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India, April 19, 2010

Qatar Airways Review: Business Class and Economy Seats

First run movies playing
Walking a hot tarmac at DOH
Do you see the massage button?
The following is my review of Qatar Airways two services - Economy Class and Business Class after flying from Washington Dulles Airport (IAD) to Doha, Qatar (DOH), to New Delhi, India (DEL).

With the Eyjafjallajokull volcano ash covering Europe and canceling my Lufthansa Business Class flight to New Delhi, India via Munich, I had to switch to Qatar Airlines to make the Educational Technology Debate.

I'd never flown the airline before and there were few trip descriptions to guide me - but others gave Qatar Airways good reviews, so I decided to give them a shot. With the closure of most European airports, I didn't have much choice.

Economy Class

Arriving early at Dulles International Airport to try and finagle my way into Business Class, I was denied the upgrade but at least got exit row seating in Economy Class. At first I was disappointed, for I really wanted a Business Class experience.

Luckily, the exit row seats were damn fine - comparable to most US airlines' Business Class offerings. The seats were plush with amenities like a footrest, deep recline, and as it was the first row, plenty of legroom.

In addition, on take off I was not asked to remove my headphones, so I lifted off on this adventure listening to Fela Kuti.

Once airborne, I looked at the in-flight entertainment system, which I usually don't do on US carriers. Wow! I was impressed. Qatar Airways has real first-run movies in their queue, from Avatar to Sherlock Holmes, and over 150 other movies to choose from. I watched a few on the big LCD screen before I fell asleep.

Waking to one of the two meals they served on the way to Doha, I enjoyed good food, nice French red wine, and ice cream for desert. I can still remember the first time I got ice cream on a flight - KLM from Moscow (SVO) to Amsterdam (AMS) - that made me cry in delight. With two containers of Ben & Jerry's I was almost that happy on this flight.

Doha Airport

On landing at Doha Airport, the romance of Qatar Airways wore off a bit when we had to exit the plane onto the tarmac. I was not so impressed with the indoor facilities either - they were nice mind you, but not amazing. Compared to the usual African airports I transfer through, it was a marked upgrade. But few airports can match Schiphol or Chek Lap Kok.

On the positive, Doha has free, albeit slow, WiFi throughout the airport and a decent food court and shopping zone, though I didn't try either. I'm not much of an airport shopper and I was not tempted to change in Doha.

Business Class

Getting on the flight to New Delhi was a change. While it took over an hour for us to get from the gate to the plane, once on board, my compatriot in this flight traded seats with me. I got his Business Class seat while he took my place in Economy.

Now I don't get to fly Business Class much, but I am in cattle class enough to know what luxury is on an airplane, and Qatar Airways lay flat seats - and I mean 100% flat, horizontal, 180 degrees from standing flat beds are a-may-zing! I was spread out and eyes closed moments after the jet plane wheels left the Doha tarmac.

I slept so soundly, on my back and my side that I dreamed I was dreaming about sleeping in Business Class. Yes, I had an out-of-body experience!

I awoke to find the steward had tucked me in under a blanket and there was a rich chocolate at my armrest. As we came into land at New Delhi's airport, I also found that the seat has two levels of vibration massage, perfect for sore butts that sat for too long in airline seats.

Overall Impression of Qatar Airways

I have to recommend the airline if you need to go where it flies. I personally prefer going through Europe instead of Doha - you can't beat a beer in Frankfurt or Amsterdam - but if I can't transfer through the Continent, I'm definitely gonna put Qatar Airways on the short list for the backup airline. And you should too.

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