Qatar Airways 777 Business Class Auckland to Doha Review
- Dine on demand
- Premium pyjamas and bedding
- Excellent crew
- Angled lie flat seats
- No Wi-Fi
A superb ultra-long service let down only by its pre-refurbished hard product.
Introduced in February 2017, Qatar Airways' service between Doha and Auckland held the world's longest route title for more than a year, until Singapore Airlines re-commenced its Singapore to Newark service. Recently, I had the opportunity to fly with Qatar Airways in this 9,000-mile service enroute to Doha.
Due to a delay with the rollout of the new Qsuites, this service still featured the old cabin at the time of the flight. While Qsuites will soon give business passengers on this route an unparalleled experience, the economy class in the retrofitted 777s will become more crowded (adding an extra seat to each row, i.e. 10 seats abreast). 18 hours is a long time in the air, so this might be the route you've been looking for to splurge on and upgrade yourself. Read on to find out my impression of this ultra-long service.
Table of contents
Flight number: QR921
Aircraft Type: Boeing 777-200LR
Route: Auckland to Doha
Class: Business Class
This flight was part of an itinerary from Auckland to Dublin via Doha. I made this redemption using Qmiles earned through Qatar Privilege Club, the official loyalty program for the fast-expanding Gulf carrier. While I'm not an avid Qmiles collector, I did have a stash of Qmiles earned from a triple miles bonus promotion a few years back.
I redeemed this itinerary with just 88,500 Qmiles plus $50 in taxes. Unfortunately, Qatar Airways since implemented a massive devaluation without any warning last year. At present, Qatar Privilege Club does not publish an award chart. Instead the Qmiles required for each award can be searched using Qcalculator on the program's webpage.
In addition to increasing miles required for each sector, the new redemption calculates each sector within the same ticket individually. Therefore, an itinerary that requires a connecting flight is effectively two redemptions as far as Qmiles is concerned. Qatar Airways also introduced a booking fee of US$50 per sector for business class redemption, as well as fuel surcharges. Consequently, the same redemption from Auckland to Dublin now costs a whopping 166,500 Qmiles plus $700 worth of taxes and surcharge.
Using Qcalculator to search for Qmiles required for redemption
Australia's most popular frequent flyer currency Qantas points can also be used to redeem flights with oneworld partner Qatar Airways. Unlike Qatar Privilege Club, Qantas uses a distance-based chart for redemption. As seen in the comparison chart below, Qantas Frequent Flyer in many cases requires significantly less points than Qatar Privilege Club for the same redemption. Note that these values could change as part of Qantas' recent overhaul beginning in September.
|Sample Qatar Airways business class one-way itineraries||Qatar Privilege Club Qmiles||Qantas Frequent Flyer Points|
|Auckland – Doha||108,500*||121,000|
|Sydney – Doha||101,500*||104,000|
|Melbourne – Doha||101,500*||104,000|
|Perth – Doha||101,500||78,000*|
|Auckland – Dublin (via Doha)||166,500||139,000*|
|Sydney – Frankfurt (via Doha)||159,500||139,000*|
|Perth – London (via Doha)||159,500||121,000*|
|Melbourne – New York (via Doha)||203,000||139,000*|
Redemption comparison between Qatar Privilege Club and Qantas Frequent Flyer
START PLANNING YOUR OWN POINTS JOURNEY
Qatar Airways business class flights can be booked using Qantas Points and Qatar Airways Qmiles. Check out the guides below for more information.
Qatar check-in counters opened around three hours before the flight departure. Judging by the crowd at the counters, I figured the flight would be pretty full. Although it took us a little longer than expected to get through with check-in, the express lane through immigration was seamless.
Lounge Access: Qantas International Business Lounge, Auckland
Qantas International Business Lounge, Auckland
Qatar premium passengers are eligible to access the Auckland Qantas Lounge, which is located airside on Level 2, opposite the Strata Lounge. As I've frequented this lounge, I was no stranger to the lounge set-up and menu. It was a relatively quiet afternoon at the lounge during my visit. Buffet food options consisted of mainly finger foods, such as sandwiches, sliders and wraps. Pumpkin soup and quiche were also on offer as part of the hot food selection.
Although the lounge provided all the standard lounge facilities, such as a business centre and showers, I can't help but notice a stark difference when compared to Air New Zealand's lounge in Auckland. For instance, the Qantas Lounge is dull and dated in appearance, and it has no tarmac views or in-house barista. On a positive note, I give them credit for stocking Aspar products in the bathrooms and toilet facilities.
Sandwiches and wraps
Boeing 777 at Auckland Airport
Business passengers and oneworld status holders were given priority to board. Upon our entrance to the aircraft, a set of crew cheerfully greeted us while a third crew member guided us to our seats 7J and 7K. Shortly after we settled into our seats, we were offered a choice of a hot or cold rose-scented towel, plus a welcome drink. I had their signature lemon and mint mocktail, which was quite refreshing albeit a little sweet. All 42 business class seats in this flight were occupied which proved my earlier suspicion correct. Despite the full cabin, the staff were engaging and pleasant.
Welcome drinks and hot towels
Business Class Cabin
Seat 7J and 7K
Qatar Airways' pre-refurbished 777s are equipped with forward-facing business class seats in 2-2-2 layout. The cabin was surprisingly well-maintained even though it is imminently due to be revamped. Although this configuration is reasonable for those travelling in pairs, it's not ideal for solo travellers due to the lack of privacy. The seats are only separated by a partial slidable shade and those seated next to the window do not have direct aisle access. This is a bit of a hassle when you need to leave your seat as you literally have to climb over your neighbour when their seat is reclined. The new Qsuites provides a solution to these problems, providing direct aisle access for all plus the luxury of a double bed in the sky.
The 2-2-2 seat configuration
When it comes to storage space, this cabin isn't as generous as one would expect. A small compartment with a 10-pound weight limit is found below the IFE screen, and a small slot beside the seat for reading materials. I also used that space to store my phone as it is the only spot close enough to reach the USB and power outlet located below the seat for charging.
The seat controls are located at the armrest, from which the seat angles, lumbar support and massage function can be operated. Unfortunately, the optimal recline of these seats comes short of a proper flatbed, maximising at 177 degrees. In reality the massage function is of negligible therapeutic value, as the massage motion is hardly palpable.
The cabin crew typically offer a turndown service after the first meal is served, but you have the liberty to request the service whenever you please. I must say Qatar Airways has one of the most comfortable bed amenities in the skies. I love the bedding, pillowcase and plush duvet. My main complaint is the actual bed with its "wonky footrest".
As the footrest is essentially a free-hanging extension from the seat, the slightest movement when turning and tossing will trigger the footrest to spring uncomfortably. Another nuisance is the light interference from the adjacent seat's reading lamp, so an eye shade is necessary. Nevertheless, the cabin lights were switched off for a good 10-hour period, which was helpful for me to maximise rest.
Business class beds
Qatar business amenity kit
In terms of inflight amenity kit, I received a fabric Nappa Dori bag with Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio skin care products. I found the Nappa Dori bag quite bland, and much prefer the Bric's amenity bag usually offered on Qatar's long haul services. Interestingly, on my following flight to Dublin the normal Bric's amenity kit was offered. A comfortable set of pyjamas by The White Company was provided on this flight, and standard dental and shaving kits were available separately in the lavatory.
The inflight entertainment Oryx One offers a comprehensive selection of blockbuster movies and highly rated TV shows. In my opinion, the variety and quality of programs on offer are excellent and not too far off from the industry's leader, Emirates. I had a few laughs while watching the slapstick film Johnny English Strikes Again and enjoyed catching a few National Geographic documentaries throughout the flight.
I found the touch-enabled IFE screen a little too far away from viewers to be useful, and the console is the old-school non-interactive kind. Safe to say, I can't wait to experience the refurbished cabin. On another note, Wi-Fi is not available on the pre-refurbished aircraft, which is a shame as business travellers essentially lose an entire work day without Internet access.
Warm mixed nuts and champagne
Qatar Airways offers an extensive menu and a flexible dine-on-demand concept. In other words, the meal times are entirely up to you. Considering this is an 18-hour flight, you can easily squeeze in three meals in the air. The à la carte menu is divided into three sections: dinner, breakfast and light meals. The dinner and breakfast menus offer a more substantial multi-course meal, comprising of several choices per course. I opted to have dinner and breakfast at both ends of the flight, plus a mid-flight snack.
The variety of drinks and beverages on offer was also impressive. The drinks menu is found in a separate glossy booklet with a beautiful presentation of the wines available onboard, including champagnes, and several wines from France, Argentina and Chile. I sampled a glass of Champagne Lallier which was a lovely accompaniment with my seafood dish. Non-alcoholic options include a selection of mocktails, chilled drinks, as well as coffee and teas.
Qatar Airways candlelit dinner
Fancy a candlelit dinner in the sky? The LED candles at each table certainly enhanced the dining atmosphere. To kick off the meal service, I was served a smoked salmon canape accompanied by a bread basket and a selection of condiments.
Smoked salmon canape served with dill and mascarpone
Next, for the appetiser I opted for the Arabic mezze. My first choice was actually a crayfish and prawn dish but unfortunately it ran out before I was served. Lesson learned! Avoid sitting in the last row, or else you might miss out on a crowd favourite dish. The Arabic mezze was delicious nonetheless.
Spiced quinoa with grilled peppers
Seared snapper fillet with mussels, served with risotto and grilled octopus
The main course options were chicken biryani, lamb shank, seafood risotto or potato gyoza (Japanese dumplings). I chose the seafood option and I couldn't be happier with the dish. Each element was well-prepared and flavourful, especially the mussels and grilled octopus. Last but not least, I selected the chocolate fondant for dessert. The presentation and taste were on point. I also ordered a cardamom latte to go along with my dessert.
Chocolate fondant with crème anglaise
Mid-flight while I was somewhere over the Indian Ocean I became peckish for a snack so I chose a cappuccino and mini sliders from the light meals menu. The sliders were tasty, though the salad mix was a little wilted. After a restful snooze and just prior to landing, I chose a lighter vegetarian dish from the breakfast menu, leek omelette with spinach and potatoes.
Mini sliders – Beef and chicken burger with gruyère cheese
Buttered parsley potatoes, beans and sautéed spinach
Over the last five years Qatar Airways has really stepped up its game in terms of customer service. Nowadays it's on par with premium carriers such as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, if not better. The cabin crew were attentive and efficient. They were proactive to guide us through the cabin features, the meals were promptly delivered and the lavatories were well-maintained.
For such a long flight, I expected the crew to knock off between the meal services. However, they maintained their cabin presence throughout by making regular rounds in the cabin. They even used a small torch to inspect the cabin when it was dimmed to avoid unnecessary interference. Furthermore, the cabin manager made the effort to speak with each customer before our departure and thanked each one as we were approaching our destination.
We arrived in Doha at around 11.30pm local time and disembarked at one of the remote parking bays using stairs rather than an aerobridge. This seems to be a common occurrence, even for large wide-bodied aircraft like ours, due to heavy congestion at Doha airport. Generally, I don't mind during daytime hours as it's a great opportunity for plane-spotting, however at midnight I would rather get to the terminal as quickly as possible.
With five hours to spare before my next flight, I was keen to explore the lounges in Doha. I visited both the Qatar Business Class Lounge as well as the Al Mourjan Business Lounge, the latter being the more spacious and extravagant of the two. While the Qatar Business Class lounge can be accessed by travellers in Business Class on any oneworld carrier, the Al Mourjan Business Lounge is exclusively for Qatar's own premium travellers (i.e. only passengers flying in Qatar First or Business Class are permitted entry).
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge
The Points Finder Flight Rating: 4.5 / 6 stars (★★★★☆☆)
Ultra-long services have gained increasing popularity in recent years. Linking Auckland and Doha with this oneworld carrier opens up a one-stop connection from New Zealand to many European and African destinations. On this Qatar Airways flight, I was delighted by the phenomenal customer service, premium amenities and impressive catering.
However, in my opinion it falls short of a 6-star rating based on the hard product. I'm aware I may be nitpicking, but I consider vital components such as direct aisle access, a fully flat bed and onboard Wi-Fi as major lacks on this long-haul flight. Building on its existing excellent soft product offering, the introduction of the Qsuites cabin will undoubtedly be a game changer. Regardless, Qatar Airways offers an enviable business class product and I would be pleased to fly with it again on another ultra-long service. On a concluding note, it's not a bad idea to use Qantas points to redeem one of these flights, as in many cases it is more cost-effective when compared with using Qatar Qmiles. At least for now before the price hike on the 18th of September.
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