For the handful of you who like to read my diary “live”, expecting me not unreasonably to post about my exploits in a timely manner, I can only apologise for my tardiness on this trip. I can’t see how I’ll even get the opportunity to catch up, but I can try. Mind you...
Anyway, let me pick up where I left off, having just got on board a Qatar Airways flight from Copenhagen to Doha late on a Wednesday night. On the inflight entertainment system I put on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and chose some food from the menu. Being a red-eye - take off at 2235, land at 0530 - there’s less choice than usual, and I opt for the tasting menu. This is their quick option, a bunch of stuff all presented on one plate, designed to be wolfed down immediately prior to sleep.
Not being a wine drinker the drinks menu means little to me apart from the first page (brut champagne) and the last (spirits ‘n that), but is reproduced in case anyone else is interested.
I mean, it’s Statham, what can go wrong?
Everything. Everything can go wrong. Good lord what a shit movie. Mercifully, I fell asleep about 40 minutes in and missed the rest of it. Managed to kip for 3 hours or so I think, and woke up feeling a bit dehydrated – but the crew had left a bottle of water on the table next to me, which, along with the “facial mist” from the amenity kit had me feeling moderately human in no time. Got changed back into civvies, watched a documentary about 1989’s impact on the entertainment world (tl;dr: Batman movie, the Simpsons, and the Little Mermaid all changed the game).
With an episode of Futurama on as we flew over Iraq, I was confused by the local time. Apparently it’s 1.5hours ahead of Qatar despite being west of it. Huh. Timezones are awesome.
With a flurry of announcements in both English and Arabic interrupting my attempt to watch another Futurama, I watched the sun rise during our descent. Supposedly, at 5.30am, it was already 30ºc here. Ugh, horrible. But lo and behold, rarely (in my experience) we actually attached to the terminal via an airbridge rather than were stuck out on the tarmac having to get a bus. Woohoo! Air conditioning!
A long walk followed to a rammed transfer security, but they have a premium line in the centre of the room where us fatcat business class types can go through smaller queues. I was hyper diligent even for me in the way I emptied my bag out, trying to make sure nothing was going to cause it to be chosen for secondary security. Then I promptly attempted to walk through the x-ray machine with my belt still on. I’d undone it, in the queue, and the security staff pointed it out to me. Oops.
Through, I’m seeking the Al Mourjan lounge. On my last 4 visits I’ve struggled to find it even though it’s well signposted, but today it’s easy - helped a little by the fact there’s a queue of 10 or 12 people at the bottom of the escalator leading up to it. The lounge itself is a zoo, with barely any free seating and loads of people wandering around looking confused. 6am is the rush hour here, when there are by far the most transferring passengers, and I’d expected this.
I went and put myself on the list for a shower, told to come back 30-40 minutes later. Finding a single seat fairly close to there, I dumped my stuff and grabbed a lot of still water. Sitting down to relax for a bit, a bloke came and sat on the seat behind me, with enough force to slide his chair into mine, and started a very loud phone call. I didn’t care to hear about his recent dating prowess nor his work so packed up all my shit and went to sit elsewhere.
Come 6.30am I wandered back towards the showers, with Johnny Phonecall still going strong as I went past. The bloke manning the shower reception told me I was still 5th on the list but there was a seat just there so I plonked down. A steady stream of others coming to check their position in the queue, and getting angry at him, followed. Several people were so pissed off they said not to bother, take them off the list.
One guy came out of the showers and was told by staff his flight was closing and he had to run to still make it. Talk about cutting it fine! Soon enough I was in, and after an invigoratingly powerful shower combined with a change into fresh underwear and a t-shirt I felt pretty damn good. Back out into the lounge and it was hundreds of people less busy, I guess tons of flights had opened for boarding by 7am. This meant I could get a seat in the restaurant-y bit nearby and have a grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast, huzzah!
Eventually this bored me, so I went to the gate. They put your bags through a machine here so I started getting stuff out only to be told no, no need. OK, so I started to empty my pockets. Again, no need - it’s pointed out to me that the metal detector isn’t even on. Uh, OK then. What’s going on here, exactly?
Checking my boarding pass they direct me to the priority seating at the end. It’s already pretty busy, but boarding is due to start soon, at 8.25am. Unfortunately this doesn’t happen - in fact, it doesn’t start until just about departure time, by which time the departure lounge is a complete shambles. There’s barely anywhere to stand let alone sit, as the floor is littered with people lying down using their bags as pillows. When they eventually start shouting for business class passengers to come up, getting there is an exercise in tip-toeing over and around people and kinda barging through the mass of folk loitering around the desks.
Onboard I’m like, holy shit, wow. It’s a 777-300, a type of plane I’ve flown tons of times, but this particular cabin layout is new to me: I’m in Qatar Airways’ “First in business” high-falutin’ mega fancy “Q Suite” business class seat for the first time and good god the first impressions are incredible. Here’s my seat, 3A (obviously).
That photo doesn’t really do it justice, in fact I don’t really have any pictures that do the experience justice I don’t think. So I’ll try with words.
3A is a rear facing suite. The reason “suite” is in the title is not just some exaggerated fluff like, say, how BA describe their first class seats: these are suites because they are fully enclosed, with doors that shut. The space inside is amazing - the seat is wide, with vast legroom, and to my left there’s a big storage bin with a padded top, and it is height adjustable meaning you can use it as a table or elbow rest or whatever. Over my shoulder there’s a proper light, and there is also lighting in the shelf just above all the controls plus in the footwell and in the ceiling.
The cabin crew say hello but want to let me take a couple of minutes to get everything sorted before offering me a drink. Since they don’t mention champagne I go for the delicious lime and mint thing again, and a cold towel.
Across the aisle there’s a family of 4 in the quad of suites that actually turn into a living room for 4 people, and they are absolutely loving it. If you check the Qatar Airways website or other reviews you’ll see how the seats are laid out - one pair turns into a legit double bed, while the other has a table between the two seats which themselves are by the aisle. But they all have doors too, so it’s basically the best privacy available in the sky without flying private or that daft Residence cabin on Etihad.
Despite boarding so late we’re ready to go only about 15 minutes late, with no excuses or reasons given for what the delay was at boarding. Never mind. As we taxi out to the runway I’m thinking, hang on, this is a looooooong push back from the gate... until I remember that I’m rear facing. Ha.
The views of Qatar as we set off aren’t all that, and my decent lenses are packed in the hold anyway so there’s no pics to be had. I’m too excited by the inside of this cabin to care about the outside anyway. Having already seen most of the things that really grabbed my attention on the entertainment system, and also having fixed the Sky PIN issues on my iPad, I set myself up to watch Warrior, with the moving map thing on the main screen.
The main is an omelette with pig-in-blanket and potatoes and mushrooms and it is FANTASTIC.
With more lateral space than most seats I’ve flown in, I’m able to easily find a nice position to lay down in and keep my headphones secure, listening to Pearl Jam’s Ten as I nod off.
The audio system repeats stuff if you don’t tell it not to, such that when I wake up a few hours later, Ten is still going. Well there are worse things to be listening to. I’m not entirely sure how long I’ve been asleep but I do know I feel refreshed and good. On TV I watch a couple episodes of Black-ish, and with still 6 hours of the flight to go I feel like testing out the call bell and trying the snack platter.
The response to the bell is virtually instant, holy shit. The way the snack platter works is there are 6 items and you can choose any combination you want of them. I go for a 2+2 choice of crostini and salmon, and another glass of Woodford Reserve please.
There’s this small starter thing, with bread and my choice of oil. I go for spicy stuff and it’s great.
Then this plate of fishy stuff.
This is the most confusing dish. I’m not convinced it’s even on the menu. It’s pasta ‘n that. I enjoy it, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t recall seeing or asking for it.
BIG PLATE OF CHEESE AND A GLASS OF PORT PLEASE.