarding the baggage. For Economy Class Qatar Airways have dedicated a checked baggage allowance of 23 kg total for all routes excluding transatlantic routes. Therefore, for the Doha to Guangzhou route, they have a 23KG luggage policy. All routes have a carry-on allowance of one piece not exceeding 7 kg (50x37x25 cm). Since I was in transit (flying from London Heathrow to Guangzhou via Doha), therefore I did not have to worry about this.
Comments on the check-in staff and flight route :
There was no need for me to check-in as I was in transit from London Heathrow to Guangzhou. The flight from Doha to Guangzhou was full to the maximum with passengers, and cargo. ‘Full cargo, and full payload, as the Captain told me. Doha airport caters for around 15 million passengers every year (2010 data), and is mainly used by Qatar Airways (as well as the 23 other airlines that use it). The existing airport will be replaced in late 2011 (or early 2012!) when the first phase of New Doha International Airport (NDIA) is expected to open with its two new runways. NDIA will be located around 5km from the existing airport, and will be the only commercial airport in the State of Qatar.
It is no surprise that as the Chinese economy is rising at a dizzying pace; there is an increase in the number of people flying to/from China for business (and travel). These days on almost of the flights that I have been to China, they have been FULL. Airline companies have recognised that China is definitely a HUGE market for the aviation industry. Qatar Airways was one of the first Middle Eastern carriers to fly into Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong Province. With a population of 12.78 million people, the city has strong connections with many Chinese, and non-Chinese people living and working in Europe (Eastern and Western), the Middle East, and the African Subcontinent. Hence the reason why it is so vitally important for Qatar Airways to tap into this important destination (and market!).
In fact, Guangzhou, which has been a major trade port for hundreds of years, has a large African expatriate population- almost 50,000 as of 2011. Most are from Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Algeria, and Egypt. A casual discussion with some passengers at China customs, and at the baggage collection belts at Guangzhou Baiyun Airport seemed to point that most of the passengers on our flight were from African countries on trade missions to Guangzhou.
We departed Doha bang on time, leaving from runway 16 (the 15th longest runway in the world at 15,000 feet), at 03:15am towards the Arabian sea, heading towards Bahrain control, then onto Abu Dhabi, Dubai, southern Afghanistan, and then entering Pakistan from Karachi. The flight entered Indian airspace from the Rajasthan desert, heading towards New Delhi control, then making its way towards the Ganges Delta near Kolkata before entering Bangladesh Airspace (got a view of dusty Dhaka baking in sheer heat from 38,000 feet!), and Burma. At around five hours into the flight we entered Chinese airspace in from Yunnan Province (went over Kunming), Guangxi Province (Yangshuo and Guilin were clearly visible with their dreamy hills), and then finally entering Guangdong Province from Foshan, sliding nicely into Guangzhou (beautiful views of Guangzhou city centre). This flight was just a journey to remember just because of the beautiful views that were offered on the way. Shame that those passengers who were sleep missed some awesome and breathtaking views (including the spectacular sunrise over India!).
Comments regarding the pre-flight service:
Upon embarking the aircraft, passengers in Business Class and Economy Class were offered welcome drinks consisting of fresh orange juice, fresh apple juice, mineral water (champagne, wines, and caviar in Business Class only). As opposed to other airlines, Qatar Airlines offers refreshing towels to all passengers in all the classes prior to departure, prior to their meals and prior to landing. This is part of the true 5-star service that sets Qatar Airways apart from the rest. The cabin crew are truly one of the best trained I have met on any other airline. Customer comes first and Qatar Airways truly define the meaning of a 5-star service.
Comments regarding the pre-meal service:
Passengers in Economy Class were offered a packet of fresh pretzels packed in Qatar Airways branded packets, and a choice of drinks from the trolley service. Wine in Economy Class is provided by Fortant De France by Syrah. The cabin crew were polite and friendly. Even though this flight was full, the cabin crew paid full attention each and every customer instead of just passing the meal to passengers like they do on some other airlines. Since this was an early morning flight, and I was quite fatigued (as were the rest of the passengers), so I just resorted to drinking plenty of bottled water (at least two liters throughout the flight!). Though they may sound very tempting, however, alcohol and coffee are not good to drink during this kind of early morning flight as it just dehydrates you. Water is the best.
Comments regarding the first meal:
In true Qatar Airways style, before each meal service in Economy Class, the cabin crew placed 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 Doha. A tray full of goodies was staring at my eyes. There were two options for the main meal:
1. Two Italian style large ravioli style triangles with a Cumberland sausage, garnished with plenty of homemade tomato sauce.
2. Cantonese style chicken with fragrant rice and lavish thick soy sauce.
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.). The Cumberland sausage tasted just as if it was taken fresh from the cooking oven. With good food like this, it is so easy to get carried away and completely lose your composure! I had to wipe clean all that sauce from my face, and I would not be surprised if a few passengers even finger licked the food clean off the plate. The guy sitting next to me kept on showing me the double thumbs up after every bite. ‘Hmmm...this is good food!’ said the Syrian passenger on his way to Guangzhou. This is why Qatar Airways is different because they provide a fine dining experience in all classes of travel- one that is easily comparable to going to a 5-star restaurant. You get what you pay for, and Qatar Airways does not fail.
Accompanying the main dish was a bowl of freshly cut salad (carrot strings, tomato, shredded lettuce, sweet corn, olives, and chickpeas all in one action packed bowl!). It’s ridiculously good to have some crunchy salad to accompany a slightly heavy yet tasty dish as I had.
For dessert, Qatar Airways provided a low-fat vanilla and banana moose decorated with a dash of honey and baked maple syrup. Though it was low fat, it tasted just as good as a moose 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.
Cheese (by Labaneh), and biscuits (by Nutro) 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. It was difficult to forget the endless amounts of Godiva chocolates that the cabin crew kept on bringing us. In Economy Class, Qatar Airways still provides plastic cutlery to the passengers.
Comments regarding the after meal drinks and in-flight snacks :
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.
Comments regarding the second meal:
Qatar Airways is one of the few global airlines that offer a full second meal on flights within six-hour duration. Since our flight was seven hours, so we were treated to a meal similar to the meal we got after take-off from Doha.
Served around an hour and a half prior to landing at Guangzhou, we were treated to the following options for the second meal:
1. Curried codfish served with a portion of boiled baby carrots, freshly cut broccoli, and mashed potatoes.
2. Cantonese style chicken with fragrant rice and lavish thick soy sauce.
I opted for the codfish option. Mashed potatoes always go well with flying, but just have to be careful with all those carbohydrates! Lovely chunks of tuna dipped in with a spoonful of mashed potato and some carrot and broccoli- this is luxury airline food at its best! Airline meals are specially prepared to be fresh in a pressurised environment at 38,000 feet, 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.
Served alongside with the main dish was the semolina and rice pudding. Now, doesn't that sound gorgeous? And it wasn't just a normal rice pudding, but had minute droplets of strawberry pieces dropped in randomly. You could taste a strawberry every other bite. The views out of the window at this time were magical too. We had just crossed the massive Ganges plain, and were heading towards Bangladesh, and then onto Burma before entering Chinese airspace near Yunnan Province. The flight paths over India and China are heavily crowded with air traffic heading to and from Asia.
Improved systems such as radars, aircraft instrumentation, autopilots, and systems engineered to a higher quality, with qualified crews and controllers operating to critical specifications, allow the airspace to be deemed Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM). RVSM means that aeroplanes can be only 1,000 feet apart instead of the standard 2,000 feet. It’s cool...but we never saw a single aircraft within our vicinity during our flight.
By which time it was time to tuck into the chocolate fudge cake blended with strawberry moose (and generously decorated with a dash of Godiva chocolate sauce). The Godiva sauce went really well with the accompanying Godiva chocolates. Too many are not good, but hey you are flying, so enjoy it!
Another round of drinks and refreshments were offered after the second meal. In the 50 minutes it took to eat my second meal, we had crossed around about 1,750 km of land below us (and three countries: India, Bangladesh and Burma). How’s that for speed eating?!
Comments on the in-flight entertainment system:
Huge headphones were offered in the Economy Class cabin. The 10.6 inch PTV screen is placed behind every Economy Class seat. 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 (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, Malaysia, Philippines, United Kingdom, Germany and, Morocco. The languages spoken were English, Arabic, Hindi, Thai, German, Malay, and Tamil.
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 seven 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