Imagine the surprise; I’m queuing up in the economy line at the gate of Qatar Airway’s A380 base of London Heathrow and thinking the shores of Western Australia are a mere (but distant) 18 hours away, when a representative from Qatar Airway’s ground staff taps me on the shoulder and says “Mr Johnson, could you please follow me – you’re in the wrong line..!”.
You see, the A380 has multiple entrances – one each for the two levels of the plane – and we were being ushered to gate 4a, where we were ecstatic to hear that our friends at Qatar Airway’s e-commerce team were upgrading us to business class for the outbound flights – London to Perth (via Doha).
Oh, the dizzying heights of working with Vouchercloud – I had checked in with Qatar Airways (pun intended) earlier on in the week to let them know I’d be reviewing the economy class experience, only then did I learn I’d be reviewing the business class experience – well – if I must..!
The flights consisted of a 7hr flight in the A380 Business Class to Doha, Qatar, before a 2hr 45min transfer in the (swanky) airport and finally an 11hr flight from Doha to Perth, Australia on a Boeing 777.
The A380 Business Class Experience
In short – these planes are huge. It’s hard to comprehend the sheer size of the plane that you’re on as there’s so much room on the upper deck in terms of its wide body and head height (I’m 6ft 3in and had at least a good foot above me spare!) – it was hard to picture another deck below. With cameras on the underbelly and also on the tip of the plane it adds an interesting dimension to take off, which incidentally was so quiet I had to double take to check that we were actually airborne!
The upper echelons of the plane was reserved for first and business class passengers, complete with a bar/lounge (more on this later), dedicated air hosts and ultimately a silver service in the air. Once I was guided to my seat (I’ll resist calling it a “control centre” for the sake of clarity – but there was an abundance of buttons, plug sockets, storage compartments and A/V equipment that appealed to my inner geek) I settled into the comforts of a business class pod.
The first of many noticeable features was the unbelievable amount of space that I had. I could stretch my legs out fully and still had room to grow. There was an interesting array of buttons for the seat settings which I could see included a fully flat bed option, but at risk of looking like it was my first business class trip and causing too much attention to myself, I refrained from trialling it out until were fully into the journey. Needless to say the seat was immensely comfortable, clean and wide.
No sooner had I been seated for a few minutes and I’d already been welcomed by a semi-personal attendant who introduced himself and handed me our business class food and drink menus along with a glass of champagne. Tough start! Once the cabin had filled up and doors were closed I was asked for my choice of food, at what time I’d prefer to dine during the flight and what post-takeoff drink I’d like.
Dining on board Qatar Airways Business Class
Now to probably the hardest decision of the flight – picking the food. My chosen meals were a mackerel salad to start, followed by lamb fillet on a bed of couscous, ending with a lemon and vanilla ice cream.
The fillet melted in the mouth and accompanying flavours didn’t disappoint – it really was cooked to perfection. It was all extremely well presented and combined with a ‘silver-service-on-air’ feel, lunch at 41,000ft was unforgettable. Not bad for only the meal…
The Lounge on the A380
I felt like this deserved its own section, as it’s not often you’re able to wander through a set of curtains at the rear of a plane and walk into your very own private lounge complete with full-size bar, leather seating, a wall of reading material and quite the view!
With space that could comfortably
seat around 20 individuals but standing (or bar-leaning!) room for at least double that, it certainly seemed like the showpiece for other passengers during the flight. Spending around an hour of my flight in the lounge, it certainly seemed to have multiple uses. It was used for informal business ‘catch-ups’ from travelling colleagues, new business conversations with other passengers, a place to allow agitated children freedom to move around without interrupting any sleeping cabin passengers, a place to stretch your legs and even a place to have a relaxing drink (it is a bar after all!).
I was well behaved throughout the flight, but I couldn’t keep this one off my Instagram account!
Added Extras and Touches of Class
There was, naturally, Wi-Fi onboard – and post 15 minutes of free browsing I didn’t hesitate to pay an additional $10.00 for more data. Unfortunately the general speed and stability of the Wi-Fi wasn’t great, but still allowed an influx of app updates to ping through every now and then. I’m sure this will improve over time – even with my lack of knowledge around satellite-based internet connectivity I can understand this being tricky to master.
As you would expect with long-haul flying these days, the entertainment system on board had a significant selection of TV series, films, radio shows and music. Easy to use and navigate, with the benefits of the Qatar Airlines business class being an attached phone-looking handset that you could load the map and games onto, allowing some multi-tasking if you so wished.
The sound-cancelling headphones were a fantastic touch. You can never really appreciate the benefits of having sound cancelling headphones until the environment arrives, but it allowed for clear and crisp audible delights. These were of more use on the second leg of the trip as the 777 plane was a lot louder in comparison to the A380.
Included within the ticket was a lovely Giorgio Armani his or hers amenity kit which contained Acqua Di Gio Homme Eau de Toilette and Aftershave Balm, lip balm, socks, an eye mask and earplugs. Plush – I hear you say. And you’d be right – lovely touches from the airline.
The Next Leg – On board the 777 to Perth
For those of you that have travelled halfway around the world in two sittings, the un-enviable feeling of another flight, and this time for 11 hours, would normally leave you feeling slightly apprehensive of the task at hand. Not this time! The second flight left Doha’s Hamad International Airport at 23:15, approximately two and a half hours after arriving. The benefits of flying business for this second leg became quickly obvious, thanks to the visible offering of pillows, bedding and pyjamas. There was an abundance of space in the business class cabin and I was soon able to fully test out the flat bed and comfortably enjoy around five hours of effortless sleep.
Although the nice touches of the Gio amenity kit were available, this is where the noise cancelling headphones became an essential benefit to sleeping on what was definitely a louder plane than the A380. Turn the noise cancelling boost on and the engine noises disappeared. The flat bed itself could easily fit my 6ft 3in height (although it was a tad less comfortable than the previous flight – but not enough to really care!) and it really made the class its own.
After an extremely refreshing five hour sleep it was time to remember the impending jet lag (we’d be arriving into Perth at 6.30pm in just 4 hours) and turned the bed back into a seat for breakfast and a couple of movies. The different settings of your seat allowed pure comfort – I found it best sitting almost armchair-style with legs out straight. It’s these little options that really reaffirms how comfortable you are during the flight.
Breakfast was extremely refreshing – although there were still a few sleepers in business class so the picture doesn’t necessarily do it justice, but a selection of hot breads and a strawberry and banana smoothie was my choice for breakfast, but you could have had cereals, salmon, omelettes and so on.
In summary – this was an unbelievable experience. The fact that we could get 5 hours of flat, uninterrupted sleep took the sting out of any impending jet lag and allowed us to adjust to timezones a lot more quickly than had we flown economy (I can’t sleep upright!). The additional space gives you far more comfort and the whole journey feels more relaxed.
If you have the opportunity to fly Qatar’s business class I’d highly recommend it. By booking early enough, and by watching out for Qatar Airways sales and new route offers, business class can be affordable to all. If you get the chance – do it – it was almost a holiday in itself!
If you’d like to try Qatar Airways for your next trip – Business Class living or otherwise – then you can always make a saving with a Qatar Airways discount code, too.