_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 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 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.
Qatar Airways announced that in 2012 the company will introduce seven new routes. These are Perth in Western Australia, the Finnish capital Helsinki, Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb, Gassim in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and three East African cities – Zanzibar, Kigali and Mombasa, in Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya, respectively.
Operating from the airline’s hub in Doha, capital of the State of Qatar, all seven new routes will be launched over the next few months. They will join previously announced Baku and Tbilisi, the capital cities of Azerbaijan and Georgia, respectively, which have become part of Qatar Airways’ family of routes since February 1st.
In the United Kingdom, Qatar Airways flies non-stop between Doha and London Heathrow (28 flights a week), and Manchester (14 flights a week), connecting passengers to over 109 destinations worldwide through its hub at Doha. I was on the flight from London Heathrow to Doha on Qatar Airways’ Airbus A340-642 to check out their Business Class seats! Now, here is the trip report from SEAT 10A of flight QR008!:
Route: LONDON HEATHROW (LHR) to DOHA (DOH)
Departure date and time of flight: February 2012, 15:00pm
Flight number: QR008 (ICAO callsign: “Qatari 008 heavy”)
Flight duration: 6 Hours 55 minutes
Class: BUSINESS CLASS
Aircraft type: AIRBUS A340-642 (4 in service)
Unit cost of each Airbus A340-642: US$275.4 million (£168.25 million or €190 million) (2011)
Aircraft registration: A7-AGC (First flight 13th October 2006)
Engine Type: 4 x RR Trent 556-61 (ROLLS-ROYCE)
Aircraft Serial Number: F8C42Y216 - 766
Aircraft Name: Ras Ushairij
Frequent flyer programme: Qatar Airways' Privilege Club- Q Miles
Seat configuration for this aircraft:
First Class: 8 flat bed seats in a 1-2-1 configuration (6.5 Feet legroom)
Business Class: 42 lie-flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration,
Economy Class: 256 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration
Presently the Airbus A340-642 is the only aircraft where Qatar Airways offers First Class cabin. However 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 5 aircraft in service). In fact 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).
Any baggage issues:
Qatar Airways flies from Terminal 4 at Heathrow Airport, which tends to be quieter and much hassle free than the chaotic Terminal 3 (from where all the major international airlines fly from)! No issues regarding the baggage. For Business Class Qatar Airways have a checked baggage allowance of 30 kg total for all routes excluding transatlantic routes. Therefore, for the London to Doha route, they have a 30KG luggage policy. All routes have a carry-on allowance of one piece not exceeding 7 kg (50x37x25 cm).
Comments on the check-in staff and flight route:
At the time of writing, Qatar Airways customers can check-in at Zone A, (from desks 115-122). The check-in staff were very polite and swift in processing the check-in process.
Non-EU citizens, can claim Value Added Tax (VAT) before they check-in, at the VAT desk which is accessed by the lift in Zone G. If you want this service then it is wise to add an extra hour to your check-in time for this process. Therefore overall it is wise to be at the airport at least 3 hours before departure (though you may get away with only 2 hours before your flight, but considering it is Heathrow- I would not risk it for the sake of missing your flight!).
After check-in, proceed straight to security (which can take a long time at Heathrow), and within the departure lounge you will find iconic British brands such as Harrods and Burberry, as well as other brands such as Cartier and Gucci.
Considering that I departed on a daytime flight, there was hardly any hustle or bustle that you would normally expect at Heathrow on a busy rush hour period. The check-in process went smoothly (there was NO queue!) and quickly. It must have taken less than 20 minutes to get from the check-in desk to the aircraft gate. Because of the large number of flights between London and Doha, the flights are not that full. On our flight, there were only around 50 passengers on a plane that can carry up to 250 passengers! While all 8 seats in First Class were taken, Business Class was around 40% empty, and likewise for Economy Class.
When checking in for Qatar Airways, passengers are provided with one of the three types of boarding passes depending on where they are going, and which class they are flying in. So passengers whose final destination is Doha will be given a blue boarding pass wallet. Passengers that are flying Economy Class & transferring at Doha Airport are given a yellow boarding pass wallet, and passengers that are flying either Business or First Class & are transferring at Doha Airport are provided with a burgundy coloured boarding pass wallet along with an invitation card to the exclusive Premier Terminal at Doha Airport.
From Terminal 4, we had a short taxi to the active runway (runway 09R), and even there we did not come across the long wait for take-off. The aircraft ahead of us was also a Airbus A340 belonging to Qatar Airways Amiri flight (VIP plane used by the Qatar government and Royalty). It was a straight approach to the threshold piano keys and an immediate take-off. Our flight took us from London Heathrow towards a Dover departure, and then reached cruise level of FL350 (35,000 feet), at around Maastricht control. Wonderful views of London were presented right after take-off with all the major sites of London clearly visible (Houses of parliament, Greenwich, Canary Wharf, Battersea Power Station, and much more). You can check the photos by clicking here. As this was an evening-night flight, so as we approached the Qatar peninsula, near the border of Iraq, one can easily see the huge oil fields in the desert with flames gushing into the Arabian sky. This land is full of oil...billions of cash just lurking under the ground (and that’s what has made Qatar into a rich state over the past few years). Click HERE to see the photos for this trip.
Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at Heathrow Airport Terminal 4
If you are flying Business or First Class internationally, then airport Lounges are great. You can munch away on finger food, cheese and some luxury food while waiting for a flight. One airline has taken the concept of airline lounges to a whole new level that has never been seen before by any other airline. Opened in January 2012 at London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 4 the spanking new Premium Lounge by Qatar Airways for Business and First Class passengers looks and feels rather more like a boutique 5-star hotel!
Ideally located within a 5-minute walk to the gates, and about the same time from the customs security check, the Qatar Airways Premium Lounge is the first Lounge that the airline has installed at an airport outside of Doha International Airport in Qatar. London is a prime destination for most Qataris (and also for most non-Qataris connecting to London with Qatar Airways), so it makes sense for London Heathrow to be the place for their first Lounge outside of Doha.
One thing is for sure, this Lounge is all about you, the passenger, and if there is one airline that is striving its best to bring back the hey days of luxury flying, then it has to be Qatar Airways. The distinction of the Lounge is portrayed finely as one enters it. There is no conventional reception desk but rather a similar feeling to that of entering a five star hotel foyer laid with calming spaces, and certain discreet greeters noting your wishes for dining, wining, and relaxation choices on their iPads.
It is so easy to become attracted to the culturally inspired fountains, and the luxurious touch of a Middle Eastern Palace that the Lounge presents. There is plenty of Arabic calligraphy on the walls, the carpets, the mosaics, and the gentle sounds of the fountains in the background. Would you believe it? The designers have even taken the trouble to put in scents of real olive trees and herbs around the dining areas just to make you feel attached to the culture of the country’s airline you would be taking.
Who could resist temptations such as a signature Wine and Martini bar, a luxury 5-star restaurant complete with an open Global Brassiere, and a dedicated Delicatessen? All in all you’ll be spoil for choice when it comes to wining and dining- and the good things can go on for as long as you want (and don’t worry- you won’t miss your flight because someone will escort in case you forget while having too much fun).
So is there a downside? Well, the only thing that could let you down is a flight delay. But then again would you care when you are in such cosy and pampering surroundings? Everything for the modern human life is taken care of, that includes complimentary Wi-Fi internet, iPod sockets, private showers with heated floor and mirrors (supplied with L’Occitane en Provence toiletries). So if you are flying business or first class then it’s perhaps best to make the most of this special experience that you don’t get to enjoy everyday. You just end up wondering whether future airport Lounges will end up looking the same?
Punctuality of the flight:
Departed bang on time, however we landed around 15 minutes late due to the air traffic at Doha. Doha only has one runway and so it can get busy during the airlines peak hours (which are at night time). Time is money when it comes to the aviation industry as fuel costs, combined with landing fees, take-off slot fees, and airport management fees pile on rapidly the longer the aircraft stays on the ground. Qatar Airways, and the ground-handling agents at Heathrow, are very efficient in what they do and how they operate on time. The captain had plenty of fuel in the tanks in case we had to do a fuel dumping (god forbid!), and everything was well managed for this flight. Once we arrived in Doha, I had minutes before I had to catch my connecting flight to Shanghai Pudong. It was a straight into the security check at the Premium Terminal and onto the plane for the next flight. There was hardly any time to shop around or wander around the Premium Terminal (which I have seen before).
Comments regarding the pre-flight service:
Once you enter the aircraft, the Qatari hospitality makes sure that you have an authentic experience of their culture and customs.
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!), a luxury amenity kit containing the Molton Brown toiletries, slippers, eyeshades, and a pair of Qatar Airways designer socks.
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. There was also a antipasti which consisted of fresh olives (without the seeds). I was also provided a small bowl of nuts to go with the champagne drink I had.
For lunch I took a glass of water and orange juice as this was an afternoon flight (to keep me from being dehydrated).
I opted for my favourite drink, orange juice. If you worship orange juice, like I do, then there is no reason to doubt this beautiful liquid sunshine offer by Qatari!. 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, and with just the right amount of pulp, no wonder why it tastes like a cross between a real orange, and a orange smoothie drink!
Comments regarding the first meal:
Late lunch was served around 40 minutes after take-off from London Heathrow. We must have been somewhere over northern France. The following tempting options were offered:
· Broad bean and zatar soup with lightly salted mini croutons
· Seafood cocktail with smoked tuna, saffron prawn, marinated crayfish medallion, fresh tarragon potato salad
· Classic Arabic mezze
I went for the healthy option of ‘seafood cocktail’. It was literally an extravaganza of colourful seafood portions blended in well with potato salad. A truly flavourful dish that has enough of its inclusion of wonderful tastes that would linger onto your tongue until you want to try more. Pungent, but well balanced and scrumptious, it was a testament to the creativity behind the menu at the kitchens of Qatar Airways in Doha. Truly wonderful.
Following on from the commencement options were three choices for the main lunch dish:
· Stuffed chicken breast with pesto ricotta cheese with red pepper coulis, lentil rice, and roasted Mediterranean vegetables.
· Pan-fried seabass with green tea and bonito flake lemon butter soba noodles, braised shitake mushrooms, and asparagus tips.
· Paneer jalfrezi, dhal makhani and safed pulao.
I went for the healthy option of ‘pan-fried seabass’. These fish are free of the growth hormones that are customarily fed to farmed fish. The fish is pan fried at high heat using butter to give a strong delicious flavour. This allows the fish to retain all of its natural flavours and juice as well as its minerals and vitamins producing a lower cholesterol level. The dark coloured soba noodles add a hint of lemon flavour to the tongue. While the asparagus and the tiny shitake mushrooms provide a good presentation for the whole dish. The romance of this dish is inspired by Mediterranean and Arabic traditions.
Every passenger was provided with a generous portion of the bread from the bakery basket containing various brown and white toast.
After the main meal a cheese plate with an individual plate of Cornish double cream brie, vale of bevoir stilton and mull of Kintyre cheddar. The cheese went nicely with a glass of fine Shiraz (Hollick, 2009).
A sweet finale included a selection of the following dishes:
· Warm pumpkin and sultana brioche pudding with raspberry cream
· Sliced fresh fruit
· Vanilla ice-cream and rosewater pomegranate sorbet with forest berries.
I went for the first option. A little bit heavy as it may have been but it was worth every bite, especially as it was taken on a plane. You don’t get to eat delicious food like this everyday on the ground, and even if you do then the enjoyment and ambiance is not the same as that of eating healthy and delicious food like this. The presentation was immaculate. For the best taste and enjoyment, dip each piece of the brioche into the raspberry cream, then close your eyes and enjoy! Luxury food in the sky never tasted so good.
Lunch was followed with 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 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: Lanson, Brut, 1998 (France)
· Chardonnay: Chartron et Trebuchet, Meursault, 2008 (Burgundy, France)
· Sauvignon Blanc: Villa Maria, Celler Selection, 2010 (Marlborough, New Zealand)
· Riesling: Markus Molitor, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Spatlese, 2007 (Mosel Valley Germany)
· Meritage- Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot: Chateau Brane Cantenac, AC Margaux, 2nd growth, 2007 (Bordeaux, France)
· Grenache, Carinena, Syrah, Torres, Salmos, 2008 (Priorat, Spain)
· Shiraz: Hollick, 2009 (Wrattonbully, Australia)
· Twany Port: Kopke, Colheita, 1974 (Douro Valley, Portugal)
These are quality wines where the fermentation to achieve a beautiful balance between sweetness and acidity. The exotic notes of various fruits such as peaches and apricots are evident all around in the perfumes of the wines. 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.
Comments regarding the second meal:
A late dinner snack commenced around an hour and a half before landing at Doha Airport. The following tempting goodies were offered all in one plate:
· Reception sandwiches
· Petit steak and cheese pie
· Plain and fruit scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve
· Selection of petit fours
· Forest berries
Small cute portions of forest berries, and various petit fours. Now, effectively these miniature versions of the actual dishes are quite filling. The flavours project positive synergy from all corners of the dish. Most of the emphasis comes from the high expectations of flavour and health as well.
The light snack was followed with 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:
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 Main screen. 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.
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 touch screen.
Just like on the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, the Airbus A340-642 aircraft have all the seats with 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 crewmembers face and you could tell that they really enjoyed their job. 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, Bhutan, India, Mauritius, United Kingdom, Italy and, China. The languages spoken were English, Arabic, Hindi, Thai, Chinese, and Italian.
Comments on the interior of the aircraft (including seat comfort):
The A340-642 aircraft has an on-board lounge near the First and Business Class compartments. Priestmangoode, (famous for Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa seating), designed the lounge. Building on traditional Qatari hospitality Priestmangoode has developed the design of the on-board lounge to be an extension of the airline’s airport lounge. The overall aim of the design was to generate the feeling of a integrated VIP corporate jet. The lounge offers cream leather sofa seating for six passengers and standing room at the bar. There is also a small mini-bar with spotlight mood lighting, and some space for magazines to be placed. In the 2009 and 2010 Skytrax Awards, Qatar Airways Economy Class was named best in the world.
Qatar Airways have 42 Business Class flatbed seats on their Airbus A340-642 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. 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). On this daytime flight passengers in Business Class were provided with cotton-lined pure wool blankets (100% cotton sleeper suits are only provided on night time long-haul flights). 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.
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