Guest Reviewer: Chris
An avid traveler and obsessive points and miles hound, Chris is my travel buddy extraordinaire. I love him for his enthusiasm, his sense of adventure, and his many lounge access credit cards. Hope you enjoy his perspective!
Review: Qatar Airways Business Class BLR-DOH
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Review: Qatar Airways Business Class DOH-LAX
Qatar Airways #573
Bangalore (BLR) - Doha (DOH)
Thursday, February 4th, 2016
4:00 AM - 05:55 AM, 4 hours 25 minutes
777-300ER: Seat 4J (Business Class)
A couple weeks ago I traveled to India for business. For the return journey, I found a cheap business class flight on Qatar Airways, which was an airline I'd never flown before. My routing was BLR-DOH-LAX-SFO, with the first two legs in Qatar Airways 777 business class, and the final leg in American Airlines domestic first. I was excited to try a new product and to experience flying on "the world's 5 star airline" - according to Qatar Airways.
My flight from Bangalore to Doha was scheduled for 4 AM, which is either a really late night flight or a really early morning flight, depending on how you look at it. To play it safe, I requested an Uber at 1 AM, which got me to the airport around 1:40 AM. I had learned that Indian airports aren't quite as streamlined as the ones in the US; for example, to get into the terminal at all, you need to stand in a line to have your ticket and passport examined. Once I'd gained access, I found the Qatar Airways check-in area a short distance away.
There were three lines for check-in: two for business class passengers and Qatar Airways / oneworld elites, and another for everyone else. I chose the shorter of the business class lines, which had about five people ahead of me in it. Unfortunately the line moved extremely slowly. The check-in agents, who appeared to be contract workers rather than Qatar Airways employees, seemed to be in no hurry at all, and they were happy to let certain people cut the line to be helped immediately. In the end, it took about half an hour to reach the front, and I was feeling pretty irritated.
Once at the desk, they asked me to weigh my carry-on bags, but thankfully they didn't ask me to check them in even though they were well over the limit. They were able to issue all my boarding passes along with a lounge invitation, but because I'd used a foreign credit card to purchase the ticket, I had to go to another desk for credit card verification. I was escorted to the verification area, and had to wait while they charged 1 rupee to my card. Then I had to wait some more while they refunded the 1 rupee, which is worth less than two US cents, but skipping the refund wasn't an option apparently.
In total, the check-in process took about 40 minutes, which is kind of ridiculous. I can't imagine how long it would have taken for economy class passengers, and can understand why airlines in India recommend arriving at least 3 hours in advance for international flights.
The next step was to proceed to passport control, where the officer took a look at my entry stamp and accused me of overstaying my visa by a year. It turns out that the person who'd stamped me in had written the "6" in 2016 in a way that looked very similar to a "5", so it looked like my visa expired in 2015. I tried to explain that it made no sense for the date of entry to be in 2016 but the validity to end in 2015, but this argument failed to convince him. After overwhelming him with documentation proving that my visa was actually issued this year, he relented and let me pass.
The final step of the rigmarole before I could gain access to the coveted departures lounge was to pass through security. The security area was gender segregated, and the lines were pretty short. I put my two bags through the scanner, and both of them ended up getting pulled aside, with the security agent citing that they contained electronics. Turns out it wasn't enough just to remove my laptop, I had to remove anything electronic (including cables). Since I'm a mobile app developer, I had brought along 5 test phones, plus my personal iPhone, iPad, and Kindle, plus all accompanying chargers. They made me search for and remove all of these, then have my bags re-scanned, which took a very long time. Fortunately they didn't make me turn on all the devices like they did on my last trip through Abu Dhabi, since I'm sure a few of them had run out of battery.
The Plaza Premium lounge was easy to find, with several signs showing the way. Plaza Premium is a contract lounge used by multiple airlines, and it's also available to Priority Pass holders. Upon entering and sacrificing my lounge invitation, I was quickly admitted in.
For the first time since arriving at the Bangalore airport, I was pleasantly surprised. The lounge is quite nice - it's tastefully decorated and looks pretty new. It's a medium-sized lounge, but it was getting to be full when I visited, so there were only a handful of individual seats available. There were several food stations where hot food could be ordered, and there was a buffet with cold starters and desserts. Bottled water and sodas were free for the taking, and there was a bar where alcoholic drinks could be ordered.
The one problem I encountered was that the Wi-Fi didn't seem to work. It required entering a mobile number so it could text a one-time passcode, but every time I entered mine it failed with some kind of error. It's possible that the front desk could have found a workaround, but I didn't have much time in the lounge before boarding commenced, so I didn't pursue it.
I arrived at the gate about 5 minutes before boarding began. There were two lines: one for economy class passengers, and a priority line for business class and elites. Weirdly, they didn't start priority boarding until economy class boarding was almost finished, so all the business class passengers had to stand and wait for a while.
Once on the plane, I found my seat, 4J, which was an aisle seat on the right-hand side of the plane. A flight attendant soon came by to ask me if I wanted anything to drink, and I requested champagne, which they unfortunately weren't able to serve on the ground. I settled for water instead. They also gave me a choice of a hot or cold towel, and I chose a cold towel because India is hot (even at 4 AM). Next, they handed out a menu, and a small amenity kit containing socks, earplugs, and an eye mask.
The flight was almost completely full, but I'd lucked out and the seat next to me was the only open one in the cabin. The seat was roomy and comfortable, and the amount of leg room was amazing. One drawback is that there's no ottoman, so the only way to put your legs up is to recline the seat. I started pressing some of the buttons to control the seat and discovered that they have massage functionality, which relaxed me for a while until I couldn't figure out how to turn it off.
Before takeoff, one of the flight attendants walked down the aisle spraying a scented mist, which was presumably some kind of bug spray but had the side effect of freshening things up a bit. Next, the captain came on the PA to announce a flight time of 3 hours and 52 minutes and that we were anticipating a slightly early arrival into Doha. A few minutes later, the Cabin Service Director stopped by my seat to welcome me aboard and to introduce himself.
While waiting for takeoff, I had a quick browse through the entertainment system, though I wasn't really in the mood for watching anything. There seemed to be a good selection of Hollywood and Bollywood movies, along with plenty of TV shows to choose from.
Take off was smooth, and the meal service was soon underway. Since it was a 4 AM flight, they were serving breakfast, though it felt a bit weird. When you've been up all night, you don't really want breakfast. You want something greasy, like pizza, or McDonald's. Seriously, if any airline starts serving McDonald's, they'll have my unwavering loyalty for life.
Anyway, for breakfast I started out with the chicken and pistachio mortadella, which was tasty. For the main I chose the omelette, which wasn't that good. It was basically just a brick of solid, flavorless egg. But on the whole, the breakfast was presented really nicely, and it came with a bowl of warm pastries (I definitely helped myself to the pain au chocolat). I also had a cappuccino to drink, which was excellent.
After breakfast, I decided to put the seat into bed mode and catch a couple hours of Zs. This is where I was let down: it's not a completely lie-flat seat, although I suppose it makes a valiant effort. It also felt hard, and it made a creaky sound whenever I moved around. On the plus side, the pillow was excellent, and I didn't have much trouble falling asleep.
I woke up to the captain's announcement that they had begun the descent, and a little while later we were on the ground. Overall I was impressed with my first Qatar Airways flight, and was excited to check out Hamad International Airport and to spend another 16 hours flying onward to Los Angeles.
Just a twenty-something with a full-time job and a full-time obsession with traveling. It's best to LiveTraveled.