After a lengthy 22 hours in Doha, all in the name of trying out the A380, it was a relief to finally board. Having been impressed with our trip from Nice to Doha, we were excited to see how the A380 would compare.
At the Airport
The connections process through Doha is pretty seamless. Once disembarking, you’re required to go through a security check and can then go through to departures. We were able to use the business lane to do this with oneworld Emerald status, however, it looked as if any of the queues would be fast moving. Unfortunately the attitude of the security personnel was rather poor, and bordering on rude which slightly dampened the experience (I was repeatedly told to ‘hurry up’ when repacking my bags, despite the fact I was doing this as quickly as possible, in the end I actually broke by backpack because I was being rushed so much).
If you’re travelling in economy but are oneworld Sapphire, or oneworld Emerald, you will be able to use the airports ‘Business’ and ‘First Class’ lounges respectively. These are not the same lounges which are accessible to those actually flying in Business or First Class. We found the First Class lounge to be more than adequate, however, and our review can be found here.
Boarding was an efficient process, and we departed on time. The upper deck with its 2-4-2 configuration was preferable to that of the lower deck which is 3-4-3. We were able to get exit row seats (which have to be requested at the airport) and so were seated in 30j and 30k. As such, these came with unlimited legroom and unlike on the 787, they’re not situated in front of the toilet – if you’re able to get them, I’d recommend. The upper deck also has storage space by the windows – this wasn’t accessible if you’re in the exit row, but was a useful addition if you weren’t.
The upper deck feels far more private due to the small size of the cabin with just 56 seats (the rest of the upper deck is dedicated to First and Business). The cabin was about 60% full, and as such, didn’t feel particularly busy. Having been very impressed with the service on our last flight we were hopeful the service on this flight would be equally as good – and whilst it couldn’t be described as bad, it was far less personable than our first flight.
Shortly before take-off, amenity packs were provided. These were of a good quality and included earplugs, eye-shades, a dental kit, lip balm and flight socks – these packs would appear to be standard on night flights but not on day services. Blankets and pillows were also provided prior to take off.
Shortly after take-off, one of the members of cabin crew introduced herself to me (this appears to be standard if you have status with a oneworld carrier), and asked if I’d like to make my meal choice in advance. The menu consisted of the typical chicken or beef, but also included an Asian vegetarian option of fried tofu. I asked if I could reserve the chicken option, and also asked if Tiago could make his selection too (he also wanted the chicken). Somewhat reluctantly, I was told this would be okay. When the food cart came round, however, I was told that only one chicken option was left, despite the earlier request. This was slightly awkward – if Qatar are going to make the effort to do a personalised greeting for status members, it seems rather awkward if they won’t extend this to a travelling companion (on our previous flight, it was no issue for both us to select our meal option). As it was, however, it worked out okay, as we were able to sample two different meals 😉
In the end, I sampled the beef, whilst Tiago had the chicken. The beef was disappointing, unlike the beef on the first flight which was perfectly tender, on this flight it was cremated, and bordering on inedible. The sauce was also not particularly appetising and I struggled to finish it. Tiago, on the other hand, enjoyed the chicken option, and whilst preferring the food on our previous flight, was perfectly happy with his choice. Qatar has a perfectly good drinks selection in economy, and we opted for the red wine with our meals – and it was of a good standard. During the flight we also requested additional drinks – this was no problem, although the service was not particularly friendly, and was a little on the slow side. Water and juice was available in the galley, and the cabin crew passed round with these two or three times during the flight.
Approximately 2 hours prior to landing, a final snack was provided. This consisted of a chicken filled pastry, and a cake. The chicken pastry wasn’t well seasoned, and didn’t taste of much, whilst the cake was a little sickly. This said, on a 6 and a half hour flight, we weren’t particularly hungry or in need of additional food, so it wasn’t a great problem.
The in-flight entertainment system was good – however, whilst my screen worked perfectly, Tiago’s was slow and unresponsive, and had to be reset three times during the flight. When working, the IFE was very good – and included a wide range of options. The screen quality was good, and was touchscreen, there was also a remote control in the seat. The flight was wifi enabled – and it was possible to get 15 minutes for free (maximum of 10mb) however, within 5 minutes of logging on with my phone, I’d used the allowance. Wifi was available to purchase, however, the rates were not particularly competitive – being limited both in terms of time, and data allowance.
We made a very smooth landing and arrived in Bangkok on time. If you do choose to sit on the upper deck, it’s worth noting that this means you’ll be among the last to disembark – and we were very nearly the last people off the plane – so if you’re in a hurry upon arrival, or have a short onward connection, it’d probably be better to choose a seat on the lower deck.
The A380 is a great aircraft to fly – it’s quiet, and felt spacious. We enjoyed our experience on the upper deck, and it was worth requesting exit row seats. The hard product was more than satisfactory, the only problem being the temperamental in flight entertainment system. The soft product also wasn’t bad – having being very impressed by our flights to Doha with Qatar, our expectations were perhaps a little too high for this flight. The Cabin crew weren’t unfriendly, but at the same time, weren’t particularly personable, whilst the food was somewhat less impressive. This said, Qatar offer competitive fares from Europe, and if you’re prepared to accept a connection in Doha, they offer a far better in flight service than many airlines do flying direct. We enjoyed flying on the A380. however, in future, we’d prioritise a shorter connection time, as opposed to aircraft type – would be fly Qatar again? Yes, if the price was right.