Qatar Airways has emerged as one of the best airlines in the world. The Middle East carrier serves many destinations around the world through it’s hub in Doha.
Earlier in 2017, Skytrax designated Qatar Airways the Best Airline in the World, so with a trip to India in the works, we were excited to try out the World’s Best Business Class and spend a few days in the capital city of Qatar before continuing onward to Delhi.
Did the flight live up to the hype? Read on to find out.
Qatar Airways is part of the OneWorld airline alliance, which means we were able to book this flight using American Airlines miles. The cost for the flight was 70,000 AAdvantage miles and $12 in taxes. The sign up bonus from our Citi AAdvantage Mastercards earned us 63,000 each, and the rest we got by using shopping portals. An added bonus, as Citi AAdvantage Mastercard holders we were entitled to a 10% refund of the miles used for the booking.
To book the flight we first had to find award availability. Even though we were using American Airlines AAdvantage miles for the booking, their site doesn’t show all of their partners’ award availability. The best way to search for OneWorld partner availability is by using the Qantas or British Airways web sites.
Using the British Airways sites I looked for Qatar business class availability toward the end of August. I searched the U.S. routes that I knew Qatar was flying their A350 from, as the 777s they fly to the U.S. are still arranged with a 2-2-2 business class cabin vs. the 1-2-1 configuration of their A350s and 787s.
Qatar makes a lot of seats available to Doha, but it may take some more patience and flexibility if you’re looking for a specific connection. As we were planning on spending a few days in Doha, there was plenty of availabilty for our dates and I decided on Boston as our departure point from the U.S.
The next step was making sure there was American Airlines availabilty from our home airport in Lubbock, Texas to Boston, which we found on August 22nd.
Then it was just a matter of calling an American Airlines agent and informing them of the specific flight numbers and dates to complete the booking. According to American Airlines’ website, this flight would have cost $6550 each if we had paid cash for it!
LBB to BOS
As mentioned above we were able to combine a positioning flight from our home airport LBB to BOS as part of the same award flight for no extra charge. The routing had us go from LBB to DFW to DCA to BOS on domestic first class.
Since we already received our boarding passes in Lubbock and were carrying on our luggage, we didn’t need to stop by the Qatar Airways check in desk once we got to Boston. Instead, we proceeded through security and headed to the lounge.
Qatar Business Class passengers get access to the Air France Lounge in Terminal E, which is shared with passengers on numerous other airlines as well. We had quite a long layover in Boston so the traffic in the lounge swelled periodically ahead of other departures, but for the most part we were able to sequester ourselves off to a corner and get some work done using the complementary wifi without feeling too crowded.
As far as lounges go, it was a disappointment, but any lounge beats sitting at the gate 99 times out of 100. There was a sparse selection of beer, wine and spirits, as well as sodas, and the refreshments mostly consisted of light snacks and mini-sandwiches, along with the always-dependable Cup of Noodles station. It was just as well, though, since we were interested in saving our appetites for Qatar’s onboard dine on demand offerings.
Perhaps the greatest deficiency of the lounge were the bathrooms, with minimals stalls and no shower facilities. So much for feeling refreshed before out 13 hour flight to Doha.
Also note the lounge is quite out of the way and easy to miss, down this dark hallway that looks like it leads to a janitor’s closet.
If you have a Priority Pass membership, you might seek out The Club instead. Although a smaller lounge, the snack selection was superior. A sign was posted regarding an upcoming expansion that will add more seating as well as shower facilites, easily making it a better choice than the Air France Lounge.
Due to the ongoing blockade against the nation of Qatar by other Gulf countries, Qatar’s passenger loads have dropped, which is a shame since it’s still a great way to connect to other destinations across the globe. But since there were so few passengers on our flight, boarding went about as smooth as any I’ve ever experienced, which made for good pictures of the nearly empty business class cabin.
The business cabin is arranged in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration and is divided into two sections, with the front having 6 rows, and the rear having 3 rows. In total there are 36 business class seats.
The two mini-cabins are dividing by an open space that serves as a mid-flight self-serve refreshment station and is a good place to stand up a stretch a bit. Champagne and chocolates were set out in this area.
As we settled into our seats our flight attendants approached us to introduce themselves, hand us menus for the flight, and offer us welcome drinks. We selected champagne which was served along with a small box of Godiva chocolates.
We were then offered cold towels to refresh ourselves, which was very welcome as a brief power outage disabled the air conditioning in the Boston Logan terminal while we waited to board the flight.
We were also presented our amenity kits along with pajamas, socks and slippers. The Brics-branded kits were in a hard shell leather zipper case with a selection of Monte Vibiano beauty products including moisturizer, facial mist, and lip balm, along with the standard ear plugs and sleep mask. I didn’t bother keeping the leather case since my bag was already jam-packed, so I just transferred the amenities to my existing toiletry bag at the end of the flight. I give the eye mask high marks for being comfortable and adjustable.
The Apujan pajamas on our EVA Air Royal Laurel flight were far superior to the loose-fitting ones offered by Qatar Airways on this flight, and thus didn’t warrant trying to make room in my bag. Still, pajamas are always welcome on a long haul flight and they did the job while in the air.
A pair of noise-cancelling headphones was in the arm rest, which Iylana used, but I stuck to my trusted and superior Bose QC35 headphones.
The lav was a decent size, enough room to comfortably change into the pajamas at bed time. There were dental and shave kits available.
Also, the overhead bins were quite large and able to accommodate plenty of luggage. They were only on the sides, helping the cabin to feel open and spacious.
Now settled into our seat, it was time for the safety video before push back and take off.
The reverse herrinbone seats are 22″ wide and have 80″ of pitch, with a full 180 degee recline. I noted in my EVA Air review my misgivings about the reverse herringbone layout common in business class cabins, but the Qatar implementation has to be the best possible one. This is largely due to the motorized armrests that make it possible to create maximum width in the seat when in sleep mode, while also offering the comfort and support of armrests while dining, watching a movie, etc.
We selected seats 7E and 7F which were the two middle seats at the front of the rear mini-cabin. There is a huge amount of storage space with cubbies in both armrests, as well as in the bulkhead area. I was able to put away everything with room to spare, including my camera bag, laptop, pajamas and amenity kit. The amount of storage was a very welcome feature and I hope other carriers take note.
The seat itself was very comfortable, and I slept better on this flight than any other flight I have taken. As mentioned above, when in sleep mode, the seat offers more width than other reverse herringbone seats due to the fully retractable arm rests. The foot rest was also plenty wide, and the overall bed length was more than enough for my height.
When it’s time to sleep a flight attendant will perform a turndown service for you providing a thin mattress cover and comforter. All of the bedding was very comfortable.
Seat controls have a number of presets for easy adjustment, along with manual controls to find the perfect position.
There was a 110V power port, but curiously only one USB port for charging your devices. A second would have been welcomed.
In short, I cannot rave enough about how good this seat is for a business class product. While I still prefer the seat itself on Singapore Airline business class, the total package here with the ample storage and superior bed gives Qatar the edge overall.
Food and Drink
The food during the flight was nothing short of spectacular. It crossed the boundary from being merely “good for airline food” to “I would go to a restaurant serving these dishes.”
Scroll through the below slideshow to see all the offerings available to us from the food and drink menus.
One great aspect was that the flight offered dine on demand service, so you could order what you want when you wanted. With a minimally populated cabin there was no danger of running out of our first choices either.
We were started with a spicy ceviche amuse bouche and a selection of breads.
I ordered the sweet corn soup, which was excellent.
Next I had the cured salmon and potato salad, which again was excellent. A lime wedge was served alongside to squeeze on the salmon.
For my main I had the chicken roulade. At this point I was already pretty full from the starters, but I pushed myself to finish the dish since everything was so tasty. The presentation was great and the lentils were phenomenal. If I had to find a complaint it would be that the chicken was just a touch dry, but inconsequentially so. By no means the rubbery dry mess you may have been served on other airlines.
Iylana skipped the soup but had the antipasti salad.
And she chose the Thai green curry as her main, which she found flavorful and spicy.
This was easily the best meal we’ve had on an airplane, and we were stuffed to the gills. But we couldn’t pass up dessert, which was served in the most surprising way (more on that in a moment).
After sleep, breakfast was served. I opted for the omelette with chicken sausages and a pineapple and mango smoothie.
Iylana opted for the bircher muesli and yogurt with an espresso.
She also raved about the karak chai, both the saffron and cardamom flavors.
The crew for our flight was immensely professional and really attentive and on point during every phase of the flight. As we boarded our flight attendants came to introduce themselves and explain the service offerings throughout the flight.
The crew also took notice of my fervant photo snapping during the boarding process and perhaps because of that seemed to pay special attention to us throughout the flight. When we ordered dessert the crew made a special preparation for us, a thoughtful touch that highlighted the immense service we received.
IFE and Wi-Fi
Each business class seat is equipped with a 17″ IFE screen, which were all very bright and vivid. The screen quality was great, however the content was highly compressed, with noticeable and disappointing compression artifacts throughout the movies I watched.
As far as selection, it was middle of the road. I was surprised there wasn’t more blockbuster current releases, but I still found a couple of movies I hadn’t seen before in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and The Lost City of Z. Also, the movies were edited more than most other airlines I’ve been on, with virtually all curse words substituted.
Between the image quality and the mediocre selection, the IFE was the most (or should I say, only) disappointing aspect of the flight.
Qatar offers a small amount of free wi-fi data, but when I tried to use it nothing would load. I checked again after awhile only to be informed my free allotment had been used up, and directed to a page to purchase a package. Given that the free data didn’t work for me, I had no interest in paying for a package. Costs of the packages offered are in the slideshow below.
Arrival in Doha
The experience doesn’t end when you land in Doha. Qatar goes to great lengths to make their business and first class guests feel special, offering an arrivals lounge with refreshments and dedicated immigration lanes which are a godsend I’m sure when airport traffic is high.
In this case, though, the lounge was absolutely empty—we were the only ones there, another sign that the ongoing blockade has really affected air traffic in the country. We took a few minutes to have a drink before proceeding through the immigration lane and we were officially in Qatar, ready to enjoy the rest of our trip.
This flight lived up to the billing, from the spacious and comfortable cabin of the A350 to the phenomenal service we received throughout. Qatar’s recognition as the best airline in the world is not without merit. This is definitely the best business class flight we’ve been on, and while there are many more quality airlines in the world we’ve yet to fly, we’ll definitely be measuring them against this flight from now on.
If you have a stash of AAdvantage miles and are looking into taking a trip to the Middle East or Indian subcontinent, this just might be one of the best ways to utilize them at just 70,000 miles and $11.80 in taxes and fees. And in the future should we need to look into a paid flight option to this part of the world, Qatar Airways will be at the top our list.
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