The airline with the best average rating is Qatar Airways with 8.3/10.
The average flight time is 15 hours and 7 minutes.More information
One of my projects at work had been brought forward unexpectedly with a relatively ambitious launch time, which means that I now need to spend a bit of time with my colleagues in the UK to learn as much as possible about the project and to have some vendor meetings. As the booking is being made quite late, there weren't a lot of options available with some airlines like CX completely booked out (despite their 4x daily flights to SYD).
There is a corporate preference for us to go on EK, but unfortunately they worked out to be around A$3k+ more expensive than QR. Having always wanted to test out the Q Suite product that was not a hard decision to make. Booking was made via our corporate travel agent. As business outbound was quite full they had booked us on one of those higher booking sub-classes (D). Interestingly I noted that there was only a A$500 fare difference to upgrade my outbound D class ticket to First Promo (A) - 24 hours of first class luxury, plus access to the Qantas First lounge in SYD and QR Al Safwa Lounge in DOH all sound like money well spent for the $500 so I pulled the trigger a couple of days before departure. With all the points that I can get on this trip this would also put me half way to qualifying for Japan Airlines Global Club Sapphire as well (which led to more flying/status run in the end and more money spent, but that is for another trip report…!).
During my time in the UK I managed to tag on a side trip to Paris to visit a friend for the weekend when I arrive, and also a trip to Manchester as part of my meetings which I would not be documenting here as they are fairly non-events (except for LHR-CDG where i will focus on the BA Concorde Room experience).
After a hectic week at work (partly due to this trip) it was time to head out and I got to Sydney Airport approximately 3:15 before the scheduled departure of QR909 where check in was already in progressed. My bag was tagged all the way to LHR with boarding pass issued for both sectors. A fast track departure card was also provided (sadly this has since been suspended due to works at Sydney Airport between May and September 2019).
After bidding my partner farewell for the week, I passed through security and immigration quickly, navigated through the maze called duty free and headed up the escalators to the entry of the Qantas First lounge. There was no one manning the door downstairs strangely so we walked through the entrance through the living wall and up another set of escalators into the main reception of the First lounge. My boarding pass was scanned through and I got a seat at the dinning area for some pre-flight dinner and drinks.
Fortunately I got a seat next to the window and was greeted by the Qatar A380 (A7-APC) that has just arrived from DOH on QR908. To begin with, I ordered a rose champagne.
For dinner, I started off with the signature salt and pepper squid with green chilli dipping sauce and aioli. The squid was crispy and of the right texture, and supplemented well by the creaminess of the aioli - perfect starter to go with the champagne.
I then moved onto to the Confit duck leg with lentils and grilled plum. The duck leg was well cooked, with tender meat that you can just pull off the bone easily. It was extremely well flavored although the presentation could do with more work.
To finish I had the Chocolate mousse with honey poached pear, spiced rum, hazelnut an chocolate sorbet, as well as the signature pavlova with raspberries and blueberries. I was by that stage in a food coma…!
Food was obviously very well done at this lounge but one minor complaint would be the services. The waiters don't seem to be well trained for a First Class lounge. They are somehow inattentive and it takes quite an effort to grab their attention for refills or to order, and also lacked attention to detail (for example my table had crumbs and dirt around, but the waiter did not think of cleaning up the table before getting us seated and we had to prompt) - certainly not services that I would expect from Sofitel or from any premium lounges.
I then had a walk around the lounge in an unsuccessful attempt to try to burn off some of the calories consumed. The classic flipboard style flight information display is seen here but strangely it did not feature the Qatar flight despite the Qantas lounge being the designed lounge for the QR flights. The picture above shows the space around the lounge with the signature Marc Newson design and the dinning area.
I have really liked the marble look and feel at this lounge and it makes the lounge very classy. There is also a sit in bar area (as pictured), and a private room should you need some further privacy (Not occupied for tonight). ASPAR product is featured at the Qantas lounge bathrooms (as with onboard).
Boarding was called and I headed downed to the departure gate (10) a few minutes after. I was able to get through the premium boarding lane with minimal wait.
Once inside the aerobridge I headed up towards the bridge heading for the upper deck
Once onboard I was welcomed by the fabulous crew tonight who offered me a pre-departure drink (champagne and water for me), as well as a cold towel and some nibbles as we waited for departure
Menu and amenity kits were also offered. The current amenity kit are from luggage brand BRICS (where First class passengers are offered a slightly more substantial kit) with pyjamas from the White Company.
Arabic coffee was also offered by the cabin crew before departure
Interestingly the cabin was showing all seats apart from mine being unsold up to the day before departure, but the First Class cabin ended up going out full. Not sure if the rest of the passengers were upgraded at check-in or if there had been disruptions elsewhere that led to the flight going out full.
After a short while we managed to board the fully loaded A380 earlier than expected but had to wait for our allocated slot before push back can be initiated. Right at the dot at 21:45 we pushed back and headed towards runway 34L for departure.
Onto the inflight product itself. Although the Qatar First class product is not the most updated product out there, and that people often complain about the lack of doors or privacy screens, I have found the product fairly well done.
It was elegant and modern but yet extremely comfortable and usable. The seat itself is very comfortable both in lounge mode and in bed mode (the bed was wide and provided great support for my sleep). The side tray table was also of good size and provided a great area to hold my drinks and other items.
Right in front of seat 1A there was also a self service bar that contained a magazine rack, drinks and some ambient snacks. A wardrobe is also hidden behind all of these self service bar.
Qatar had opted not to put in a shower onboard its A380, but in place of that there were 2 oversized bathrooms instead. Whilst I would appreciate a shower inflight, I have really loved this changing room concept as it allowed a good amount of room for people to get themselves refreshed and it is not as claustrophobic as showers/toilets found on other airlines. Qatar also went all out in terms of amenities with a very well stocked amenity drawer, good quality Rituals bathroom products and well furnished fittings all around the bathroom. AA+ for effort for sure!
An excerpt of the menu as attached above - despite the cut backs observed over the past few years, I still think Qatar excels in terms of their inflight catering in comparison to other airlines
Once inflight I had a glass of the excellent Krug 2004 Champange, this was served with warmed nuts.
Qatar offers a dine anytime menu and given the feast that I had at the lounge, I requested for dinner to be served approximately 2 hours after take off. At the time table was then set which featured Qatar's elegant onboard crockery. The tealights at the table also adds another level of ambience.
The service started with an arancini which was excellent.
I then had the cream of asparagus soup which was perfectly balanced - good flavoured but yet light enough, and most importantly it came out very hot which is often an issue with aircraft soup.
The beautiful caviar platter then came out which was presented extremely nicely (it almost sparkles!), with balik salmon and the accompaniments. By the time I finished the caviar plate (together with all the lounge food) I was absolutely stuffed so I decided not to continue further with dinner and went to the onboard lounge to kill some time before going to bed after.
I woke up approximately 1.5 hours before arrival and ordered some scrambled eggs for breakfast. Unfortunately this was unremarkable with all of the components being quite dry.
Another great feature of the Qatar A380 was the onboard lounge which is situated behind the Business Class cabin. The bar was very nicely constructed and was manned by a friendly crew member whom I had a very nice chat with. There are nibbles and other foods around the bar and the crew member was happy to mix any drinks you would like. Personally I preferred this bar than the EK A380 bar, although economically I hate to think how much revenue Qatar is missing out with the huge footprint that is being taken by this bar. As a passenger though I can't complain and would love to see more of this!
After almost 15 hours we landed at Doha at around 4:30 at one of the furthest A gates around. I thanks the crew as we got off the flight and headed towards the transit security.
And I took advantage of the dedicated First and Business Class transfer queue (although no one really checks eligibility here) back to the departures level, and then headed towards the Al Safwa lounge that I have heard so much about!
Overall an extremely pleasant flight with Qatar. I certainly still believes that Qatar still excels on inflight catering than the others in First and Business, even though the hard product is not one of the best out there (Etihad still remains my favourite in terms of seating). I wished they had retained First Class on more of their fleet but with their Business Class (Q Suite) being designed so well there was probably no need for them to retain First Class as a separate product.
The next report will feature the BA First product on the 787-9 ex-DOH and the Qatar Al Safwa lounge - stay tuned!