I didn't get the time to find out online what ‘International transit in Manchester' would be like. Turns out, it was, in fact, an airside transfer. We waited in the pretty nice looking lounge area for a bit, where a bus would take us to transit security.
A fun bus ride around Manchester’s Terminal 3 followed - a final view of N196AA! :D This also included some of Europe’s more prominent airlines such as FlyBE, Ryanair, Air France, British Airways etc. These planes were being filled up with passengers for their morning missions across Europe. Once we got to the the terminal, I insisted we were the last two to get off. I mean, there’s only so many ways one can make the most of a 7hr25min transit, right?! :D
N196AA would head to New York JFK as AA211
The other stuff…
Security took fifteen to twenty minutes. It was a stringent process, but the people were willing to help us to make it an easy experience, for us and for themselves. This was an honest relief to experience, especially since the country I was in right before do tend to have some nightmarish lines…. Anyway.
TRANSIT @ MANCHESTER
We were at another waiting area, this time it was just people heading to T2. Some of them were in fact on the Qatar Airways flight onwards to Doha!
Onboard the bus
This time, the planes we passed by were slightly more interesting: Allegiant Air lookalikes Jet2Holiday.com, albino Singapore Airlines 777-300ER to Houston, Virgin Atlantic 747, and a Saudia Dream)liner. By now I had done a decent job in teaching my girlfriend how to identify a Dream)liner - this worked out well! :D
We had to confirm our baggage tags with staff in the terminal, many announcements and signs said. Duly, we headed to the counter….but no one was there. I called up Qatar Airways agent, and they informed me to contact the ground staff before boarding. Perfect - time to spot some planes!
Now don't get me started as to how excited I was to log in a flight on Qatar Airways, and that too a Dream)liner. Having already had 4 Dream)liner flights logged on Air India, I was ready for another airlines' Dream)liner. My girlfriend however, didn't see the reason for my excitement. With that being said, some pictures of spotting -
To start off - Saudia flight SV124 to Jeddah. This beautiful B787-9 was just about ready to depart. We sat at a place right in front of its nose, however the arcade game section had a very catchy (but annoying :P) music playing - this would be stuck in our heads all the way to Kolkata.
In the mean time, a Pakistan International Airlines B777-200LR arrived: this would be the closest my girlfriend and I would get to a PIA bird! :P This was flight PK721 from Lahore to New York JFK via Manchester.
HZ-ARC was pushed back. It was quite a beautiful sight, and my girlfriend was excited by this too: we were just a few hours away from our first flight on Qatar Airways, and her first flight on the Dream)liner! Couple up this departure and the lovely American Airlines B787-8s from Chicago, my girlfriend could see a Dream)liner from a distance.
B757s are quite choice for American airlines to send over to Manchester, as this pencil jet was headed for Newark Liberty.
In midst of these two activities, Cathay’s B777-300ER was towed towards a gate, preparing for its 11.5 hour journey to Hong Kong.
And to finish off this spotting, the Queen. This beautiful Virgin Atlantic B747-400 would head to Orlando as VS75. Clearly all people there were families: Disneyworld crowd!
At 1050 hours GMT we went ahead and checked out the duty free. If there was any where I could’ve made my first booze purchase, it would’ve been at Manchester. I thought better of it, seeing as the transit in Doha would be 17 hours long. Many people tried to lure us in, tempting as it was. Felt like a bunch of velociraptors chasing us lol.
We weren’t remarkably hungry. However, this did not stop me from finding some Trooper Beer, with minimal success. We finally decided to freshen up - time for a shirt change! The camera IS my baby!
I heard the overly familiar sound of the 787 GEnx sounds. It was 1112 hours GMT. Of course, it was indeed A7-BCQ from Doha as QR27!
Darn, I just missed the magnificent arrival of this bird. Passengers were disembarking as other ground vehicles prepared for the long and relaxed turnaround for the aircraft. A spree of images, if you don't mind :)
Right beside was a Thomson B757
WiFi worked great while it was free….but we had to use it a bit more. My girlfriend bought a 4 hour pack which was quite helpful. While she was awake, I tucked in to a nice 2 hour nap on the many chairs close to gate 214. One qualm about the Manchester: it was COLD. Almost felt like the heaters weren’t turned on, but then again we were in there for way too long. My girlfriend informed that a very elegant looking crew showed up and boarded the aircraft. There was a sudden surge in excitement as my first flight on Qatar Airways was not too far away. One of the best wake ups to a nap is when you see the top of your airplane :)
Notice how Jet2Holiday has very similar liveries to Allegiant Air?
PRE-BOARDING, BOARDING, ONBOARD…
There was still the matter of ensuring our transfer baggage was going to make this flight. And so, we went ahead and spoke to the ground staff: her British accent caught us bewildered, but we finally got along. Awkward! Anyway, documents checked, we were all clear.
Empty gate area, before things got serious…
Zone wise boarding was announced at 1415 hours, and we joined in line. It wasn’t until 1430 hours till we boarded, since the line was long and clogged the jet bridge.
However, the crew welcomed us enthusiastically, it was setting up for a great flight…..in the middle seat. My girlfriend would be in 16E, and me in 12B. A red mood lighting was set as we found our way towards the middle seats. My girlfriend’s eyes lit up as she was quite amused by the interior of this fantastic plane! About 7.5 hours in the middle seat. This was going to be interesting.
My date with the window seat lasted for just five or seven minutes. There wasn’t too much to photograph anyway, as a young woman came and took seat 12A. And the first thing she did was dim the window to its lowest setting. Dang :( Enjoy the short lived window view, of a now defunct airline….
Legroom - definitely tighter than on AA's Y+
Middle seat just for me, while it lasted…
I used this time to check out Qatar Airways’ IFE - Oryx. At the same time, I also appreciated the fact that I was onboard one of the planes on my delayed journey home, with my girlfriend in the same aircraft. The seat had a blanket, pillow and headphones already placed. IFE (Oryx entertainment) took its time to load, and was generally pretty laggy. Not good! However, the collection on it seemed to be quite decent, and I was looking forward to the next 7hrs in the middle seat. IFE - my key to surviving the long haul in the middle seat…
Cabin of the Dream)liner
A POTENTIAL WINDOW SEAT OPPORTUNITY THAT I BIFFED?
The aisle seat was taken up by one of two brothers who were not too far away from us in line in Chicago. The other sibling was in seat 11A. This got me thinking - had we not made the mistake of somehow just showing up in the line that never was, maybe just maybe I would’ve been in seat 11A. Ah well, that’s life. I was thankful to be onboard and all set for my first flight with Qatar Airways!
Captain made his briefing a few minutes before departure: our flight time would be 6hr45min (the longest flight during the week) to Doha, at an altitude of 39000 feet before climbing up to 41000 feet. (Psst - is it just me or do most Dream)liner flights climb very high up?! Even my domestic flights on AI went up to 41000 feet!)In the midst of all this, the crew handed out refresher towels - wow, and I thought this was all done away with ;) Our flight was codesharing with American Airlines, British Airways and….SriLankan Airlines! I had a smile on my face as this was announced.
The safety video was…interesting. Being a title sponsor for FC Barcelona, they made good use of this to make the safety video. It was quite nice and innovative, however not being a soccer fan myself, some things were overdone I felt. This was played after an Islamic Travel Prayer.
We pushed back at 1522 hours, two minutes after scheduled departure time. The GEnx engines fired up: no, the rattle was not as loud as on the Charleston-built birds (Air India), the cabin seemed to be more ‘held together’ this time. A slow taxi to Runway 23R followed. Taxiing by the Etihad A330-200 was a mixed feeling - I would’ve been in Kolkata by then, however, I was here on my first flight with Qatar. Trying my best not being any forms of weird, I kept looking out the window. I recalled some of the locations from a video recording that my father took in 2000, as he flew from Manchester to Dubai on an Emirates A330-200. We rolled down the runway at 1541 hours in to the darkening skies over England. Flight two of three to India, the longest one!
There was some turbulence that we fought through as we climbed through the clouds. It got even darker outside, but that didn’t stop my seat mate in 12A to dim the window at the first attempt. Dang it! The crew found it tricky to hold on during turbulence while confirming special meal orders with many passengers. Moodlighting being used big time.
Just under an hour after take off, dinner was served. There were three options! Beef, Asian Chicken with rice, or vegetarian. I went for the beef. Suffice to say, it was nothing less than absolutely astonishing. Perhaps one of the better meals I have had onboard a plane! Couscous salad to kick things off, which was at just the right temperature. The braised beef had grain mustard gravy to go with it, which went well together. The mashed potatoes and vegetables also complimented the meal well. Vodka and sprite was the perfect accompaniment. And finally, the pineapple raisin cake (albeit warm) was very nice. All in all, great stuff from Qatar Airways!
Meal tray, as received.
Dessert - kitkat and pineapple raisin cake
WiFi on Qatar Airways' B787 seemed a bit more on the expensive side…
5hr17min to arrival, I went through the IFE. As mentioned, while it was a little slow on start up, it worked great after loading and the content was more than wonderful. The crew came around and collected the food trays, and offered more drinks. I took a cognac. I turned on Bob’s Burgers and fell asleep to it. This worked out well - an alcohol induced nap that lasted a good 1.5-2 hours! Headset
A delicious meal - polished!
IFE content and map
There was 3hr40min to go when I woke up. I tried some features on the IFE, such as the onboard services/dining menu - there was nothing there.
I put on Mrs. Doubtfire, one of my all time favorite movies, and headed for the restroom after a while.
Darkened cabin -
Restroom, very well kept
I called my girlfriend back to the rear section of the plane - we hung around by door 3R for some time - there was a huge amount of legroom, and it seemed like the passengers did not mind as much (knowing that standing there is not the best idea, and apparently outlawed on flights to and from the USA…). We spent a good 30-35 minutes there, just checking on each other - she was loving the Boeing 787!
Back in the seat, I checked out the wifi options for the flight - the plans didn’t seem very attractive to me, so I continued to watch Mrs. Doubtfire. A quick hot snack was served, and this was pretty good as well. It was a chicken and chickpea Arabic pastry with a mango, apricot and coconut sponge cake. This was served at 2335 hours AST.
Power port just under the seat
DESCENT AND ARRIVAL
We prepared for arrival an hour after, and soon lined up with Ruwany 34R of Doha’s Hamad International Airport. A smooth touchdown was made at 0125 hours, twenty minutes after scheduled arrival time.
As the windows fogged and the cabin crew talked about their ‘world gateway Hamad Intl. Airport’, I reflected on what a fantastic first flight I had with Qatar Airways. The lovely food, decent IFE, and a very pleasent cabin crew attitude went a long way, in addition to the little things such as comfortable seats and the refresher towel, my first flight with Qatar Airways made sure I was pumped for my next flight….in about 17 hours.
We docked at gate A7. I had told my girlfriend that we’d much rather wait for all passengers to get off before we’d even move…except I realized I had to move for the lady next to me. Finally disembarked and thanked the crew, we were guided straight in to the departures area, no need for transit security, strangely. I wonder what happened here! A7-BCQ was then parked for a flight to Windhoek, Namibia. Found an information desk, hoping to get some information about a hotel stay if possible. 0146 hours AST, Doha Hamad Intl was nowhere close to asleep…
As always, thanks to TG with the editing of this report! In the next part - stay tuned for the long 17 hour layover in Doha Hamad Intl, the things we did, the things we didn't do, and the things we could've done, and the last flight home after what had been a very eventful start to our winter break….
Manchester - MAN
Doha - DOH
All in all, a superb first flight on Qatar Airways. My only gripe was the slow loading IFE which was surprising given 'relatively new' the aircraft was. In addition, the crew did not seem to be as accommodating towards the middle portion of the flight. Negatives aside, on time, lovely food, decent IFE and crew were attentive for the parts they were around. Spending nearly a day in Hamad Intl. wasn't as fun, but do stay tuned as to how it panned out!
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