LHR-DOH-ICN with Qatar Airways – Business Class, Lounges and Economy Review (QR009, QR858)

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Alcohol selection at the Skyteam Lounge Heathrow T4

Qatar Airways Check in London Heathrow T4

I’d been looking forward to my flight for a while as I’d booked it some 8 months in advance and never before flown with Qatar Airways. Sadly they fly from Terminal four at London’s Heathrow airport, which is the hardest of the terminals to reach by public transport, even harder from where I live! A train from my village to Woking, followed by a coach from to Terminal 2 & 3’s bus station, followed by a long walk and transfer via the Heathrow Connect train. At check-in I was greeted by a member of staff with a friendly, welcoming smile with no queue at all for both economy and business class customers. Perhaps I was just early, perhaps it was the efficiency of the numerous desks that were open. I was given an invitation card to the Skyteam lounge, rather than their own First and Business lounges, and a bright orange “priority” tag was attached to my luggage. Security at T4 took longer than it could have done, but then it always seems to.

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Tastefully decorated, not as spacious as other lounges

Complimentary washroom facilities

Skyteam Lounge Heathrow Terminal 4

I made my way directly to the Skyteam lounge, some five minutes brisk walk from the security area. It was pleasant and quiet, plenty of space for everyone there, even at midday, although very few staff to be seen. The selection of food was reasonable, cold snacks and salad as well as a variety of baked goods. The wine selection was one of the larger that I’ve seen and the spirits on offer were also pretty good: three brands of whiskey and rum is a good place to start! The free wifi was fast enough to make a video call, something that is too much to ask of other lounges “cough, cough Cathay Pacific”. For those more inclined to watch the world go by, the window offers a good view onto the apron. For everyone else there are news channel TVs and quiet spots to work in.

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Complimentary washroom facilities

I had intended to make use of the showers in the Lounge as en route to the airport I’d been the unfortunate resting place for a passing bird’s digested breakfast. There were no staff visible in the darkened room of the spa and massage treatment room, adjacent to the showers, so I took a towel myself from the cupboard and found an empty shower room. The lounge features reasonable beverage selection (pictured above). After my shower I had just enough time afterwards to grab another drink and head to the gate.

Qatar Airways A380 Economy LHR-DOH QR009

Qatar do let themselves down a little when it comes to check-in. Those seated in economy, upstairs, must walk the entire length of the plane, climb the staircase at the rear, and then find their seats in the cabin. This does, however, mean that first and business are each given their own air bridges through which boarding takes place, a nice touch for the premium customers, at the expense of everyone else. The seats were comfortable and legroom was generous for economy; I appreciate legroom greatly as, at 185cm tall, I need it! The IFE was available from the moment I sat down. Once boarding was completed, damp towels were distributed for the comfort of the passengers, the usual safety announcements were made in both English and Arabic, along with another series of announcements about the airline, their duty free shop and their charitable efforts. Each of the latter three were mandatory as they paused the IFE and played the message at a volume so uncomfortably loud I had to remove my earphones.

The headphones provided by the airline are dire; most uncomfortable and offering little sound reduction, I used my own instead, which again was frustrating as the port for them was not intended for one’s own headphones. Small gripes I know, but when you have to re-insert your headphones every time you move or during turbulence it becomes rather a pain.

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Qatar Airways LHR-DOH Seat 26A (Upper Deck)

Takeoff was prompt and the flight was smooth. The journey to Doha is only seven hours, which passes quickly with their excellent selection of films on the IFE. I usually fly with British Airways for long haul, whose service is usually exemplary. I was surprised with Qatar by the sheer number of staff they had on board, all of whom were prompt, polite and thoughtful, often anticipating correctly what you might require when you press the call button. They did let themselves down with after dinner snacks. Once the food has been served, they have very little else to offer. When I asked they only gave me a mars bar and a packet of plain crisps. Others, such as British Airways, have a wider selection of snacks including instant noodles, chocolate, biscuits and fruit.

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For airline food, Qatar Airways’ was way up there!

I always enjoy the A380 as it is far quieter and smoother than its smaller counterparts such as the 747 and the 777. This was no exception, even sitting behind the wings there was no significant engine noise. A good distance from the wing and the engines.

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Cabin TV displaying the tail camera

Coming in to land the screens at the front of the cabin changed to show the camera from the tail fin which was a nice feature. I didn’t get a photo of it the first time as it was dark, not much to see, but on the return leg (DOH-LHR) I did.

DOH – Hamad International Airport

  Fully opened in 2014, the airport looks and feels very new. Closer to landing the IFE was paused once again to show a video singing songs of praise about the airport, painting a very golden picture. Both at day and night, the airport felt largely the same, grey and shiny new. Hundreds of staff were present in all of the shops and toilets, ensuring passengers were well catered for. It was easy to navigate and transfer information was displayed everywhere.

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Strange artwork in the centre of DOH – Hamad International Airport

Qatar Airways Doha Business Class Lounge

I landed at 1:00am, with an hour and a half layover. As I had no duty free shopping to do I had time to visit the Business Class lounge. There were a great many seats, all low to the ground with small tables next to them which seemed to be too low to use as a desk or table to eat from, given the height of the, already low, seats. While I appreciate Qatar is an Islamic country, I expected the selection of alcohol to be greater for international passengers. The airport sees some 29 million passengers every year, 26 million of them from Qatar airways, I can only presume 50% or more of whom are not Muslim and therefore would enjoy an alcoholic beverage. Smirnoff red, Beefeater gin and Johnnie Walker Red label, along with one red and one white wine does not really cut it for a business lounge.

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Food selection at the Qatar Airways Lounge

There were many attentive staff members tidying up empties and ensuring the food was constantly well stocked. A similar selection of fresh fruit, pastries and cakes, bread rolls with meats and cheeses to go in them, and two coffee machines.  The bathroom was very well staffed, cleaners omnipresent and working tirelessly to keep everything shiny. The showers were smaller and less well appointed, but a shower at 1am after a seven hour flight is always welcome. Fresh towels were brought to me and the door was opened for me too.

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Overcrowded, noisy and unpleasant

My second visit to the lounge was quite the opposite affair. The lounge was packed to capacity, there was a queue for the toilets, an even longer queue for the showers and almost every chair in there was taken. The food counters resembled a mob, the staff were rushed off their feet answering questions, clearing up and restocking the food and drink. The noise of myriad conversations, phones ringing, plates and cutlery clanging along with the constant click-clack of suitcases rolling along the tiled floor seemed as loud as the outside. After a while I gave up trying to find peace in there and went to the gate, which was actually quieter. The lounge is too small at peak times to accommodate everyone comfortable.

DOH-ICN QR858 Qatar Airways 777 Business Class

When I reached the gate I was issued a new boarding pass and told I had been moved to seat 1B, business class. The plane didn’t have First class, so I was at the very front of the plane. I was greeted when I boarded and two members of staff personally introduced themselves to me. I was offered a choice of drinks, of which I chose orange juice which tasted freshly squeezed, absolutely delicious. Once boarding had completed we were delayed by an hour while the plane waited for some cargo to appear so that it could be loaded. During this time the two stewardesses that had introduced themselves to me started chatting to me, in between aiding other passengers, taking a genuine interest in my visit to Korea. A nice touch was that every seat had been issued a bottle of water, prior to take-off, something I usually ask for as soon as I board.

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2-2-2 Forward Facing Seats, not as private as other products

The seat itself was very comfortable, massage functions and highly adjustable lumbar support. Every passenger was issued pyjamas according to an assessment of their physical size. A comfortable pillow, with soft fabric case and duvet (not blanket) completed the bedding. A small Giorgio Armani bag, containing cologne, aftershave moisturising balm, a sleep mask, flight socks, a razor and a toothbrush was also hiding underneath.

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In fully flat mode the seat made a bed I could fit on, which was very welcome as it was then 1am BST.  DOH-ICN Qatar Airways 777 Business Class QR858  Other passengers waiting patiently during our delay on the ground  Soon after take-off dinner was served from a menu of three options. I chose the black cod which was very nice. I also selected a fifteen year old Glenfiddich from a range they had on their menu. The table was laid with a tablecloth, breadbasket and miniature porcelain salt and pepper pots, a nice touch. Breakfast was served in a similar fashion after a personalised wake-up call, I chose an hour before landing.

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Fine Dining at 38,000ft – Black cod with rice and vegetables

After dinner I went to the bathroom, changed into my comfortable pyjamas, brushed my teeth and made use of the range of moisturisers on offer before heading to bed. While they didn’t have any spare pillows, the stewardess made a makeshift one from a pillowcase and blanket which did the trick. I got a few hours sleep, although the flight itself is only seven hours, and so doesn’t really lend it self well to passengers getting a full eight hours. After the hour long delay on the ground, the pilot managed to arrive on time at Incheon airport.   Overall I was impressed with the service, the catering and the comfort of the cabin – I had no grounds to complain. Especially as it was a free upgrade!

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Sunset from sea 26A – QR009 – LHR-DOH
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