I left my hotel after two days in Doha, passing by this leftover bowling ball.
Qatar built a new airport next to the old one, on reclaimed land. Commercial operation had started on 27 May, which meant that it had been operating for one week when I left Doha. The simplest way to explain the configuration is to use a Google Earth image:
Public access is by an express way on the south, down in the above picture. No, this is not a pencil thin control tower in front, but the minaret of the ovoid mosque in front of the terminal.
Arrival at the terminal, Departures level. No, I had no complaint about taxi driver # 1694.
A rather usual external design
And the line at check in with my colleague; although we have no checked in luggage, we did not see any self check-in machine. Actually, I trusted my colleague who went around to see if the line was shorter elsewhere, but he was not an international travel newbie. And also we thought originally that the line was reasonably short.
Well, it was not that short, and worst, the progress was dramatically slow. The passengers had lots of checked luggage, some travellers had two pieces of luggage with a single checked luggage allowance, and there were a limited number of really active counters. This picture shows a rare moment when two of the three counters on the right were active. Their staff was idle during most of my waiting time.
The thirty minutes waiting time seemed forever.
It could have been worse: my colleague took the other line, which turned out to be slightly faster and got that I joined him when eventually made it to the check in counter. No, i twas impossible to have seats next to each other (we had two different PNR, because he had a round trip, I did not), which was not an issue for us. I understood why we had been waiting for so long: the staff was very inefficient, compared to that of any other major airport.
Two days before, nearly as soon as it was possible, I had tried to select my seat on QR's website. QR had pre-assigned me seat 30G, and did not give my any hope of having a window seat.
Only that my colleague had received seat 50A at QR's seat lottery, and was as unhappy as I was. There is no denying that his views are much higher than mine, especially when he is standing, and I was not surprised that he would rather have an aisle seat and have his legs in the aisle. A win-win exchange was the obvious solution after the last BP and passport check.
More waiting at immigration: not far from twenty minutes.
The security check was efficient but. But my suitcase was diverted for a manual check and a rather surly female staff had me open it, lift a few items of clothing, and she grabbed my multiple socket, uttered a curt Forbidden and when backstage to dump it in a bin. I had not time to react and was stunned, but I know better than engage a negotiation with an airport security check staff anyway. Not only that that item been through a sizeable number of security checks in airports around the world, but I wondered how it could be dangerous. Because one could try to strangle an FA with it ? But then, any laptop's power supply cord would be banned!
You can buy that anywhere in China, it is very cheap – this one cost me around 60 yuan – but its key advantage is that it is compatible with plugs type A, B, C, E, F, G and I. You would not believe the number of times when this polyvalence proved useful. What aggravated me is that you can't find this kind of design in Europe, and that I did not bring an inexhaustible supply from my years in China. It was the same as this one – note the male type I plug, for which I of course have various adaptators.
Joet73 - another FR author - had his measuring tape confiscated at the same airport a few days before. I saved mine, which was in my belt pouch. Could it be that HIA' staff need miscellaneous tools to finish building the airport ?
Altogether, it took us 54 minutes to be airside from the entrance into the terminal, with minimal walking distance, no checked in luggage, and no obvious rush hour passenger flow. I had a hard time explaining to my wife that I had had no spare time to shop for her in the duty free shops.
At least, I could prove that I did not spend my time plane spotting – which I often do - , because HIA is among the victims of the incurable black spot disease.
Had we made it airside earlier, we could have taken some rest in these reclining seats. I did not see any power plug, but made only a cursory check.
A sandwiches – kind food stand
The toilets have a jail-like design
… with lots of splashed water when a passenger used this shower head as is customary in this part of the world.
There are water fountains, but there is no hot water. Chinese travelers are in for a culture shock.
HIA explicitly authorizes fathers to change the nappies of their babies. I did not go so far as checking the configuration of the room (or male / female rooms ?).
… but a whole family can explicitly go together to the toilets, including grandpa in his wheelchair.
Internet access screens. I wonder about the need of using stainless steel in a desert country where the air is so dry.
Anyway, that provided me the traditional corporate screenshot.
Boarding of Flight QR39 is announced.
I had no way to know why, but the BP and passport check took an infinite amount of time for some passengers, which meant that the line was moving exceedingly slowly. Forty minutes elapsed between the time when I took this picture well after boarding had started and my arrival in the jetbridge (which does not mean that I waited 40 minutes in the line: I saw that the line was slow and waited on a seat, hoping that it would accelerate, which it did not). I guess it took an hour to get all passengers on board.
A QR aircraft in OW livery, seen while I was in the boarding line. The boarding room in the foreground would be spotter friendly if it was accessible to any passenger, but you could not reach it before the BP check and I did not understand what it could be used for.
It was therefore completely empty, apart from a single passenger surfinf on the internet – I do not know how he had made it there.
The sole advantage of the slowness of the BP check was that there was no waiting in the jetbridge which was not fully blind, but it did not make much of a difference.
I have no specific remembrance of the welcome on board by the FAs, but I do remember Mrs ?ta. Mrs ?ta was busy at the far end of the left aisle, and as soon as I temporarily put my laptop case on seat 50B, she rushed to offer me to take the window seat (which was mine anyway), because she preferred having an aisle seat.
Not only was Mrs ?ta Japanese (you probably guessed that from her name), but she was tour leader of a group of Japanese tourists using most of the three rows where my seat was.
The staff at check in could not change our seats to get my colleague and I close to each other, since the aircraft was booked full, and Mrs ?ta knew it, since she had scribbled it in red (??) in the right margin of her seat plan that she kept checking, because she had made lots of seat changes to unite the couples. I blurred the name which were all written in katakana, one of the Japanese syllabic writings. You may not know it, but it can be very difficult for a Japanese to determine the correct pronunciation of a Japanese name written in ideograms, be it that of a person or of a place. Sure, it was obvious that Mrs ?ta is written ??, and that??is pronounced that way, but other names can be a riddle, so much so that there are dictionaries of Japanese names.
Discovering that Mrs ?ta was my neighbor was an excellent piece of news, because for one thing there an quieter and disciplined travelers than a group of Japanese tourists, especially when they have already been through a night NRT-HIA flight in economy.
But also because the cultural and linguistic barrier with Mrs ?ta was minimal, which was pleasant during a long day flight. We chatted about miscellaneous topics, about our favorite monuments in each other's country (Mont St Michel for her, Kiyomizu-dera for me), and therefore of religious architecture, but Mrs ?ta also spent a sizable amount of time reading, reading again, and reading once more her trip schedule, itemized with a five minute precision, with an incredible amount of practical details.
I had meanwhile taken this seat :
The size of the IFE is correct, but the image quality is below average
I knew from seatguru that there would be an IFE box under the seat, but it was less bulky than I feared
… because I could slip my laptop case this way, and still have enough room for my legs.
Since I saved my measuring tape, I can give a precise seat pitch measure.
There was the usual stuff in the seat pocket…
… including this safety information card, here together with that of my neighbor.
The width of the seat was OK for me.
The remote control of the IFE is under the cover of the armrest, and can of course be extracted from there. I find this layout more convenient than when it is in the back of the seat, or when it is a touch screen.
The safety demonstration is on the IFE screen, and when the shades are up (which is the logical position prior to departure), this is what you can see when there is a bright sun in a desert environment:
You have to lower the shade to see anything.
The decoration of the safety belt's buckle
The Y cabin as seen from my seat
Distribution of small refreshing towels and tiny sweets.
Pushback at 8h39, i.e. 29 minutes late. What I understood to be a recorded prayer in Arabic was said twice on the PA, at an impressive rate and quality of diction. I have nothing against placing an aircraft crew and passenger load under divine protection; only when they rely on that only, neglecting the condition of the aircraft and the training of the crew do I worry.
A Flydubai 737, a low cost airline based in Dubai.
The queue towards the runway
Take off runway 34L
That is confirmed at the runway threshold
Take-off at 9h01, i.e. 51 minutes late.
The small harbor located at the end of the airport
The bay of Doha
The commercial harbor
The skyscrapers of the new center of Doha, in true colors,
And after image processing
If this was China, I would accuse urban and industrial pollution, but here, it is more likely to be sand.
The Intercontinental Hotel on the left and the towers of Al Gassar Resort.
West Bay Lagoon
There is presently sand only, but this is where the future city of Lusail will be.
Al Khor, some forty kilometers north of Doha. There will be matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but they will be held in a brand new air-conditioned stadium.
Wing view above the desert
FR taught me that this is the fuel dumping nozzle.
The oryx is QR's logo, but it is also a danger to drivers on these desert freeways, which are fenced to keep wildlife off.
An interchange which leads to nearly nowhere
Center pivot irrigation crop circles
We are leaving Qatar
… to fly by Bahrein: its harbor
And the artificial islands of Northern City
The air is of a much denser blue in high altitude
My neighbor left her seat to cater to her group, and I took this opportunity to go to the rear of the aircraft. The cabin is in 2-4-2 narrowing to 2-3-2 in the last rows.
In economy, aisle inside seats too have an IFE box .
The mood lighting is quite useless in daylight, but most passengers will lower their shades, but that was not required.
The rear galley
Nothing special about the toilets
Of course, I had the courtesy to wipe off the wash basin, all the more so that she was no other than my neighbor.
Kuwait City, not very easy to distinguish
My mistake: I forgot to take a picture of the menu. For the hot meal, there was a choice between an omelet + sausage, and a vegetarian meal (it was previsouly announced over the PA that all meals on board respected the principles of Islam.
So I had a 6 cm long (chicken?) sausage, an omelet, some too soft pieces of potato, and a mushroom sauce. How could I describe the flavor of that sauce which pervaded the omelet? No, it was not bleach, but another detergent that I did not identify, and a rather unexpected seasoning anyway. My experience in the Far East used me to a wide range of culinary experiences, and would rather avoid any prejudice against Middle East gastronomy.
My neighbor chose the vegetarian meal.
????????????????????????? (Excuse me, can I take a picture of your meal?) Why take surreptitiously a picture of the tray of my neighbor, when it was much simpler to ask her?
She seemed to have been less disconcerted than I by her meal.
In economy, the FA-passenger interaction is relatively limited, but Mrs ?ta gave me an opportunity to have a glimpse of it, for she called a DFA to give a written message in English, mentioning that it was the birthday of a member of her group. The FA initially did not understand: Do you want to go and tell her, or me to do it instead?, and I do not know if that veiled hint of having a special attention for that passenger had any result.
A B&W negative picture of the winglet, for a change
After crossing the Black Sea, this is the Bulgarian coastline here, with the spectacular Kaliakra headland.
But we do not penetrate the Bulgarian airspace, for this is now the Romanian coast, with Romania's Mangalia harbor in the distance, five kilometers north of the border.
The Danube splits here in two arms, slightly downstream from the Bulgarian town of Silistra which cannot be distinguished, which join again a hundred kilometers further downstream.
Air to with an Etihad 77W, which I had a hard time to identify, because it pushed my camera's zoom and the stability of my hand to their limits. I determined with a simple optics calculation that it was 6.5 km away.
A FR specialist identified this airport as being Romania's Air Bas #71 (Câmpia Turzii), which operates MiG-21. I find it a quirk of history that these aircraft which were opposed to NATO during the Cold War are now on NATO's side, opposed to Russia.
This was where we were then.
Second meal. The FA handling my area in the aircraft was probably Indonesian from her looks and her first name on her badge, but she spoke fluent Japanese with my neighbors. But I when I used that language to ask for coffee and a glass of water, she only caught the word coffee (which is pronounced the same in all the language that I am familiar with), because since a Westerner is not expected to know an Asian language, many Asians switch off their Asian language mental channel. Switching to English got me water (and a smile).
Some claim that QR's FAs perform a robotized service, but this was not my impression. It actually amused me to compare the three FAs who were working closest to my seat. One Westerner, one from the Middle East and one from the Far East, in ascending order of smiling capability, from a hint a smile behind a pour for the former to a wide and natural smile for the latter. A rigid training can't dispose of cultural differences.
The contents of the box did leave much in my memory, other than the cake on the right was definitely stodgy.
There should have been headphones among the miscellaneous items in the seat pocket – I only needed to ask for one to one of the FAs to receive one in no time. I am no specialist, but It seemed a low end kind.
What is the audio offering worth? In classical music, there is a significant choice, but those who wrote the menus seem to have limited knowledge on this music. Anybody will have identified Schumann's work in Also sprach Zar…, or the Moonlight Sonata in Moonli… by Beethoven, …
… but displaying Piano concertos
… or Mozart is fairly inprecise.
I thought it was not an extravagant requirement to be able to listen to Mozart while following the géovision, but this appeared not to have been considered by the designers of this IFE. Not only did I fail to have a simultaneous music and geography lesson, but while trying to keep the music, I had the map in Arabic (and lost the sound track).
It was a pain, and the IFE confirmed that it was (PAIN PROGRESS), by interrupting the first movement of the concerto RV315, better known as the Summer in Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
Insisting on the geovision was maybe unreasoanble, because Europe was actually mostly covered with clouds.
Including in the vicinity of Paris, but we were now below the cloud cover.
CDG appears on the left: we shall land on one of the north runways.
Two AF A340 waiting to take off on runway 27L
A 777 AF is ready for take off from runway 27L during the end of our landing on runway 27R.
…and takes off
Taxiing above the A1 tollway.
… and crossing afterwards runway 9R/27L
An Icelandair 757
And a CX A340 in OW livery, which has no business being at Terminal 1; the mystery of her presence here is to date unsolved.
Arrival at the gate at 14h20, which means a negligible dix minute late. As soon as the seat belt sign is off, Mrs. Mme ?ta jumps off her seat:
???????????????????? (Be careful not to forget any belongings!)
She is back in her job, which is to pamper her group during one week, while I leave the aircraft.
For plane registration geeks, the plane which flew me was A7-AGD, a somewhat unusual aircraft in QR's fleet since Airfleets records only four A340 out of 131 aircraft to date of writing this report.
It takes some time on the travelator between the satellite and the terminal's central building, because some passengers can't think about standing on the right to let others walk. The gain of time using the Parafe automated passport and fingerprint check gates, versus the traditional counter dedicated to European passports, because a visual check is faster.
I did not have checked luggage, so I do not know if it was efficient, and I walked past half a dozen customs officers who did not budge, and arrived briskly landside, reaching the taxi stand where the waiting time was nil, this not being a rush hour.
Doha - DOH
Paris - CDG
Quite frankly, flying QR long haul in economy is not an out of the world experience. It is a decent product, not perfect but without any fatal flaw, and nevertheless far from SQ's perfection which I tested also on long haul flights in economy. Money can buy anything; all in all, the 5 stars awarded by Skytrax to QR are much less ridiculous than the award of the 2022 soccer World cup to Qatar by the FIFA. The comfort of the passengers or the supporters and players is a rather secondary parameter in the equation, the local workers and human rights being fully irrelevant in that matter.
The IFE is a weak point, for the control box under the seat and the incompatibility of the audio channel with the geovision. Other Flight Reporters would have been more severe than I am on the quality of the catering, but the quantity was adequate. I had the first prize in QR's FA lottery in having one from the Far East, with the best smiles among the three that I could see in action.
The ground staff at HIA appeared to lack experience: each step for the ordinary passenger was much too slow, even though passenger traffic was limited. The absence of rail link is not acceptable for a brand new airport, but the taxi ride was not expensive: 60 QAR, i.e. 12 EUR, from the opposite end of the business district.
With regards to CDG1, the walk from the satellites is longish, but it altogether did not take much time to be landside, which was not a feat off peak.
Thanks for reading this FR !
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