As one of the few airlines with a 5-star rating (as awarded by Skytrax), Qatar Airways took a step further by incorporating the number of stars it has into its marketing slogan to really bring the point home. The world’s 5-star airline – is what it calls itself on TV, billboards and in major dailies. During some of my recent trips, I got to try out this 5-star quality which they’re so proud about.
I have flown with Qatar Airways several times during the past six months alone – mostly on the SIN <-> DOH route. While I normally go for low cost carriers, full-service airlines still reign supreme over the long-haul space. One’s really got to eat on a flight that’s over five hours long. Entertainment’s more or less mandatory as well, else the flight could be unbearably boring. So is precious baggage space. This is where all the creature comforts of a full-service airline come in.
With fares that don’t necessarily break the bank, it’s no wonder several budget airlines are still facing stiff competition in the long-haul space. No matter what, a budget airline can’t offer $100 roundtrip tickets between Singapore and Europe. There is a radically different economic perspective for long-haul flights, which automatically rule out narrow bodies such as the Airbus A320 or Boeing 737, and require airlines to shell out a lot more for fuel. In this case, the price difference between an LCC and a full-service airline may be minimal. But I digress.
Going back to the flight – Qatar Airways operates from Terminal 3. Prior to my flight there, I had never been to T3. Save for the carpeting, I must say I was really impressed with the futuristic interiors.
Check-in process was a breeze. I made use of the airline’s online check-in service which meant that I only had to drop my bags and claim my boarding pass in the check-in counters. No queue whatsoever.
the green market in changi, t2
My credit card’s loyalty programme allowed me free access to The Green Market. Well, it’s not exactly a lounge – it’s more like a Japanese-themed restaurant inside the terminal but it does the job. I was given a satisfying 3-course meal and unlimited access to the salad bar for free.
3 course meal: japanese fried rice w/ chawan mushi; salmon sashimi and finally, grilled gindara
Finally, it was boarding time! The process was smooth. We were ushered inside the plane quite early, around an hour prior to departure time.
As it was off-peak season, the flight was barely full, at probably 50% capacity. I deliberately chose a seat at the back to have more space to myself.
a little bit too purplish if i may say so…
It was a Boeing 777-200LR being used for this flight. Sweet. That was another icing on the cake. The plane looked really new. One thing though- they could do better by changing the ambient lighting into a warmer color like sepia rather than pink/purplish. It’s a plane we’re in, not some futuristic bar.
Oryx: movies, tv shows, games, music… you name it
The entertainment selection consisted of hundreds of movies and tv shows. There were also thousands of songs available on-demand. For a long haul flight, this was just what I needed to keep me occupied as I normally don’t sleep very whenever I’m up in the air.
In-flight Meal Service
the main meal onboard
I only had my dinner around an hour prior to boarding so I was not really hungry. The meal service started around an hour after take-off. We had a choice of either braised fish in onion and soy bean sauce OR chicken in pesto and italian noodles. I chose the latter but I would have probably enjoyed the fish more. The noodles were a bit lumpy. The pesto sauce was too little, making the whole dish seem rather dry. Along with the main course, there was chick peas and mint salad for appetizer which was quite interesting. The passion fruit mousse for dessert was also a good ending to the meal.
the second “meal” service
As this was a 7.5 hour flight, we had a second meal service. It wasn’t a full meal and consisted of just sandwiches and a drink. One thing I remembered from my previous Qatar Airways flights was how great their sandwiches were. It tasted almost like calzone, and I wouldn’t be surprised if QR’s catering agent uses mozzarella cheese as a main ingredient for this snack item. They did not disappoint this time. There were two options – vegetarian or chicken. I’ve tried both and I must say even the vegetarian option was great!
A lot of things were done pretty well and exceeded my expectations. Not everything was perfect of course. Nevertheless, I did not have any major complaints and would definitely fly with them again if the price is right and given their varied route network.
I’ll address the details below:
- Food – I made the wrong choice with the main course – the chicken would have been a lot better. Then again, the sandwich was sumptuous and was a great way to wake me up just before our arrival in Doha
- Sleep – I’ve said this before, I’m not one to sleep like a baby during flights so my experience was the same as in other long-haul sojourns. Again, I would repeat my previous tip, and that is to deprive oneself of sleep the previous night in order to sleep like a baby on the actual flight
- Comfort – Legroom was good. Recline was decent and in-line with other full-service carriers. Plane was new and clean, which contributed to the good ambiance. Everything was functioning well which can’t be said for many other airline seats these days.
- Service – Good but could be better. The crew took a bit of time to arrive whenever they were called but I particularly liked how they served drinks every few hours while everyone’s asleep (except me). On the bright side, the crew was very international and diverse. Most come from Eastern European countries.
- Entertainment – No complaints whatsoever here – it was an excellent system. Since I could barely sleep during long haul flights, I was able to watch a few movies during the flight. They have a huge catalog which include both recent releases and classics from as early as the 1950’s. I was also surprised to find Filipino movies in their list!
- Upgrades / Miles – I am a member of the Qatar Airways Privilege Program which has a generous mileage accrual and redemption system. This program has a few tiers ranging from Burgundy (basic) to
PlatinumGold. Your membership tier influences how many miles you earn per flight, eligibility for upgrades, lounge access privileges, etc. Comparatively speaking, QR’s mileage system is abit more generous compared to other 5-star airlines. They have a tendency to throw in extra-miles promotions to help speed up potential reward ticket redemptions.