Thai Airways, Business Class – Boeing B 787-8: Bangkok to Perth

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Transfer in Bangkok

It’s just coming up to six in the morning and I feel like the lead villain from Zombie Apocalypse – assuming, of course, that the lead villain of such a movie would himself be a zombie. I’m bleary eyed, my tongue feels like it needs a shave and my body obviously didn’t get the memo that we’re in a different time zone. Get with the programme, brain!

I still have forty minutes to go before boarding is called for my flight to Perth, so I figure I might as well go scavenging for coffee. The Royal Silk lounge is the very exotic and elegant sounding name of the not so exotic and certainly not at all elegant Thai Airways Business Class lounge at Suvarnabhumi airport. By the time I get there, the place is crawling with likeminded travellers, all of which look as though they might be befallen with the curse of the undead. And what a cursed hovel it is, too. I mean, yuk! The seats are so worn and filthy they’re sticky…I think I’ll just grab a quick Coke Zero, and then I’m out of here.

Boarding

Boarding for the flight to Perth starts at 0640. The flight is departing from gate E3. To access the lounge, I have to undergo a further check to ensure that all liquids are properly stowed in a sealable plastic bag and do not exceed 100ml. Apparently, this is a requirement imposed by the Australian government.

Our aircraft is parked on a remote stand, so we’ll be boarding via bus. My spirits temporarily revive at the prospect of getting up close and personal with the big shiny aeroplanes. But no such luck. The B 787 is simply too big. Or rather, I would have to stand further away. But the ground crew are not having any of that, because they don’t want passengers milling about on the apron – and my midnight oil is well and truly spent for me to want to argue with them.

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The Cabin

How many different cabin layouts does Thai Airways have anyway? Their Boeing B 787-8 has a capacity of 240 seats in Economy Class and 24 seats in Business Class. The seat width in Business Class is 20 inches, the pitch is 60 inches and when extended into a bed, the seat has a length of 78 inches.

The seats are configured in a rather traditional 2 + 2 + 2 set-up. I’m guessing this is the regional Business Class configuration. After all, the flight time to Perth is only 6 hours and 15 minutes. The seat pairs on the port side of the cabin are turned slightly towards the windows. The middle row of two and the row on the starboard side are turned towards that side of the aircraft. Furthermore, the two seats on a pair are slightly staggered and there is a small separator between the seats. Even as I write this up, I’m still trying to figure out what the point is of having such a seat design and cabin layout.

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In the bed positon, the seat is comfortable enough. My only complaint is that there isn’t enough space for my feet. I wear a size 46/11, which I don’t think is exceptionally big, and it’s a tight fit to find a position in which my tootsies aren’t being squashed.

The Crew

As on the previous flight, menus, a pillow, a blanket, the amenity kit, and ear phones have already been placed at the seat. The cabin attendant brings me a warm towel and a glass of sparkling mineral water. When she comes to take my food order, I tell her that I’m on the verge of passing out and will, therefore, not be eating.

Amenities

The design of the amenity kit itself is different to the one on the previous flight. The content however, is pretty much the same.

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The Meal

As soon as the wheels leave the ground, I extend my seat into a bed and go off to Noddy land for a few hours. Once I awake hours later, one of the cabin crew immediately comes to ask me if I’d like to eat. Figuring it might revive the spirits, and yes I do so enjoy my food, I agree. Again, as on the previous flight, I take the Thai option which consists of

  1. steamed rice with steamed spinach with chili and garlic,
  2. a soup of chicken meatballs and tofu,
  3. some cold chicken salad with chili, and
  4. a beef green curry.

For dessert I have custard with fresh fruit and a mango and passion fruit salsa. Again, the quality of the meal is very good. The tastes are nicely balanced and there’s touch of spice in the curry.

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There is only one meal service on this flight.

Arrival

We arrive in Perth just after 15h, slightly ahead of schedule. The airport is not very busy and I am through immigration and customs fairly quickly.

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Getting into Town

In Perth I’m staying at the Aloft Hotel, which is easily accessible from Terminal 1 via bus line 380. The journey will take about 15 minutes and costs AUD4.70.

Conclusion

So what’s the final verdict? What I definitely liked about my Thai Airways experience is that you can make the journey from Europe to Perth in just 19 hours. The food on both flights was really very good and of a high quality, I thought. On the downside, I found the whole experience rather bland, quite as though they weren’t even trying to make an impression. And the lounge in Bangkok was just a dive. That place is in serious need of an overhaul!

Qatar Airways, Business Class – Boeing B 787-8: Frankfurt to Doha

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Date: 09. February 2017
Departure: 10:45
Arrival: 18:30
Flight time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Seat: 2 K, starboard

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Check-in

Terminal 1, hall C. Qatar Airways has its own dedicated check-in counters. There are two counters for Business Class passengers.

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The Lounge

Location: Terminal 1.
Name of Lounge:
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge.
Access:
There is a set of stairs and an escalator adjacent to gate B42 which take you one floor up. You see the lounge entrance as soon as you get off the escalator.
Toilets:
Available in the lounge. The toilets are clean and look rather nice.
Showers:
Available in the lounge. Contact reception for a slot.
Food & Beverages: There is a fairly large bar area but the selection of food and beverages is fairly limited. There are no hot dishes. But at least they have Lavazza coffee.
Connectivity:
Complimentary wifi is available, no password required.
Newspapers & Magazines:
There is also a good selection of English and French language magazines and newspapers.

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Boarding

Business Class passengers are invited to board the aircraft first and have their own, dedicated gate. Boarding is through the L2 door.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1.
Cabin Layout:
Business Class – 22 seats.
Economy Class – 232 seats.
Pitch: 80 inches.
Width: 22 inches.
Length as a Bed: 80 inches.
AC Power:
AC power plugs are available at all seats in Business and Economy Class.
Audio and Video: Audio and video on demand, handset controlled.
Earphones: No-name noise-cancelling earphones.
Connectivity: Onair wifi available.
Comment: A pillow and a blanket are already on the seat.

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The Crew

The crew on today’s flight are all either from Thailand or the Indian subcontinent and they are all very friendly.

The service begins with a welcome drink and a choice of either a hot or cold towel. I choose a cold towel and have a lemon juice with mint with that.

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Shortly after that the vanity kit and the menus are distributed.

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Once the doors close, the crew pass through offering Arabic, English and German language newspapers.

Amenities

Armani branded vanity kit. There are obviously different kits for men and women. The kit contains earplugs, lip balm, perfume, after shave cream, socks and eye shades. Toothbrushes and toothpaste are available in the toilets.

The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Lemon juice with lime.
Pre-meal drink:
Apple cooler – Apple juice, soda water, lemon juice, mint leaves and a slice of lemon. Served with a bowl of nuts served with the drink.
Menu: There are three choices for the starter, main course and dessert.
Delivery: À la carte service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.
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Amuse Bouche

Balik salmon with a horseradish sauce.

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The Soup

Soup of roasted butternut squash with a lemon and herb crème fraîche.
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First Course

Smoked salmon with pea and potato salad with confit tomatoes and a lemon dressing.
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The Main Course

Paneer tikka masala with makhini sauce, servied with coriander and mint basmati rice, spiced asparagus and black-eyed beans.
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The Cheese

A selection of cheese with crackers, red onion chutney and condiments.
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Dessert

Chocolate ice cream with berries.
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The meal concludes with a hot, rose scented towel and a mug of Karak Chai with cardamom. Before the lights go out, the crew pass through the cabin with small boxes of Godiva pralines.

Arrival

We arrive in Doha at 18:30, just slightly ahead of schedule, after a flight time of five hours and thirty minutes. I know have a bit more than two hours to make my onward connection.

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Oman Air, Business Class – Boeing B 787-8: Muscat to Zürich

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Date: 23. December 2016
Departure: 14:30
Arrival: 18:10
Flight time: 6 hours 40 minutes
Seat: 5A, window

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Transfer in Muscat

I have two hours to make my connection to Zürich. From arrivals I head one floor up to the transit and departures area, which is also where the security checkpoint is located. In Oman laptops and liquids do not need to be removed from your bag at security.

The Lounge

Location: Behind the duty free shop.
Type of Lounge:
Oman Air First and Business Class lounge.
Toilets:
Available in the lounge.
Showers:
Available in the lounge.
Food & Beverages: The lounge has a large buffet with hot and cold food, with a selection of Western, Indian and Omani dishes. Seeing as I have only just had lunch and will probably be eating again on the next flight, I do not have anything to eat in the lounge.
Connectivity:
Wifi is available, password required.
Comment:
With the increase of traffic to Oman and the expansion of Oman Air, the lounge in Muscat is seriously at the limit of its capacity. Since I was last here, the area has been extended, but even so, the lounge was simply never designed to handle so much traffic.

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Boarding

On my previous flights with Oman Air there was always a dedicated bus service to the aircraft for Business Class passengers in Muscat. This may or may not still be the case, because today by the time I arrive at the gate, most of the passengers have already boarded, so I just step on the first bus that comes along.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2 + 2.
Seat Layout: Much to my surprise, the Boeing 787 has a different cabin layout to the Airbus A 330-200 I just arrived in Muscat with. This aircraft has a more traditional, if not to say old fashioned, configuration. I believe it is the same seat that LOT Polish Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines have installed on the Boeing 787. The cabin definitely looks more spacious than that of the Airbus, but it is also a lot less private. Later on the cabin crew tells me that this particular aircraft in on a long-term lease from Kenya Airways. From what I know, as part of the same deal that saw Oman Air taking over this aircraft from Kenya Airways, they also source a further slot pair in Heathrow from Kenya Airways – allowing Oman Air to operate a second daily flight.
Capacity:

  1. Business Class – 30 seats.
  2. Economy Class – 204.

Pitch: 74 inches.
Width: 31 inches.
AC Power: There is a AC 110V power port and a USB port at every seat in Business Class.
Audio and Video: The aircraft has the same IFE system as the Airbus A 330-200 on the previous flight, which is very responsive and fast.
Connectivity: Wifi is also available on the Boeing 787-8, with the same price plan as on the Airbus A 330.
Comment:
The one thing I really do not like at all on the Boeing 787 are those bloody electric window shades. In particular, what I dislike is the fact that it allows the crew to dictate what you do with your window shades. When I enter the aircraft, the shades are fully dark and I cannot see anything outside. For take-off, the shades are then brightened. However, after take-off I have the sun shining fully in my face and on the video screen, but I have no means of making the shades any darker until the crew release the shade controls.

Other than that, I find the cabin very noisy.

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Configuration of Oman Air’s own Dreamliner
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Configuration of the aircraft leased from Kenya Airways
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The Crew

The crew on this flight are friendly. More over, it is interesting that there are even a few females in the crew too. On the previous flight from KL there was only one female cabin attendant.

The process is the same. I take my seat and then receive the hot towel, the menu, the earphones and a welcome drink. This time I go with the lemon and lime juice, which is very refreshing.

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Amenities

  1. Shaver with shaving cream.
  2. Colgate toothbrush and toothpaste.
  3. Eye shades.
  4. Earplugs.
  5. A comb.
  6. More useless Amouage cosmetics…

The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Lemon and lime juice.
Towel before the meal:
Scented hot towel served while still on the ground.
Pre-meal drink:
Diet Coke.
Choice: There are three choices each for the starter, main course and dessert.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Late lunch.
Beverages:
Diet Coke and still water.
Comment:
The quality and quantity of the food is good. The crew’s timing and pace of the meal is excellent. There are no long waits in between courses and drinks are constantly replenished.

Amuse Bouche

A canapé with cream cheese and another with smoked salmon.

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The First Course

Selection of Arabic mezze – chicken ball skewer, labneh with a lot of garlic, something with puréed aubergine and parsley, black and green olives, lemon.

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The Main Course

Penne pasta with vegetables and parmesan.

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Dessert

Buttermilk panna cotta with poached dates and caramel sauce.

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The Second Service

Choice: There are two choices for the savoury item.
Delivery:
Individual service.
Type of meal:
Light snack.
Main course:
Grilled vegetable sandwich, served warm.
Dessert:
Chocolate fudge cake.
Beverages:
Diet Coke.
Comment:
The meal hits the spot nicely. To be honest I am still full from the lunch, so I just have half of the sandwich and the chocolate cake, which is very rich and sticky.

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Arrival

Eventually we start our descent into Zürich. When we departed Muscat earlier in the day, the temperature was a balmy 28 degrees Celsius. By the time we land in Zürich it is dark, the notorious fog is already starting to gather on the ground and the temperature is a mere chilly 4 degrees Celsius. The flight arrives 45 minutes ahead of schedule.

It is nice to be home.

Conclusion

On The Airbus A 330 from KL to Muscat I was surprised in a good way with the new seat. I was kind of expecting it to be a sort of anti-climax in comparison to the old First Class type seat. All in all though, I think Oman Air has done a good job refurbishing the A 330.

As for the Boeing 787, I really have to say I do not like this plane. I found it rather noisy and the cabin design and layout is old fashioned and drab.

As far as the service is concerned, I found the crew to be very professional, friendly and competent, although perhaps not quite as polished as the Qatar Airways crews.

The transfer in Muscat is always an experience I enjoy. It is not just the deplaning via stairs, which is very cool, but the old terminal, which reminds me a lot of the old facility there used to be in Malta. I am curious to see what things will be like once the new airport opens.

Without a doubt there is a lot to be said for a nonstop connection between Europe and Asia, like the Cathay Pacific flight I took from Frankfurt to Hong Kong at the start of the week. However, I am starting to appreciate the benefits of a stop on the way, either in Muscat, Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha. It is kind of nice to be able to get off the plane after a few hours, if only just to stretch your legs a bit.

All that is left now, is for me to wish everyone…

Merry Christmas!

Qatar Airways, Business Class – Boeing B 787-8: Doha to Riyadh

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Date: 06 March 2016
Departure: 01:20
Arrival: 02:15
Flight time: 55 minutes.
Seat: 3A, window on the port side.

Transfer in Doha

Behind security I head one floor down to the central airside area. I am always a bit disoriented in Doha. But eventually I do find the escalators leading up to the First Class lounge. Unfortunately though, by this time the departure time for my flight to Riyadh is already quickly approaching and I still have another 15 minutes walk to make it to my departure gate. So I decide to skip the lounge this time. Something to do on the way back, when I have a longer layover in Doha.

Boarding

Boarding already starts about 45 minutes before departure. By now it is already nearly one in the morning, so I am not complaining.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1.
Seat: 3A, window seat on the port side of the aircraft.
Pitch: 80 inches.
Width: 22 inches.
Capacity: 22 seats.
The seat and cabin configuration is the same as on the Airbus A 380. The only difference is that the hull of the aircraft has a narrower diameter, so the cabin feels less cavernous. A pillow and blanket has been placed at every seat before boarding.

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Service begins -as usual – with the distribution of welcome drinks and towels. I go with the lime and mint juice and a cold towel to wake me up. Next come the newspapers. With a flight time of only 55 minutes, no vanity kit or slippers are distributed. Once boarding is completed, the crew will pass through the cabin offering passengers dates and a cup of Arabic coffee.

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The Meal

Type of meal: Midnight snack.
Service: À la carte service.
Delivery: Individual tray service.

  1. Once more, I forget to take the menu, so I cannot remember the exact name of the dishes I had. All I know is that it was an Indian meal and that the piece of chicken that was served with the dish was warm.
  2. Selection of breads.
  3. Chocolate dessert.
  4. Tea and coffee.
  5. Valrhona chocolates.

Qatar Airways’ offering on such a short flight is really quite impressive. What is more, it is quite amazing that they manage to serve all passengers with enough time to spare for them to be able to enjoy the meal.

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Arrival

Eventually the aircraft dips its nose and we start our descent into Riyadh. I am about to arrive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the first time. Much to my surprise, and contrary to all the reports and reviews I had read prior to this trip, immigration is a swift and easy process. There are two channels for foreigners. One is for first time entries into the Kingdom, while the other is for repeated entry passengers. In any case, fifteen minutes after exiting the aircraft I find myself standing outside the terminal looking for a taxi to take my into town.

Oh yes, about that. Sometimes in life it is easiest to just surrender to your faith. The only means of transport to and from the airport is by taxi, and the driver will rip you off.

Ethiopian Airlines, Economy Class – Boeing B787-8: Vienna to Stockholm

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Introduction

There is reason to my madness you know. Yesterday I flew from Luxembourg to Vienna because today, literally at the crack of dawn, I shall be flying to Stockholm on Ethiopian’s Boeing B 787-8. The flight originates in Addis Abeba obviously, and arrives in Vienna just before six in the morning and then continues to Stockholm at 06h50.

Check-in

Location: Terminal 3, rows 331.
Facilities: There are dedicated check-in counters for the Ethiopian Airlines flight. There is even a plush green carpet in front of the Business Class counter. Web check-in is also possible. I have already checked in online for the flight.

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From the NH Hotel it is just a short walk across the road to the airport.

The flight will be boarding from gate D25, which is in the non-Schengen area of the old terminal. Once you are airside, you need to pass through the large duty-free shopping area. At the end turn left and head for the D gates until eventually you reach immigration. If you like shopping at airports, be sure to get everything you need before immigration, because there are not that many shops on the other side.

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The security check takes place right in front of the gate. There is no queue for security and once I am inside the lounge, I inquire with the gate attendant about the load on this morning’s flight. She informs me that the flight is only about half full and there are merely five passengers joining the flight in Vienna for the tag on to Stockholm.

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Boarding

With only five passengers joining the flight in Vienna, there is hardly anything to say about the boarding process. It is certainly quick! As I board the aircraft, an Ethiopian young lady is standing by the door to welcome us aboard. She is wearing a typical flight attendant’s uniform, but instead of a uniform jacket she has on a white, see-through wrap around with a bright floral pattern along the hem. The crew are all smiles and seem genuinely friendly, especially compared to the bats from hell that were working yesterday’s Austrian Airlines service.

The Cabin

Configuration: 3 + 3 + 3
Seat: Originally, I am seated on 18C, which is an aisle seat. However, given that the flight is not full, I move back to 33A for take-off to get a better view of the aircraft’s legendary wingflex. The seat is nice and comfortable and has very generous pitch. I think even a long flight in this seat would be manageable.
Pitch: 32 inches.
Width: 18 inches.
Facilities: USB port.
Inflight entertainment: 15.4 inch touch screen with 85 channels. The system is very interactive and offers a lot of options. I did not watch any films, but their selection of movies is quite good and up to date. I only use the moving map on this flight.

The cabin on this bird looks rather nice. It is just a pity that nobody bothered to clear up the place a bit before boarding the passengers for the flight to Stockholm. Probably because all passengers arriving from Addis Abeba remain on the plane during the layover in Vienna and the crew does not change either. So everything looks just a bit untidy. There are pillows, blankets and used earphones lying about everywhere.

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The B 787 is a very quiet bird. It takes me a moment to realise the engines are already running. In fact, the noise inside the cabin is so small you even can hear the motors operating the flap actuators.

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The Meal

Type of meal: Breakfast.

  1. Bun with butter and strawberry jam.
  2. Cinnamon and apple muffin.
  3. Fruit salad.
  4. Apple juice.
  5. Tea or coffee.

The meal is a bit of a trip down memory lane. God, I cannot even remember the last time I was given a meal on a tray in Economy Class on a short-haul European flight!

The fruit salad is made with tinned fruit and is very sweet. The bun and the muffin though are quite okay and the coffee is surprisingly good.

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After the meal tray is removed, I spend the rest of my time watching that spectacular wingflew.

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Arrival

There is something very poetic about the scenery outside. Perhaps it also has something to do with the fact that the B 787 is so quiet and the wing can really flex. Somehow I keep thinking that it feels a bit like what I imagine flying is like for a bird, if you know what I mean…?

Eventually we land in Arlanda. We taxi for quite a long time before eventually we reach our parking position at Terminal 5.

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Getting into Town

Transport: Train.
Departs from: Arlanda North. There is direct access to the station from Terminal 5.
Arrives: Stockholm central station.
Journey time: 20 minutes.
Frequency: Every 15 minutes.
Costs: SEK600 per person for a return if you are travelling as a couple.

With public transport you can access the city either using the Arlanda Express train or the airport busses. The airport busses are cheaper, admittedly. However, keep in mind that Arlanda is quite far out of town, so that the journey by bus will inevitably take you much longer than the journey by train, the latter travelling at 184km/h.

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Qatar Airways, Business Class – Boeing B 787-8: Doha to Zürich

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Introduction

I spend the night in Doha at the Oryx Rotana hotel. It is rather a nice and modern facility with a very large gym and what is theoretically a 25 m pool. However, at the shallow end it is really quite impossible to swim.

In addition to the complimentary hotel room, Qatar Airways will also give you a food and drink voucher for 250 Qatari Rials to spend at the hotel if your stay in Qatar exceeds 12 hours. Dinner is an Indian buffet at one of the hotel’s many restaurants, which costs 180 Qatari Rials and leaves you enough to also cover any expenses for drinks. The Indian buffet incidentally, was divine!

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Complimentary hotel shuttle bus.
Departs from: Outside the lobby.
Frequency: Roughly every twenty minutes.
Journey time: About twenty minutes.

I meet the tall and blond M. in the lobby at 05h45. Check-out from the hotel is swift. I just need to pay for the internet access and then we are good to go. The shuttle is completely full this morning, with an interesting mix of nationalities and races on board.

Check-in

Location: Entrance 1 is for First and Business Class passengers.
Facilities: Dedicated check-in area for Business Class passengers. There is an extensive lounge area opposite the check-in counters where passengers can sit and wait to be served or bid fair well to friends and family. Behind check-in there is a dedicated immigration area and a security check-point for Business Class passengers that is completely segregated from passengers travelling in Economy Class.

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Al-Mourjan Qatar Airways Lounge

Location: The lounge is located on the third floor. Access to the lounge is via the escalator just off the main atrium.
Catering: There is an à la carte dining and buffet restaurant on the fourth floor, which is accessible via a grand staircase. In addition, there is a bistro style restaurant on the lounge’s main floor, serving things like salads and sandwiches, depending on the time of day. There are also numerous self-service bars in the lounge.
Internet:
Free wifi is available throughout the terminal. No password required.

I am rather hungry, I have not had breakfast yet, and although I certainly made the best of the Indian buffet the night before, I am definitely ready to eat again. And so I head straight for the Business Class lounge and the dinning area. Initially, the place is seething with activity. And there are hardly any tables left. However, the staff do a really excellent job and make sure to clean up tables as soon as they become available again.

The buffet is extensive. I treat myself to crèpes filled with apple compote, scrambled eggs, baked beans, fruit salad, bread and cheese. And a coffee and an orange juice to go with that.

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Boarding

There is a separate queue for Business Class passengers to enter the holding pen. Business Class passengers are invited to board first, together with families with young children.

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When eventually I reach my gate at A10, the flight is already in the final stages of boarding. There are just a few empty seats left empty in Business Class.

The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat number: 3E, aisle seat
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.

The Crew

The service is pretty much the same as on the three previous flights. The experience begins – how else – with a glass of lime and mint juice and a refreshing rose scented cold towel.

The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Lime and mint juice.
Hot towel before the meal: Rose scented cold towel.
Choice:
There are four main choices for the main dish and another four for the starter.
Delivery:
À la carte service.
Type of meal:
Breakfast.

  1. A selection of bread and pastries with a choice of preserves and butter.
  2. Traditional Arabic breakfast of labneh with za’atar, feta cheese, cucumber, tomato, mixed olives and served with foul medames and Arabic bread.

Having eaten in the lounge, I am not exactly feeling hungry. So when the crew come to take orders for the meal, she tells me not to worry and that I can eat any time I like. She still asks me what my preference would be for the main dish, just to make sure she can put one aside for me.

About two hours out of Zürich I ask the cabin crew to set up the table for me to have breakfast. Once more the flight attendant checks to make sure I want to stick with my original order.

Of the four flights I took with Qatar Airways on this trip, this must be without a doubt the tastiest one of the lot, despite the fact that it is probably one of the simpler dishes. But in any case, the flavours go very well together. Especially the foul moudames is flavourful and goes incredibly well with the feta cheese.

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Arrival

We arrive in Zürich some 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Fortunately, it looks as though we managed to beat the Emirates A 380 to it, which I can just make out turning onto the final approach as we vacate the runway and I look back. Surprisingly, even my suitcase makes it. Given that it was standing around in Doha for such a long time, I was pretty sure it was not going to make it.

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I catch the 14h04 airport train back to Basel. Perhaps not the fastest connection, but with all my luggage I do not really fancy having to change trains until my final destination.

Conclusion

This concludes this series on my recent trip to Singapore. The Qatar Airways experience was quite an eye opener to me. Having tried both Emirates and Qatar Airways in the Business Class cabins now, I really do think the Qatar Airways product is far superior to that of Emirates in most areas. Emirates’ advantage obviously being that they operate two daily flights into Zürich and thus offer greater connectivity via their hub in Dubai.

Furthermore, no matter how good an airline’s product is, ultimately it is the crew that make or break a flight. And for many airlines – and I am afraid this goes for the European carriers in particular – their staff are often the weakest link. Qatar Airways however, has evidently invested heavily in properly training their staff at the front line. All the employees of the company I encountered on this journey were friendly, polite and helpful. Many of them were also charming and interacted easily with their passengers.

So perhaps I shall just leave it there and simply say that I am greatly looking forward to my next trip with Qatar Airways. Perhaps I should give their First Class a try one of these days…

Qatar Airways, Business Class – Boeing B 787-8: Singapore to Doha

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Getting to the Airport

Transport: Taxi
From: Singapore Hilton
To: Changi Terminal 3
Journey time: About thirty minutes.
Fare: SGD32.

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.

Check-in

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.

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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.

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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.

Boarding

Business Class passengers and disabled passengers are invited to board first. The process if enforced by the gate agents.

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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.

The Cabin

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.

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The Crew

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.

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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.

The Meal

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.

Amuse Bouche

Prawn cake with assam sauce.

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The Soup

Spicy Tom Yam soup.

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The Mezze

Classic Araic Mezze with Hummus, Muhammara, Tabouleh and Arabic bread.

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The Main Course

Pasta in a cherry tomato, basil, pesto and mozzarella sauce.

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The Cheese

Cheese plate with crackers, grapes and cheese.

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Dessert

Panna cotta with fresh fruit and melaka sugar.

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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.

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Arrival

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.

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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.

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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.

Conclusion

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…

Qatar Airways, Business Class – Boeing B 787-8: Doha to Singapore

I just arrived in Doha on the Qatar Airways flight from Zürich. I have roughly two hours before my next flight to Singapore.

Al-Mourjan Qatar Airways Lounge

Location: The lounge is located on the third floor. Transfer security is one floor below. To access the lounge from security you need to take the lift. Otherwise you will have to take the escalators down to the first floor before taking another escalator up to the third floor.
Catering: There is an à la carte dining and buffet restaurant on the fourth floor, which is accessible via a grand staircase. In addition, there is a bistro style restaurant on the lounge’s main floor, serving things like salads and sandwiches. There are also numerous self-service bars in the lounge.
Internet:
Free wifi is available throughout the terminal. No password required.

This lounge is really something else, it is huge and very elegantly appointed. I try taking a few pictures but it really is quite impossible to capture the sheer size of the place.

The toilets are very well kept and very clean. As I approach the sink to wash my hands, one of the four attendants puts on the water for me, squirts some liquid soap in my hands and eventually hands me a small towel to dry my hands.

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Boarding

Business Class passengers are invited to board first, before a general boarding call is made.

The Cabin

The flight to Singapore is operated by a Boeing B 787-8. For information about the cabin, see the previous post of my trip from Zürich to Doha.

The Crew

There are three cabin crew working the Business Class cabin, which is full on this flight. The purser is a young man from Singapore. The other two crew members are a young woman, also from Singapore, and another from India. I must say I am really quite impressed by the consistency of the staff and their level of professionalism. For example when I am brought my welcome drink, the flight attendant places a small napkin on the table and then turns it to make sure that the onyx logo printed on it is not upside down. Later on when she comes to dress the table for the meal, she places the cutlery and then straightens it to look nice. Of course these are only minor details and they will not make the food or the flight any better. Even so, it such small details that make the difference which justifies Qatar Airways’ five star rating in my view.

After departure the purser comes by to introduce himself and check if everything is okay. It is a nice touch that he shakes my hand as he introduces himself, I think.

As this is a night flight, Qatar Airways provides pyjamas. Just beware that the cut is fairly generous. I was give an L and the trousers were way too big.

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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Lemon and mint juice.
Hot towel before the meal: Hot towel with a subtle scent of roses.
Pre-meal drink:
Water and another lemon and mint juice.
Choice:
There are two choices for the starter, three choices for the main – including one vegetarian option – and three choices for dessert.
Type of meal:
Dinner.

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Amuse Bouche

Tempura nori wrapped black cod with Asian vegetables and sweet chilli sauce.

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The First Course

Lime infused prawns with coriander chilli crème fraîche, cucumber, black sesame and frisée lettuce.

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The Main Course

Marinated chicken breast with a lemon and garlic sauce, mashed potato with parmesa, roasted carrots and beets, steamed asparagus.

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Dessert

Ladurée Vendôme of dark chocolate biscuit, blackberry confit, chocolate and blackberry tea mousse.

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Once again, the quantity and the quality of the food is quite impressive. In particular, the presentation is very professional and makes an interesting change from the usual Business Class meals, which are served with every item side by side in the dish.

Once the meal is over I go change into my pjs. In the meantime, one of the cabin crew makes up my bed, which incidentally includes a thing mattress.

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The Second Service

Hot towel the meal: Rose scented hot towel.
Pre-meal drink:
Cucumber and apple juice, orange juice.
Choice:
There are two options for the hot meal.
Type of meal:
Breakfast.

  1. Orange compte with Greek yoghurt and toasted granola
  2. Pepper and feta cheese frittata with sautéed potatoes and red onion, roasted plum tomato, Portobello mushrooms and chicken sausage.
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The second meal hits the spot nicely and is well timed. The second service starts about 90 minutes out of Singapore, which leaves you enough time after the meal to change and complete the immigration form.

Arrival

Qatar Airways operates out of Terminal 3 at Changi airport. The place is not overly busy. There is only a short queue for passport control and by the time I am through, my suitcase is already expecting my on the luggage belt.

Conclusion

Originally, this flight should have been operated by an A 350, which obviously would have been very cool. Better luck next time. As for Qatar Airways, I think they have a very solid product that is very elegant and comfortable. Of course the over all journey time from Zürich to Singapore was slightly longer than if I had taken the Singapore Airlines nonstop service from Zürich, which leaves slightly after the Qatar Airways flight. But in all honesty, I hardly think the time gain of roughly three hours can justify what Singapore Airlines or SWISS charge for the journey, especially seeing as the SWISS product at least is certainly no match for Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways, Business Class – Boeing B 787-8: Zürich to Doha

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Introduction

I have quite a few long trips coming up as we gradually move into summer. What’s more, these trips will see me doing a lot of firsts: new destinations, new aircraft types and new airlines. Today I am off to give a presentation in Singapore for ICAO. The first leg sees me travelling from Zürich to Doha on Qatar Airways. This will in fact be my first flight on the Boeing B 787-8.

I am travelling with my colleague M. Not the valiant M., though. No, this is M. the tall, blond guy. Which is rather convenient because I think it will make him rather easy to spot if I should happen to get lost in a crowd in Singapore.

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Train
Departs from: Basel SBB – Swiss Railway Station.
Frequency: Roughly every thirty minutes.
Journey time: About ninety minutes.
Fare: CHF38 for a oneway ticket or CHF76 for a return.

There is one direct train to the airport every hour at 40 minutes past the hour. The journey takes one hour and sixteen minutes to complete. Alternatively, there are nonstop trains to Zürich Main Station at 7 and 33 minutes past the hour, which make the journey to Zürich in fifty minutes. At the main station you have to change to the airport train. The journey from Zürich Main Station to Zürich Flughafen is another ten minutes, roughly. Tickets are valid on direct trains as well as trains via Zürich Main Station.

My train leaves Basel at 08:07. Changing at Zürich main station that should get me to the airport at around 09:15. The 08:07 service to Zürich is operated by a German ICE high speed train of the Deutsche Bahn, so I figure I might as well avail myself of the dining car and get myself a decent breakfast. But I guess I really should have known better than to trust Deutsche Bahn to be reliable. For some unearthly reason, they ‘forgot’ to load the food, dishes and cutlery today. So all there is on offer are stale croissants and coffee in cardboard cups.

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Check-in

Location: Check-in 2.
Facilities: Check-in is only available at the counters or via web check-in. It is not possible to check-in for Qatar Airways the evening before.
Counters: There are three Economy Class counters, one baggage drop counter, a Business Class counter plus a supervisor’s counter that doubles as a second Business Class check-in counter.

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The Swissport Contractor Lounge

Location: There are two lounges available to Qatar Airways passengers in Zürich. There is what I call the Oneworld lounge. This lounge is located adjacent to the SkyTeam lounge, one floor up from the public transit area. And then there is the Swissport Panorama lounge in the midfield dock E, behind immigration. I find this lounge is more conveniently located, seeing as that is where my flight will be departing from.
Facilities:
A selection of newspapers and magazines, public computers and work stations. There are no showers and the toilets are located outside the lounge.
Catering: A limited selection of hot and cold dishes and beverages.
Internet:
Free wifi is available.

I cannot really say I like this lounge. It is simply too small for all the passengers that are allowed to use it, to the extent that they have added a further seating area right outside, in front of the entrance to the lounge, which is really not very cosy at all. The lounge’s only redeeming feature, as far as I can tell, is the view of the apron and runways on all sides.

My stay in the lounge is only very brief, just enough time for a coffee and then it is already time to start boarding.

Boarding

There is only one airbridge for al passengers. By the time I arrive at the gate, the flight is in the final stages of boarding. There is no queue for Business Class passengers. As I step aboard the aircraft I am greeted by a friendly young man and guided to my seat on 1E.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat number: 1E, aisle in the middle row of two.
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, they still provide enough privacy because the seat is fairly deep, so the shell of it blocks your neighbour from view. And if the worst comes to the worst, there is also a screen that can be raised.
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, with remote control or touch screen.Wifi is also available for a fee.

The seat has a very elegant appearance. The combination of the dark grey upholstery with the Bordeaux coloured seatbelt and armrest is very easy on the eyes. I think this is much classier than the Emirates cabin, for example. The seat provides ample storage space and it looks as though a lot of thought has been put into the layout of the seat. You do not have to twist and contort your body to reach the remote control for the IFE or to operate the seat controls.

The cabin has a very open and airy feel to it, mainly I think this is due to a lack of a divider or anything of the sort near the L/R 2 doors and the fact that there are only overhead bins on the sides of the cabin but not in the middle.

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Just a word of caution: on the B 787-8, Qatar Airways the last row in Business Class is an individual row that is segregated from the rest of the cabin by the L/R 2 doors. There are only two seats on this row in the middle. It just looks kind of strange, and I think I would feel rather exposed if I had to sit there. Furthermore, you have a toilet on either side.

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The Crew

The crew on today’s flight are friendly and personable. As soon as I take my seat I am welcomed by April from the Philippines, who promptly asks me if I would like a drink and if I prefer a hot or a cold towel. I ask for an orange juice and a cold, refreshing towel. The towels are not scented.

Amenities

The vanity kit has already been placed at me seat, together with the menu, a blanket and a pillow. Slippers and pyjamas are not provided on this flight. The vanity kit does not contain a toothbrush or shaving kit. However, both are available in abundance in the lavatories. Speaking of which, the toilets were kept very clean throughout the flight and were checked regularly by the crew.

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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice.
Hot towel before the meal: Cold towel while still on the ground.
Pre-meal drink:
Lemon juice with mint.
Choice:
There are two choices for the starter, three choices for the main and another three choices for dessert.
Delivery:
À la carte service.
Appearance:
The meal service is very elegant. Unlike many airlines, who serve the food on a tray from a trolley, with Qatar Airways, every table is set up and served individually, directly from the galley.
Type of meal:
Lunch.

There would also have been a cheese plate, but I decided to skip that in favour of dessert because I was already so full. My colleague M. has given me strict instructions to make sure I comment on the fabulous lemon and mint juice Qatar Airways serve. And indeed, I must say it really does taste absolutely delicious. It is admittedly very sweet but it is also very refreshing.

But apart from that, the quantity and quality of the food is really very good and very much has the look and feel of what many other airlines are serving in First Class these days. I particularly like the presentation of the food.

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Amuse Bouche

Prawns in a Mary Rose sauce with crostini.

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The Soup

Pea and mint soup with lemon crème fraîche and a choux bun.

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The Mezze

Hummus, tabouleh and moutabel with Arabic bread.

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The Main Course

Tandoori paneer with musallam sauce, vegetable khichdi and saunfiyan palak.

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Dessert

Cherry and almond frangipani tart with vanilla mascarpone and raspberry coulis.

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Arrival

The sun is slowly starting to set as we begin our descent into Doha. Eventually we land with a delay of roughly twenty minutes, which is partly due to our slightly late departure from Zürich and a further, slight delay we must have picked up en route. The airport is not particularly busy when we arrive, with just a few Qatar Airways aircraft scattered around the place.

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Transfer in Doha

I now have about two hours to make my connection to Singapore. There is a centralised security area for transfer passengers. There is a separate queue for First and Business Class passengers. Even so, it looks as though a flight from India has just arrived at the same time and obviously most of the passengers do not seem to care about the separate queue, while the staff obviously can not really be arsed to segregate the queue properly.

The new terminal is really quite impressive. The facility is very modern and still looks and feels very new. In fact only part of the building has already been opened for passengers. The two concourses that make up the Y of the building, if you are looking at it from above, are still closed off. There is even a metro that runs through the terminal, which is running but obviously not accepting passengers yet, judging by the plastic covers still on the seats.

Conclusion

This is the first time I am travelling to Southeast Asia with one of the ME3. So far, I have always been under the impression that these carriers have a disadvantage over carriers operating a nonstop service from Europe. However, all things considered I find it rather pleasant to have the opportunity to interrupt the journey more or less halfway there, if only to stretch my legs and break the journey. As for Qatar Airways, so far I must say I am quite impressed. Their service and on board product is very polished. It also seems far more sophisticated and elegant than what Emirates has to offer. The Emirates product is also very good, but it is more functional than it is stylish.