Getting to the Airport
From: Singapore Hilton
To: Changi Terminal 3
Journey time: About thirty minutes.
My flight from Singapore to Doha will be departing at 10:40. I have ordered a taxi to leave from the Hilton at 08:00, which should get me to the airport roughly two hours before departure. Perhaps just a word of warning at this point. Taxis are a commodity very much in demand on weekdays in Singapore. In fact it is near impossible to just stand on the side of the road and hail a cab when you need one. So if you are planning to take a taxi, make sure you order one at the concierge well enough in advance, preferably the day before.
Location: Terminal 3, entrance 6, row 8.
Facilities: For flights departing Singapore, Qatar Airways offers web check-in.
Counters: There are five counters open for our flight: three for Economy Class, one for status holders and one for Business Class passengers.
Given that I have a large suitcase to drop off anyway, I figure I might as well check-in at the airport, rather than using web check-in. In Doha I shall be in transit for a connecting flight to Zürich. There are three flights from Singapore to Doha every day. But with only one flight from Doha to Zürich, there is no same day connection available and instead I will have to spend a night in Qatar. Qatar Airways will even pay for the accommodation. However, Qatar Airways will check your suitcase in to its final destination and you will not be able to retrieve your bags in Doha.
The DNATA Lounge
Location: One floor up from the public airside area. After immigration turn left and take the first escalator going up. At the top do a sharp right turn to bring you straight to the DNATA lounge.
Facilities: Dining area, work stations, toilets and showers available in the lounge.
Catering: A small but adequate selection of hot and cold snacks.
Internet: Wifi is available in the lounge, password required.
The DNATA lounge in Terminal 3 is nothing to write home about really. In fact, seating is somewhat cramped and if the lounge were full, it would probably be more pleasant outside. The lounge’s one redeeming feature though, is the excellent view of the ramp and the runway beyond. From where I am sitting I am towering over a Singapore Airlines B 777-200.
Business Class passengers and disabled passengers are invited to board first. The process if enforced by the gate agents.
My flight is leaving from gate A20. There is a centralised security checkpoint for gates A17 to A22. There is only one queue and no separate line for Business Class passengers.
Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat number: 2E
Seat: There are twenty-two seats in total, all of which are 180 degrees lie flats. The seat is very similar to the one Cathay Pacific has installed in Business Class. The window seats are very private because they are angled to face in the direction of the window. The two seats on the middle row point towards each other. Nonetheless, hey still provide enough privacy because the seat is fairly deep, so the shell of it blocks your neighbour from view.
Pitch: 80 inches.
Width: 22 inches.
Facilities: AC power outlets are available at every individual seat in all cabin classes; wifi is also available on board at a charge in Business Class.
Length as a bed: 80 inches.
Audio and Video: Audio and Video on demand.
As it happens, one of the flight attendants working today’s flight is April, who was working on the Zürich to Doha flight I took on Monday. Surprisingly, she recognises me. She asks me how I have been and if I am on my way home again. She asks what I would like to drink and smiles when I ask for another lime and mint juice. What can I say, the stuff is rather habit forming… She also brings me a rose scented cold towel, which is very refreshing.
Other than that, yet again the crew on this flight are excellent. Repeatedly during the flight the cabin crew pass through the cabin proactively asking passengers if they would like anything. They are simply outstanding.
As this is a day flight, no pjs or slippers are provided.
Welcome drink on the ground: Lime and mint juice.
Hot towel before the meal: Hot or cold rose scented towels available.
Pre-meal drink: Sparkling water.
Choice: There are two choices for the starter and three choices for the main, including one vegetarian option.
Delivery: À la carte service.
Type of meal: Lunch.
Prawn cake with assam sauce.
Spicy Tom Yam soup.
Classic Araic Mezze with Hummus, Muhammara, Tabouleh and Arabic bread.
The Main Course
Pasta in a cherry tomato, basil, pesto and mozzarella sauce.
Cheese plate with crackers, grapes and cheese.
Panna cotta with fresh fruit and melaka sugar.
Admittedly, I cannot really say I like the prawn cake. Apart from the fact that it had a somewhat disgusting consistency, it did not really taste of anything at all. But apart from that, I must say the food on this flight is just as good as any of the meals I experienced on the two previous flights on the outbound. In particular, the pasta has a rich, tangy flavour.
The Second Service
There is no second service as such on this flight. However, there is an extensive menu of snacks and light dishes available throughout the flight. Roughly 90 minutes out of Doha, the cabin crew pass through the cabin asking passengers if there is anything they would like to eat before they get on their flight. I choose a beefsteak sandwich with melted cheddar cheese, bell peppers and caramelised onions, which is very tasty and hits the spot nicely. I spend the rest of the flight surfing the IFE.
We land in Qatar just after 13h25. The airport is pretty deserted at this time of day. As we do not have a same day connection to Zürich, we are going to have to spend one night in Doha before continuing our journey tomorrow morning.
Layover in Doha
If you have a stay of more than eight hours at Doha airport, Qatar Airways will provide complimentary accommodation for the stay in Doha. Although I am not entirely sure if all passengers are entitled to this service or only Business Class passengers.
In any case, the reservation for the hotel was made directly with Qatar Airways through the travel agency at the time the flights were booked. You will then receive a hotel voucher by mail from Qatar Airways that you need to print out and take along.
Upon arrival in Doha, follow the signs marked transfer. Eventually you will reach the Qatar Airways transfer counters, which are located opposite the security check for transfer passengers. There are separate counters marked ‘City Accommodation and Transfer’ and there is also a dedicated counter for premium passengers.
I hand the agent my passport and hotel voucher. She invites me to head downstairs to the arrivals halls and instructs me to wait in the Al-Maha arrivals lounge while she gets my visa for Qatar processed.
Al-Maha Arrivals Lounge
I am welcomed to the lounge and immediately one of the lounge attendants approaches me and asks me if there is anything I would like to eat or drink while I wait. About 20 minutes and one orange juice later, a Qatar Airways rep appears with my stamped passport. She then escorts me out into the arrivals hall and through customs.
I shall be staying at the Oryx Rotana Hotel. As I exit immigration, there is another representative from the hotel already expecting me. By the looks of it I have just missed the shuttle to the hotel, so the Qatar Airways representative escorts me to yet another lounge – the landside Qatar Airways lounge – and advises me to wait there until the shuttle arrives. I enter the lounge and again somebody approaches me immediately, asking if there is anything I would like to drink. But my wait in the lounge is only about 10 minutes anyway, so I decline.
Eventually I am escorted from the lounge to the shuttle bus stop at the far end of the arrivals concourse. The journey to the hotel takes roughly 20 minutes.
This was yet another brilliant flight with Qatar Airways, and unless they seriously screw it up on the last leg back to Zürich, I think they are truly deserving of the five star rating, simply for the consistency they have managed to keep in their product and service. The transfer process at Doha airport could really hardly be easier. As my friend the valiant M. always says, it’s as easy as cutting Swiss cheese…