The airline with the best average rating is Qatar Airways with 8.3/10.
The average flight time is 7 hours and 26 minutes.More information
This is a continuation of my journey from Sydney to London via Doha. The flight was booked as a Qatar Airways codeshare (QR5937) which unfortunately made FFP accrual a bit of a nightmare even though they are both oneworld members. In the end it took a couple of follow ups to be able to get the points credited into my JAL account.
After arriving on the QR A380 from Sydney, I went through transit security (There was no escort service provided by Doha for First class passengers) and then made my way over to the famed and exclusive Al Safwa Lounge that I have heard so much about.
But of course no visit to Doha Airport is complete without the obligatory shot at the gigantic teddy bear at the centre court.
Following the signs I made my way to the Al Safwa First lounge - interestingly there was no one checking boarding passes at the bottom of the escalator when I arrived.
My boarding pass was checked and was allowed in. As I checked in at Sydney, my boarding pass was printed on Qatar Airways stock. I asked if the lounge reception if they would be able to re-print my boarding pass on BA stock or to change my seat, but they claimed that they don't have access to the BA system and neither did they proactively try to offer to get this arranged at the gate, and simply asked me to try my luck at the gate - hardly premium service to be honest.
As I walked into the lounge I walked pass the well discussed water feature in front of the dinning area.
Feeling a bit peckish after the flight I went first to the dinning area and was seated immediately. The dinning area was deserted at this early hour. I went for a glass of the Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame 2006 to start with, a lemon and mint drink and some breakfast. Unfortunately the food quality was very average and the selection was not great either.
After the mediocre breakfast I attempted to try for a shower, thinking that there would be a dedicated shower area in the lounge.
When I asked the staff I was directed into the family room area (???), after being able to flag down another staff I was direct into a toilet in that area, where there was only one shower available and was occupied. Being extremely confused I asked the staff and said there couldn't possibly just be a single shower within this enormous lounge. Indeed there was an entire spa area where I was then escorted to, and strangely enough they have put me into what looked like a locker room with 2 showers. The staff decided that it would be ok to just get the whole locker room blocked off for me to have a shower (as the shower vs the changing area are completely separate and are shared. I would have thought that in such a modern lounge there would be proper individual shower areas/rooms but apparently not. The actual facility was ok and similar to onboard, Rituals products are available.
Feeling a bit refreshed after a hot shower, I then had a walk around the Al Safwa lounge. The lounge was indeed very big but it made me felt uncomfortable as there was no ambience at all - the high ceiling and the reflection of the lounge made any movement being very audible, and with no background music or noise in the lounge it felt very sterile, it almost felt like a library or a museum instead of a lounge that you can relax in. The feeling was further amplified when you see that there are nice artworks being displayed around the lounge.
If you have been to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha I think you will find some resemblance between the Al Safwa lounge and the museum in terms of decor and feeling.
On an overall basis, I did not enjoy the lounge that much personally - I had thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Al Mourjan Business lounge when it first opened but unfortunately I found the Al Safwa lounge to be slightly underwhelming in terms of actual product and experience.
I left the lounge shortly after boarding was called.
BA was assigned one of the further gate away from the front of the terminal at D2, which meant a ride on the automated people mover which has opened since my last visit to Hamad International Airport.
When I got to the gate, the board was already listing the flight as "Last Call" even though actual boarding has not really begun inside the holding pan itself.
It was another 5 minutes wait inside the very hot and stuffy holding pan before actual boarding began. I was greeted at the door but a very cheerful crew member and was escorted to seat 2K.
First impression of the cabin was very nice, although once I settled in (especially after having just got off the QR A380) the suite felt a bit narrow, and what was especially obvious was that the seat base was very low which made it less comfortable. If the seat was raised a bit higher it would have been a lot more comfortable.
Pre-departure drinks were offered and the First class crew came around to introduce themselves - being my first long haul flight with BA I was very impressed with their friendliness and professionalism. Menu was also distributed before take off with meal order taken as we taxied.
Amenity kit from Liberty and a BA generic First pyjamas were also offered before take off.
There was a short delay for departure as we complete loading and some late passengers and we pushed back about 20 minutes after scheduled departure. A LATAM A350 that is being wet-leased to QR can be seen parked at one of the outer bays as well with Doha as the back drop.
A bit about the BA 787 First Class seats - there was a small compartment just in front for your clothes although it is of limited use in my opinion - that would only work if you have a shirt or small jacket. I tried to hang my clothes into the compartment after I changed into the pyjamas but it was not quite fitting.
The entertainment system was ok but not very responsive (the touch screen on the remote is not too responsive either). As mentioned, while the fittings on the seat is elegant, the seat width is not quite as desirable and this felt like a glorified business class seat instead of a true First class product (although I did like the little lamp that they had at the side of the seat).
I also took the opportunity to catch up on some sleep before a full day upon arrival at London. The seat was converted into bed mode with bedding by the friendly cabin crew, but unfortunately the bed width was not great - although certainly a major step up against the current Club World product.
Wifi was unfortunately not available on their 787-9 - which puzzles me as I would have thought this is almost a standard in the current day and age…!
Menu and drinks list as attached - overall a comprehensive drinks list and a reasonable selection of food for the flight.
I started with the smoked salmon starter, paired with a glass of the excellent Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle Champagne, and then the mixed grill for the main. Food was ok but not remarkable
Snack of sandwiches and macaron was offered before arrival into London, obviously paired with a glass of champagne as well.
Flying pass some nice looking snow capped mountains above Europe
Immigration cards and fast track passes was offered prior to arrival into London
Lovely view of London before landing at Heathrow
After landing it was a bit of a hold before a gate was available for us, so unfortunately whilst we made up good time in air, there was a 25-30 minute further delay on ground before we eventually docked into one of the further gates at the satellite. It was a long walk followed by a train ride to immigration (which was still a 15 minute wait despite the fast track pass)
And eventually reunited with my bags after a 24 hour journey.
I re-packed slightly and dropped my small bag upstairs at check in for my flight to Paris in a couple of hours before heading out to Paddington to drop my suitcase at my hotel for the rest of the week and catch up with friends.
Overall the flight with BA was fine although not amazing. Hard products was ok and cabin crew service was way better than expected. The Qatar Al Safwa First lounge was unfortunately a bit of a let down but then I guess it was slightly unfair to compare both against the fantastic QF F lounge and the QR A380 First class. It is also worth noting that I took this BA flight just before they re-launched their products at the end of March, so it would be interesting to compare if the product have indeed improved when I take another BA F flight towards the end of the year on LHR-AUH.