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REVIEW – Qatar Airways : First Class – Doha to Bangkok (A380)

qatar a380 first class

Qatar Airways First Class A380

Qatar Airways (QR)

  • Flight: QR830
  • Class: First Class
  • From: Doha (DOH)
  • To: Bangkok (BKK)
  • Duration: 6hr15
  • Aircraft: Airbus A380-800
  • Seat: 2F
  • Status during flight: OneWorld Sapphire
  • Cost: £800 for ARN-BKK-DOH Round trip in Business Class
    • Operational upgrade from Business to First
  • Flight Date: March 2016

doh bkk - REVIEW - Qatar Airways : First Class - Doha to Bangkok (A380)

Al Mourjan Lounge – Doha Airport


After disembarking from the Stockholm flight, I was surprised to see that we had been instantly deposited airside, without having to clear transfer security. This can be something of a lottery as subsequent QR flights have almost always resulted in my having to go through the security ‘pantomime’.

As we were ticketed in Business Class we made our way to the Al Mourjan lounge, Qatar’s gleaming and expansive business class lounge.

Last time I visited the Al Mourjan lounge it was brand new and very few passengers seemed to be aware of its existence. This time though there was a lady checking boarding passes at the foot of the escalator, with a secondary check at the main reception desk upstairs.

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The Al Mourjan lounge decor- very modern and very clean.

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Once inside the lounge we made our way upstairs, to the mezzanine level restaurant.

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I asked at the bar but was told that they no longer served Krug, so I slummed it with a glass of Billecart Salmon and a selection of Arabic dishes from the buffet.

Since our layover wasn’t particularly long and having already visited the Al Mourjan lounge in the past, we decided to make our way to the gate early, in order to get as much time as possible on board the QR A380.

As we walked to the gate, I mentioned to Kamara that I had a feeling we were going to get a magic beep today.

“What’s a magic beep?”, she asked – not unreasonably.

“Wait and I’m sure you’ll find out.”

I had heard that this route is often oversold and figured that two confirmed pax, connecting on time, who had checked in many hours in advance and both held status, on a single reservation, would be in with a higher than average chance of an upgrade.

The Economy side of the gate looked like absolute pandemonium and this only served to reinforce my belief that operational upgrades would be on the cards.

My heart started to beat a little faster as we got to the front of the Business Class line, probably a combination of the excitement of trying the Qatar A380 for the first time as well as my rather unscientific belief that we were about to get some good news.

I handed over our boarding passes and sure enough the light on the scanner flashed red and let out its ‘magic beep’.

“Is that a good beep?”, I asked.

“Only if you like being upgraded to First Class, sir.”

“That’s the magic beep? How did you know?”, asked Kamara.

Sometimes you just know…

 


Flight QR830


I practically skipped down the jetbridge with my shiny new boarding pass in hand. Flying F is always a great experience but thinking you were due to fly Business and getting an op-up ? Well that’s roughly one million times better.

We were greeted at the entrance door but were not shown to our seats, which I thought was a little strange for First Class.

A soon as I saw the cabin I broke out in a massive smile. Having previously flown the old QR F product on the A330, this was just so, so much better that it is hard to know where to begin.

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The seats are plump, enormous thrones.

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The level of detail on the cabin finishes is truly remarkable. Unless you’re a total airplane nerd (like me 🙂 ) you’re hardly going to look at the wall behind the rear middle pair of seats.

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The wave like ripples help to break up an otherwise plain space though and I imagine they aid in dampening sound within the cabin too.

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It seems like Qatar took their lighting tips from certain sections of the city of Amsterdam…

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The beige leather had the buttery soft feel of a designer jacket. The lamps could be adjusted to multiple brightness levels and the power socket next to them was elegantly placed behind a brushed metal flap.

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Once the privacy dividers went up we couldn’t see anybody else in the cabin. It is obviously nowhere near the privacy levels of Etihad or Emirates Frst but I didn’t feel like we were ‘on display’ either.

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The absolutely enormous tray table.

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The same ultra responsive IFE remote as in Business on the newer planes in the QR fleet. A bottle of Vittel water was waiting for us inside this compartment too.

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I love being able to use the remote to check on our route, whilst watching a movie on the main screen.

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The seat controls: a number of presets on the side plus a super high tech touch screen option for people who like to go all Rain Man with their seat adjustments.

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Customise everything!

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Literature pocket and more seat controls!

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An FA approached us as I was busy taking pics and asked what size PJs we wanted. I went with L/XL which were evidently made for somebody that resembles a pumpkin on stilts (the other size: S/M was made for an Ewok on a diet). Still, the slippers were nice.

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Each seat also has its own personal wardrobe, I opened it to reveal a larger Armani amenity kit than the ones we received in Business.

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The contents were also quite a bit better than the business class version of the kit. The two Acqua di Gio products are from my first kit. The mainline Armani products (including a very decently sized cologne) came in the F kit.

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Kamara’s F kit contained less stuff but apparently the make up remover is the best thing ever. The ladies’ kit contained a very slightly larger Si perfume in F than in Business.

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Inside the wardrobe there was a proper, full size, hanger coated in finely stitched leather. A pet peeve of mine is having to hang up a nice jacket on a miniature wire hanger for 12 hours when flying in F. I’m glad QR notice these little things…

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The privacy screen, featuring engraved arabic geometry.

Whilst the hard product was very impressive indeed, the crew were noticeably lacking in polish and professionalism. We waited at least ten minutes before anybody came over to check on us and offer a drink. Even then I was left with an empty flute for a good twenty minutes as apparently the champagne was still warm.

In the meantime, one of the crew came around to offer arabic coffee.

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I get that wrapping the dates in that golden plastic is hygienic but surely there has to be a better way to present them in first class?

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Eventually an FA came over to pour me a glass of Krug and also to bring me a scented hot towel (I had asked for a cold one). Unfortunately the Krug was still roughly the same temperature as the towel. At this stage she also made a token effort to explain some features of the seat to me. More accurately, she pointed at the headphones – said, ” here is your, the noise cancel” [sic], shrugged her shoulders and then left.

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Another slightly odd touch, the choice of snack to accompany the drinks. Not olives, or cashews or macadamias… garlic croutons.

At this stage I turned to Kamara and asked, “Is it just me or was the service considerably better in Business Class than it is in First?”.

“No, it’s really bad. I don’t know what’s going on.”

I felt really conflicted. I had just come away from the flight in business class absolutely loving Qatar. Then they outdid themselves by upgrading us to their utterly spectacular F cabin… only for the service to feel like a steep downgrade 🙁

Still, warm Krug aside, the wine list was very strong. Leoville Poyferre, in particular, is no joke.

Once we had reached our cruising altitude the FA approached me to say that the Krug was still warm but she was “making sure it will be chilled”, in the meantime she took our dinner orders and then came back to set our tables.

 

We then waited… and waited…and waited.

We had both ordered the caviar to start and I mentioned to Kamara that perhaps it was taking this long because they were heating it up. I should have known better than to joke about these sorts of things.

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The presentation was very elegant. Kudos for not only having one but two mother of pearl spoons. Unfortunately the caviar was lukewarm.

Now I’m not totally devoid of personal awareness. I know I spend a lot of time in the unbelievably privileged position of the First Class cabins of the world’s top airlines and that the majority of the problems raised in this blog aren’t ‘real problems’. I also understand that the upgrade was free and nobody on earth ever won any friends by uttering the line, “The caviar was lukewarm”.

Here’s the thing though. Qatar’s CEO makes no attempt to hide the fact that he is a perfectionist. He claims his airline is the best in the world. He says economy on Qatar is so good that it obviates the need for a premium economy cabin. He is such a perfectionist that he delayed delivery of the company’s first A380s because the finishes on the F cabin weren’t up to his high standards.

People may save up for a year or more, in order to sample this flagship First Class product just once in their lives. If they did, they would come away disappointed. Not because of any failing of the hard product or the physical substance of the food and drink but rather because of a lack of care and competence from the crew. That is an absolute shame.

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Qatar Airways Caviar course

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Not the looks of quasi-orgasmic delight that Mr Al Baker would expect aboard one of his first class cabins

At this stage we were two hours into a six hour redeye and our starter plates had yet to be cleared. The entire meal service for a full Business cabin was completely more quickly and professionally than the serving of our starter in First. Another thing: not once were either of us offered a refill for our drinks. Even when one of us would ask for more water the FA would only top that person up and completely ignore the other. It was seriously bizarre.

I was about to get up to let the FAs in the galley know that we were happy to just call it a night, when suddenly an FA appeared holding my main course. The FA served me first, sliding my caviar plates to one side of the table and putting my main course alongside them. She then returned with a tray to clear my caviar plates and repeated the same steps for Kamara.

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My duck dish was delicious but no different in quality or presentation than what we got in Business Class. I think this says more about how great the Business Class catering is rather than being an indictment of the First Class offering. (The cutlery was set pointing towards me too, never seen that before…)

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Kamara’s prawn dish was similarly good but as soon as I tasted it I noticed something. The dishes appeared to be modular. The sauce and rice were identical for both. The only difference was the protein placed on top and the garnish.

We sat with empty plates in front of us for a few minutes, at which point I headed to the galley and asked for our plates to be cleared and beds to be made. I then went to get changed into my hilariously proportioned PJs. I had mentioned earlier to a member of the cabin crew that the door lock had come totally unscrewed on one of the toilets but returned, not surprisingly, to find that nothing had been done about it. I picked the lock up off the floor and did my best to reattach it again.

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Qatar has a really nice setup for snacks and drinks in the F cabin. You pass this display on the way to the bathroom.

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The bathroom itself is by far one of the most amazing things I have ever seen on a plane.

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Toilet hidden underneath a leather lid.

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Plenty of hangers to use whilst getting changed.

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There was a veritable cornucopia of amenities available in one of the drawers.

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A sheet of water cascades into the enormous designer sink.

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I returned to find my bed made, once we were on the ground I found out that Kamara had just been thrown a bundle of bedding and left to her own devices as a I got changed. The bed was very comfortable but given how long the meal service took, we only managed a couple of hours sleep.

Once the lights came on we realised that the crew had basically opted out of serving anybody breakfast. I managed to track down an FA and request a coffee but was not offered any food. The coffee cup was cleared before landing but neither of our bundles of bedding were. The other pax were never offered bedding at all so didn’t have to worry about that!

Just before the crew were due to take their seats for landing, we were approached by the cabin manager. He quickly came up to us (ignoring all the bedding on the floor) and said, “so far, so good?”, gave us a thumbs up and then ran off before we could answer… which explains the service we got from his crew.


Conclusion


Based on this flight there is no way I could ever recommend flying Qatar First Class. Given how amazing the Business Class seat, F&B and service are, there just isn’t any reason to upgrade. Even if the service had been great, on a six hour redeye you really just need to maximise sleep, flying in First doesn’t help with this… at all. Also, despite being much more comfortable for sleeping I noticed that the F seat actually had a lot less easily accessible storage than the reverse herringbone seats in business. All the storage is located in the wardrobe so there isn’t anywhere convenient to place your phone, glasses, books etc. There’s really just that single side table, whereas Business Class has ample counter space plus a variety of different pockets.

In fairness, I have since flown Qatar First again, on a much longer flight, with a much better crew and really enjoyed the experience. I was willing to take the risk after this flight, I’m not sure if most people would though…

 


2 Comments

  1. Peter B says:

    Yup always said QR F isn’t worth paying cash or miles for over J. One thing though when I did it in F my crew was awesome, I’m even Facebook friends with em, but the seat isn’t worth it over their J seat. Also there was no caviar service when I did it.

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