This was the final leg of a Hong Kong-Paris/London-Hong Kong open jaw ticket which cost $7,760 exc. tax.
I had had some interest in changing the date of this ticket but the ticket I was issued didn’t detail whether that was possible. Looking online there was some suggestion from other travellers that it would be changeable free of cost subject to availability. However when I got hold of my travel agent she said that the change fee was $1,500 so I decided not to bother.
At the airport
I was connecting at Doha airport from a flight which landed in the D concourse area. It was only a couple of hours before the Hong Kong flight’s departure, but the departure screens only showed flights sooner than that so I did not know what the departure gate would be. The information desks were poorly manned and had long queues, so I decided to head over to the “A” area, which was where my inbound flight from Hong Kong had arrived on the first leg of this trip. That was about a ten minute walk, and there were more amenities in that area in any case.
I spent some time there and when the gate was announced, it turned out to be back in the “D” area – another ten minute walk back. I did not find Doha airport to be convenient either in terms of size or layout.
Departure was listed as 8.25 a.m. The gate was a D gate but in fact it was a bus gate, and once there one had to wait on the bus for the final passengers to come – it didn’t finally leave until around a quarter past eight, then drove some distance to a remote stand.
The flight was operated by a Boeing 787-8 (registration A7-BCJ). I was in seat 23D and it had been occupied by a member of a large mainland group, but the row in front was empty so I sat there and had three seats to myself. The seats are not very comfortable and the cabin is cramped – even the aisles feel narrow.
The seat had a USB and a wifi service as well as the inflight entertainment system, with a wide range of programming. I liked the fact that the small screen on the handset did not sync with the main screen, so for example it was possible to watch the airshow on the handset screen without having to move out of the main programming on the large screen.
The 787, in my view idiotically, lacks window blinds and instead has tintable windows. However these do not provide the same amount of cover as window blinds, and light still seeps through.
When the cabin lights were dimmed – for much of the flight – the cabin was still lit in a ghoulish blue shade which was cold and charmless. Again I found that Qatar’s interiors came across as clinical and uninviting.
The flight took off at about 8.45 and was completely smooth, landing at gate 40 in Hong Kong at around ten o’clock at night, half an hour behind schedule.
The crew “darkened” all of the windows centrally and left them like that for much of the flight, so even at a window there would not have been much to see.
The crew distributed a wet wipe and menu at the start of the flight. There was an amenity kit and blanket on the seat, although they make a big thing of noisily collecting blankets before landing.
The crew was very international, in economy there were a couple of Thais, a Korean, and a couple of Europeans, as far as I could tell. They were friendly enough when serving but invisible in the cabin otherwise. They seemed to spend most of the flight all sitting in the rear galley. When I went to ask for a drink (as no one had been in the cabin for ages and there were no trays of drinks being walked up the aisle from time to time) they told me that they had locked them away – this was around forty five minutes before landing – but made a big show of unlocking them to get me one. So I felt that the service was more about the crew’s convenience than that of the passengers.
Food and Drink
The breakfast service started about an hour after takeoff, while the meal service was about two and three quarter hours before landing.
The breakfast was tasty and the main meal, for which I had the biryani, was fairly unremarkable. The portions are small and the tray width and depth makes it a bit uncomfortable to eat the entrée.
The wine I had had on previous Qatar flights had left me nonplussed. This time I asked for beer which like the wine was available although, due to it being Ramadan, not on display. For some reason Qatar seems to serve beer in two cups, instead of giving you the can with the cup as most Asian airlines do. As their slightly angle edged tables are small and the cup indentation is oddly far from the edge, it’s impossible to use it while also resting a meal tray on the tray, so I was in perpetual fear of the cup sliding off the tray. This is one of numerous very simple small details Qatar doesn’t seem to get right.
This was my fourth and final trip in Qatar economy on this trip and hopefully ever. I found it to be uncomfortable, poorly thought out when it came to details, and with lacklustre service. Having never flown a big Middle Eastern airline before, my view of Qatar based on this trip was that with it at least I have missed nothing. Business class – for which Qatar offers some good fares – may be a different story, but my view of the airline is not good.
That said, one of the main benefits of Qatar from Hong Kong as elsewhere is their extensive route network, so it may be that you choose to fly them because they are the most practical way to get from A to C.
Guest Blogger: Christopher R.