Saturday, June 2, 2012

First Time on Qatar Airways

I seem to have put myself under a time warp spell. For the past week I've been telling myself that my flight from Manchester to Doha was at ten minutes to four in the afternoon. I even picked my departure train from Blackpool based on this. My train to Manchester Airport ran about 15 minutes late, and I checked in at the Qatar Airways counter at about 1:50pm. They happily took my bag and issued my boarding passes, and I made my way to their business class lounge. When I arrived the attendant told me he was just about to call the flight for boarding. This confused me, but I went down to the gate when called, thinking that they were boarding awfully early. Once on the plane I figured out that our departure time was 2:50pm, not 3:50! I consider myself extremely lucky that I made the flight! I'm surprised the Qatar Airways counter didn't give me any guff for checking in so late, but they acted like everything was fine and normal and didn't even tell me to hurry. I guess this is what happens when you fly a non-US airline between two non-US airports: you don't get treated like you are a potentially dangerous and/or inconvenient piece of crap.

The plane was a two-class Airbus 330. I cashed in some United miles so I could sit "up front," since my flight time would be seven hours to Doha and then another 4 1/2 to the Maldives. The seats were the reclining "pod" style, and go nearly completely flat for sleeping. To me these are the second most comfortable type of seats, after the fully horizontal lay flat seats available on some other airlines. They are much better than "angled" lay-flat seats, which a friend calls "Frankenstein slabs."

They served lunch/dinner right after takeoff. I was too hungry to remember to take pictures, but it was quite delicious. It stated with cocktails and a small minced lamb wrap. Oddly enough, they do not carry vodka on board. For appetizer I chose the mezze plate, which included decent hummus, tabouli salad, and very nice baba ghanoush served with toasted pita bread. I had chicken biryiani for the main course, and found the chicken to be very tender and the rice nicely spiced. I finished off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream served with a scoop of rose water sorbet, and a glass of port.

The entertainment system had zillions of movies on it, but a lot of them were either Arabic or old Hollywood classics. That said, they had the Sarah Palin movie "Game Change," which I'd been dying to see but missed because I don't have HBO at home. It was very interesting and Julianne Moore was fabulous as Palin, a definite "must see" movie.

Our flight route took us over Germany, central Europe, Bulgaria, and the Black Sea. It was cloudy, then hazy, then sunset, then quite foggy, so I didn't get much of a view but did manage to see the Bulgarian coastline of the Black Sea. We continued over Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia to Qatar, but I didn't see any of that because of the weather. Qatar is a peninsula sticking up into the Persian Gulf, so after passing over Baghdad and Kuwait City, we flew southeast along the Saudi Arabian coast. Every so often I'd see the flares from an oil field or refinery through the mists. It was utterly strange and disorienting, and made me think of "Blade Runner."

At this point in time, Doha International Airport isn't quite what most people initially envision when they hear the word "airport." Rather than having the terminal-with-jetway-spokes that we're used to in a place like San Francisco or Chicago, DOH is more of a gigantic paved over area next to a construction zone and a couple of bus stations. They are building the "actual" airport, but for now there is no walk-on gate service. When my plane landed, we boarded busses based on if we were ending our trip in Doha, making a transfer (business or first class) or making a transfer (coach). The busses drove quite some way, about ten minutes, to different terminals for each option. The "Premium" Transfer Terminal is quite comfortable, with several options for food and drink (included in the ticket price). I'm still so stuffed from dinner that I am not interested in food. There's also a cocktail bar, and a tea and coffee bar. It's decorated with plants and fountains, and has free wifi.  In all, a nice place to wait out a transfer.

My flight back from the Maldives next week is completely during daylight hours, so I'll try to take some pictures then.


Riot Nrrrd™ said...


Laura said...

I don't :)