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Qatar Airways offers a strong business-class experience on mid-haul routes. Pros: service was similar to what you’d find on Qatar’s long-haul business-class routes. Cons: the seats on this aircraft were not lie-flat like they are on some other A320s.
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: The Platinum Card® from American Express
As I mentioned in a previous post, I was going to be flying from Doha, Qatar, (DOH) to Larnaca, Cyprus, (LCA) since the route was directly affected by the recent airspace bans from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. The flight was operated by an A320, with a slightly longer flight time — due to an airspace detour we now had to make to avoid flying over Saudi Arabia — meaning there was plenty of time to sample Qatar Airways’ mid-haul business class.
The easiest way to search for Qatar Airways award availability is via British Airways’ site — and, in this case, that’s the best place to book, too. Why’s that? BA prices awards based on distance, and Doha-Larnaca is less than 1,300 miles each way, making business-class awards just 20,000 Avios (which we value at 1.5 cents each), plus about $100 in taxes and fees. We used The Platinum Card from American Express to pay for the cash portion, earning 500 Membership Rewards points.
By comparison, American Airlines would require 42,500 miles for this same flight, and you’d need to call in to book. No thanks!
Check-In and Boarding
I arrived at Door 1 of Doha’s Hamad International Airport (DOH), which is dedicated to first- and business-class passengers traveling on Qatar Airways. An attendant opened my car door and wheeled my luggage into the terminal for me.
Once inside the terminal, I made my way over to the business-class check-in counters. The area was spacious, extremely clean and at the time I visited, very quiet.
An agent took my passport and began to quickly print my boarding pass, making the whole check-in process go by in just a matter of seconds.
When I mentioned to the check-in agent how quiet the terminal was, he said, “Yes, well, you can imagine,” but then changed the subject immediately. I could tell he didn’t want to discuss the Qatar situation any further, so after he handed me my boarding pass, I made my way through security.
I passed by DOH’s famous teddy bear before entering the very, very empty Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge and before long, it was time for me to board. As I approached gate A4, an agent asked if I was flying in business class to Larnaca. When I said I was, she told me to “come this way” and took me immediately to the aircraft. I guess with such a light load, there was no need for any formal boarding announcements separating business and economy.
Cabin and Seat
Qatar Airways has two types of A320 cabins — one featuring large, red, padded recliner seats and one featuring seats with lie-flat beds. This flight to Larnaca was operated by the older version, which had large, reclining, red seats.
Each seat is 21 inches wide and has a pitch of 45 inches, similar to the classic domestic first-class seats you’d find on some US carriers. I was seated in 1A for this flight, while just one other person sat in 3F.
Despite the fact that it looked like an older aircraft because of its classic interior — this plane is only 13 years old, by the way — I loved the pattern that was featured on the bulkhead wall and cabin dividers, an Islamic-inspired geometrical design, with two shades of grey and a metallic effect that made it shine.
The purser introduced herself and addressed me by name before offering to make me a fresh iced tea before departure. Shortly after this — and much to my surprise — I was given an iPad.
I had presumed our in-flight entertainment was located in the armrest, but apparently it’s either been removed or doesn’t work, so now an iPad is given out instead. Overhead panels were dedicated to seats A and C.
The seat itself was incredibly comfortable, although not the best looking. It was very padded and spacious though.
There was a universal power socket located deep in the frame of the seat.
Large pillows and blankets were at each seat when I boarded the aircraft.
I was presented with a business-class amenity kit by Nappa Dori, the first Indian brand to collaborate with Qatar Airways to create these for all first and business-class passengers traveling on short and medium-haul flights from Doha.
The kit included moisturizer, socks and an eye mask.
The seat controls were old and a little temperamental, but could be used to electronically recline and expand different parts of the seat.
After takeoff, I was also handed noise-canceling headphones, which I could only use one side of due to there being a single ear-jack in the iPad, unlike the dual ear-jacks you’ll usually see with IFE screens. I could, however, watch the movies being offered on the bulkhead screen — on this flight, they were the new Beauty and the Beast film and Hidden Figures.
Food and Beverage
I was presented with the business-class menu and was told it would be a “dine on demand” situation, which meant I could request my food at any point during the flight.
Main courses included Arabian spiced chicken and lamb loin. There were also a variety of drinks and mocktails offered.
I opted for a pineapple margarita as my after take-off drink. It was delicious and very refreshing — especially given that the temperature in Doha that day was about 113 degrees! — and is a personal favorite of mine onboard all Qatar flights.
About 30 mins into the flight, my table was prepared by the crew and I was given an amuse-bouche. The crew were consistently friendly. One of them even said, “Here’s your amuse-bouche to ensure your Qatar Airways dining experience gets off to a great start!” It was chicken, with a tzatziki-style sauce.
Then came the starter. I opted for the Arabian mezze, which consisted of pita bread, rice, herbs and hummus. It was delicious, especially the hummus, which, in my opinion, is served best on Qatar Airways compared to other Gulf carriers I’ve flown with.
This was followed by my main course, spiced Arabian chicken.
It was tasty and full of flavor.
At this point in the journey, I admired the views of Iran outside while I enjoyed my meal.
The service on board was typical of Qatar Airways — very friendly, hospitable and by flight attendants and crew that set the benchmark for business-class service pretty high. My drinks were always refilled, the purser was incredibly attentive and Qatar’s classic Godiva chocolates were handed out.
I spent the remainder of my flight using the iPad in-flight entertainment system and looking out the window as we flew our special one-hour detour over northern Iran. The pilot announced an on-time arrival and apologized for the extended flight time due to the new airspace restrictions. Here’s a look at the route we flew from Doha to Cyprus.
Qatar’s business-class seats may not be consistent, but the service certainly is. Flight attendants were polite, friendly and willing to go the extra mile while serving delicious food and ensuring your glass is never empty. The flight detour also gave me a chance to speak with the crew about the situation in Qatar, and how it’s affecting air travel and daily life, which I covered in this post.
Have you flown with Qatar Airways after the airspace ban? Tell us about your experience, below.
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