Last month, I enjoyed a FABULOUS holiday in the incredibly beautiful Maldives. You can read my trip reports here:
- Trip report: Qatar Airways B787 Dreamliner Business Class Brussels to Doha
- Trip report: Qatar Airways A330 Business Class Doha to Male (today)
- Review: Jumeirah Dhevanafushi
- Review: Park Hyatt Hadahaa
- Review: St Regis Vommuli
If you are looking forward to the Soneva Jani review, I will publish that one in April.
Today (March 8, 2017): Trip report: Qatar Airways Airbus A330-300 Business Class Doha to Male.
On February 5, 2017, I flew Business Class in an Airbus A330-300 of Qatar Airways (QA) from Hamad International Airport (DOH) in Qatar to Male International Airport (MLE), also known as Velana International Airport, in the Maldives. The previous flight segment from Brussels to Doha was operated by a QA Boeing , and you can read my trip report of this flight here. QA offers several types of Business Class products on its A330 fleet, with some aircraft featuring the old seats (that don’t fully recline) and some other featuring the updated product (with fully flat-bed seats). This particular flight was flown by an A330 featuring the new product, but although quite comfortable, QA’s A330 Business Class product is inferior to the one it offers on its A350, B787 and A380 planes. Today though, QA announced that it will introduce a new Business Class product – designated the Q suite – across its entire fleet (starting with the B777), so in the near future, the inferior A330 Business Class cabin products will be gradually phased out (you can watch a clip featuring the new Business Class seat here).
Unfortunately, the flight’s departure was delayed by one hour and 15 minutes due to an aircraft swap). Because of this delayed departure, we lost our landing slot at MLE and had to circle for one hour near the airport (there were six aircraft in front of us) before the control tower allowed us to land. MLE has only one runway and planes need to turn on the runway and track back in order to reach the terminal, hence explaining why only one plane can land at MLE every 10 minutes. The good news is that we got some awesome views of the spectacularly beautiful Maldives and its 50 shades of blue (and the pilot guaranteed us that we had enough fuel to circle for 90 minutes in total).
Qatar Airways features in my top 10 lists of the best airlines for longhaul Business Class, the most delicious airline food, the world’s best airline Businss Class lounges, the best inflight videos of all time, the world’s most luxurious A380 First Class cabins, and the best Business Class amenity kits.
- Trip: DOH-MLE
- Airline: Qatar Airways (QA)
- Aircraft type: Airbus A330-300
- Aircraft registration number: A7-AEH (delivered in 2006)
- Flight Number: QR672
- Date: February 5, 2017
- On time departure: no (3.30 am instead of 2.15 am)
- On time arrival: no (10.30 am instead of 8.50 am)
- Miles: 2056
- Flight time: 5 hours
- Seat: 3A
- Class: Business Class (D)
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Cost of my ticket
- Al Mourjan Business Lounge at Doha
- Business Class Cabin
- Business Class Seat (& what seat to choose)
- Other inflight experiences
- Comparison with Etihad Airways and Emirates
- My verdict
1. COST OF MY TICKET
As I explained in my QA B787 trip report, this flight was part of a return trip from Brussels to the Maldives via Doha. I booked the Business Class seat (and one for my travel companion) for 80,000 AAdvantage miles + $89 USD for airport taxes. AAdvantage is the loyalty program of American Airlines, which is a oneworld partner of QA, making it possible for passengers to collect and spend miles on both airlines. Although the program devaluated last year, AAdvantage is still my favorite airline loyalty program, because of the numerous promotions (which earn you shiploads of miles) and the interesting airline partners beyond the oneworld alliance (such as Fiji Airways, Tahiti Nui, and – especially – Etihad Airways). 80,000 miles is still below the mileage threshold required by other loyalty programs, although it’s considerably more than the 60,000 miles one needed before the AAdvantage devaluation kicked in.
2. AL MOURJAN BUSINESS LOUNGE AT HAMAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
QA’s Al Mourjan Business Lounge, located on level 3 at Hamad International Airport, is currently the best Business Class lounge in the world. It simply outclasses all the competition out there and redefines the world standard in airport lounge experiences.
From the moment you enter the physically stunning, rectangular shaped lounge with its incredibly high ceilings, you are treated to a refreshing zen-like ambience. The massive space – about 10 times the size of an Olympic-size swimming pool – features a minimalist design, and is adorned with exclusive marbles, designer furniture, and bronze walls featuring traditional Arab calligraphy. In many ways, the lounge feels more like a museum of modern art than an airport environment. The center piece of the lounge is an elevated platform, which features several very comfortable lounge chairs, two self-service bars, and a small resort garden. There are tons of other seating areas spreading out around the platform, with each seat having its own power outlet and touchscreen monitor with airport information. One side of the lounge features a esthetically stunning, black-tiled water pond and large floor-to-ceiling windows with great views of the runway. The lounge has several side rooms, such as a prayer room, shower rooms, a game room (with a Formula 1 simulator) and a quiet room. The latter features several cubicles, separated by low partitioned walls, offering a nice environment to take a nap.
The lounge has two dining areas. The main restaurant is located up a spiral staircase behind the water pond, boasting a chic bar and nice views of the lounge’s mezzanine floor. This restaurant used to offer an a la carte menu, but now its offerings are ‘limited’ to two very extensive buffet spreads, offering a great variety of cold appetizers, soups, and several hot dishes. Then at other end of the central lounge space, there is another eatery, which is more of a deli and offers sandwiches in addition to some small plates and a dessert buffet.
3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
QA operates several versions of the Airbus A330s. This flight was operated by a two cabin A330-300, seating 30 passengers in Business Class (featuring the new product) and 275 in Economy Class.
The Business Class cabin on the A330 makes a chic first impression upon boarding the plane, with dark grey seat covers, wood trimmed decor touches, and QA’s signature pink colour displayed on the entertainment screens. Nevertheless, its design and layout is inferior to the Business Class product offered on QA’s A350s, A380s and B787s, even though this particular A330 plane was equipped with the refurbished Business Class cabin (QA still has several A330 flying around that feature the old Business Class product with seats that recline to a maximum of 165 degree). The plane featured 5 rows of 30 fully flat-bed seats placed in a classic 2-2-2 configuration in one single Business Class cabin. All seats faced forward and had aisle access, except for the window seats (where you had to climb over the legs of your neighbour to get to the aisle). A remarkable feature was that two adjoining seats didn’t completely line up, so you sat either a little more to the front or back as compared to your neighbour. This is not much of a deal when you travel with a companion, but it does create an extra level of privacy when you are seated next to a stranger (especially when pulling out the large, sliding screen divider).
For a seat map of this version of QA’s A330, click here.
4. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (& WHAT SEAT TO CHOOSE)
I was seated in 3A during the short 4-hour flight to Male.
The QA A330 Business Class seat has a pitch of 60 inches (152 cm) and a width of 21 inches (53 cm). One arm rest features the seat controls and also houses the moderately sized tray table which needs to be pulled out for any use (after which you are kind of blocked in your seat). Below the large entertainment screen in front of the seat, is a small compartment with narrow ottoman for your feet (or legs when you transform the seat into a bed). On the other side of the seat, behind the headrest, is a small, somewhat difficult to reach storage compartment, where you find the noise-canceling headphones and the remote control for the entertainment system. The seat does go fully flat, but while the seat itself is wide the footrest is very narrow, so it’s not very comfortable for a good night’s rest (and please keep in mind that QA also operates other A330 planes with reclining but not fully flat-bed seats).
What are the best Business Class seats on QA’s A330-300? Click here for a seat map.
- All seats in the cabin, except for the first and last row, are quiet good, especially for couples. Make sure to prebook your seat online (which can be done free of charge) to avoid disappointment at the airport, since QA flights are often fully packed.
What are the worst Business Class seats on QA’s A330-300? Click here for a seat map.
- The 2-2-2 Business Class layout does not make the cabin very attractive for solo travelers, since you will always end up sitting next to a stranger. There is a screen though between adjoining seats for added privacy.
- Window seats don’t offer direct aisle access.
- Passengers seated in the first row may be bothered by the noise of the galley and passengers going to or returning from the lavatories.
- I also suggest to avoid the last row of Business Class, which is close to the Economy bassinet seats.
- Window seats in the last row are missing a window.
For this short flight to Male, Business Class passengers were given a light blanket, a thick pillow, and a small, Economy-like amenity kit containing essentials such as earplugs, eyeshades and socks. QA’s famous Armani amenity kits are only handed out on medium- and longhaul flights, and you can read more on that in my QA B787 trip report.
Upon boarding, I was offered a choice of hot or cold towel, and a glass of Champagne, orange juice, water, or QA’s signature drank, lemon mint. I choose the latter and IMHO, this is the best welcome drink offered by any airline in the world.
This was short flight of only 4 hours, and only one meal service – breakfast – was offered. I was told by a flight attendant that breakfast was served after takeoff, but I noticed that other passengers had their breakfast before landing (which I would have preferred as well). The menu was very similar – almost identical – to the one of my previous flight segment (Brussels to Doha). Since I was not very hungry, I only choose the following items from the menu:
- Greek yoghurt with mixed berry, granola and nuts
- Traditional Arabic breakfast, with feta cheese, cucumber, tomato and green olives, served with foul medames and arabic bread
7. INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
Every seat features a touch screen Android technology control unit, which allows you to navigate through an interactive system, offering more than 1,000 movie, TV programs, music and gaming entertainment options in a sophisticated and user-friendly way, just like the latest smart phones. The touch-screen control unit – located in a pocket besides the headrest – has a unique dual screen interface allowing you to play games on their handheld device while enjoying a movie on their personal screen.
8. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
#CREW: The young QA cabin crew members did a great job and were all very friendly. Something I like (and only experience with Middle East and Asian carriers) is that they present themselves individually before take-off, and also thank you in person for choosing QA before landing. It makes you feel very special and welcome.
# BAR: QA’s A330 planes doe not feature a bar.
# TOILET: The Business Class cabin features two lavatories, located immediately behind the cockpit. Both of them have a window, feature luxurious toiletries, and were kept very clean during the flight.
# WIFI: WiFi was not available on this plane. QA only offers inflight WiFi on all of its A380, A350, B787, and A319 planes as well as on select A320, A321, and A330-200 aircraft.
# VIEWS: Because of our 60-minute hold at MLE, we could enjoy some great aerial views of the Maldevian archipelago.
9. COMPARISON WITH OTHER MIDDLE EASTERN CARRIERS
The 3 major Middle Eastern carriers (Etihad airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways) are known for their excellent Business Class. However, there are some differences that distinguish one from another (click here for more info):
- Chauffeur service: both Etihad and Emirates offer complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers, while this is not the case with Qatar Airways. A huge plus for Emirates and Etihad!
- Pyjamas: Qatar Airways offers pyjamas on overnight medium- and long-haul flights, while Etihad and Emirates only offer them in First Class.
- Duvets: Qatar Airways and Emirates offer duvets on medium-haul overnight flights (to increase sleeping comfort), while Etihad only offers them on longhaul flights.
- Fleet-wide consistency: Etihad offers a consistent Business Class product across it wide-body fleet (with the exception of its superior Dreamliner B787 & Airbus A380 products), while Emirates and Qatar offer a more variable Business Class product across their wide-body fleets.
- Cabin interior & design: Etihad’s Airbus A380s & Dreamliner B787s feature an understated, elegant design in their Business Class cabins (it doesn’t get any better at 40.000 feet), while Qatar’s A380, B787 and A350 cabins are very sexy with a red/white theme. Emirates features rather bombastic interiors, with lots of walnut veneer, gold trim and pearlised plastic, which is not to my liking.
- Cabin layout & seats: the best wide-body Business Class layout & seats are (in order from excellent to mediocre): (1) Etihad B787/A380; (2) Qatar B787/A350/A380; (3) Emirates A380; (4) Etihad A330/B777; (5) Qatar B777; (6) Emirates B777; (7) Qatar A330. So bottom line is to take the aircraft type into account when booking a flight on one of the 3 Middle Eastern carriers.
- Flat beds: Etihad Airways is the only carrier to offer flat beds (with 180 degree recline) across its wide body fleet. Contrary to their A380s, Emirates’ B777s have angled lie flat-beds (although they are still comfortable). Qatar Airways is currently replacing the (very uncomfortable) angled lie flat-beds on its Airbus A330 fleet by true lie-flat seats (after which the whole Qatar fleet will offer flat beds).
- Food: meals are delicious on all 3 carriers, but my best gastronomic experiences (so far) were always on Qatar Airways, followed by Etihad, and then Emirates.
- Number of meal services: on longhaul flights, all 3 carriers offer 2 meal services (one after takeoff, and one 90 minutes before landing). On medium-haul flights though, Etihad and Emirates only offer one meal; Qatar Airways used to offer a second light meal before landing but now seems to have skipped that as well. So there’s no difference here.
- Inflight entertainment: Emirates is the winner when it comes to the inflight entertainment product, with large screens and an extensive range of films, television shows, and audio options (but Etihad and Qatar offer plenty of choices as well).
- WiFi: onboard WiFi is offered by all 3 Middle Eastern carriers, but with a different price tag: Emirates offers the cheapest WiFi, while Qatar’s WiFi is just way too expensive, with Etihad somewhere in between.
- Amenity kit: Emirates has by the far the best amenity kit of the 3 airlines, with Etihad offering the least impressive Business Class amenity kit. Unfortunately, Emirates only offers them on longhaul flights, while Etihad and Qatar Airways offer amenity kits on both medium- and longhaul flights.
- Onboard bar: an onboard bar, exclusively accessible for passengers flying the premium cabins, is only present on the Airbus A380 aircrafts, which are now operated by all 3 carriers. But your chances of flying an Airbus A380, and thus socializing with other passengers in a fantastic onboard bar, are highest with Emirates, which has no less than 60 of these megaplanes in its fleet (Qatar Airways and Etihad own only 4 and 2 Airbus A380s respectively).
Read here my review of Emirates’ Business Class in a Boeing 777-300ER.
Read here my review of Qatar Airways’ Business Class in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Read here my review of Qatar Airways’ Business Class in a Boeing 777-300ER.
Read here my review of Etihad Airways’ Business Class in an Airbus A330.
10. MY VERDICT
- Seat : 7/10
- Food: 7/10
- Inflight entertainment: 9/10
- Service: 8/10
- Cabin ambience: 8/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8,2/10