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Does the Qatar Airlines economy A380-800 From Bangkok to Doha hold up? Pros: This is the way to fly economy on this route, with free Wi-Fi and good food. Cons: They took my blankets away way too early, which left me cold in more ways than one.
I recently flew from Bangkok, Thailand (BKK), to Madrid, Spain (MAD), with a stopover in Doha, Qatar (DOH), in economy class on the massive A380. This was the second time I’d flown Qatar Airways, and I did so reluctantly after a negative experience between Hanoi (HAN) and Bangkok a few years back, due to extremely rude flight attendants.
But I was hoping to use up American AAdvantage miles pre-devaluation (I booked this back in 2016), and Qatar seemed to be the best option unless I wanted to pay British Airways’ surcharges for a layover in London (LHR). Plus, I wanted to see how the A380 measured up in economy class. If you’re curious about the premium product on the Qatar A380, you can check out The Points Guy’s review of first class.
As I previously mentioned, I used AAdvantage miles to book this journey. Since American Airlines doesn’t show Qatar award availability on its website, I opened an account with Qantas — also a partner in the Oneworld alliance — to view this information. I noted the flight numbers and called AA to book the flights. As I figured might happen, I got an operator who was slightly bewildered and tried to charge me a phone-booking fee, but I calmly reminded her this award wasn’t bookable online, so I would not be paying any phone fee, and she conceded.
I ended up paying a total of $42 ($21 per person) and 70,000 AAdvantage miles (35,000 per person) for the one-way trip for two. I charged the $42 on my AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard in order to get 2x miles per dollar on AA purchases (though I used all of the bonus miles I earned back when the card was still the US Airways Dividend MilesWorld MasterCard, which later changed to the Aviator Red.) I also got 10 percent of my redeemed miles back for being a cardholder, meaning I really only used 63,000 miles for the two one-way award tickets.
Check-in and Lounge
I was hoping to gain access to a Priority Pass lounge through the benefits of my brand-new Chase Sapphire Reserve card, but since I had been approved for the card two days before the trip and hadn’t yet received it, I figured getting in might be difficult. I called Chase to see if it could help, but since the card hadn’t yet arrived, I didn’t have many options. If I had received the credit card but not the Priority Pass card, I could have used it to charge a membership that would later be reimbursed, but that wasn’t possible. So I sadly went without free lounge access this time around.
Thanks to my AA Gold status, I was able to check in at the priority counter at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, skipping the very long line. I also asked the woman at the counter if it was possible for her to move me to one of the few economy seats on the upper deck of the plane. (I had tried to do so online, but the seat change wouldn’t take.) She told me those seats are reserved for Qatar elite flyers and that I wasn’t able to sit there even if I was a Oneworld elite flyer, which is why the system wouldn’t allow me to save the changes.
She did, however, give me a voucher for the premium security lane, which proved to be useful. The voucher also allowed me to go through expedited customs lanes, which was a huge time-saver, as the airport was quite crowded.
With my Gold status, I was allowed to board first. Although it was fairly organized and seemed to move smoothly, boarding took almost an hour, mainly because of the size of the completely full plane, which seats 517 passengers.
During boarding, the aircraft had evening mood lighting with pinkish tones, which was relaxing but not the best for photos. I assume the airline does this when boarding for all evening flights, as my connecting flight that left at 1:00am from Doha had the same lighting.
Cabin and Seat
The upper deck has eight first-class suites, 48 business-class seats and 50 economy seats. These 50 economy seats are laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration, whereas the 411 economy seats on the wider lower deck are laid out in a 3-4-3 configuration.
Since I was seated in the lower deck, I was not allowed past the velvet rope to check out the upper deck. Instead, I was left down below with the other 410 plebeians.
As far as economy goes, I found the cabin, aisles and seats to be quite spacious. I was in row 42, and the first row on the lower deck is 40, so I was right near the front.
My travel companion and I had an aisle seat and a middle seat, 42B and 42C.
The aisles were wide, and I also had a decent amount of legroom, even when the person in front of me reclined his seat. The pitch of the economy seats is 32 inches, and the width is 18.5 inches, but I think what really makes the seats more comfortable is the legroom, the spacious aisles and the fact that the seat is well padded.
I specifically noticed the extra padding and space because my second flight on this itinerary between Doha and Madrid on the 787 Dreamliner was so much more cramped and uncomfortable in comparison.
My seat came with a blanket, pillow and amenity kit. I find it to be a very nice touch when the airline gives passengers amenity kits in economy class, even if I don’t often use them.
The kit came with an eye mask, earplugs, a toothbrush, toothpaste and socks.
The seat had an adjustable headrest that could slide up and down.
There were bathrooms about every 10 to 15 rows, and I didn’t see many people lining up, so I figured there were enough for everyone on the plane. The bathrooms were extremely small, though — even smaller than usual. Someone bulky or tall might find this problematic.
The plane had photographs on the walls, which you don’t always see in economy. I appreciate nice little design touches like this.
In addition to the amenity kit, each seat came with a pair of double-jack headphones and a USB charging port under the large screen.The screens were large and sharp, and I could operate them by touch, though there was also a remote.
The screens were active the second we boarded, and considering the process took about an hour, it was nice to have entertainment available right away.
The TVs were loaded with more than 3,000 movies and shows, as well as music and games. There was a great selection of new releases and plenty of Western options, and I caught up on the entire latest season of The Big Bang Theory during the flight. The movies were offered in a variety of languages. The safety video was shown first in English and then in Arabic, and featured the Barcelona Football Club, which the airline sponsored at the time of the flight. (I still prefer Delta’s safety video, or Bangkok Airways’ dancing flight attendants.)
The aircraft also had Wi-Fi, and there was a special promotion where passengers could get 15 minutes or 10MB of Wi-Fi free. I took advantage of this around the middle of the flight to check email and send a couple of WhatsApp messages, though 10MB doesn’t allow for much more than that. It was still a nice touch, though, and I appreciated it being offered.
Food and Beverage
Dinner was fairly good, especially for economy airline food. We were given menus, which I love because it makes me feel as if I’m in a more premium class.
My travel companion reluctantly chose the fish option — I don’t often see fish offered in economy. I chose the chicken option so we could compare. I was surprised at how great the fish was, and my worry that it might be smelly (an aircraft reeking of fish is a nightmare) was unwarranted. Instead, the fish was so tender and flavorful that I was disappointed I’d gotten the chicken, even though that was also pretty good and had a nice ginger flavor.
The vegetables weren’t soggy. The salad wasn’t amazing, and the dessert was just fine, but the main courses were definitely above average. I actually think this might have been some of the best airline economy food I’ve ever eaten, at least when it came to the main courses.
Wine, beer, spirits and soft drinks were available, and I chose the red wine, which wasn’t anything exciting, but it was still fine.
The snack before landing was decent, but nothing special: a small sandwich — either vegetarian or chicken— and a chocolate muffin. The meal was light, but since we were touching down around midnight, it was fine.
One final point is, at least on this route, the flight attendants sprayed the cabin, which I noticed airlines do quite a bit on various routes in Asia, sometimes before takeoff and sometimes before landing. The flight attendants announced that in accordance with government regulations, they would pass through the cabin with insect spray, which would supposedly cleanse the aircraft of pests such as fleas or ticks. They also suggested that anyone who might find this bothersome should cover their mouth and nose. The spray is supposedly harmless to humans, but it did smell rather nasty. (Don’t worry, it dissipates quickly.)
I was excited for the service on this flight because I had heard the flight attendants in economy on this aircraft went above and beyond. I didn’t find this to be so on my flight. The service was brusque. Although the flight attendants weren’t rude, they also weren’t helpful or friendly. But with plenty of legroom and decent food, I couldn’t care less, to be honest.
If you have to fly economy, this is one of the best possible aircraft to do so, with relatively spacious economy seats and aisles. This in itself would ensure I’d fly this aircraft in this class again. The food was also quite good, and free Wi-Fi was a nice touch. The service wasn’t amazing, but in economy, I never expect much anyway.
My main qualm was that attendants came around 50 minutes before landing to collect the blankets, so I was cold for the remainder of the flight. I didn’t really understand why the blankets couldn’t have been left on the seats, as they typically are. Still, this wouldn’t stop me from repeating this flight, and I’d recommend the Qatar A380 to anyone who wants a comfortable economy flying experience.
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