Thursday 19 October 2017

A new 'five-star' airline is flying from Dublin - with free Doha stopovers

Despite a diplomatic stand-off, direct flights between Ireland and Qatar have taken off.

Inside Qatar Airways' Boeing 787 Business Class
Inside Qatar Airways' Boeing 787 Business Class
A Qatar Airways Airbus A350 lands at Dublin Airport for the launch of the inaugural Dublin to Doha route. Picture Andres Poveda
Inside Qatar Airways' Boeing 787 Business Class
Niall Gibbons, CEO Tourism Ireland with Jonathan Harding, Qatar Airways SVP Europe, and Dublin Airport Managing Director Vincent Harrison and Qatar Airways cabin crew at the launch of the inaugural Dublin to Doha route at Dublin Airport. Picture Andres Poveda
Qatar Airways business class
Doha skyline at night, Qatar. Photo: Deposit
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Ireland’s newest air route has taken off, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Qatar Airways launched its daily service between Dublin and Doha just as a Saudi-led bloc of states cut off all economic ties (including overflights) with the country.

So you can imagine the question on everyone’s lips when Jonathan Harding, its senior vice-president for Europe, jetted into Dublin on the inaugural flight.

“From an Irish perspective, there is no issue,” he told me, offering a “categoric reassurance” that connectivity will not be a problem.

Qatar offers Irish passengers 150 onward destinations from Doha, ranging from Bangkok (return fares from €499) to Tokyo (from €759) and Perth (from €969), journeys it insists will be “seamless”.

That remains to be seen. In the meantime, Qatar hopes to gain an edge over Emirates and Etihad, competitors flying from Dublin to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with slick service, a young fleet and inflight goodies ranked among the best in the skies.

It's also offering free Doha stopovers to transiting passengers (see below).

I’ve flown with the ‘five-star’ airline several times, and it doesn’t scrimp — from two personal screens and 3,000 entertainment options in economy to on-demand dining in business, this is as opulent as flying gets (though you’ll pay for the privilege).

‘Qsuites’ with double beds will soon be available from Ireland, too.

Will the diplomatic stand-off take a toll? Inevitably. But I also think  it will damage Emirates and Etihad... no Gulf brand is a winner in this.

That said, air travel has proven super-resilient, overcoming all kinds of challenges since 9/11. The world wants to fly, and so do we.

Free Stopover?

Depositphotos_8716606_l-2015.jpg
Doha skyline at night, Qatar. Photo: Deposit

Fancy a free hotel in Doha? Qatar Airways and the Qatar Tourism Authority are offering transiting passengers from Dublin (and other destinations) a ‘holiday within a holiday’.

The +Qatar stopover package offers free transit visas and one-night stays in a range of four- and five-star hotels including The Four Seasons, Radisson Blu and Marriott Marquis (a second night can be added for a $50 booking fee).

To avail, book your flights on the dedicated page at qatarairways.com, select ‘multi-city’ and choose the hotel when you receive a flight confirmation.

Must-dos in Doha

Qatar Airw (6).jpg
A Qatar Airways Airbus A350 lands at Dublin Airport for the launch of the inaugural Dublin to Doha route. Picture Andres Poveda

Similarly to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, part of the thrill of visiting Doha is the chance to experience a mega-city in the making. Must-dos include the Souq Waqif, Museum of Islamic Art (on its own purpose-built island, of course) and a sweeping corniche.

Dhow boat trips and 4WD dune-bashing add a bit of adrenaline, but I can take or leave the obligatory Gordan Ramsay restaurants, and visitors do need to engage with its controversies — the Gulf stand-off and migrant labour facilitating the 2022 World Cup, for starters. Qatar is a small and complex state.

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