The day we learned we were the very fortunate recipients of two business class tickets to any destination served by Qatar Airways was a very happy day. A happier day than when Blonde got married (admittedly an easy one to top. Changing the cat litter tops that day.). And way happier than when Brunette occasionally remembers she’s still married.
We’d always dreamt of going to the Maldives and suddenly it was not only possible but possible in comfort and style.
In case you don’t know, Qatar Airways is always winning accolades as an airline and especially for their Business Class service. Just this month they they won Airline of the Year from the industry group Air Transport News and Best Business Class by Business Traveller readers in the United Kingdom and Best Middle East Airline by readers of Business Traveller, Asia-Pacific. We’re fairly certain we classed them up right ahead of the votes and helped to tip the scales in their favor!
We’d flown to JFK from Florida and that gave us the option of getting to JFK with a super tight connection time or getting there 7 hours ahead of our takeoff time for Doha. We went the cautious route. You may want to think about whether you’d want to do that or not if you’re going to fly Qatar Airways from JFK.
Even though they’re a 5 star airline they don’t have any staff at their counters at JFK until two hours before the flight. The “boarding passes” you can print ahead of time aren’t good enough to get you through security so you spend a lot of time in purgatory – 5 hours in our case. We knew we could use the Business Class Lounge on the other side of Security but we couldn’t get through Security and weren’t allowed to use the lounge on the side we were on. Our bubbles of excitement were beginning to burst a bit.
However, when they did open the counter staff was exceptionally gracious and pleasant, words rarely used to describe the counter staff at domestic carriers in the U.S. For some reason our seats weren’t together and after sizing us up and deciding no one else should have to sit beside either of us the attendant in the cabin got a man to switch his seat (luxury pod really) so we could be together.
We were immediately served champagne before takeoff which was a nice change from being yelled at to not use overhead space in coach which is how most trips begin for us. We checked out our pods and saw that we had a great selection of entertainment options, wifi, seats that reclined to flat beds, packages of nice new pajamas, blankets and eyeshades and a little case of Salvatore Ferragamo amenities. (Brunette still uses hers and calls it her “Ferragamo purse” and our crowd is so dim-witted no one corrects her on it.)
Then we looked at our menus. Before leaving we’d seen the video on Qatar Airways’ website about their Business Class “experience” and had been eagerly anticipating the meals they’ve gone to such lengths to get world class chefs to create. Wow – we were not disappointed! The dinner was 5 courses of some of the finest food we’ve ever had on the ground! No mystery meat and rock hard cold bread. We each loved the Arabic Mezze and Blonde ate a lamb that did not die in vain. Brunette had sea bass and Brunette is a very hard grader when it come to fish quality and preparation and she thought it was possibly the best prepared and freshest sea bass she’d ever had. And of course wine, water and any other drinks you fancy flow freely and are of a high caliber.
We changed into our special pajamas we’d been given and laid down to get actual decent sleep en route to Doha.
Before landing we were served a scrumptious brunch, changed back to our own clothes and enjoyed being the first group ushered off the plane.
We were, however, unpleasantly surprised to find out that we had to ride a bus quite a ways at Doha airport. We were on a special bus for high class sorts (and impostors like us) and it was a lengthy ride. One interesting incident was that the only other passenger, a Russianesque man in his 60s, decided to announce to us that he was returning to Doha from having had liposuction on his “love handles”. The fat that had been removed had then been injected into his face the day before! It was his third liposuction procedure and he was miserable flying the day after. We were quite astounded by this information. We hope he isn’t dead now as you should never fly so soon after surgery because of the risk of blood clots.
Doha airport when we were there was like a third world country. It was crowded, very outdated in traffic flow, amenities and everything else you would expect in a rich country that’s growing at warp speed. Since that time a new airport has opened and Qatar has moved their operations there which we’re certain must be massively better!
On our way back through Doha we were upgraded to be allowed to stay in Qatar’s Premium Lounge and it was quite premium! It had 6 restaurants, a tea bar, French pastries, cheese and wine as well as fast wi-fi. There was also a game (as in expensive video ones) room, a nursery, a medical clinic and ladies and “gents’ prayer rooms.
Blonde has a basic list of things that make her happy and they were all provided: wine, wi-fi, and somewhere to sleep. Brunette needs a swimming pool so they may want to look into adding one of those.
To our immense delight (and total mystification) we were driven to our flight in a private BMW! We were torn between trying to act like that’s the sort of thing we’re totally accustomed to or being the two giggling rubes we are. You can see below that the quiet sophistication act was blown by asking to have our pictures taken. That was a first and we’ll give them 8 stars for not making us get on a bus again at the Doha airport!
Back on the plane for the flight home we once again had excellent, personalized service with no need going unattended (well, they didn’t lose those 5 pounds for Blonde). We saw some movies that were up for Academy Awards, read books, slept and drank wine. What’s not to like?
So is Qatar Airways really a 5 star airline? Yes, when you are in their planes it’s a fabulous experience. They get all of the details right and have one of the newest fleets in the air which is a plus too.
The 5 stars are hampered by the airport experiences. We hope they will remedy the situation in JFK and their other gateways in the U.S. so that “real” boarding passes can get you through Security or counters will be staffed much earlier before flights.
Having said that we certainly wouldn’t turn down two more free Business Class tickets anywhere they fly!