Qatar Airways’ flagship Airbus A380s feature business class just as it should be, with a ‘dine anytime’ approach to inflight dining, a spacious on-board bar and lounge area and free inflight Internet access (at least, for the first 15 minutes).
That’s joined by the fantastic Al Mourjan business class lounge in Doha for passengers flying onwards to other destinations or the Qatar Airways Arrivals Lounge should Doha be your final stop: and of course, fully-flat beds with direct aisle access come standard here, as you’d expect.
Australian Business Traveller reviews a recent flight from Sydney to Qatar Airways’ home hub of Doha in the State of Qatar, from which you can connect onwards to a raft of UK, European, Middle Eastern and African destinations or even plan a stopover for something different.
In Doha, Australian passport holders are able to obtain Qatari visas upon arrival at a cost of 100QAR (around A$36) or may be able to arrange a complimentary visa in advance via Qatar Airways – but of course, a visa is only necessary if you plan to leave Doha's Hamad International Airport and enter the country proper, not if you're merely in transit between flights.
- Frequent flyer scheme: Qatar Airways Privilege Club, Oneworld – but you may instead prefer to accrue frequent flyer points and status credits in the Qantas Frequent Flyer program.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x112cm bags up to a combined total weight of 15kg.
- Checked baggage allowance: 40kg (max. 32kg per piece), boosted to 45kg total for Oneworld Sapphire cardholders (including Qantas Gold) and to 60kg total for Oneworld Emerald members (including Qantas Platinum).
- Priority check-in, passport control, security, boarding, baggage delivery: Yes on all counts – a real time-saver!
- On arrival in Doha: Clear Qatari immigration in a private room if Doha is your final destination, or make use of the fast-track lanes at transit security before proceeding to the lounge or your onward boarding gate.
- Complimentary limousine transfers: Aside from occasional promotions, Qatar Airways does not provide these for its business class or first class passengers.
In Sydney, Qatar business class passengers can visit the Qantas international business class lounge thanks to the airlines' mutual partnership via the global Oneworld airline alliance – and once inside, you'll spy basics such as complimentary WiFi, shower suites and a spread of buffet food including chilled chicken, salad items, cheeses and self-pour drinks during our visit.
There’s also a gelato bar beside a barista coffee station for those so inclined…
… while Privilege Club Platinum members and other Oneworld Emerald travellers – including Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge – can instead unwind in the excellent Qantas First Lounge upstairs.
American Express cardholders with selected Platinum, Diamond, Black and Centurion cards may too visit Sydney Airport’s American Express lounge.
We availed of this option after brief stay in the Qantas business lounge and found the space considerably quieter by comparison, providing for a more relaxing pre-flight experience.
In Doha, you can also unwind in the Qatar Airways Arrivals Lounge located after passport control, or if continuing your journey, keep your eyes peeled for the Al Mourjan business class lounge in the airport’s transit area:
AusBT review: Qatar Airways Al Mourjan lounge, Doha
Business class is nestled on the upper deck of Qatar’s Airbus A380s, with seats in a 1-2-1 configuration that allows for direct aisle access for all.
Naturally, we’d peg the window seats (A/K) as the best bet for solo travellers, particularly given the handy side storage bins provided by the superjumbo (below), plus the presence of two controllable air vents for riding a little cooler versus a single vent above the other seats…
… but even if you do net a centre seat (E/F), you’re not forced to make small talk with your seatmate thanks to a long privacy screen that can be raised and left in place, including during take-off and landing.
Wherever you end up, there’s still no shortage of space to keep your gear – beginning with a fixed shelf beside you that’s the perfect home for tablets, laptops and other gadgets when not in use, not to mention any magazines you may wish to keep in the adjacent literature pocket…
… while further down, a smaller cubby proves ideal for amenity kits, cameras and reading glasses…
… and when closed, offers even more space on top such as for the supplied pyjamas:
(If travelling onwards to the UK and Europe, you may wish to take your PJs with you as they’re typically not provided on these shorter flights.)
Look to the other side of your seat to find a similar fold-open pouch with your headphones and bottled water…
… and as to your slippers, they’ll either be within your pyjama bag or in the shoe drawer:
We tried placing our actual (size 11) shoes inside and found the drawer easily jammed by our large clodhoppers – so unless you have much smaller feet with shoes to match, keep this space only for your slippers.
Further around the seat, a fixed foot rest – and plenty of legroom even without it…
… and that footrest later forms the tail end of your 22-inch (56cm) wide, 80-inch (203cm) fully-flat bed, softened by a fitted mattress and duvet which the crew will happily install…
… and for eating or working, simply pull the latch, unfold your tray table and slide it towards you:
The exact position of the seat can be customised via a comprehensive array of buttons – either to a precise position or one of the many pre-set modes…
… although given the extent of these dials, we’d love to see the addition of ‘save’ and ‘restore’ buttons to program your favourite pose, and then return to it after having moved the seat for your inflight meal or to rest.
But there’s more to business class on the A380 than just the seat, thanks to the superjumbo’s bar and lounge area located at the very rear of business class – shared also with passengers from first class seeking to stretch their legs:
A range of seating options cater to solo flyers, couples and groups whether the agenda is to chat and socialise or get some work done, with handy AC power outlets available throughout for longer productive visits…
… and a good selection of premium alcohol kept at the ready, except for Krug Champagne which often appeared at the inflight bar in the past but is now exclusively served in the first class cabin:
Even so, if this isn’t enough to please on a flight that’s mostly geared towards sleeping, you’re sure to be satisfied when Qatar Airways’ A380s are all upgraded to feature the airline’s new business class Qsuites, complete with closing doors, double beds for high-flying couples and even quad seats for groups and families:
Business class travellers aboard Qatar Airways are free to order anything from the entire menu at any time – whether that’s breakfast at dinner time, a hearty dish in the middle of the night or just a bite to eat after settling in and getting some work done.
We love this approach as it allows you to make the most of your flight and keep to your own schedule and time zone rather than the airline’s. It also makes the dining experience feel far more personalised and restaurant-like.
Our own journey began with a drink before take-off – Qatar’s signature lemon and mint refresher – delivered with the option of a hot or cold towel…
… followed by Champagne (Billecart-Salmon Brut) and warmed nuts once airborne:
As to the meal itself, a tasty salmon, caviar and potato amuse-bouche gets things started…
… with a roasted butternut squash soup up next, enhanced with a lemon and herb crème fraîche and combining to make a really flavourful starter, with a variety of breads on the side too:
No flight on a Middle Eastern airline would be complete without sampling the Arabic Mezze – a go-to dish of ours and always a favourite, served with hummus, tabouleh, muhammara and Arabic bread…
… then comes your choice of main course. We opted for a grilled fillet of beef with horseradish jus, parsley mashed potatoes, maple-glazed carrots and baby onions, which came well-presented and best-enjoyed with a glass of Cabernet Merlot (the Bordeaux Château Smith Haut Lafitte Grand Cru Classé 2011):
We skipped the cheese and dessert courses in favour of some much-needed sleep, awaking roughly 8.5 hours later after a solid rest: still four hours before landing on this 15-hour flight.
On many other airlines, that would find you sitting hungry for a couple of hours until breakfast or snacking before a proper meal, but we availed of Qatar’s ‘dine anytime’ service and promptly ordered a café latte plus a smoked turkey and cream cheese croque-monsieur with chive scrambled eggs: and yes, it was as yummy as it looks!
On our return journey from Doha, 'dine anytime' also meant we could sleep straight after take-off while everybody else was eating dinner, could order breakfast during the flight while many others were asleep and could enjoy a late lunch/early dinner while most were just rising for breakfast – and with a 7pm arrival back into Sydney, this significantly helped to minimise jet lag and reacclimatise to our home time zone.
The airline’s inflight menu also features an extensive range of cocktails, mocktails, teas, spirits, liqueurs, whiskies (Chivas Regal 12yr, Glenfiddich 15yr and Jack Daniel’s) and wine, including a rosé Champagne, dessert wine and Tawny Port, with each drop profiled in the menu including notes on ideal food pairings.
And of course, there’s the inflight bar and lounge area where you can help yourself to snacks or enjoy a drink away from your seat, either with company or on your lonesome.
Entertainment & Service
Thousands of movies, TV shows, music tracks and games are at your disposal via the Oryx One inflight entertainment system…
… controlled either by touching the main 17-inch HD screen or using the also-touchscreen remote control to navigate:
Better yet, that remote doubles as an independent screen of its own, so if you’re watching a movie (or one of the external aircraft cameras) and want to check your flight’s progress on the moving map, you can call it up on the remote itself without exiting your programme on the main screen:
Inflight WiFi is too available with the first 15 minutes provided per device at no charge (or 10MB, whichever comes first), and various paid packages available to continue your session, topping out at US$20 (A$26.50) for up to 200MB or the entire flight.
Service from the crew proved faultless in every respect at our seat, and also at the on-board lounge where the bartender's conversational skills allowed them to tailor their interactions with various other business travellers, honeymooners, families and holidaying solo jetsetters who stopped by.
Overall, the gate-to-gate experience of Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380 business class proved most enjoyable, and we can’t wait to see how the airline’s new business class Qsuites take things up a notch by mid-to-late 2018.
Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of Qatar Airways.