Sunday, June 10, 2012

More Admiration for Qatar Airways

I'm so impressed with this airline that I thought I'd write about my return trip from Malé to Paris via Doha.

The international departure terminal in Malé is interesting because you go through security as soon as you enter the premises. I liked this because it allowed them to have a half dozen scanners going at once. If they had placed the scanners before the escalator to departures there probably would have only been room for two to be set up, which would have made for unpleasant lines.

Once checked in, I quickly passed through passport control and went to the airport's premium lounge for business and first class travelers. This was the most impressive-looking airport lounge I'd ever been in--more like a swanky club than a place to wait for a plane. I'll post pictures later, it was very tastefully decorated with plenty of brown and tan velvet armchairs. There was a large refrigerator full of soft drinks and water, and a full breakfast buffet was laid out. I settled in a chair and an attendant stopped by to ask if I would like tea, coffee, or something to drink. I declined, and noticed that she brought coffee to other patrons. It's nice to not have to get up when juggling iDevices and hand baggage. Note: a US-to-UK electrical adaptor is useful both here and in the Premium Terminal in Doha.

I went down to the gate and was soon called to board the waiting A320. If you've flown United, this and its near-twin the A319 are the workhorse of their domestic fleet, so chances are very high you've been in one. The Qatar A320, however, was a princess compared to United's frogs. There are no jetways at MLE, so I walked across the tarmac to the front stairway, reserved for the business cabin.

"Up front" are roomy recliner seats, with leg rests, lumbar support, regular power outlets, and noise-canceling headphones. As I was photographing my easy chair, the flight attendant apologized that this was "not a very nice plane" because it is one of their older ones. I wanted to laugh. This plane beats the front of ANY US-based carrier's A320 hands down. It was clean and pleasant, with attentive staff. There was plenty of room in the overhead bins. I was offered a glass (real glass, not plastic cup) of orange juice with a slice of orange floating on the top as I sat down.

Breakfast came soon after take off--the third breakfast I'd been offered this morning, after the boat and the lounge buffet. The first course was smoked salmon, fruit salad, yogurt, and a mango lassi. The second course was apple pancakes with a custard sauce, and croissants with butter and jam. And Veuve Cliquot champagne. I sampled everything, and will post photos later. The food was definitely hot and tasty--far better than the odd feta fritatta I was offered on the inbound flight.

My only complaint, and this is minor, is that it is a tight squeeze to get out of the window seat when the passengers in front have their seats reclined. Book an aisle or the bulkhead to avoid this problem.

When I arrive in Doha I will once again face the bus-terminal-bus transfer, in 111 degree desert heat. I only have a two hour layover, much preferable to the seven overnight hours I spent on the way to Malè. After that it's a seven hour flight to Paris on an A340, or as the flight attendant this morning exclaimed, "a very nice big plane."


Laura Iriarte said...

If I have to fly again... I'm asking you for advice! :) glad you had a good trip! P

Laura said...

Unfortunately my advice is something along the lines of "avoid flying coach whenever possible."