Greetings Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by. I was about 13 years old when I flew in International Business Class for the first time. It was 1987 and it was an L-1011-250 flying from ATL-LGW. My memory of the cabin is somewhat faded but I think it was a 2x4x2 and only slightly more pitch and recline than Y. I remember the amenity kit rather well, a brown leatherette pouch, since I had never seen such a thing before. I remember collecting a few that were left behind by other passengers. The reason I mention this 30+ year old memory is that travel in Business Class has come a LONG way since then. That brings me to the nexus for this adventure. Qatar Airways is a renowned carrier for excellence in Business Class. The latest generation of their J product, known as the Q-Suite, is a evolution in terms of space, privacy, comfort, and entertainment. The goal of this trip was to take a Q-Suite on a test drive. American Advantage is a great program for redeeming miles for QR Business Class so that's where I went. Long story short I booked the round-the-world adventure on 3 tickets, 70k AA miles for LAX-IAH-DOH in QR J, 50k miles for DOH-SIN-KUL-NRT in QR J, MH J, and MH F, and finally 87, 520 Lifemiles for NRT-SFO-SNA in NH F and UA Y.
Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:
American Airlines, LAX-IAH, 737-800, First, Flagship Lounge, AAdvantage Miles Qatar Airways, IAH-DOH, 777-200LR, Business, American Express Centurion Lounge, AAdvantage Miles (This Report) Qatar Airways, DOH-SIN, A350-1000, Business, Al Mourjan Business Lounge, AAdvantage Miles (Coming Soon) Malaysia Airlines, SIN-KUL, 737-800, Business, British Airways and Qantas Lounges, AAdvantage Miles (Coming Soon) Malaysia Airlines, KUL-NRT, A350-900, First, Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge(s), AAdvantage Miles (Coming Soon) All Nippon Airlines (ANA) , NRT-SFO, 777-300ER, First, ANA Suite Lounge, Lifemiles, (Coming Soon) United Airlines, SFO-SNA, 737-800, Economy, American Express Centurion Lounge, Priority Pass Restaurants, Lifemiles, (No Report)
American Express Centurion Lounge - IAH
After a brief visit to a newly refreshed Admirals Club I made the trip over to Terminal D.
The elevator to the Amex lounge is sort of hidden behind the Duty Free store.
The Amex Centurion Lounges all have very similar aesthetic and are well designed comfortable spaces. As such they are quite popular. This lounge was rather crowded for my entire stay so picture taking was difficult. The crowd didn't distract from excellent service and quality food and beverage.
The tended bar a cocktail list.
My selection was the desert oasis and it was a well crafted cocktail. The salty sour rim glass was an excellent touch.
The view from my seat.
The buffet is adjacent to the bar. There is a nice selection of cold dishes, fresh salads, and a several hot items.
The only item I enjoyed from the buffet was the soup. It was so delicious I had two bowls. It was so savory, and balanced with lime and cilantro and enhanced with some Tabasco. I could have enjoyed a third serving but in a rare moment of restraint I moved on.
I was really blown away by the service in the lounge. Not only would the staff constantly clear service items but tehy would actively offer refills or solicit orders from the bar. I've not experienced this level of service at any other Centurion Lounge. This is quite the opposite of SFO, for example, where there is an air of "you're lucky we granted you access to our lounge."
As boarding time approached I enjoyed a coffee and left to walk about.
I walked down past the gate in an effort to obtain a picture of the aircraft but she was well hidden by the jet way.
I spotted LH and SQ as well.
Boarding started on time and was underway when I arrived at the gate.
As Reward Flying noted in his recent QSuites review of ORD-DOH the cabin is difficult for photos. The evening light outside coupled with low mood lighting in the cabin isn't ideal to convey the beauty of the scene. Right away you know you're somewhere special. The dark tones and variety of textures are really striking.
I selected seat 5k specifically for the wing and engine views and I was not disappointed, it's a phenomenal seat for an avgeek.
I am quickly greeted by Al, the flight attendant for 5K and surrounds. He's from Slovenia and he introduces himself as "Al, Like Al Pacino." His English is fantastic and he's a warm engaging person with an infectious smile from the start. I apologize for any negative publicity his country may have received as a result of the current US President. He's also all hustle but knows how to slow it down when appropriate. He gives me a thorough tour of the Q-Suite and solicits a per-departure beverage order. I opt for my usual Champagne and a special juice on offer. Al offers the Rose or the Brut and I select the latter. I'm also asked if I prefer a cold or hot towel. Al excuses himself to greet other passengers and returns after a few minutes with beverages and hot towel.
Let's have a look at the seat features. I'm quite impressed by the look and feel of everything in the suite. The textures of the surfaces and function of the controls all feel premium.
The seat controls are well placed and intuitive to operate. Genius to add the extra storage shelf here for small devices, etc. The storage box to the right of the seat has room for water bottle, headphones, amenity kit, and more. I will say teh IFE controller was difficult to eject from the holder and would usually require so much force that it would end up on the floor and I'd have to reel it in.
The foot well is sufficient and the bed length is good. The seemingly odd armrest looking pad by your calf becomes part of the bed and adds to the width.
Tray table is ample.
The screen resolution is dazzling.
Amenities were pre-positioned at the seat including an amenity kit, blanket, and pillow with a fitting slogan, "This is my happy place." The slogan was written in Arabic on the reverse side. Al mentioned that I was welcome to take the pillow with me.
There are noise canceling headphones of good quality in the storage area to the right of the seat.
I'm offered lounge wear and slippers as well. I change into the lounge wear prior to takeoff.
Al drops by with the menu and wine list for the flight and lets me know that the dining is "whatever you want, whenever you want." The food and beverage choices are impressive including an insert in the food menu with additional "snack platter" options. This is going to be fun!
The wines and other alcoholic beverages.
Food and non-alcoholic beverage choices.
Service items are collected and we push off the gate about 7 minutes behind schedule. I wasn't able to turn off the reading lamps in my suite consistently at first so there was a terrible glare on the window. As a result I don't have any usable pictures of taxi and takeoff.
Once we were airborne there was some bumpy air so the service start was delayed. In fact I think we had reached the intial cruising altitude before drink orders were taken. I asked Al for a dry martini and sparking water with ice.
The cocktail was served in a great little stemless up (martini) glass along with some warm mixed nuts. The water was omitted. It was a darn good cocktail for an airplane.
Now above the weather it's possible to see the thunderstorms that caused the bumpy ride.
I decided to test the dine on demand system and not take a meal straight away. Rather I asked Al for a couple of items from the snack menu: the smoked salmon blini and the kibbeh. Each item is one piece so Al asked how many of each I would prefer and I asked for two of each.
I selected the film Crazy Rich Asians and rather enjoyed watching it. Especially the scenes in familiar parts of Singapore.
Al eventually came to set the table and laid the table linen. He spotted a hair on the linen and quickly removed it and came back with another. I was impressed with his level of attention to detail. I certainly didn't notice it until he did.
The salt and pepper grinders look familiar…
For the snack service I opt for a glass of the Atair Champagne Etoile Brut Rose, an enjoyable wine. The water is served too, after a third request.
The kibbeh and salmon canapes are quite tasty and perfect little bites. The kibbeh is warm and has a crisp exterior and soft texture inside. Aside from advertising salmon roe as caviar the salmon is perfectly fine and the buckwheat blini has a very nice chew. The construction is so delicate I have to think they are assembled on the aircraft. If that's the case then kudos to whomever is in the kitchen because they're beautiful. Al refills the Champagne as needed and all is well.
I'm still a little peckish so when Al comes to check I ask for the mezze and to my surprise they have all been distributed. I request a minute to reformulate my game plan and Al clears the dish from the canapes. I look to the "light options" section of the menu and decide on the mini sliders: beef and chicken burgers with melting cheese served with crispy onion rings. Also requested is the Château Batailley Pauillac (Grand Cru Classé) 2012. Reading Reward Flying's raves about this wine I knew I was in for a treat.
Here is the trade off of the DOD vs. set meal time service models. It takes a long time for each request to be fulfilled. Al might have 10 people all wanting something different at around the same time and the staffing is not such where that can ever be prompt. I was in no hurry, and like the pillow slogan, I was very much in my happy place. We have 15 hours in this tin can, let's snack, drink, and repeat.
Kudos to Al for bringing the wine promptly and managing the expectations for when the food would be out. Absolutely splendid service technique.
The wine is as stunning as advertised. The sliders were not. They were mostly bread and lettuce to the point that I couldn't discern which was beef and which was chicken. The onion rings were soggy and greasy. How could they be any other way on an airplane?
Al was concerned when the dish was mostly intact upon his return. I let him know is wasn't suiting me but i was quite confident that the cheese plate would. The Batailley Pauillac and the cheese were fast friends. Sure it's not the most exciting cheese selection but he presentation was lovely and the scrumptious wine was in plentiful supply.
I accepted Al's offer of a sweet and went with the lemon orange cake. A tart citrus hit was the perfect foil to the rich, savory combination of wine and cheese. The Glenfiddich also made an appearance shortly after.
We're well over the Atlantic at this point so I hit the lav to scrub my teeth and request a turn down of the bed. There are 8 hours and 40 minutes remaining in the journey. I will say that the moving map had a habit of changing to Arabic. Not just for on "cycle" of the maps but for prolonged periods.
I enjoy a useful nap and feel refreshed after. It's certainly not a full night of sleep but that's OK, I wasn't to enjoy the flight. I've only scratched the surface of the menu and wine list. Once I decide I"m awake I set my chair upright but leave the mattress pad on in case I want to go horizontal again. I note our location, over the Black Sea and consult the meal and beverage lists for my next move(s).
I ring the call button and Al arrives quickly, having already enjoyed his nap time as well. We talk about what's available and I express my interest in the lamb dish and the Pommery. Al informs me he will check on the lamb and return with the Champagne and water. True to his word the bubbly was delivered and he let me know the lamb is warming.
The table is set, curiously the breakfast bread is provided, and the lamb is presented. The lamb is very flavorful and, despite the long journey it has undertaken, it's still quite tender. Al brought a variety of sauces because, well, he's just a thoughtful person. The Dijon was superb.
Dining over Iraq.
After breakfast(?) the table was cleared and I was brought a cold towel and box of chocolate. I wonder if the service protocol is to stick with the towel selection made at the beginning of the flight? that seems to be the case on this flight.
It's dusk as we shoot our approach into Hamad International Airport. This is why I selected 5K!
Our arrival was about 30 minutes behind schedule and we were on a gate quickly.
This appeared to be an immigration checkpoint for J and F but the agent manning the entrance said I was not entitled to use it. Perhaps no award tickiets?
I waited in a business class line in the general area and was through in about 15 minutes. I summoned an Uber and was at the Doubletree Hotel in Old Town within 10 minutes. Nap time.
AMEX Centurion Lounge
Houston - IAH
Doha - DOH
The Ground Service: No services offered.
The Lounge: The American Express Centurion Lougne IAH is a good example of the type. It suffers from the popularity of all Centurion lounges in that it's always crowded. There is only 1 shower and the wait was too long by the time I inquired. The food selection is good and the soup was excellent. The cocktail game is really where the Amex lounges excel to me. The Executive Lounge that QR uses is an awful, crowded, mess with questionable food and beverage offerings.
The Cabin: It's stunning in the aesthetics and the functional details. The F / J line is blurred by the Q Suite concept.
The Crew: Al is a sensational flight attendant. He has an infectious enthusiasm that is on display from the moment he engages the guest. The other FAs that subben in on various tasks were far closer to the mean where Al is an outlier. He made my first Q Suite flight even more memorable. DOD is a great concept but the execution falls short. The crew was in major hustle mode from what I observed and still wait times were excessive. I don't see how it could be any other way at the passenger / FA ratio.
The Food and Beverage: The selection is great and the additional snack menu was fantastic. The food ranged from great (kibbeh, salmon canapes) to good (lamb and cheese plate) to bad (sliders and onion rings). All of that said it was still above expectation for a business class dining experience.
Overall: QR J is a fantastic way to travel. Having Al along for the ride set the bar even higher.
Thank you for reading and happy flying.
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