Australia, July 2015 Doh!

"Unable to board" sounds ominous. A few years ago I was the grateful recipient of numerous boarding gate beeps but that's because they meant I was being upgraded from premium economy to business. This time I'm already in business and there's nothing above it. Anyway, a woman in Qatar Airways uniform is holding a lift open for a wheelchair bound passenger but hears the beep and says "Oh, is that Mr Foreman? Hang on a minute sir, I'll be over soon".

So apparently, I need to sit in seat 5E, not 5F. I'm told there's a couple booked in 5J and 5K but one of their tray tables is broken - so in order for them to eat "next to" each other across the aisle, the staff would like to keep 5F empty. I'm fine with this of course.

At the door of the plane I hand over my boarding pass and am personally escorted to 5F. I explain I've been told to sit in 5E and assume they're aware of the seat issue, but they say, er, no, your pass says 5F you're sitting in 5F. Two different attendants insist on this and one goes off to check my story out. A third one returns to say, I'm really sorry, but yes, can you sit in 5E please. I feel like I've caused a huge ruckus. He turns the F into an E with his biro and that makes my boarding pass official.

This is a 777-300 (or -200?) for a proper long haul flight, 11 hours all the way to Doha. A worse business class experience than the 787 I already got, and will get to Copenhagen, so I've heard... because there are seats where you might have to clamber, or be clambered, over, and there is not a great deal of privacy - everyone can see everyone else's screens without explicitly craning their neck, those in the B and J seats will get leant over by the staff when they serve A and K, and the seats are a tiny bit older.

But, they're very comfortable. No-one sits next to me during take-off, or in fact throughout the entire flight - turns out 5JK work perfectly well. The exuberantly cosmopolitan cabin crew perform what I now, after about 7 hours in total of Qatar Airways experience, realise is their typically excellent customer service. There are a lot of staff, always referring to me by name (actually, this happened on the Qantas flight too, but I find it quite rare in business class), and the food and drink comes nice and quickly. I can eat when I want and the drinks are refilled regularly.

Also, there are pyjamas! These are rare - unique? - in business class. It's a nice top and it comes in a fabric bag; I don't bother donning the bottoms. The amenity kit is still the confusingly toothbrush-free one I got last week. There is a bottle of water hidden in the armrest as well as a USB plug. Also in front of me a wall-mounted screen showing an excellent moving map animation with some cool flight simulator style displays.

Dank? Adam? These are place names?

The entertainment screen is worse than on the 787 but still pretty good, and being in a bulkhead it comes out of my armrest which makes it a bit closer than it being on a seat in front. The selection is huge! But rather than browse it for long I just decide to watch Birdman. The noise cancelling headphones are excellent, being active, i.e. you flick a switch and magically the super loud plane noise just disappears. These are the first airline-provided headphones I've ever used that beat my in-ear noise isolating ones.

So anyway, during Birdman I eat and drink. Normally my 1% snobbishness is brand-agnostic but seriously this champagne tasted fucking fantastic, and definitely better than whatever they served on Cathay from Doha to Hong Kong. I find myself dozing off during the latter courses and don't even see the end of Birdman. Though I did catch the credits and go, oh, right, yes, Edward Norton, not John Cusack.

Unlike most flights, I thought I'd deliberately sleep. It was 11 hours, from 2235-0440, after all. Didn't bother to go fully-flat or under the blanket but slept for maybe 5 uninterrupted hours. Woke up with 4 hours of the flight left and decided to watch Aliens, having never seen it before (I slept through it in a cinema back in December). Pretty good film. Finally.

Then, a bunch of episodes of Brooklyn Nine Nine. I would've watched the Jinx except I finished it (without properly realising - thought there might be a coda) on the previous flight. Breakfast arrived, I'd forgotten what I'd ordered at the start of the flight. Apparently it was a lot of dry chicken with some peppers and sausage and potatoes.

We land at Doha at about 0425. It's just barely getting light outside. I'm one of the first people out of the plane and transfer security is almost empty - maybe 8 people ahead of me and you don't even need to take out your iPads or laptops. The couple from 5JK are in front of me and the bloke walks straight through the metal detector clutching his iPhone. What? How can you be so unaware?

And now, time to execute a plan. When I booked this trip I did a lot of things right and some things kinda wrong. What I got right was the awesomeness of the journey, enough tier points to get a shiny BA card for 15 months plus a ton of miles, a new airline, some new airports, a visit to one of the best lounges in the world, plus of course pretty much a full week in Australia with no jetlag and only 6 days off work.

What I did wrong was not realising I was flying slap bang in the middle of Ramadan, during which the whole of Doha airport is dry. The Qatar Airways "al Mourjan" lounge in Doha really is reputedly one of the best business class lounges in the whole world, and exactly the kind of place I'd happily spend a few hours dicking around on wifi while knocking back the sauce. I had 10 hours between flights and was going to do a Doha city tour, the organisation and execution of which would probably take a good 3-4 hours out of that time.

But with no sauce, this is much less enticing. Also it's like 40+ celsius outside whenever it's light and there's nothing interesting to see really (construction workers dying at World Cup stadia?) and bleh whatever. It would be a new passport stamp for free but I'm not fussed enough. What's more, having booked the 2.30pm flight I couldn't get back from to London on the same night, so I also have a hotel near Copenhagen airport and an 0720 flight on Monday morning.

What a load of shit. Apt airport code is apt: DOH!

So yeah, I had a plan to fix all this. But first, I went to the al Mourjan lounge and had a wander. My god, it's amazing. It's huge, with two floors, and lots of different areas with different, I dunno, personalities? Decor and furniture, certanly. A proper restaurant, a "dining resort", hundreds of seats you can happily sit at duo or solo and each of which has bottled water and an android tablet for use, plus international power sockets and USB sockets.

There is a fake lake with occasional small popping mini fountains, which look pretty cool in a slow motion video. Showers, posh toilets, a creche, fake trees, and holy shit a room with a bunch of playstations and a Wii U and two pinball machines and foosball tables. Sadly none of the games were on and I wasn't in the mood to play pinball rght now. All I could think was how amazing this lounge must be for a dipso like me in non-Ramadan (the non-5am-ness isn't too important - if I'm airside, all bets are off).

This, with booze, is how you wait for a plane.

Games room you say?

You DO say games room!

These tablets are actually terrble. They do very little, don't all work, and the web browser is appalling.

So yeah, a plan. That one from 2 and 7 paragraphs ago. I went to the lounge reception and said, hi, I see there's an earlier flight to Copenhagen. Am I allowed to get on it? She taps her keyboard and says there are seats, then phones someone up and is told that yes, I can change to that flight for 150 USD. Hell yeah!

Unfortunately the lounge can't do the actual transaction, so I am sent, oddly, back to arrivals by walking through transfer security in reverse. Including setting off all the x-ray machines with my bag on my back and no-one cared. At the sales desk I say, hey, can I get on QR159? and she says yes, for 150 USD. This flight is at 0820, a full 6 hours sooner than my original QR163. Why on earth are there 3 flights a day between Copenhagen and Doha?

Scarily, after a bunch of tapping and taking my money, she gets out an economy class ticket wallet and I break into a sweat. Please tell me I haven't just paid £100 to be downgraded.... and thankfully, I haven't. A business wallet comes my way. Throughout the 10 minutes or so this has taken, about 50 other flights arrive and transfer security is now a huge zoo and GOD DAMN IT.

What she hands me is a new itinerary, not a boarding pass. I am now a transfer passenger not in possession of my onward pass, and have to queue at a desk 2 up from her. At that desk is a family of 3 adults who take about 20 minutes to sort out whatever the fuck is up with their reservation. I'm getting antsy.

Not because of the security queues, though they are bothersome. No, because as happy as I am to have got on the earlier flight this is only half the plan. I don't really want to spend the night in Copenhagen. In 3 hours check-in opens for the Monday morning flight, 24 hours before take-off, at which point I can no longer cancel it and get my miles back.

While in the queue I verify I can move to the 4.25pm flight today, and am just about to pull the trigger when finally I'm called forward. Out comes the new pass in seat 2A and I'm directed through security for a 3rd time. A woman tries to queue jump because it's now 0545 and her flight to Kuwait leaves at 0530; a man tries to explain two things:

  1. if it were true, she'd already missed it, and therefore no need to hurry; and
  2. it's not true; that's when the gate opens. Take-off is at 0630, and therefore no need to hurry.

She doesn't seem to understand either argument. Anyway, soon I am through and back in the lounge. Wifi works better on my iPad than iPhone and I check something - it's £16 to book a new flight, or £33.50 to move my existing booking. What? So, um, I book the new one and cancel the original. Can't cancel the hotel room because it's within 24hrs but I don't really care - spent that cash a while ago so it's not a new cost.

I might've just dropped £120 which is not insignificant cash, but now I'm gonna get home a full 15 hours earlier than planned (not to mention the money I'd have spent on food, booze and transport in Copenhagen). And no need to get up at 0500 on Monday - 0400 UK time - and still try and pull a full day's work. I will be in my own bed on Sunday night. Jackpot.

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