I travel in Economy Class on most flights, but this was my first proper holiday since the start of the pandemic and an extra-special experience was warranted. Let’s see if an airline commonly ranked as one of the world’s best was able to deliver just such an experience on a seven-hour journey from Doha to London.
Welcome aboard Qatar Airways flight QR 15.
Note: Please bear in mind that the details presented here will not necessarily hold true for previous or future iterations of the same flight.
For the sake of brevity, IATA airline and airport codes have been used throughout this report in place of full names (e.g., “QR” instead of “Qatar Airways”; “LHR” instead of “London Heathrow Airport”).
This review covers the second segment (DOH-LHR) of the outbound leg of a round-trip MNL-LHR-MNL journey, where DOH was the transit point on both legs. My report on the first segment (MNL-DOH) is available through this link. Separate reviews of the remaining 2 flights in this itinerary will be published in due course.
Note: All times are local. On the day of this flight, there was a 2-hour time difference between Doha (GMT+3) and London (GMT+1 under British Summer Time).
Airline and flight number : Qatar Airways (QR) 15
Route : Doha, Qatar (IATA code: DOH) to London-Heathrow, United Kingdom (IATA code: LHR)
First point of embarkation : Manila, Philippines (IATA code: MNL)
Route type : International
Date : Saturday, 04 June 2022
Scheduled departure time (DOH) : 15:05
Actual departure time (DOH) :15:05
Scheduled arrival time (LHR) : 20:10
Actual arrival time (LHR) : 20:15
Equipment and cabin
Aircraft : Boeing 777-300ER
Manufacturer : Boeing
Registration number : A7-BEN
Passenger capacity : 42 Business, 312 Economy (354 total)
Travel class flown : Business Class
Delivered in December 2017, A7-BEN was quite young at just 4.5 years of age when I hopped aboard for flight QR 15. The interiors were fitted with the airline’s newest cabin equipment, including its highly regarded Qsuites for Business Class passengers (more on these later).
As of this writing, QR policy requires passengers to wear a face mask throughout the flight, except whilst eating or drinking. Limited exceptions apply. The exact wording as set out on their official website is as follows:
Qatar Airways requires passengers to wear a face mask throughout their flight.
Passengers in possession of a Hidden Disabilities Card or a Mask Exemption Card / medical certificate due to a medical condition will be exempt from wearing a face mask throughout their flight.
Children below 6 years old do not require a face mask.
QR’s baggage allowances vary not just by travel class, but also by route. Limits on dimensions and piece weight also apply no matter what allowance you’re entitled to. For detailed terms, refer to the fine print on your ticket and to the guidelines published on QR’s official website.
My Business Class ticket came with a complimentary checked baggage allowance of 40 kg (88 lb). I was also permitted to bring up to 2 pieces of cabin baggage on board, weighing no more than 15 kg (33 lb) put together.
At MNL (my first point of embarkation), the check-in agent tagged my luggage all the way through to the final destination (LHR). She also attached a Business Class priority label before sending the bag on its way.
AT THE AIRPORT
My first point of embarkation was Terminal 3 (T3) of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (IATA code: MNL) in the Philippines…
…but my immediate point of origin for this particular segment was Hamad International Airport (IATA code: DOH) in Doha, Qatar.
Click here to read my report documenting the layover experience at DOH.
Check-in and transit
All of the check-in formalities were completed at MNL prior to my first flight segment (MNL-DOH on QR 929). Read my separate travel report covering QR 929 to learn more.
As for the transit at DOH, the formalities were…interesting, to say the least. The process as I’ve experienced at other airports was typically some variation of the following: off the plane -> long walk to the transit concourse -> boarding pass inspection -> security check -> enter the general departures area. I expected much the same when I landed at DOH…
…but got something altogether different. What happened instead was: off the plane ->
long walk to the transit concourse -> boarding pass inspection -> security check -> enter the general departures area.
That’s it. Out of the aircraft and straight into departures, dropping all that faff in the middle. I asked about this on a travel forum and was told that when DOH’s transit security area is full, flights from certain destinations are selected for the abbreviated procedure.
In any event, I was free to wander about the cavernous interiors of DOH – a veritable Aladdin’s cave of shops and restaurants and modern art and architecture on an absolutely colossal scale.
Not that I had much need of shops and restaurants and all the rest, as my ticket came with access to a very special waiting area.
I spent most of the long transit at QR’s fantastic Al Mourjan Business Lounge, one of their flagship facilities at DOH.
Read more about the experience in my separate Lounge Report.
My assigned boarding point was Gate A3, which had an enclosed seating area served by two entrances. The larger entrance was for all passengers (with a separate priority lane) whilst the smaller entrance was for the exclusive use of premium class passengers.
I went through the main entrance when I turned up for QR 15, using my Business Class ticket to gain access to the priority lane.
There was a security checkpoint just through the entrance where people and their belongings were swabbed for drug residues, and hand baggage was thoroughly checked. The inspections were carried out randomly (i.e., not everyone was pulled over), but it seemed as if more than half did end up being frisked.
Within the holding area, passengers were allocated seats based on their assigned boarding zones. I perched myself in the priority seating closest to the gate along with other passengers entitled to board first.
A final scan of my boarding pass at the door, a short walk through the boarding pier, then straight into the waiting plane through a glass-walled aerobridge.
Cabin interior and seating
QR’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft are fitted with a variety of interior configurations. Newer members of the fleet – including A7-BEN – come equipped with the airline’s signature product: enclosed Business Class seats known as Qsuites.
Very impressive indeed…but a slick promotional video is one thing and real life is another. Let’s have a look at these seats out in the wild.
First, a wide view of the cabin.
This aeroplane was fitted with a total of 42 Qsuites in alternating rows of forward-facing and rear-facing seats. Amongst the window-side Qsuites, rear-facing seats (such as the ones shown below) were positioned right up against the fuselage wall with their side tables and ottomans next to the aisle.
As for my forward-facing Qsuite (number 9J), the seat was installed closer to the aisle whilst the side table and ottoman were against the windows.
This seat was capable of going full-flat for sleep time, and when combined with the supremely comfortable blanket and two pillows it made for a quite satisfactory bed. Not that I got much sleep on this flight (given the time), but I did nap rather peacefully when I chose to do so.
Incidentally, I made the error of leaving my shoes on the main floor space when I triggered the seat’s full-flat setting. After rousing myself, I put the seat back up and found the shoes a little crushed up, though not seriously damaged. It was at that point that I noticed the little gap in the floor between the side table and ottoman (visible in the picture above on the right) where I should have stowed my footwear before reclining. Rookie mistake. 😉
Now for the best part.
Every Qsuite was fitted with a sliding door – a simple but marvellous device that enabled each occupant to transform their seat into a completely private refuge. Well, almost completely private: you could of course peer over the wall whilst standing up and there was a gap near the floor by the footwell.
As a safety precaution, the door was manually locked in open position by the cabin crew for take-off and landing. During the rest of the flight, the catch was released and I was free to open and close the door at will.
Of course, this unique product becomes a unique problem should an evacuation be declared. In addition to the usual safety briefing card, my seat pocket contained a separate instruction sheet detailing how to remove the door in the event of an emergency.
Now then, let’s have a look at the other bells and whistles of my Qsuite.
The instrument panel underneath the side table was fitted with a long row of buttons for adjusting the seat recline. Below these controls were an HDMI port, a USB port, and the familiar triangular socket for airline-supplied headphones. Next to these was a charging point designed to accept either a USB cable or a variety of conventional power plugs (rated 110V 60Hz). The console also held a touch-screen controller for the onboard entertainment system, tethered to its berth by a retractable cable.
I found additional storage space for personal items underneath the ottoman’s padded lid. The hidden compartment also held a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, a bottle of drinking water, and an air sickness bag.
The generously sized folding table was berthed right above the footwell. Mine took a bit of fiddling about but I eventually wrestled it into position.
Nothing special about the overhead panel – just the usual air vents and warning lights. Interestingly, the traditional no-smoking sign’s been reduced to a non-illuminated sticker whilst new icons for electronic devices have been added in. (Changing times, changing priorities.)
Well, that’s the hard product all sorted. Let’s move on to the lighter touches and little treats that enhance – or diminish – the airborne experience.
In-flight service and amenities
Thanks to priority boarding, those of us in Business Class had time to settle in whilst the rest of the plane was being loaded. This also gave the cabin crew a chance to start service.
As shown in the following picture…
…nearly all of the usual in-flight amenities had already been laid out prior to boarding. Propped up on the side table was a small pillow and a thick blanket (rolled tightly into a plastic bag); a larger pillow rested on top of the nearby ottoman.
The side table was where I also found a faux leather pouch containing QR’s latest Business Class amenity kit (introduced in March 2022). This iteration includes body lotion, face cream, lip balm and eau de toilette from the Parisian perfumer Diptyque, packaged with the usual inflight care set of socks, sleep mask and ear plugs.
Next to the amenity bag was a thin, grey plastic pouch. This was QR’s pandemic-era “Protective Kit” – standard-issue for all travel classes – containing a mask, gloves, and sanitiser.
Shortly after I settled in, one of the cabin crew introduced herself and asked if I’d like a refreshment.
For my welcome drink, I chose QR’s signature beverage: a chilled non-alcoholic lemon mint cocktail. (Absolutely fantastic stuff – lusciously sweet and incredibly tart, with an intense mint flavour.) This arrived at my seat with a hot towel.
A separate drinks service and the main meal followed later (whilst we were in the air), but we’ll save all that for the next section of this report.
About an hour before landing, I was given a small box of Läderach chocolates.
A sweet end to a sweet flight. 🙂
At last, we come to my favourite part of the onboard experience: the inflight meal service.
Let’s pull out the menus and consider our options.
The food menu on QR 15 was a slim and simple affair. One page laying out the available meal options, followed by a second page listing a variety of non-alcoholic beverages.
In contrast, the wine list was a lengthy and picture-heavy guide to the onboard cellar. Most of it was a gallery of featured tipples, accompanied by descriptions that read like reviews written for a wine magazine. To round things off, the final page catalogued a variety of cocktails and other alcoholic drinks that passengers could choose from.
The following images were taken during my previous leg (QR 929 / MNL-DOH), but I’ve compared both wine lists and they’re identical between the two flights.
About half an hour after departure, the cabin crew rolled out the pre-meal drinks service. I cannot for the life of me remember what I ordered, but whatever’s in that wine glass was served to me with a bowl of mixed nuts.
The main meal service began less than half an hour later. One of the cabin attendants spread out a linen tablecloth and prepared the place setting, which included a couple of lovely QR touches (namely the miniature condiment grinders and the little table lamp).
The menu mentioned soup as the first course, though my actual starter was a Japanese-inspired amuse-bouche of some kind. The attendant did describe the dish to me but I can’t remember the details; in any event, I do remember liking it.
Next came my choice of appetiser: seared beef with chermoula sauce. The alternative option of classic Arabic mezze also piqued my interest, but I was craving meat and selected this instead.
Whilst waiting for the main course, I tucked into the basket of artisan bread that was served with the initial place setting. Splash of olive oil, generous scrapes of butter…mm, very satisfying indeed. A world away from the plastic-wrapped rolls I’ve grown accustomed to in cattle class flights.
Time for the main dish. Za’atar lamb chops in red pepper sauce, served with halloumi Arabic rice and grilled vegetables.
One word: delicious.
I was offered additional condiments to go with the lamb, but I merely plucked this charmingly microscopic bottle of Tabasco from the tray and tucked it away for future use.
There was a cheese plate listed on the menu, but I jumped straight into dessert after the main course.
Dulce ginger and orange cake served with red berry sauce and an assortment of fruit.
And there we have it. A fine meal in the finest restaurant setting I could possibly ask for: a completely private table. As an introverted chap who absolutely dislikes dining in close proximity (or rather close visual proximity) to other people, this was absolute bliss served on a silver platter.
At about seven hours, a Doha-to-London flight isn’t particularly long – but there’s enough time in the air for a couple of full-length movies.
Enter the Qsuite’s generously sized IFE screen, paired with a set of noise-cancelling headphones.
You can learn more about QR’s IFE offerings – including what’s available on specific routes – via the official website.
My review of the previous leg closed with a rant on QR’s last-minute equipment swap for that flight. Both legs of this MNL-LHR journey were supposed to be on Qsuite-fitted aircraft, but the plane that ultimately brought me to DOH was an older model with antique, non-private recliner seats.
Fortunately, no bait-and-switch happened on the second leg and I was finally able to enjoy QR’s flagship Business Class product. It was everything I’d hoped for and more – the key part being the wonderfully private environment I enjoyed in the air. As a very unsociable chap, sitting next to strangers for a long-haul flight isn’t something I’ve ever relished; the pandemic and the attendant risks of close contact merely exacerbated my old anxieties. Having a physical wall between myself and the rest of humanity (or at least that part of humanity presently on board), in and of itself, suffices to make this the very best Business Class seat I’ve ever flown in.
Add to that the delicious inflight meals, the up-to-date IFE selection, the premium amenities and all the rest…well, I can simply close off this report by saying that I’ve never had such a wonderful time above 30,000 feet.
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