Qatar Airways had a tremendous promotion for Business Class ex KUL and BKK late 2016 and I decided to make the plunge and grab the tickets for my most recent family trip. How good the discount was? KUL-DOH-FRA was going at $1.7k SGD all-in while my KUL-DOH-HEL ticket was going at about 1.9k SGD. If I were to do SIN-DOH-HEL? It would cost about 3.4k SGD!
Initially, my trip was meant to be on an Airbus A332 (for my KUL-DOH sector) and Airbus A320 (for my DOH-HEL sector). Understandably A320 was used for the DOH-HEL sector given that it was a new route for Qatar Airways. Increasing demands over the year saw the sector being upgraded to a wide body. For the year, my planes for both sector kept changing from A332 to A333 to A346 and Dreamliner, screwing up my seat arrangements along the way. Eventually, QR 849 settled on an ageing Airbus A330-200.
My apologies that the pictures may not the best as it was quite difficult to get good pictures with so many hand carry and 6 person traveling together.
The Airbus A330-200 has 24 seats in Business Class cabin in a 2-2-2 configuration (the Dreamliner has an equal amount of J seats but in a 1-2-1 configuration). I selected seats 3 J/K 4 E/F/J/K for close proximity. Little did I know that seats 3 and 4 are separated by a galley (while on seat diagram, galley is supposed to be behind seats 4).
The seats on the A330-200 are the older angled seats which isn’t lousy but definitely not the best. For a medium haul flight of 8 hours, it is acceptable but it may not be comfortable for longer flights. The older seats have little storage area, leaving me without any storage compartment for my specs. Seats are a little narrow for my frame but it was long enough to fit my 6’ 3” height. On top of that, bulkhead seats offer extra space too. Although a mini cabin, seats 4 is just next to the galley, and in front of the economy cabin (and in front of the basinet seats). Each seat comes with 1 pillow (which is fairly flat) and a nice thick blanket. The plane still comes with adjustable air vents (which is absent on SQ planes).
During the flight, there were many instances of intrusion from the economy cabin that can be annoying especially when you are trying to sleep. My seat even had problem coming upright just before arrival, and the crew needed to manually raise the chair).
As for catering, Qatar recently introduced cooked-to-order selection which is available for flights ex-DOH but it is only available 14 days before departure (compared to SQ’s BTC which is available about 6 months before travel). As QR 849 departs KUL, pre-order was not available. QR’s menu looks impressive and they have 2 menu available (1 for food and 1 for wine). There were 2 appetisers and 3 mains to choose from. There are light options available that one can choose from to substitute the main selections.
The meal starts off with the bread. Instead of selection from the bakery basket, you are given a bowl of 3 different breads with butter. Next came the soup which I initially thought was meant to be a special satay sauce! I decided to try the Arabic Mezze, something the ME3 is quite famous for. It was something new for me but not exactly to my liking. For the main, I ordered the pan fried chicken but they served me the mee goreng (fried noodle) instead. I decided to keep the mee goreng instead as I was still quite full from my meal in the lounge earlier. The mee goreng was a little too salty and although I didn’t mind the spicy part, the crew mentioned that many passengers complained that it was too hot! I would have thought the cheese course would be offered automatically but it was not the case. I decided to give it a miss as I was very full after the dessert and I wanted to get some sleep.
As I am not an avid drinker, I can’t say much about the alcohol selections on board. It has 2 choices of bubbly, both Lanson Brut (which goes for about $70-80 in Singapore). One is the Dark Label while the other is the Rose Brut, both of which I tried and being a noob on alcohol I think I preferred the Rose Brut. One of the kid’s favourite is So Jennie, QR’s non-alcoholic bubbly. It is bubbly and sparkling, more like a cocktail comprising the Sparkling Juice.
Qatar is one of the airlines that offer amenity kits for Business Class and one of the only few that offers pyjamas. Unlike SQ’s pyjamas, QR’s are thinner making it more suited for the tropical climate of South East Asia. I was given the M sized which the top was just nice for me but the bottom was a little too small. The quality is definitely inferior to SQ’s hence I doubt the pyjamas can last long. The amenity kit is from BRICS and it comes in 4 different colours (dark blue, bright yellow, pink and brown). The kit comprises a lip balm, moisturizer, socks and eye shades in matching colour. As someone who needs an eyeshade to sleep on board but hating it at the same time (as I feel extremely uncomfortable wearing it), the one given by QR is extremely comfortable. It comes with a single Velcro-adjustable band which I feel is better than the 2 thin-band eye shade that other airline uses. The case itself is quite hard and sturdy (and also colourful!).
Service is one aspect that can be improved further. Although the crew were friendly, courteous and helpful, service was noticeably slower (than that of SQ’s). My meal service took more than 1 hour to complete (which is almost 15% of the flight time!). They were also not as quick to respond (vs. SQ) but they are very helpful. The purser will introduce himself/herself to every passenger just before the meal service.
The Oryx system is many notches below that of Krisworld (or ICE). Selection was extremely limited and their latest movies are far from being latest. The bulkhead seats offer a 12 (or 14”) retractable screen which means the screen has to be kept for take-off and landing. Both remote control and screen are touch capable. It is certainly better than Air Canada’s system but the touch screen remote lags behind SQ’s newer touch screen remote.
In many aspects, QR is still many steps behind her 5 star competitor (e.g. SQ, CX, etc.). Service efficiency and entertainment system can be improved further while older angled seats should be revamped in favour of the newer seats (the A330 probably can’t fit the newer Q suites but the A330-300 seats are certainly better). QR could also do better to manage cabin intrusion better due to the location of the mini cabin.