Sunday 25 August 2019

Review: What's it like to fly Qatar Airways Business Class?

Qatar Airways now flies daily from Dublin to Doha. Thomas Breathnach reviews its business class.

Qatar Airways Boeing 787. Photo: Deposit
Qatar Airways Boeing 787. Photo: Deposit
Qatar Airways Business Class. Photo: Thomas Breathnach
Inside Qatar Airways' Boeing 787 Business Class
Qatar Airways business class
Qatar Airways Business Class. Photo: Thomas Breathnach
Inside Qatar Airways' Boeing 787 Business Class
Qatar Airways Business Class. Photo: Thomas Breathnach
Doha skyline at night, Qatar. Photo: Deposit

Thomas Breathnach

It’s one simple left turn: one whole world of difference.

Flying business remains one of the great indulgences of travel, a luxury time-out in a celestial cocoon of champagne, cheese platters and designer goodie bags.

Now, there’s another business class option on the runway for Irish travellers. Since its Dublin to Doha direct launch last summer, Qatar Airways is now flying not only to the Middle East, but to over 150 onward destinations worldwide.

Does it live up to lofty rivals like Emirates and Etihad? I boarded the airline’s new 787 Dreamliner in Dublin to put the service to the test.

The service…

Qatar Airways Business Class. Photo: Thomas Breathnach

As soon as I cross the threshold to seat 2F, the palpable pizzazz of luxury travel is in the air. Air stewards Ruxandra and Sun-king greet me with Hollywood smiles, hot towels and a welcome drink from the airline’s ritzy champagne menu.

It sets a marker for the service throughout: engaging, jovial and attentive. At times, the hand-on-foot service can border a little on the deferential, but this is a crew which seems unfailingly eager to please.

“Consider us just like family here for this flight”, Ruxandra adds.

It may seem OTT, but you do develop a certain rapport with the crew during this more personalised level of service. By the time I disembark, I'm exchanging handshakes with several cabin crew. That’s a winning rarity!

More: How to get a guaranteed upgrade on a flight

The seats…

Inside Qatar Airways' Boeing 787 Business Class

Proudly inspired by its national flag, Qatar Airways’ business cabin is an airy, futuristic haven of ivory and maroon. The 22 seats are aligned in a 1-2-1 format and I’m in one of a centre couplet bordered by a discreet rather than private partition.

Being adept at nodding off on an economy seat table top, I find myself blissfully lost in the spaciousness of my business class perch: plush, 22-inch wide seats recline to an 80-inch flat bed with the pulse of a button.

That out-manoeuvres any other business class seat available from Ireland - including east-bound competitors Emirates and Etihad.

When it comes to in-flight entertainment, Qatar Airway’s Oryx One system (with 27-inch flat screen TVs) offers travellers more than 3,000 viewing and listening options. Every genre from Hollywood to Bollywood is available, audio channels include infinite hours of music and talk, and there are enough TED talks to motivate you to create your own start-up by the time you land.

I do find the interface, synced to a handheld device, a little clunky - and it freezes on occasion, but a reboot from Sun-king nips any initial niggles.

More: Review: What's it like to fly Aer Lingus Business Class?

The food…

Qatar Airways Business Class. Photo: Thomas Breathnach

Luxury slumber aside, a highlight of any business class experience is fine dining in the skies. And Qatar Airways’ award-winning cuisine is aiming to wow - they’ve teamed up with the iconic restaurant Nobu to create an on-demand a la carte menu (it allows passengers to dabble with indulgent wine pairings, too).

Being a coeliac, I’d pre-ordered a gluten free meal. My delicious starter of beetroot-cured salmon with a horse radish and chive potato salad (below) was paired with a zesty Kiwi sauvignon blanc, while a main of marinated lamb loin with dauphinoise potatoes and a tomato ratatouille came with a moody Bordeaux merlot.

It didn’t arrive without a glitch, however.

Qatar Airways Business Class. Photo: Thomas Breathnach

The lamb landed with a suspect herb crust, and when I double-checked with the crew that it was gluten-free, nobody was able to assure me that it was.

Profuse apologies and a replacement dish followed, along with a specially rustled-up ice cream dessert, rather incredulously garnished with biscuit wafers.

It seemed the crew lacked that basic savvy on common allergens; that’s a drag when ordering from a food-truck, a little less palatable when flying at these fares. 

This, appeared to have just been a gluten glitch, however. My other travel companions were all wowed by their in-flight meals. 

The extras…

Qatar Airways business class

Let’s start with check-in.

Qatar Airways’ business class passengers have a generous 40kg baggage allowance as well as access to the daa lounge in Dublin’s T2 before take-off.

Once on the ground in Doha, business passengers are fast-tracked to a very zen VIP lounge, where you can indulge in the private buffet before security and customs nod you through.

Each cabin is stocked with noise-cancelling headphones, bottles of Evian and a welcome vanity bag of BRICS products containing the likes of lip balm, hydrating facial mist and anti-ageing moisturiser.

One gripe? Business class passengers can only avail of 10MB complimentary internet usage, which allows you to check your email once or twice.

Beyond that, the $20 extra charge for unlimited Wi-Fi, although not unique to this airline, seems an avoidable annoyance. Surely, just add it to the four-figure airfare and save travellers the hassle of fidgeting with passwords and credit cards?

More: Destination Doha: Can it compete with Dubai and Abu Dhabi?

How much does it cost?

As we publish, business class fares from Dublin to Doha start from €4,669 return with economy fares from €919 return. These can significantly dip during promotional periods, so the more flexible you are with your dates, the better.

Is it worth the money?

Inside Qatar Airways' Boeing 787 Business Class

My experience didn’t quite hit the altitude of previous business class flights with the likes of Emirates, but Qatar still delivers true V.I.P. style pampering compared to the more understated, mothering approach of Aer Lingus business class.

If you need the edge en route to a crucial business meeting, or you’re not pinching pennies, then Qatar’s business class service is likely to impress. If you’re a leisure tourist considering a fancy treat, the seven-hour day flight from Dublin to Doha might not necessarily see you fully benefit from all business class perks.

For that reason, I’d earmark the Qatar Business class for its overnight long-haul efforts, where the further you fly, the more you’ll benefit from the luxuries and save in terms of fares. Fares venturing on to the likes of Chiang Mai in Thailand (€2,579) or the Seychelles (€2,475) seem a relative bargain.

Maybe that upgrade is cheaper than you think?

Travel Tips & Info

Thomas flew as a guest of Qatar Airways. Contact 01 526 6489;

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