Having only flown Qatar’s Business product, I was curious to see how economy compared on the ‘World’s 5-star airline’. Launched in July 2017, Qatar’s new service to Nice forms part of its expanding network across Europe.
At the Airport
Check-in opened approximately 3hrs before departure, with five desks in operation – one for business, one for oneworld frequent flyers (Emerald and Sapphire), one for those who had already checked in online, and two more for economy passengers. We were able to use the priority line, which would usually have made check-in a swift affair, however, it wasn’t quite as smooth as I anticipated. After booking the flights, I was sent an email informing me that I needed to confirm my credit card details as part of fraud prevention. I was invited to scan in a copy of my card, passport, and bank statement. I did do all this, but for some reason I was told that this wasn’t enough and I’d still need to take my credit card to the airport. This is fairly standard, and perhaps 10% of the time I am asked when checking-in on various airlines for my card – usually the agent just looks and confirms it is the card number which was used to make the booking – in Qatar’s case, however, it was a requirement to go to the service desk, where €1 was debited from my card, and then immediately re-credited. As it was the process only took around 10 minutes, but it was my first experience of such a stringent credit card check and it seemed slightly over the top.
As a oneworld emerald I was invited to use the fast-track security line, however, it wasn’t possible to extend this to a guest, as such we went through normal security – which was fast moving and took around 10 minutes. Once through security we proceeded to the B-Zone, cleared passport control and headed to the lounge.
Qatar use the ‘Canopy’ Lounge in Nice, which is well signposted and easy to find once having passed through immigration. The lounge was a pleasant enough space to wait before the flight, and a more in-depth review can be found here.
Qatar allocate exit row seats on a first-come-first-serve basis – as we were among the first to check-in, we were successfully able to obtain these, and were sat in 26j and 26k. Although apparently full in business, the economy cabin was at most 30% full, and as such passengers were able to move to free seats – as such we had the row to ourselves, with 26h also becoming vacant. This was appreciated as it allowed us to use the tray table of 26j as an additional area to place drinks and personal items. The seats did feel narrow, and although fine for us, I imagine had the flight been fuller, it would have felt somewhat claustrophobic. It is also true that the close proximity to the toilets could be bothersome – as the flight was relatively empty, this didn’t turn out to be a problem for us, but I imagine it could be on a fuller flight. Taking this into consideration, I still recommend trying to get the exit row – we had unlimited room to stretch out and the added advantage of having no seats in front to recline into us. Prior to departure the crew offered water, and we departed on time.
The in flight entertainment had to be reset a couple of times during the flight, however, apart from this it was very good. The touchscreen was responsive and there were plenty of entertainment options. Headphones were provided at the beginning of the flight and were decent enough. The seat was fitted with USB and AC power plugs, however, whilst the USB power worked for the duration of the flight, the power plugs did not and only functioned for the latter part of the flight, which was disappointing.
Whilst easier due to the quiet nature of the flight, the service provided by the crew was exceptional and could not be faulted. Shortly after take off, one of the members of the crew welcomed us onboard personally, and took our meal preferences. On this flight, there was the usual choice between beef, chicken and pasta – we both opted for the beef. The meal tray, which was presented approximately 45 minutes after take-off, consisted of a couscous starter, bread, cheese, the main course, and a wild berry crumble with custard. Without exception, all of the food was of a very high standard – the couscous was nicely flavoured, the beef tender and well seasoned, whilst the dessert was a good finish to the meal. Although the portion sizes were small, I prefer small and of good quality, opposed to plentiful and inedible… in terms of flavour, I’d really not have been disappointed had I been served this in business.
The meal was served with a choice of drinks, and included a water couplet. We opted for red wine, and again, it was of a more than adequate quality. During the flight, the crew regularly came round with juice and water, whilst snacks including crisps and chocolate bars, were available. During the flight we requested additional drinks – this was no bother, and the crew were charming throughout. Although aided by the quietness of the cabin, the service was on par with some of my experiences in J – and really couldn’t be faulted.
Qatar offer a solid economy product, which is often very competitively priced. Although aided by the quietness of the cabin, the flight was very enjoyable and the service couldn’t be faulted. If you’re flying further afield than Doha, and don’t mind the stopover, Qatar offer an enjoyable on-board product, and a relaxing in-flight experience. The 787 can, however, feel cramped due to its somewhat tight layout, and as such, I can see that if the flight had been at capacity, the flight would have been considerably less enjoyable.