Five Star Virgin: Qatar Airways First Class from London (LHR) to Doha (DOH)

Filed Under: Awards, Qatar

At around 10AM I headed to gate 6, from which my flight to Doha would be departing.

Qatar Airways A340-600

The gate area was empty, though there were probably a dozen gate agents. The captain and first officer were leaving the aircraft, I believe to get something to eat. It’s interesting to note that they were both Middle Eastern. I only note that because I know a majority of the pilots at Etihad, Emirates, etc., are ex-pats, often British, Australian, etc. When I was younger I always wanted to be a pilot for a foreign airline, so I always like noting what nationality pilots are.

Gate area


Premium cabin gate lice!

Anyway, at around 10:15AM boarding began, and I was among the first aboard, taking the first and business class jet bridge which let out at door 1L.

Qatar Airways 8
London (LHR) – Doha (DOH)
Tuesday, March 8
Depart: 11:00AM
Arrive: 8:30PM
Duration: 6hr30min
Aircraft: A340-600
Seat: 1A (First Class)

Once aboard I was welcomed by the cabin service manager and one of the other lovely first class flight attendants that escorted me to my seat, 1A.

The cabin had a total of eight first class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. While the color scheme was retro, the seats were very comfortable and offered quite a bit of privacy and personal space.

First class cabin

Row 1

My seat, 1A

Looking back at 2A and business class

Ottoman and entertainment system

Seat controls

Waiting for me at my seat were a set of noise canceling headsets, an amenity kit, a pillow, a blanket, and the menu in a leather binder.

Noise canceling headphones and amenity kit

As soon as I settled in the flight attendant offered me newspapers and magazines, followed by a beverage and hot towel. She suggested that perhaps a glass of champagne would be a good way to start. Fair enough, Krug will just have to do. 😉


Hot towel

The flight attendant noticed I was taking a picture while standing in the other aisle, and immediately ran over to me to ask if she could take a picture of me in my seat, which was a nice gesture.

I started perusing the in-flight magazine, though it wasn’t especially interesting.

I guess this is their equivalent of the United “Voices” page?

A few glasses of champagne later (I lost count, what can I say, the flight attendant was a good pourer), I heard the “would all ground personnel please leave the aircraft announcement.” Woah, there was no one else in the cabin, could it really be that I have the first class cabin to myself?!

Sure enough, just a few seconds after a mental victory dance, a family of five joins me in the cabin, consisting of three daughters, a mother, and a father. Then a minute later another gentlemen was escorted onto the plane. From one seat taken to only one seat empty in about a minute!

Shortly before pushback the captain came on the PA and gave probably one of the most impressive pre-flight announcements I’ve ever heard. I’m not meaning to stereotype here, but I wasn’t expecting so much enthusiasm from a pilot that seemed to be from Qatar. It’s not the amount of information he gave that surprised me, but instead the enthusiasm with which he shared it all. He gave us just about every detail about the flight, including our taxi time of 25 minutes, takeoff speed of 330km/h, and just about every city we would be passing over enroute. We had a slight departure delay, and with the fairly long flight time of 6hr20min, he forecasted a slightly late arrival.

Nonetheless his attitude was awesome – “Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of myself and my most excellent colleges (yes, he said colleges, not colleagues) in the cabin, we are absolutely delighted to have you flying with us, and will do everything in our power to make this flight pleasant.”

The safety video started playing, though it was quite possibly the most boring safety video I’ve ever seen… and there’s a lot of competition for that title. I’m used to safety videos that aren’t exciting, but I’m pretty sure this video takes the cake. Heck, I think they should add it to the in-flight entertainment as a sleep aid.

Clearly the flight attendants found the safety video boring as well, as they served Arabian coffee and dates during it, and then started taking meal orders as well.

One of the nice things about Qatar Airways is that they start the entertainment system on the ground, so you can start watching a movie while taxiing out. That’s awesome, especially compared to my Virgin Atlantic flight, where it took nearly 30 minutes for them to turn on the entertainment system.

A bit of Sheldon Cooper while on the ground… does it get better than that?

Sure enough we pushed back a few minutes late and taxied out to the west runway, where we waited for a handful of British Airways Airbus aircraft to take off. Just before us a Malaysia 747 rocketed down the runway, then we taxied into position, and about two minutes later we were airborne.

Malaysia 747

Views after takeoff


About five minutes later the seatbelt sign was turned off and the flight attendants sprung into action, starting by closing the curtains between the galley and first class and the curtains between first class and business class. I started watching an episode of “The Big Bang Theory,” and about half way through it the meal service started.

The menu read as follows:

palate pleaser
duo of minced lamb and spinach barouque
pistachio and coriander dip

to commence
oscietra caviar
sour cream and blinis

carrot ras al hanut soup with garlic and herb mini croutons

mediterranean buffet
balik salmon, foie gras and peppered beef pastrami crown

classic mezze

blue swimming crab caper croquettes in sesame dill mayonnaise

to follow
parmesan crusted chicken breast stuffed with pesto ricotta
slow roasted baby tomato sauce, roasted rustic cut potatoes
snow peas and baby carrots

marinated baked halibut with tomato and herb veloute
porcini mushroom risotto with grilled baby courgettes

panfried veal medallions with chestnut mushroom cream sauce
colcannon potatoes with roasted fennel and grilled zucchini ribbons

paneer makhani with nizami handi and green pea pulao

main course are accompanied by your choice of steamed aromatic rice or mesclun salad leaves

cheese plate
an individual plate of cornish double cream brie, vale of bevoir stilton and mull of kintyre cheddar

sweet finale
warm triple chocolate fondant with vanilla crème anglaise

vanilla and rhubarb cheesecake with physalis and berry ragout

sliced fresh fruit

forest berries with vanilla ice cream and rosewater pomegranate sorbet

tea and coffee with fine chocolate
coffee: cappuccino, espresso, café latte, macchiato, american
tea: earl grey, english breakfast, green, roasted japanese, moroccan mint, camomile, sencha green, green jasmine

For those of you more interested in liquid nutrition (I’m looking at your, JRL), the wine list read as follows:

Champagne Krug
Brut Grande Cuvee

2007 Chassagne Montrachet

Sauvignon Blanc
2008 Saint Clair Pioneer Block 3

Riesling, Fritz Haag
Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr

Domaine Weinbach
2005 Vendange Tardive Gewurtzraminer Grand Cru

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou
2004 St Julien AC – 2nd Grand Cru Classe

Pinot Noir
Morton Estate 2007

2005 Dorrien Estate, Shiraz Bin 1

20 Year Old Tawny Port

Martini Rosso
Martini Dry
Bombay Sapphire
Smirnoff Red
JW Black
Glenfiddich Single Malt Solera 15-yrs. old
Chivas Regal 18-yrs. old
Jack Daniel’s
Tia Maria
Camus XO Superieur

I ordered a Diet Coke, which was served with the “palate pleaser,” which was tasty and well presented.

Palate pleaser



As that finished up the tablecloths, silverware, and breadbasket were distributed. I was asked what kind of oil I wanted with my bread, which was a first. I seemed to be the only one eating for now, so the service was very much at my pace.

The first course was caviar, which was served in the tin. It was tasty, though a few more condiments would have been nice.

The next course was the soup, which was also tasty and the perfect temperature.


Next it was time for the Mediterranean buffet and classic mezze, which was presented on a cart, where I could pick and choose what I wanted. I wasn’t especially hungry, though still went with some salmon, salad, and peppered beef.

Meditteranean buffet

I wasn’t especially hungry by the time the main course was served, which was probably a good thing, since I really didn’t like the chicken. On paper the dish sounded like something that could be my favorite dish, though it just wasn’t well executed. I was a vegetarian for eight years and always hate “wasting” meat, though didn’t take more than a bite out of it in this case, which I felt bad about.

Main course

I was stuffed from the breakfast I had in the lounge and the lunch I had aboard, so asked to postpone dessert by about an hour. I was nonetheless given a bottle of water and small box of Godiva chocolates, which was a nice touch.

Water and Godiva chocolates

So, a bit about the flight attendants. First of all, both of the first class flight attendants were of Thai descent. It seems that most of Qatar’s flight attendants are either Asian or Eastern European, but I guess that’s a trend among Middle Eastern airlines. Second, they referred to me as “Mr. Benjamin” throughout the service. I’m not sure if this is a Middle Eastern thing or what, because it’s also what I was often referred to as in Doha. The flight attendants were friendly and professional. At the same time, they weren’t “Singapore Girls.” That’s to say that they didn’t focus on placing all the utensils and glasses so the logos face me, or for that matter I didn’t get a whole lot of “my pleasure” or “certainly” in response to my “thank yous.” That being said, they were perfectly friendly. It’s just that I’ve had better.

I decided to play Alpine Crawler on my new Macbook Air, which is far too addictive. About an hour later I asked for dessert, and went with the chocolate fondant. It was quite possibly the best dessert I’ve ever had, be in the ground or in the air.

Chocolate fondant

To round off the meal, I ordered some Baileys.


After that I decided to take a nap. I requested turndown service, which was promptly done, and managed to get a solid two hours of sleep.

Bed with turndown service


As short of a flight as it is, I was asked whether I wanted the pre-arrival snack as soon as I woke up, as we were about 90 minutes from landing in Doha.

The pre-arrival menu read as follows:

reception sandwiches
petit sundried tomato and spinach pie
plain and fruit scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve
forest berries

tea and coffee with fine chocolate
coffee: cappuccino, espresso, café latte, macchiato, american
tea: earl grey, english breakfast, green, roasted japanese, moroccan mint, camomile, sencha green, green jasmine

The snack was perfect for a flight like this, not to mention a colorful work of art the way it was presented. After the meal I was offered a hot towel and landing card for Qatar.

Pre-arrival snack


From a different angle

About 45 minutes before landing the captain made his pre-arrival announcement, advising us we would be arriving a few minutes late.


Hot towel

Now, I haven’t focused on the other passengers in the cabin yet, though I made a post about that earlier during my trip. The guy seated behind me was a Sheik, who boarded in very “trendy” clothes. The same goes for the family of five. As a matter of fact, the daughter seated across from me was very fashion savvy, clearly loving western culture. She asked for fashion magazines, was wearing tight jeans, and had big sunglasses. But what was fascinating to me (given that this was my first time in Qatar, let alone the Middle East, so it’s a new culture to me) was that as we began our approach everyone changed into the long black and white “robes” (I believe it’s called “hijab?”) with the females covering their heads with scarves. It was fascinating to me that I went from being the least trendily dressed person in the cabin to standing out, almost uncomfortably so, with the jeans and collared shirt I was wearing.

While it was dark outside, the views were fascinating, with mostly desert landscape. The seatbelt sign came on about 15 minutes before landing, at which point the flight attendants prepared the cabin for landing.

View on approach

View on approach

Once we landed it was a very quick taxi to our remote stand. It amazes me that despite being such a wealthy country and wanting to expand and become a truly global city, Doha’s airport doesn’t have any gates. Now, they are building a new airport, though it’ll be years before it’s finished. In the meantime, they’re stuck at an airport that looks more like a bus terminal.

Plane next to us

Our plane

One of the aspects of Qatar Airways’ service that I was looking forward to is the private BMW transfer they provide first class passengers traveling to and from Europe. Not surprisingly, as we pulled in, there were a handful of BMW 7-series waiting, even sporting the Qatar Airways livery.

BMW waiting for first class passengers

Interestingly enough the Sheik seated behind me had his own transportation waiting right at the side of the plane, with three or four people there to greet him.

I was directed to one of the BMWs, though we didn’t drive for about five minutes, as they were trying to figure out if they wanted to put another passenger in my car (since it’s not always a private transfer). Eventually they decided it would be just me, and we began the maybe three minute ride to the immigration hall, driving basically under the noses of a dozen heavy jets.

BMW interior

BMW interior

At immigration I was left to fend for myself, though fortunately I still managed to beat everyone else there, so lines weren’t bad. Qatar requires a visa upon arrival, which of course is the biggest scam on earth. The “visa” consists of them scanning, your, well, Visa, for about $30USD. C’mon Qatar, nobody wants to come to your country to begin with, why do more to discourage tourism? It’s not like you need the money. To add insult to injury, the immigration agents couldn’t have been ruder (and I was using my German passport!). At least say “thanks” when you rob me, please!

Once in the arrivals area I exchanged money (at a surprisingly reasonably exchange rate) and headed outside to try and find a cab for the InterContinental. Not surprisingly I was swarmed by at least 100 people that wanted to offer me a “special deal” because I was their “friend.” Eventually I got a legitimate taxi, and the ride to the InterContinental wasn’t more than $10USD or so.

Arrivals hall

So, based on my outbound flight, what did I think of Qatar Airways? Well, they were good. However, they aren’t the best airline I’ve flown. The food and entertainment are excellent (I’ll assume my main course was a one off). The flight attendants were good, though not quite as good as on ANA and Singapore. The seat was very comfortable, though as aesthetically pleasing as the sweater my grandma made me a decade ago.

But there was just some “touch” missing. Qatar Airways is very good, but they could be great. I think the distinguishing factor for airlines nowadays is what they do for premium passengers on the ground. In London, couldn’t they escort first class passengers to the lounge or from the lounge to the gate? Maybe that’s asking too much. But, at least in Qatar, I felt like the arrival service was pretty half-a$$ed. It’s great to be driven to immigration in a BMW, though then you’re dropped off and left in the “standard” Fast Track line, which all business class passengers have access to. At the very least, I think it would be nice to escort the passenger to a special line where there’s never a wait, or at the very least help the passenger with their bags.

Anyway, I’m not meaning to complain, but just providing a few constructive suggestions for what Qatar Airways could do to truly be “the world’s 5-star airline.”

But that’s just based on my outbound. Stay tuned for the return segment, where I had a different experience.

  1. Great report! Surprised by a lot of things, including Smirnoff being their vodka offering in first class.

    On that note, glad to see you indulging more in the booze 🙂

  2. Lucky,
    I counted at least two potent potables consumed in 1A… I’m pleased to see you’re coming around. Nice report.

    Oh, and Johnny Walker Black is the best they can do on that menu? Off the top my head LH, LX, SQ, NH, and TG all stock Blue Label and I’m just listing *.


  3. @JRL, I too noticed Lucky’s liquor consumption, and was pleased as well. So sad that it even matters to me. 🙂

    @Lucky, their wine list is pretty impressive.

  4. Great report. Did the Sheik and his entourage have to go through immigration or was he never to be seen again?

  5. A nice report, although did you have to call on the paying for visas as the biggest scam in the world?

    In that light, I suppose we should abolish the idea of paying a fee for any kind of visa (irrespective of country of origin, and purpose, e.g. tourism, business, study, etc.). Nice idea, but not likely to happen soon.

  6. My experience is that Americans may be treated better than Europeans in the Middle East. i’m always surprised how easy immigration is… but, it’s often a non-event, so German or American passport may not make any sort of difference.

    Haven’t played Alpine Cruiser, but Angry Birds is my procrastination of choice! Try it!!

  7. I am really enjoying your report.
    (I believe it’s called “hijab) No it is Abayah.
    As for the visa, well let me inform you that as a Saudi the USA, EU, and India among others charge us over $100 for a visa and it takes sometimes up to 3-6 weeks to get it. So paying $30 is peanuts.

  8. I forgot to add, if for any reason your visa is refused you do not get your money back. Now what would you call that?

  9. Being called Mr. (first name) is an Asian thing – China, Sinagpore, Thailand, etc. (Japan is a different case, where it’s (last name)-san. Given the Thai-national FAs you had, it makes perfect sense.

    -Mr. wxguy reporting from BKK!

  10. You need to lay off the bigoted remarks about Arabs in your report. Your preconceived notions about how an Arab pilot should act are both racist and offensive.

    Also, your complaint about the visa is unwarranted. Qatari citizens have to pay much more to enter the US or the EU and their visas are by no means guaranteed like yours is.

  11. @ jr — As far as I could tell, he was just driven right off the premises. Didn’t seem like he needed to go through immigration.

    @ Kevin — I spend three nights in Qatar. Stay tuned for the next part for more on that!

  12. @ anat0l — To clarify, I’m opposed to all kinds of visas that involve hefty fees. But here’s what I feel makes it a stupid business decision — Qatar is trying to grow as a country and get more business/tourists, yet is a wealthy country. I can understand a minor fee for a visa if there’s a lot of processing involved, but there was no more processing here than in any other country that just requires a passport. I don’t feel especially welcomed if I have to spend money in order to have the privilege of spending money in your country. That being said, a lot of other countries are the same, so I’m not meaning to single out Qatar here (though in this case, they were convenient).

    @ Smart51 — And I think that sucks too. Like I said, there are other countries that are just as bad, if not worse.

    @ Oscar — It might be rude, but in this case, I kind of stand by it. I voluntarily came to Doha for vacation. I don’t remember the last time I’ve heard of anyone else doing that. If they want to build their tourism industry, how about being a bit more welcoming?

    @ John — The daughters didn’t actually belong to the sheik. He was traveling alone, and then another (I assume wealthy) guy was traveling with his wife and three daughters.

    @ Omar — My comments certainly weren’t intended to be bigoted. As far as I know they have a culture of understatement and modesty (at least in theory), and the captain’s very detailed, incredibly enthusiastic welcome aboard announcement sounded more like one I would expect on Southwest airlines… but I mean that in a positive way.

    And as far as the visa goes, I agree… and I think it’s wrong they have to pay visa fees.

  13. “I only note that because I know a majority of the pilots at Etihad, Emirates, etc., are ex-pats, often British, Australian, etc.”

    Many are Middle Eastern, just not locals, so technically they are expats…usually Lebanese or Jordanian or Egyptian. It is rare to see a Gulf Arab (an Arab from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE) working as a pilot, though, that is true.

    With regards to women…many women from the Gulf Arab countries do tend to dress more liberally when outside. It’s very common when flying to those countries to see women at the departure airport or on the plane put on the black robe (called an abaya) and maybe the head covering (that’s the hijab). It varies from country to country, lots of Kuwaiti women don’t wear either. The one exception is Saudi Arabia; all women there, foreign or otherwise, are required to wear the abaya, and, if you are a Gulf Arab or muslim, the hijab as well.

  14. Lucky, have you ever been to Honduras? I found the welcome sign at San Pedro Sula airport really funny — it said something like “Welcome, entry to our country is free.” The catch is, of course, the exit charge, payable in cash upon departing the country.

    Come to think of it, that’s kinda like New Jersey…

  15. You know pretty much every country has fees of some kind for visiting, they’re just usually wrapped up in the price of the ticket.

  16. “C’mon Qatar, nobody wants to come to your country to begin with”

    Then you can gladly leave! Very pompous and rude of you, seeing as you haven’t even entered the place yet! Qatar has one of the most competitive job markets in the world, with people fighting for the chance to move there. You aren’t very diplomatic!

    As for the German passport thing, were you expecting them to kiss your a** or something? Quite a few countries require you to pay some sort of fee for a visa, this isn’t a new concept. Considering you just stepped off of a first class cabin, I wouldn’t be whining about a 30USD visa fee.

    btw: Yes, many people go to Doha for vacation, usually from Asia or other middle eastern countries. Not everything is aimed at Americans…

  17. I agree with gman 211 and omar… Some ppl keep talking less of airlines and its services but keep crawling back to the same airline…if singapore or any other airline can provide betterr service why dont u fly with them?why do some ppl keep flying the same airline..keep ur pathtic remarks to ur self….
    Even though u’ve travelled first class , ur words and ur cheap attitude towards the airline and the svcs says alot about you..
    As for your german passport, no ones gonna kiss ur ass and show you to a seperate bathroom for german passport holders…ur lucky they let u in with a visa so cheap, where some of us have to pay a hudge amount and there is no guarantee and its non refundable…
    So stob being rude towards certain nationalities and to think all arabs are cheap, unaducated and non fashionable ,thats not very first class of you…
    I dont think u eat caviar and drink champagne in ur house or even have buttlers who serve palette pleasers and soup as and when u please and even ppl to make ur bed whenever u wanna sleep..

    No i am not arabic….and i am also an ex crew member of qatar airways and resigned cz i am done serving classless people like u…qatar airways is by far the best airline….ask an educated classy person and they will tell u their experience with the airline….

    Thank god u were nt one of my passengers, instead of soup who’d know what i’d serve u..happy flying..

    P.s..just cz u dont fly qatar doesnt mean we’d run off business…so bitch please….

  18. Yeah, as noted above, Ben may not have been very diplomatic in stating his opinion, however his viewpoint is totally warranted.

    He’s not saying that certain nationalities, like arabs, are cheap. On the contrary, he’s pointing out that since they are so spend-heavy and have a large form of cash flow from other sources, why not make the border visa-free or at least not make people go through the hassle of receiving one with a “fee” included in the ticket.

    @Jade especially, I understand that you’re expressing your view point, however if you reread your message, you’ll notice you are being a lot more bigoted and rude by saying Ben isn’t educated and classy based of a few sentences. The fact that you lack grammar and spelling in your post could lead to other people truly gaining the opinion that you believe Ben had.

    As for your point about Ben calling Arabs unfashionable, well that’s completely unwarranted seeing as he points out that all of the people travelling with him were in fact trendy, up until landing, at which point they switched to their ethnic clothing. He didn’t point out that this clothing was unfashionable, but it is possible that compared to flashy western clothing, the hijab is more dull.

    Also, if you took his note about the german passport in context, he didn’t mean that he needed to be treated better, but rather than he would expect someone from a respected country to be treated with respect. While some people may not respect the U.S. (his other passport), most people have no issues with Germany so it means that the airport staff are most likely unfriendly, which should be pointed out in the critique of any airline.

    The point of Ben’s flight wasn’t to find himself a new airline to fly on, it was to test and analyse a new product, he never said he would switch exclusively to Qatar, but rather he wanted to put it in perspective to flyer’s like me who are contemplating on flying.

    I hope that you understand his remarks and critiques of everything are warranted and should not be frowned upon. This will probably be read by maybe one or two people but the point of my rant is that you should think over what you are going to say to a person, as it’s possible that what he is saying is a necessary part of his job and he is not trying to offend anyone.

  19. Dear Gospodin Alexei Z., Well put! It’s comforting to know souls still exist which enjoy the irony of an illiterate’s attempt to label me a bigot. As with most uneducated and rude people, regardless of native birth location, the irony of the profoundly relevant points fly right over their heads. This idiot probably thinks the hypocrisy of wearing tight jeans in Piccadilly Circus, yet jumping into B.C. “cover-ups” as soon as the bird enters Qatar airspace is respectable. Explains all the immigrant out-sourced crew. Not about to let the “Holy-Jihad” natives witness the inevitable costume changes.

  20. Well the US embassy personnel also did not say thank you to the guy next to me who paid 160 USD for nothing, as his tourist visa application was rejected after a less than 3-minute interview. If that’s not the biggest scam in the world, then I don’t know what is.
    I don’t really care that much about political correctness, but stop being so self entitled. The world doesn’t owe you anything

  21. @GeeW.
    Here here…..and we won’t talk about the ‘Visa free’ travel to the USA that still requires a ETSA for the visa waiver programme to be applied for (albeit online so it’s easier) BUT for which there is a charge of $10. So $20 less than Qatar for a ‘permission’ to enter…..when is a visa not a visa…when it’s a ETSA. Sort of like the 1960’s….this isn’t a war…it’s a police action sort of philosophy. If you have bombers, thousands of troops, a battle fleet stationed outside…looks like a war to me.
    And that’s not to discount my own countries charge for visas (Australia). So all in all..rather churlish to single out Qatar. What should have been critiqued is the bureaucratic nature of the process that could be handled online……faster and less hassle to ensure smoother entry like most western countries.

  22. I want to try Qatar F class on the 380 and was thinking to relocate and fly from LHR on one of my upcoming trips.
    But i cant see any award space on any flights, short or long term, on F class 380 to or from LHR.

    Has their policy changed again? Or is it only available for the top tier ppl?

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *