This is where the fun starts. I must say, since my trip to Singapore with Qatar Airways in June I have become quite a fan. Back in June I was certainly impressed by the quality of Qatar’s Business Class product, which only left me wondering what they could possibly offer with their new First Class product on the A380 that could top their Business Class. Time to find out, me thinks.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport: RoissyVal – automated shuttle train.
Departs from: Roissypôle station, which serves Terminal 3. The CitizenM is two minutes away on foot.
Journey time: Roughly five minutes, the shuttle makes an intermediary stop at the long-term car park on its way to Terminal 1.
Location: Terminal 1, Hall 2.
Facilities: Airport check-in, Web check-in.
Counters: There are seven Economy Class counters, one counter for Qatar Airways status card holders, two Business Class counters, one First Class counter and a supervisor’s desk.
Check-in is swift and efficient. Fortunately, there is no queue for the First Class counters. The agent issues my boarding pass for the flight to Doha and for my connecting flight, hands me a lounge invitation and sends me on my way. There is nothing overly First Class about the transaction, but that is okay.
The boarding pass is marked with Accès No 1, which is the dedicated fast track for immigration and security later on. And thank God for that because the ‘normal’ queue for immigration is endless.
Location: The lounge is located behind immigration. To access the lounge, there are lifts at the very back of the duty free area. So far back that you are likely to miss the lifts if you are not paying attention. The Air France lounge is on the tenth floor.
Type of Lounge: Air France Premier Salon. An invitation card is required to access the lounge.
Facilities: None actually, loos are outside.
Catering: None either. There is s small bar with biscuits, Jacob’s crackers, instant noodle soup and some really sad looking sandwiches which taste of something indistinguishable but should be tuna. I think.
Internet: Apparently free wifi is available, but I would not know because both my iPhone and my MacBook Air are unable to pick up a signal.
The lounge – no offence – really sucks. There is no other way to put it and I really cannot for the life of me imagine what is supposed to be First Class about it. I am aware of the fact that space is limited in Terminal 1 and the facility is difficult to expand. But it is not just that. Basically the Lounge looks like some sad, rundown hotel lobby from before I was born.
Priority Boarding: Theoretically there are two separate gates for this flight, one for the upper deck and another for the lower deck.
About an hour before departure I decide it is time to head for the gate. I mean, it is not exactly as though I will be missing anything much in the lounge… Security is swift, thanks to the Accès No 1 priority lane.
Behind security though, the place is a mess. Quite simply, the satellites at Terminal 1 are way too small to accommodate an aircraft the size of the A380. The place is crawling with people and there is really no getting through. Eventually, there is even a gate change due to the fact that there is a United Airlines aircraft parked to our left and security will not allow the Qatar Airways passengers to walk past the entrance to the airbridge for that flight. And that is when chaos ensues. So in the sum of all things, yes there should be priority boarding, but there is not on this occasion. To be fair though, I should add that none of this is really any of Qatar Airways’ fault.
Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat: I am sitting on 1A, which is the window seat on the left side of the aircraft. There are eight seats in total, all of which are 180 degrees lie flats. The seat is not necessarily as private as the Emirates seat or the Thai Airways A380 suite, but it is certainly much classier and very elegantly appointed. The only downside, from what I can tell, is that there does not appear to be a lot of storage space for items you may need during the flight. Other than that, small items of hand luggage can be placed under the footrest. For larger items there is a cupboard in front of the First Class cabin. Alternatively, every seat comes with its own closet behind the television screen, which offers enough space to hang some clothes and place a few items of hand luggage. Qatar Airways has installed the First Class cabin on the upper deck, ahead of the Business Class cabin. The lower deck is Economy Class only.
Pitch: 83 inches.
Width: 23 inches.
Facilities: AC power outlets and USB ports are available at every individual seat in all cabin classes; wifi is also available on board and free of charge for First Class passengers.
Length as a bed: 83 inches.
Audio and Video: Audio and Video on Demand. There is a large selection of films, television programmes and music to choose from, with a good mix of new releases and some classics.
Toilets: There are two toilets for eight passenger in First Class, which are located on either side of the stairs leading to the lower deck. There are fresh roses and even real orchids in the toilet. Cosmetics are provided by Rituals.
As I step aboard, I am greeted by the inflight service manager, who immediately calls for one of the flight attendants to show me the way and help me get settled in my seat. Another flight attendant appears and asks me if there is anything I would like to drink and whether I would prefer a hot or a cold towel. She disappears and shortly after yet another flight attendant appears with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, a ramekin with nuts and a rose scented hot towel (According to the valiant M., rose scent if for old ladies. And while I must concede that he does have point, I must also admit the towel is very refreshing…). A bit later on, two new cabin crew appear offering the traditional Arabic welcome of coffee and dates. I do not have a date but the coffee is excellent, with a subtle hint of cardamom.
At some point I stop counting how many crew there are up front. Somehow it is always somebody else who serves me.
The amenity kit is in the closet of my seat. There are different kits for men and women. The kit for men contains:
- Eye shades.
- Ear plugs.
- Lip balm.
- Armani Acqua di Gio perfume.
- Armani Acqua di Gio aftershave balm.
- Armani Acqua di Gio energising lotion.
Shaving kits and toothbrushes are available in the toilets.
Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice with nuts.
Hot towel before the meal: Rose scented hot or cold towel.
Pre-meal drink: Fruity fizz mocktail – a refreshing balance of apple, cranberry and lime.
Choice: There are four choices for the starter and one soup, plus four choices for the main, a cheese platter and four choices for dessert. It rarely happens to me but on this flight I am really lost for what to choose because all the dishes sound rather tasty.
Delivery: À la carte dining is available throughout the flight.
Type of meal: Late lunch.
Menu: There is a separate menu for the wines. But I do not drink much anyway and rarely on a plane.
- Amuse bouche of fig with cream cheese and a date filled with almond flakes and walnut paste.
- A selection of bread with butter and olive oil with lemon vinegar.
- Carrot and cumin soup with spices almond flakes and lemon crème fraîche.
- Smoked mackerel and spring onion potato cake with garden peas, asparagus, sun dried tomato salad and horseradish dressing.
- Kerala style chicken Korma with chilli potatoes, onion and pine nut pilaf rice, cashew nuts and coriander rice with edamame beans and carrot stir-fry.
- Warm dark chocolate and walnut tart with raspberries and crème fraîche ice cream.
- Green tea with mint, served with honey.
- Still water with the meal.
What can I say? The meal is truly excellent. But it is not just the taste, the presentation of the food is also very nice and every dish looks as though it was assembled individually.
The soup and the dessert are definitely the highlights of the meal. The soup has a nice tangy flavour and the spices really bring out the taste of the carrot. As for the warm tart, that simply tastes of heaven.
The rest of the flight passes quickly. About an hour before we land in Doha, one of the flight attendants drops by and asks me if there is anything else I would like to eat before we land. But I am still full from the lunch and just have a cappuccino to wake me up.
TRANSFER IN DOHA
We land with a delay of about thirty minutes. As I exit the aircraft, there is a ground attendant expecting me to escort me through security and to the lounge. She advises me that she will return to pick me up when it is time for boarding.