Date: 10 March 2016
Flight time: 7 hours and 15 minutes
Seat: 2A, window on the port side
Transfer in Doha
It is just gone five in the morning when I arrive in Doha from Riyadh, so the lines for security are still fairly thin. Security is a painless affair. Behind security, the young lady who picked me up as I deplaned is waiting for me. She guides me to the lift to take us one floor up to the reception area of the Qatar Airways First Class lounge.
Location: One floor up from security.
Type of lounge: Dedicated Qatar Airways First Class lounge.
Facilities: The lounge is very generously laid out and has an elegant, understated feel. There is one à la carte and one buffet restaurant, a business area with meeting rooms and Apple workstations, day rooms with beds, showers, toilets, a baggage storage room and an integrated duty free shop.
Name: Al-Safwa Lounge.
The lounge is impressive. First of all, because of the very high ceilings it is very quiet and there is a hush about the place. Given that not all aircraft have a First Class cabin, the number of passengers using the lounge is somewhat limited, which gives the place a very exclusive touch and feel.
The young lady wishes me a pleasant stay and informs me that one of her colleagues will come to pick me to escort me to the gate at B3 at 07:15, just slightly over one hour from now.
At Hamad International Airport the gates equipped to handle the A 380 are on two floors. The lower area is obviously for Economy Class passengers, while the upper waiting area is for First and Business Class passengers. There is also a separate desk for premium passengers to enter the holding area. Right behind the desk is a set of stairs and a lift to take you one floor up.
Once the flight is ready for boarding, the young lady invites me by name to step on board. She escorts me down the airbridge, introduces me to the purser standing at the door welcoming passengers and then bids me goodbye. From a passenger point of view, the experience it is a perfect handover from the ground staff to the cabin crew.
The flight attendant guides me to my seat on 2A, while one of them hangs my jacket in my own clothes locker, the other places the bulkier one of my two bags in the storage compartment at the front of the First Class compartment.
Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat: 2A, window seat on the port side of the aircraft.
Pitch: 80 inches.
Width: 83 inches.
Capacity: 8 seats.
The Qatar Airways First Class seat is not of the closed suite variety that most airlines appear to be adopting these days. Even so, I like the seat very much. I think it looks rather classy. And once the privacy screen is raised after take-off, you really are completed hidden from sight. The seat has been well designed I think, and the storage space is convenient and certainly sufficient. There are no overhead bins in the First Class cabin. However, larger items and bags can be placed under the ottoman. In addition, there is a large storage closet at the front of the cabin. There are two toilets for First Class passengers, located to the left and right of the staircase leading down to the main deck of the aircraft.
Every seat is equipped with a power socket and USB port. Two pillows and a blanket have been placed at every seat before boarding.
The First Class vanity kit is nearly identical to the Business Class one and is also Giorgio Armani branded. The main difference is that the First Class kit includes a small flacon of perfume and a tube of shower gel. Other than that though, it is about as useless as the Business Class kit, especially given that Qatar Airways, unlike Emirates and Etihad, does not have a shower on board.
As in Business Class, the service on the ground begins with a welcome drink, hot towel and a bowl of nibbles. This is followed by the dates and coffee once the doors are closed.
Type of meal: Breakfast.
Delivery: Individual delivery.
Service: À la carte, you can dine whenever you please.
Strawberry and banana smoothie.
A plate of fresh pineapple, melon, kiwi, figs and berries
The First Course
Greek yoghurt with strawberry compote and toasted granola with nuts.
The Main Course
Buttermilk pancakes with mixed berries, honey and vanilla mascarpone.
The timing of the first service is very good, it is not rushed and there is a enough time between the individual dishes. The smoothie is very tasty, so when the cabin attendant asks me if I would like another, I give an enthusiastic ‘yes’!
The pancakes are very tasty, but also very sweet. I think I might end up falling into a sugar coma! Strangely enough, I had a very similar meal in Singapore Airlines Business Class recently on my way to Brazil.
I had an early start this morning. So once the table is cleared away, one of the flight attendants turns my seat into a bed and raises the privacy screen for me.
The Second Service
By the time I resurface, we are only ninety minutes out of Paris. One of the cabin crew asks me if there is anything I would like before we land, so I decide to go with the fish and then the Indian main dish. Both dishes are very spicy. Qatar Airways’ catering is not shy with the spices and puts a decent zing in the Indian dishes, but without blowing the top of your head off.
Smocked halibut with mackerel rillettes.
The Main Course
Paneer tava tikki with chilli potato wedges, saffron upma and sambhar.
Chocolate dessert with a lemon éclair.
Eventually the flight draws to an end and we start our descent into Paris. I rather liked the countryside in Saudi with its immensity. Even so, I must confess I am rather glad to be back in Europe with its familiar climate and lush green vegetation.
Terminal 1 is very quiet when we land and there are only four other aircraft parked at the satellites.