The first week of February 2016, I traveled to the Maldives and enjoyed one of the best holidays of my life. You can read my trip reports here:
- Etihad Airways A380 First Class Apartment from London to Abu Dhabi.
- My review of Soneva Fushi, the Maldives’ most exclusive hotel.
- My review of Soneva In Aqua, the Maldives’ first floating villa.
- Qatar Airways A380 First Class from Doha to Paris.
Today (March 2, 2016): Trip report: Qatar Airways A380 First Class Doha (Qatar) to Paris (France).
On February 8th 2016, I flew First Class onboard a Qatar Airways Airbus A380 from Doha’s new Hamad International Airport (Qatar) to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris (France). Currently, the Doha based airline has only six A380s in its fleet, deploying them on medium-haule routes from Doha to London, Bangkok and Paris. At first sight, Qatar’s A380 First Class may seem less luxurious and private as compared to the A380 First Class suites of its Middle East competitors Etihad Airways and Emirates, but I did like the product a lot, especially the ultra-comfortably seat (the best bed I’ve ever slept in at 40,000 feet), excellent food, luxurious toiletries, and a stunning onboard bar. But the highlight was my pre-flight experience at Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa First Class lounge, unquestionably the most luxurious and impressive airport lounge in the world.
Qatar Airways features in my top 10 lists of airlines with the best First Class suites in the skies, the best airlines for longhaul Business Class, the world’s best airline lounges, and the most delicious airline food.
- Trip: DOH-CDG
- Airline: Qatar Airways
- Aircraft type: Airbus A380-800
- Flight Number: QR39
- Date: February 8th, 2016
- On time departure: yes (8.20 am)
- On time arrival: yes (1 pm)
- Miles: 3090
- Flight time: 6 hours 40 minutes
- Price of ticket: 250 euro + 80.000 Avios (British Airways miles)
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip and slideshow):
- Premium check-in area
- Al Safwa Lounge at Hamad International Airport
- First Class cabin
- First Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
- Other inflight experiences (crew, lavatory, WiFi, bar)
- My verdict (score)
1. PREMIUM CHECK-IN AREA
Qatar Airways has a very impressive premium check-in area, tucked away in a discrete corner of Hamad International Airport’s departure terminal. A minimalist wall points passengers in the right direction: Business Class passengers to the left, and First Class passengers to the right. The First Class check-in area consists of a lounge space and several private sit-down check-in desks. At first, I was surprised that there were so many desks to check in First Class passengers, given the fact that Qatar Airways only offers First Class on a limited number of longhaul routes (being its 6 Airbus A380s that fly to Paris, London, and Bangkok). But one has to keep in mind that Qatar Airways also offers First Class on its planes that fly regional routes within the Middle East (although the regional First Class product is more reminiscent of Business Class). From the premium-check-in area, it was a short hop to the immigration and security check-point, from where an elevator took me directly to the Al Safwa lounge. During the whole process, from check-in until arrival at the lounge, I was escorted by a very attentive member of the Qatar Airways ground staff.
2. AL SAFWA LOUNGE AT HAMAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
The Al Safwa lounge is the most impressive airline lounge in the world. It is only accessible to passengers that fly First Class on Qatar Airways metal or a Oneworld airline (so it is not open to Oneworld Emerald members who fly Economy or Business Class).
I was blown away by the lounge’s scale, architecture, and design. The lounge space itself is massive, with very high ceilings that make the whole space seem even larger. It features a beautiful minimalist design, with predominant light sandstone colors, creating a calming and exclusive ambience.
From the reception, a remarkably long and impressive hallway leads to the lounge’s central area. The hallways features art work from – amongst others – Keith Haring, as well as a water wall, making you feel at a museum rather than an airport lounge. Several side corridors open into additional spaces, such as:
- a prayer room
- a spa (where unfortunately you have to pay for services, such as treatments and showers)
- a mini-hotel with several nap rooms (which are complimentary to passengers that have a layover of at least six hours).
- an exclusive duty-free shop which obviously caters to the rich and wealthy.
- a lovely business center with several iMac workstations
At the end of the hallway, you enter the lounge’s central seating area, which is a triangular space with a spectacular, tube-enclosed water fountain as its eye-catcher. There a several types of seats present in this area, featuring a design that ranges from comfortable to artsy. There’s also a ‘terrace’ under the roof of airport’s terminal with some more seats. I cannot imagine that this lounge ever gets crowded. In fact, there is too much space for the numbers of passengers it can accommodate, but I did not hear anyone complain about this.
The lounge’s restaurant and bar is located adjacent to the seating area, and features plenty of tables. The space is quite bright because of the very large windows that not only embrace the Arabian sunlight but also offer nice views of the tarmac. The restaurant has an open kitchen, and you can choose from several buffet station or dine a la carte. I was there during breakfast time (my flight to Paris left at 8 am) but I did not eat too much since I did not want to kill my appetite shortly before my First Class experience.
From the lounge, it was a 15 minute stroll to the gate, where the Airbus A380 was ready for boarding. The waiting area at the gate was divided into a lower and upper space for Economy and First/Business Class passengers respectively.
3. FIRST CLASS CABIN
After entering the plane through the massive boarding door, I was greeted by a flight attendant who guided me to the First Class cabin. which is located on the forward upper deck of the A380.
The small cabin has a very airy and spacious feel because it does not have completely enclosed suites like on the A380s of Emirates and Etihad. The design of the cabin itself is drop-dead gorgeous, and features a pallet of calming colours that match quiet well together: pink (cushions, tv screens), beige (seats) and brown (wood panels). There are 8 seats, spread across two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration, all of them having direct aisle access. The 4 First Class seats on the sides are ideal for solo travelers (with a generous 3 windows per seat, offering great views), while the 4 seats in the middle are perfect for those traveling with a companion. But if you are a solo traveler and you end up in one the middle seats, there’s no problem as you can rise a divider for added privacy. In the front of the cabin, there is a small bar (with chips, nuts, bottled water, and juices), a library (with magazines), 2 lavatories, and the stairs to the lower deck.
Click here for the seat map of Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380.
4. THE FIRST CLASS SEAT
I was seated in seat 2A.
Contrary to the enclosed suites that you find on several airlines these days, the Qatar Airways First Class seat features an open design, although you can rise a partition for added privacy. The seat is extremely comfortable and has very generous dimensions, with a width of 23 inches (59 cm) and a length of 83 inches (210 cm). In front of the seat, there is a large ottoman, a large TV screen, and a design lamp. The ottoman has some storage space underneath, and can be used an extra seat when you want to dine with a companion.
One side of the seat features a reading lamp, a cabinet which holds a bottle of water and the remote control for the entertainment system, a tiny storage space which contains some magazines and the safety briefing, a small table (for drinks and snacks), and a very large tray table (which can be pulled out from the side of the seat). The other side of the seat features the seat controls, power ports, storage for the headphones, and a divider (which can be raised or lowered to provide a feeling of extra spaciousness when travelling with a companion).
The seat can recline into a fully flat-bed. The bedding itself is superb. In fact, this was the best bed I’ve ever slept in at 40,000 feet. The Qatar Airways cabin crew told me it’s the largest bed in the skies. Not sure whether that is correct, but it felt very spacious indeed.
What are the best First Class seats on Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380? Click here for a seat map.
- Solo travelers should go fo the window seats, while companions should choose the middle seats.
What are the worst First Class seats on Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380? Click here for a seat map.
- There are no bad seats in Qatar Airways’ A380 First Class cabin.
Qatar Airways’ First Class passengers can take home a stylish Giorgio Armani bag, packed with nifty goodies for the flight and bathroom back at home. The amenity kit contains Armani perfume, body lotion, shower gel, and shampoo. Not forgotten are the basics such as eyeshades, socks, earplugs and lip balm.
Pajamas were not provided on this dayflight.
Upon boarding, I was served a welcome beverage (I choose orange juice), croutons, and a refreshing towel (with the option between a cold or hot one).
Breakfast was served shortly after takeoff. As an appetizer, I had the cured salmon with citrus fruit, avocado purée and fish roe, while my choise of entree was the chicken and potato rosti, sambhar, wilted spinach, and coriander crème fraîche. It al tasted delicious although I found the portions rather small. However, in Qatar Airways’ First Class, you can dine any time of your choosing and in any order, so a couple of hours later, I ordered some more dishes as a light lunch. I had a starter composed of Heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad, Kalamata olives, bell peppers, and basil oil, followed by a small entree of lobster tortellini with shell-fish sauce, diced tomatoes with chives. As a sweet finale, the only option was a selection of indulgent individual Laduréé desserts. Qatar Airways puts a lot of efforts in its onboard cuisine, and I find its food consistently better as compared to that of Emirates and Etihad Airways.
The First Class suite features a very large TV screen above the ottoman. It’s not a touch screen though, and you have to select the entertainment of your choice with a remote control. The audio-video on-demand service allows you to choose from over 2,000 entertainment options, such as movies, TV box sets, audio, games and much more. Unfortunately, the plane’s tail cameras did not work in the First and Business Class cabins. Only Economy class passengers could watch the mighty A380 in all its glory while flying at 40,000 feet.
7. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# CREW: the international cabin crew did a great job and was very friendly (addressing me by name, presenting themselves individually before take-off, and also thanking me in person for choosing Qatar Airways before landing).
# LAVATORY: Qatar Airways’ A380 First Class cabin has 2 very large lavatories, which both feature a bench (which needs to be lifted to use the toilet), large mirrors, a sink, luxurious toiletries, and flowers. In contrast to Emirates and Etihad Airways, there are no showers.
# BAR: Qatar Airways features a stunning onboard bar located at the rear of the plane, between the Business Class cabin and a small Economy Class cabin. The bar itself is curved, with leather sofas on both side of the bar area. The bar’s set-up is perfect to socialize with other First and Business Class passengers, or to simply relax and enjoy the ambience. Under the stunning chandeliers, inspired by contemporary Arabian design, there are fresh flowers gracing the lounge.
# FLIGHT PATH: normally, the flight path from Doha to Paris goes straight over Syria and Iraq, but the plane detoured around the current ISIS conflict area by flying over eastern Iran.
# WIFI: First Class passengers receive complimentary WiFi while flying Qatar Airways. The internet speed was decent.
# CHAUFFEUR SERVICE: unfortunately, Qatar Airways does not provide complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers for its First Class passengers (in contrast to Etihad Airways and Emirates).
8. MY VERDICT
- Seat: 10/10
- Food: 8/10
- Inflight entertainment : 8/10
- Service: 10/10
- Cabin: 9/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9/10