Words by Kristie Kellahan
Qatar Airways' five-star international reputation – coupled with affordable fares – was enticement to give the airline a try on a recent flight to Paris. In a crowded market of airlines flying from Asia to Europe, Qatar's Bangkok to Paris flight excelled in service, comfort and smooth connection times.
Connecting through the airline's hub in Doha, the total travel time was just over 15 hours. The only thing to complain about the transit time of 55 minutes was that it wasn't long enough to enjoy Doha International Airport's fast, free, easy-to-connect WiFi.
With Qatar Airways' recent expansion to Sydney, with more Australian destinations to follow, more Aussie travellers will have the opportunity to experience the airline's global routes. From June 2016, Qatar will be bringing its fleet of Airbus A380s to Australia, flying Sydney to Doha.
- Route: Bangkok Suvarnabhumi to Paris CDG
- Aircraft: Airbus A380 - 800
- Class: Business
- Seat Number: 12E (aisle)
- Duration: Bangkok to Doha, 7 hours and 10 minutes. Doha to Paris CDG 7 hours and 10 minutes.
- Baggage Allowance: 40kg plus two pieces of carry-on baggage not to exceed 15kg.
Check-in at Bangkok's sprawling Suvarnabhumi International Airport was smooth, with a friendly, warm welcome offered by Qatar Airways' ground staff. Dedicated check-in lanes are available for Business Class passengers.
My bags were tagged to my final destination – Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport – and boarding passes for both legs of the journey were provided.
First-time visitors to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport are sometimes caught out by the vast distances and time it takes to move through immigration areas and between gates. Leave yourself plenty of time. It is recommended to check in at least two to three hours prior to international flights.
It's also worth noting that there are two international airports in Bangkok – the other one is Don Meuang, which largely services low-cost carriers. If you are arriving to Bangkok from elsewhere before connecting to your Qatar Airways flight, it is worth checking where the first flight is coming in to. It takes at least an hour to travel between the two airports by taxi, sometimes much longer if the notorious Bangkok traffic is at a standstill.
As I already had my boarding pass for the flight from Doha to Paris, there was no need to check in again in Qatar. The 55-minute transit time gave me the opportunity to stretch my legs and call home via the airport's free, fast wifi.
Departing from Bangkok, Qatar Business Class passengers may utilise the facilities of THAI's Royal Orchid Lounge for Business Class passengers. Expect the superior service and kind attention that THAI is known for globally. (A separate First Class lounge is available).
In Doha, there wasn't time to make use of the dedicated business arrivals lounge, which was a pity. At 10,000 square metres, the Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge is the world's largest airline lounge. Qatar's First Class passengers are offered a meet-and-assist service and are personally directed to the Al Safwa First Class Lounge.
All seats are elegantly presented in the airline's signature hues of maroon and grey.
Due to the 1-2-1 seat configuration on the Business Class upper deck, all seats have direct access to the aisle. My seat and spacious cubicle area felt like a private cocoon in the sky.
There was plenty of legroom and a spacious 30-inch seat width (80-inch bed length when reclined). Another feature worth noting is the generous amount of storage in and around the seat for shoes, coats, carry-on baggage, duty-free purchases and all the other paraphernalia we tend to collect while travelling.
All 48 flat-bed Business Class seats have 180-degree complete recline and a number of options for lumbar support, partial recline, leg elevation and more. Like the Princess and the Pea, every passenger has the control to set their bed up exactly as they like it to be.
Tucked up under a fluffy white doona within 30 minutes of boarding, I felt completely cosy and cosseted in my bed in the sky. Soft cotton pajamas and slippers were provided to each guest, as well as a luxurious amenity kit of Giorgio Armani products.
In very atypical fashion, I found myself wishing the flight was longer so I could indulge in more of the pampering options, including Dine on Demand, a dedicated First and Business class Arabian lounge on the upper deck and vast entertainment choices.
Future life goals include an ambition to upgrade to Qatar's First Class: eight open suites with fully-flat beds and plenty of drool-worthy extras.
Looking for more Business Class reviews?
Get ready to be entertained. With more than 2,000 options, the ORYX ONE in-flight seat-back entertainment system is one of the best (and most awarded) in the world.
Each seat has a personal 17-inch TV featuring Audio Video on Demand, with individually controlled entertainment. Latest release movies (some still in cinemas) kept me busy with a binge-watching session, albeit with a regretful look at the long list of other movies, TV shows and documentaries I wouldn't have time to watch. Hundreds of audio tracks are available to listen on demand, as well as video games and interactive in-flight information.
Power outlets at every seat made it easy to charge up iPhones, iPads and other personal devices. WiFi was available but I chose to ignore it in favour of movie-watching time.
Service was refined, gracious and always helpful. The international crew hailed from all corners of the globe (I overheard French, Scottish, Thai and Australian accents) and exuded a sense of calm, polished efficiency. It is clear they have been trained in the nuances of warm-hearted Arabian hospitality.
Straight after boarding we were greeted by name by the crew who would be looking after the Business Class passengers. Refreshments, amenities and pajamas were offered.
Meals and drinks were presented on demand, often with an extra "treat" or kindness bestowed.
The lights in our cabin were dimmed soon after take-off for the benefit of passengers who wanted to sleep or watch movies. The overall ambience created was one of pampered relaxation.
Food And Beverage
Dine on Demand service for Business Class passengers puts the power in the hands of the passengers in terms of when, what and how frequently they eat and drink on the flight. It completely removes the frustration of staying awake in anticipation of a meal when you'd rather be sleeping. Or the outrage of being woken from a deep slumber by the rattle of the coffee cart coming through.
While pre-ordering meals before the flight is not an option, the choices onboard are many, varied and satisfying. Courses included palate pleasers, appetisers, mains and desserts, as well as all-day breakfasts. Food may be ordered in any order, any quantity and at any time during the flight.
Appetisers included classic Arabic mezze (hummus, tabouleh and baba ganoush), or salmon rillettes with capers and tomato confit. Mains covered the tastes of vegetarians and meat-eaters alike (the lamb loin with rosemary jus and kalamata olive mashed potato was a stand-out). And desserts included exotic treats from the French house of Laduree. Lighter low-cal options were also available.
In addition to a full bar list, the airline excels in creative non-alcoholic beverages (a nod to the many Middle Eastern and Indian passengers who do not consume alcohol). I sampled signature mocktails, fruit juices and herbal teas.
Qatar Airways' reputation as a global 5-star airline is well-deserved. With smooth check-in, on-time arrival, ultra-comfy seat/bed, impressive in-flight entertainment and gracious service, the connecting flights were a pleasure from start to finish. Considering it was a 15-hour journey, it could have been exhausting and stressful, but I arrived in Paris feeling fresh and ready to face the sunny Spring day. On flights of this length, the case for splurging on Business Class is easier to justify.
Now that the airline is flying out of my hometown, Sydney, I hope to travel with them more frequently to the Middle East, Europe and beyond.
Please note the author travelled at her own expense with some assistance from Qatar Airways.