Review of Qatar Airways flight Doha Cairo in First

Airline Qatar Airways
Flight QR 1303
Class First
Seat 2A
Aircraft Boeing 777-300ER
Flight time 03:25
Take-off 28 May 17, 09:05
Arrival at 28 May 17, 11:30
QR   #9 out of 113 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 397 reviews
jetsetpanda
By 1421
Published on 25th June 2017
As I write this segment of my trip, I can't help but feel fortunate that I was able to avoid the diplomatic crisis that erupted between some Middle Eastern countries and Qatar which culminated in the suspension of flight service between these countries. Egypt as we all know was one of countries involved and if I had decided to take this trip a week later I would be writing about this trip with another carrier. All my efforts to have my award trip changed from EY to QR would have been in vain. Who would have thought?

Here is a summary of my itinerary:

SFO-SIN on UA Y - click here.
SIN-DOH on QR J - click here
DOh-CAI on QR J - you are here.
CAI-IST on TK J - click here
IST-JFK on TK J - click here
JFK-IAD on UA Y - click here
IAD-SFO on UA Y - will not report


After my arrival from SIN I was looking forward to my stay at QR's Al Safwa Lounge which proved to be the most stunning F lounge that I have ever visited. Architecturally speaking this impressive lounge should be a subject on the aesthetics of design since it surpasses its functionality as a traveler's lounge to become something more.

On my way to Al Safwa lounge.

Two attendants guard the entrance at the stairs and check for credentials before allowing guests to enter.

photo qr al safwa f lounge 1 - copy


Upon entering I stop by the desk to reserve a room to rest. The attendant tells me that the room will be ready in half an hour and invites me to visit the restaurant in the meantime.

photo qr al safwa f lounge 2 - copyphoto qr al safwa f lounge 3 - copy


The lobby with its remarkably high ceiling gives a sense of unlimited space and it almost makes the surrounding furniture look "Lilliputian". The centerpiece is the modern fountain with a steady stream coming out of the ceiling.




The restaurant and WC's are adjacent to the fountain. When i stepped into the WC an attendant greeted me and even turned on the sink for me. He was performing his duty diligently but I find that such effusive style of service to be slightly unnerving. As you can imagine with such vigilant service, I did not dare take a pic of the facilities.

Upon entering the restaurant that first thing that you will notice is the extensive bar. However, due to Ramadan, alcoholic drinks were not displayed on this occasion. The bar staff greeted me warmly and asked if I desired something to drink. I thanked them but declined the offer.




The dining area is divided into smaller areas and when I requested a quiet spot I was taken to the far right side at the end which remained blissfully empty during my entire stay. At least 3-4 different staff members waited on me.

photo qr al safwa f lounge 14 - copyphoto qr al safwa f lounge 13 - copy


I was presented with a menu with limited choices. Soon an attendant came by to take my order and I had the seafood bisque to start, followed by lamb chops and Arabic desserts. A simple three course meal this late at night (or morning). It was around 01:00.




Plate setting.

photo qr al safwa f lounge 12 - copyphoto qr al safwa f lounge 15 - copy


Seafood bisque - disappointingly flavorless accompanied by "So Jeannie" non alcoholic bubbly.

photo qr al safwa f lounge 16 - copy


Herb crusted lamb chops - delicious and tender, although I would have preferred it a bit more "pink" in the center. I enjoyed this dish.

photo qr al safwa f lounge 19 - copyphoto qr al safwa f lounge 20 - copy


Arabic desserts - sort of like bread pieces in custard sauce and rice pudding. I don't particularly like rose water as a flavoring for dessert.



I returned to the service desk and I was informed that my room was ready. I was directed to the Spa area where one of the receptionists there asked for my connecting boarding pass and then showed me to my room.

photo qr al safwa f lounge 5 - copy

Water wall.

photo qr al safwa f lounge 38 - copy

Islamic/Middle Eastern art displays.



I was assigned room #12. The room was comfy and had an ensuite WC, but the door to the WC would not stay open and it felt a bit stuffy.

Nap rooms area.




Bedroom.



Bathroom.



I got a couple of hours of rest and the following morning I explored more areas of the lounge.




There is a separate Duty Free store located inside the lounge.

photo qr al safwa f lounge 80 - copyphoto qr al safwa f lounge 81 - copy

The lounge never became crowded and it truly felt like an oasis of tranquility in the middle of a busy airport. It lived up to another characteristic that every First Class lounge must possess - exclusivity.



Breakfast at the lounge.

I returned to the restaurant to have something to eat. One of the staff members from the previous visit recognized me and welcomed me back. Again, I requested a quiet spot and this time I was taken to the far left side of the lounge. There were some buffet items displayed by the seating area.



The menu had a limited selection of "a la carte" items. I chose the Eggs Benedicts which was cooked right but the use of turkey bacon instead of pork was perceptible in the overall taste of the dish.



Breakfast.



Business Center with individual "offices".




I still had time to spare so I checked out the "Al Mourjan" Business lounge.



Reception after the escalator.

photo dsc09258 - copyphoto dsc09257 - copy


The entrance is behind the reception wall with the pool and stairs connecting to the restaurant above. I did not venture into this restaurant.



Seating area at the end of the pool.



Limited self serve snacks and drinks.




At the opposite end there is a sit down Deli restaurant with some buffet items but I ordered a chicken sandwich. As expected it was busier here than at the Al Safwa F lounge. Right by the restaurant there was a family or game area where a child was having a tantrum crying inconsolably. To the family's credit they left quickly allowing the rest of us to enjoy our meals. Within a few tables from where I was sitting I was able to hear an inquisitive conversation between some patrons and a waiter. The party took a keen interest in finding out where the server was from and he shyly replied that he was from Bangladesh. This was followed by how long he's been in Doha which in my opinion seemed somewhat intrusive. Anyways it's not polite to listen to the conversation of others but it was so loud that I couldn't help to avoid hearing it. I took a bite of the sandwich which was satisfying and then I left. ;)



The seating area was expansive with different areas that offered privacy.



I regret not being able to explore the restaurant upstairs, but after a light breakfast at the F lounge and a bite of the chicken sandwich, in addition to counting on a decent breakfast aboard, I just couldn't indulge in more sinful gluttony. Hopefully I will have the chance to pay a visit on a future trip.

On my way to the gate.



Check-in at the gate was smooth and upon verifying all docs I was welcomed inside the sitting area. It eventually became very crowded as passengers started to arrive. There seemed to be a mix of locals and Asian passengers. Finally boarding was announced and everybody rushed to the front. Thankfully I was strategically seated close to the door and was one of the first ones to board.

Plane at the gate.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 6 - copy

Boarding.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 8 - copy


Upon entering the window shades were lowered and the cabin was dark in order to keep it cool.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 9 - copyphoto qr 1303 doh-cai 11 - copy


Eventually the shades were raised and the cabin was bright.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 7 - copy

Seat controls.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 49 - copy

Nice screen.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 19 - copy modiifed


The FA introduced herself and offered pre-dept. drinks. I had orange juice.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 18 - copy


Then menus and amenity kits were distributed. I give credit to QR for offering a modified version of an amenitiy kit for this regional flight. It's really appreciated.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 22 - copyphoto qr 1303 doh-cai 29 - copy

Menu.

Because of Ramadan, no alcohol is served on regional flights to other Muslim countries.



Arabic coffee and a package of dates are distributed.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 30 - copy modifiedphoto qr 1303 doh-cai 31 - copy

At one point during the flight the purser also introduces herself and welcomes us aboard. I can't recall if it was before taxiing out or right after take off.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 32 - copyphoto qr 1303 doh-cai 38 - copy


Take off - bye DOH.



Quick visit to the WC where shaving kits and toothbrushes were available.



Breakfast started with strawberry and oats smoothie.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 57 - copy

Plate setting with breakfast breads in a ceramic bowl. I'd rather use a plate and be offered a selection from a basket than see them all stuck in a bowl this way.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 59 - copyphoto qr 1303 doh-cai 60 - copy

Fruit starter.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 61 - copy

Croissant.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 62 - copy

Main dish - Halloumi cheese and tomato tart served with potatoes and beet chutney which added a touch of sweetness to the savory dish. Miam !! My seatmate who was an Egyptian sent the same dish back telling the FA "what is this?" :P She handled the situation very well by offering an alternate dish to the upset pax.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 64 - copy

Hot towel was handed at the conclusion of the meal.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 66 - copy

Later on mints were offered.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 67 - copy

Unlike my previous QR flight, Godiva chocolates were not given out unless one asked for them. I did not bother since I didn't need the extra calories but this seemed a bit inconsistent to me. Having said that, the FA's were very friendly and told me not to hesitate letting them know if I needed anything.

Approaching Egypt with the Suez Canal.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 71 - copyphoto qr 1303 doh-cai 73 - copy

CAI coming up with a view of the pyramids in the distance.



Landing in CAI.



SV on the runway.

photo qr 1303 doh-cai 108 - copy

The land of MS.

See more

Verdict

Qatar Airways

9.0/10
Cabin8.5
Cabin crew9.5
Entertainment10.0
Meal/catering8.0

Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge

9.6/10
Comfort10.0
Meal/catering8.5
Entertainment10.0
Services10.0

Doha - DOH

9.5/10
Efficiency10.0
Access9.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness10.0

Cairo - CAI

7.4/10
Efficiency7.0
Access7.0
Services7.5
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

My transfer at DOH was smooth and it seems like a well run and efficient airport with the teddy bear by Swiss artist Urs Fischer as its centerpiece. Supposedly there are 3 versions of it - the other two are private collections.

QR's Al Safwa and Al Mourjan lounges are impressive in their sizes and offerings. My rating above is obviously for Af Safwa since that was my designated lounge and the one in which I spent the most time. The nap rooms are a convenient feature for the weary traveler who has a long connection at DOH and are greatly appreciated. Originally I was booked on EY for my CAI trip but the fact that EY does not have nap rooms in their lounges was one of the reasons that I switched to QR. I can't believe that EY is behind in this area compared to QR and EK.

Catering at the lounge was fine but I think that it could have been better, especially for a F class one. I did not partake in the buffet, but the "a la carte" choices were a bit limited and not all dishes shone. Service however was very good and some staff were truly exemplary in this area making you feel like a welcomed guest.

Aboard QR is a solid airline with great crew that are willing to please. The hard product is excellent with many extras like amenity kits and pajamas that competitors would not offer on flights that are not considered long haul. The cabin configuration tends to vary a lot depending on the aircraft and there are a lot of different ones out there for QR. Hopefully with the introduction of the new Q Suites in J, there will be some consistency in the future.

I like QR's catering with meals that are well presented and varied in choice. In addition I think the wine menu had a great selection to satisfy every taste. The dine on request feature is great and adds a true premium touch to its product. Because of this, I can see more staffing in the front cabins in order to accommodate this but at the same time it tends to create a more "chaotic" feel in the cabin with staff running back and forth.

I enjoyed my experience on QR and hope to repeat it in the future. It's a good thing that SFO is a new destination in 2018.

Related

10 Comments

  • Comment 402071 by
    jules67500 2302 Comments

    Hi Adan ! Thanks for sharing this FR on a no longer existing route.

    The ongoing situation in the Middle-East is going from bad to worse and you escaped well.

    Onboard, the product seems good and you appreciated it!

    See you soon !

    • Comment 402125 by
      jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2177 Comments

      Salut Jules.

      I can't stress how lucky I feel with the timing of these events. i think QR offers a great product except for the consistency of the J cabin in its fleet. It's generous to receive an amenity kit on a regional flight and even more so to get pajamas for a 7-8 hrs one.

      Thank you for your comments.

  • Comment 402124 by
    KévinDC TEAM 3978 Comments

    This report definitely came during historic times. Good thing your trip was right before everything happened and you were able to avoid the chaos. Once again, I find the Al Safwa lounge impressive, but too massive. In every report I've seen on the Al Safwa lounge, it seems completely empty. I appreciate the beautiful architecture, but it seems cold because of the huge scale of the lounge and incredibly high ceilings. I also find it odd that QR has such a large F lounge knowing that they only have a few A380 routes with actual international First class. I guess the majority of guests in the Al Safwa lounge are on regional F flights, like yourself. This is another technicality that I find odd--the fact that QR markets the premium cabin as F on regional flights gives access to the First class lounge. This is a much different approach from the U.S. where domestic flights are marketed as F, but there is no lounge access, much less to an International F lounge. It's odd that passengers on regional flights have access to such a luxurious lounge, while long-haul Business class passengers have access to a "lesser" lounge--though it is also a very nice lounge. Nevertheless, it is a very impressive lounge.

    QR has so many different J hard products that differ in quality. Compared to the new 787/A350/A380 J seats, and now the awesome Q Suites, this cabin is probably the worst of the long-haul J seats, but on a regional flight it is great to have a full flat seat and all the amenities that you don't normally get on regional routes on other carriers. As the 777s get retrofitted with the Q Suites, hopefully QR will limit the operation of these older cabins to regional routes.

    Thanks for a great report as usual!

    • Comment 402126 by
      jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2177 Comments

      Hi Kevin.

      "In every report I've seen on the Al Safwa lounge, it seems completely empty."
      - That is the impression one gets when visiting this lounge. However, I appreciate this characteristic and equates it with exclusivity which is a fundamental quality in every F lounge.

      "I appreciate the beautiful architecture, but it seems cold because of the huge scale of the lounge and incredibly high ceilings."
      - It's designed to impress and I think it accomplishes that beautifully. The term "impress" might have a slightly negative connotation in a more egalitarian society, but you have to take into account that the display of status is viewed differently depending on the perspective of the culture you are dealing with. You know the saying "what is one man's garbage is another one's treasure".

      "This is another technicality that I find odd--the fact that QR markets the premium cabin as F on regional flights gives access to the First class lounge. This is a much different approach from the U.S. where domestic flights are marketed as F, but there is no lounge access,"
      - And that is a good thing. Logistically it would be counterproductive to grant every U.S. domestic F pax access to a lounge (with the exception of lucrative transcon routes like LAX/SFO - JFK which they already do). The amount of traffic on US domestic flights are far more than regional Middle Eastern ones. In addition, even between regional Middle Eastern routes, we are still talking about intl. travel and the market segment that flies in premium cabin on these routes is composed of a selective few. Compared that to U.S. domestic flights where access to premium cabins is more easily attained.

      "As the 777s get retrofitted with the Q Suites, hopefully QR will limit the operation of these older cabins to regional routes."
      - I think it's going to get better with the introduction of these new seats in J. This is a game changer in my opinion and the difference between F and J is getting blurrier.

      Thanks for visiting.

  • Comment 402176 by
    Razza_Pr 177 Comments

    Hello, Jetsetpanda, and thank you for this FR.

    Help me understand something, please. Did QR price this award space as First Class redemption? Because I was very bewildered to see that your report covers QR F in their 777.

    The Al Safwa lounge's design I think really exudes taste, class, and refinement. It speaks modest volumes that passengers are sure to appreciate. I tend to think of QR's design as old meets new, done in sophistication. EY for example is really proud of their middle eastern roots and perfectly resembles that on their designs, whereas EK is "new money" with too much bling and tasteless design all around. Then there is QR in the middle, striking the fine balance.

    In your seatmate's defence, a halloumi and tomato tart doesn't normally look like that. It bears more resemblance to a supermarket pie with sides, anyway. Plus plus points for the healthy smoothie, though.

    Do they still offer you a choice between cold or hot towel?

    I think the future of 3-class in commercial aviation will be to equip super business class like their QSuites, PEY, and Y. I wonder, how will QR interpret PEY if they do install it?

    Thanks again for this FR. Cheers!

    • Comment 402288 by
      jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2177 Comments

      Hi Razza_Pr.

      "Did QR price this award space as First Class redemption? Because I was very bewildered to see that your report covers QR F in their 777."
      - When I booked this award with AA, the cabin was shown as F but the amount of miles needed was for J. This also created some confusion with AA agents because when I tried to switch the flight from EY to QR, I was being told repeatedly that J was not available on QR. My award segment was SIN-CAI and the agents were seeing availability for SIN-DOH in J but DOH-CAI only in F so they were telling me that the award space was not there.

      After I insisted to the agent to book it that way she realized that the amount of miles for the award did not change and was still pricing it as a J award. As we know the 777-300 is a two cabin airplane.

      " I tend to think of QR's design as old meets new, done in sophistication."
      - The art displays contributes to this quality in my opinion.

      "a halloumi and tomato tart doesn't normally look like that."
      - Thanks for the insight. ;)

      "Do they still offer you a choice between cold or hot towel?"
      - I remember being asked that question so yes, they were still offering them.

      "I wonder, how will QR interpret PEY if they do install it?"
      - The PEY product varies a lot between carriers. A fourth cabin is needed to appreciate the differences, otherwise with only 3 cabins the new Q suites will become the old F, PEY will be J and Y will always be Y.

      Thanks for commenting.

  • Comment 402240 by
    Rl 777 760 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this FR with us!

    This shows how rapidly circumstances can change completely, good thing this flight was done in late-May.

    “At least 3-4 different staff members waited on me.“
    - Talk about personal service :).

    Really nice pictures from the lounge, it looks even more massive with the sparse load.

    “There is a separate Duty Free store located inside the lounge.“
    - Interesting.

    Nice shots from the cabin, it looks good for shorter flights but the same could probably not be said for longer flights (when compared to other newer QR J seats). The first 777 has been retrofitted and operates one of the LHR flights, thankfully QR decided to retrofit all 777s with the Qsuites.

    Fantastic aerial shots throughout the flight.

    Have a good one, see you!

    • Comment 402347 by
      jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2177 Comments

      Hi RI 777.

      "This shows how rapidly circumstances can change completely, good thing this flight was done in late-May"
      - Life is very unpredictable, that is why one should live to the fullest and enjoy every second of it. ;)

      "Talk about personal service :)"
      - It could be a bit too much. :P

      "Really nice pictures from the lounge, it looks even more massive with the sparse load"
      - I think that I can say that this is the most architecturally impressive lounge that I've been to.

      "Nice shots from the cabin, it looks good for shorter flights but the same could probably not be said for longer flights"
      - Especially when the competitors have a more standard J cabin with all aisle access seats. It would be a sub par experience to fly on this cabin for a long haul trip for sure.

      Glad you liked the pics. Thanks for your comments as always.

  • Comment 402324 by
    socalnow 504 Comments

    Greetings Jetsetpanda and thank you for yet another beautiful report.

    Your timing is impeccable, completing this excursion before the diplomatic crisis. Truth be told that would have made an interesting story as well...

    " Architecturally speaking this impressive lounge should be a subject on the aesthetics of design since it surpasses its functionality as a traveler's lounge to become something more. "
    -So very well said. I'm sure the "more" differs from person to person but I think you capture the essence of the space with your description.

    The lobby with its remarkably high ceiling gives a sense of unlimited space and it almost makes the surrounding furniture look "Lilliputian".
    -Go on! I admire your care in word selection. What a joy to read.

    The nap rooms are quite well appointed. What a fantastic benefit to travelers, especially considering the hub bank times in the M.E. So very well done.

    "Then menus and amenity kits were distributed. I give credit to QR for offering a modified version of an amenity kit for this regional flight. It's really appreciated."
    -I'll say. QR J (I suppose F in this case) product is very well thought out and positioned. It is light years ahead of US and EU regional F/J operations. Is it sustainable? Who knows, enjoy it while it lasts.

    "Halloumi cheese and tomato tart served with potatoes and beet chutney which added a touch of sweetness to the savory dish. "
    -This looks and sounds very nice. I wonder what Egyptian tarts look like? ;)

    I really enjoy your aerial shots of Doha and Cairo/Suez.

    "The dine on request feature is great and adds a true premium touch to its product. Because of this, I can see more staffing in the front cabins in order to accommodate this but at the same time it tends to create a more "chaotic" feel in the cabin with staff running back and forth. "
    -Interesting point and trade-off there. Something I hadn't considered. If I'm sleeping in one of the current generation 7ER J seats and the person next to me decides to have a 5 course meal in the middle of the night I would expect that to impact my rest. I suppose QSuites will alleviate this to some extent.

    Thank you again for the time and detail in your report. Happy flying.

    • Comment 402440 by
      jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2177 Comments

      Hi Christian.

      "Truth be told that would have made an interesting story as well..."
      - For sure. Imagine the possibilities. ;)

      "I'm sure the "more" differs from person to person but I think you capture the essence of the space with your description."
      - The high ceilings somehow reminds me of the interior of a cathedral with its solemnity.

      -"Go on! I admire your care in word selection. What a joy to read."
      - I will share a little secret with you. English is not my first language and sometimes I struggle with eloquence but back in college I received a minor in English. ;)

      "The nap rooms are quite well appointed. "
      - A major benefit at the F lounge. Over at Al Mourjan i have read that the rest area is not very well designed.

      "Is it sustainable? Who knows, enjoy it while it lasts."
      - The million dollar question. Time will tell for sure.

      "I wonder what Egyptian tarts look like? ;)"
      - Something to look forward to finding out when I return. ;)

      "I really enjoy your aerial shots of Doha and Cairo/Suez. "
      - The landscape was compelling.

      " I suppose QSuites will alleviate this to some extent."
      - The privacy that it offers seems unsurpassed for J. It should be nice to try it. Are you volunteering? ;)

      Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting.

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