Something magnificent is happening on flights between Auckland and Doha in business class. Qatar Airways operate this ultra long haul flight which clocks in at a shade under 18 hours.
The thought of it invites trepidation among veteran frequent flyers. It seems like such a long time to be in the air and sounds terrible. I’m here to show you just how wonderful this long flight really is.
QR921 – Auckland to Doha (AKL-DOH)
26 April 2017
Boeing 777-200LR – A7-BBG
Seat: Business Class 5F
Departure: 15:07 Arrival: 00:03+1
Business class passengers board last on Qatar Airways however in New Zealand this is not the case. When I arrived at the gate I could hear the agents discussing my seat so it was no surprise when my boarding pass beeped and I was taken aside.
It appears the entertainment screen in 5E was broken so they wanted to move the couple in 5E and 5F to 5A and 5B which meant me moving from 5A. After some discussion I decided to move as it meant I would still have the seat next to me free.
Welcome Champagne and Pyjamas
Once on board my crew member came by and introduced herself. Asked if I would like a drink, I selected a glass of the Billecart-Salmon Champagne.
When asked what size pyjamas I would like, I chose the small/medium. The crew member brought them for me, remarking she always kept some of that popular size aside for her passengers. Hot or cold towels are offered for refreshment and I went for cold.
Once everyone is on board, the safety demonstration is played. The one on Qatar features footballers, runs for about five minutes and is in both English and Arabic.
As usual, the safety card is in the pocket in front of you. On the 777-200LR there is so much space in front that you have to get out of your seat to get it.
Magnificent Dine On Demand
Forgive me if I gush, but dine on demand is the best thing to ever happen on board from a passenger perspective. You can eat anything you want from the menu anytime you like. I really love it! The menu and wine list is handed out on the ground and the crew take some orders on the ground and some in the air depending on how much time they have.
Being the shy sort and considering it was the middle of the afternoon, I opted for a light snack to start. The item billed as “Lamb patty in toasted brioche bun” – so a hamburger – took my fancy and I ordered that for once we were in the air. Take-off on such a long flight is also long and it took ages for us to get into the air and I liked it!
Entertainment and Surroundings
Oryx One is the Qatar Airways on demand entertainment system and it features things such as all the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings movies as well as new releases. I settled on watching Passengers with Jennifer Lawrence. The screen pops out of the arm rest and is quite a generous size.
Entertainment controls are in the arm rest, directly above a cubbyhole where you plug in your headphones or store small items during flight. It is in a handy place to be accessible when you sleep.
An Afternoon Snack
When it’s time for your meal, your crew member comes by and lays a white table cloth on the pull out tray table. You then have an amuse-bouche delivered and on this flight it was a single prawn and some mustard dip.
Once I finished – and it doesn’t take long – out comes your meal. Just as I suspected, it is a hamburger and I added some tomato sauce and mustard as I like it.
Quite a perfect afternoon snack to tide me over until later on in the flight. The bun was perfectly toasted and the lamb juicy and well cooked. It looked good too and who doesn’t like a meal that looks good?
Spiced Tomato Juice
As I didn’t want to be drunk throughout the flight, I spotted the spiced tomato juice on the menu. It is a virgin mary and when asked if I wanted tabasco my answer was a resounding yes.
Another passenger once ordered a bloody mary on board and once I realised that was available I always like to have one or two. I love a bit of spice so the tabasco gives it a really good kick which suits me. I downed two of these before switching back to champagne.
According to legend, Lady Godiva rode naked – covered in only her long hair – through the streets of Coventry for one reason or another. Today they are a famous brand of chocolates and these are the ones Qatar Airways hand out to passengers.
It is a nice touch and something to snack on while watching a movie or reading or whatever it is you’re doing on board. Classy packaging compliments the delicious treats inside.
Sleep In A Magnificent Bed
When checking in, I asked if the free seat beside me could be kept free. On my flight from Doha to Auckland, I had the seat beside me free. This meant I could use one seat for sitting, movies and eating and one seat as my bed. Happily I had the seat beside me free once again.
Crew efficiently make up the bed in about a minute and it looks fantastic. For me it evokes memories of old black and white pictures taken on board the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser from the 1950s of the seats that convert to beds. It’s quite a romantic notion to have your own bed in the air and I think it’s magnificent!
Cocktails and Mocktails
Keeping with my theme of drinking non-alcoholic drinks interspersed with the hard stuff, I decided to try a mocktail. You can have both mocktails or cocktails and I really like the fact these are offered.
An apple cooler is very refreshing! In the large arm rest are little squares that flip aside at the push of a button. Inside is a bottle of water and when you have no-one beside you, you get to have both. This idea evolved into the mini-bars some other airlines offer.
Now It Must Be Dinner Time
More time passed and we were still over Australia when I decided to have dinner. Your tray is set again, this time with a bowl of bread, salt and pepper shakers, butter dish, bread plate and the cutlery. Roasted red pepper and tomato soup was first.
Delivered with a lid that is immediately removed with a flourish, I asked that they wait a moment while I got a picture. The soup is very tasty. Next, I went for the roasted pumpkin and goats cheese salad.
The dish was fine but unremarkable really. For my main, I chose the seared fillet of snapper with lemon and spring vegetable sauce. It also comes with sautéed potatoes and confit cherry tomatoes.
Quite nice indeed! I originally didn’t order dessert and when I asked for the gourmet ice cream I was told they had run out but would check to see if there was any up front. Happily some was found!
A perfect finish to a magnificent meal!
That Bulkhead Screen
When you are seated in the bulkhead seats, there is a screen which is on and flipping between the moving map and various static announcements and so on. The flight information is presented in an interesting manner, showing where you are and how fast you are going.
The screen is ultra bright as you can see and when it was time to sleep I asked if it could be turned off and the crew happily obliged. So much nicer when it is off. I settled in to my bed, popped in the ear plugs from the amenity kit and slept comfortably.
Compared to the super whiz bang toilet facilities on the Qatar Airways A350, the Boeing 777-200LR’s facilities are showing their age. It is the only thing about this aircraft that isn’t really worth being delighted about.
Toilets feature a baby changing table which is very handy when you change from your clothes into your pyjamas at the beginning of the flight. Each toilet has little packets containing a toothbrush and toothpaste too.
The shiny surround around the lock is something I quite like. It’s always shiny and reflective and oozes quality. At this point I had finished my movie Passengers, watched Star Wars and now was up to The Empire Strikes Back.
Breakfast Above The Clouds
After more movies and some more sleeping we were a couple of hours out of Doha and it was time for breakfast. I really like to try everything but the breakfast menu is far too extensive for that. On this flight I chose the Bircher museli to start.
Alas, this dish was too dry for my liking though that is the only bad thing I can say about it. The breakfast smoothie is very nice and I do love a smoothie on board at breakfast. Next I chose the sautéed red onion, leek and potato with scrambled egg.
While there is far too much green garnish, every other element was positively magnificent. I threw some tabasco over the scrambled eggs and I was happy out.
… And Just Before Landing
Green tea is a perfect finish to a flight and I enjoyed this one. Mints are handed out prior to landing and the crew clean up the cabin and get ready for the event.
Many passengers connect in Doha and the connecting flight information is displayed on the screens during descent. My flight to Frankfurt was there so I took note ready for my transfer.
The lady across the aisle noticed my rampant picture taking and said, “Picture of you?” and so there is one of me right before landing. Not the most magnificent look but hey, I’d been on board for almost 18 hours so I think I look pretty fresh. We landed in Doha without incident and the flight was over.
What can I say? I loved being on board the longest flight in the world. I think the Boeing 777-200LR business class seats on Qatar Airways are seriously underrated. There have been two newer business class seats introduced since and one still to come and having tried the other two I still think this is the most spacious layout, if not the most private.
Dine on demand is a serious competitive edge and it makes the flight. That coupled with a decent inflight entertainment system, the chocolates, pyjamas and slippers (yes, you get slippers too), and the fact the seat converts to a fully flat bed really puts this flight into a class of its own.
I can’t say enough about the magnificent cabin crew who are friendly and obliging throughout as well as being the busiest crew in the sky. They anticipate your needs and ask what you need without that obsequious hovering that you can get when people are trying to “give good service”. It all just works and I found it delightful.
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Featured image by Darren Koch via Wikimedia Commons.