After a few days of flying to Vietnam and exploring Ho Chi Minh city it was finally time to board my first of eight Qatar Airways business class flights. This flight was the first flight of two round trips that I purchased during the incredible Qatar Airways fare sale back in July of this year. The sale originated in Ho Chi Minh (SGN) and was valid to most US and European gateway cities. These flights typically cost more than $4,000 US, but I managed to pay just $650 for each thanks to this
mistake fare sale.
Checking In At Ho Chi Minh Airport
As this is an international trip, Qatar Airways does not allow passengers to receive mobile boarding passes. Instead you must visit the Qatar Airways check-in counter before your flight to pick up a boarding card.
Qatar and most other airlines that fly out of Ho Chi Minh do not have a full-time ticket counter. Instead, the counters are only staffed for the three hours prior to your scheduled departure. Qatar Airways currently uses the “E” check-in counters which are centrally located within the main terminal.
At approximately 4:00PM a line started to form in the economy check-in lanes. Then at 4:20PM contract agents emerged from the back room and began setting up the counters. At approximately 4:25PM the agents stepped out in front of the counters and bowed in unison before retreating behind the counter to help customers.
To check-in I simply handed the Qatar Airways agent my passport. She then printed my boarding card and handed me my lounge invitation to the Apricot Lounge a few moments later.
With boarding card in hand I proceeded to the customs counters and security checkpoint. Customs took just a few minutes to clear and security about the same. Business Class and Priority priority passengers have a dedicated security lane, but receive no special treatment. In some cases, it’s probably faster just to use the economy lane if the priority/crew lane line is longer.
Boarding Qatar Airways A330 Business Class
After clearing security and relaxing in the Apricot Lounge it was finally time to board my Qatar Airways flight to Doha. Qatar Airways schedules this flight to depart at 7:25PM and at approximately 7:00PM the Apricot Lounge attendants announced that all passengers should head to boarding gate 19 for immediate departure. The walk from the lounge to the gate took just a few minutes.
As with most Qatar Airways flights there were two separate boarding lanes. The first was for Business Class and Elite members only while the second was for everyone else. Each lane converged on a single jet bridge which then again split passengers up by Business Class and Economy.
We boarding through the L1 boarding door which is the front left door of the aircraft. Since there is a separate Business Class boarding door passengers don’t feel rushed to get to their seats and out of the aisles. There were a few economy passengers who passed through the business class cabin, but not many.
Once on board I quickly stored my luggage in the spacious center overhead bins and took my seat (4A) for the 8 hour flight to Doha. My large carry-on bag didn’t quite fit in the drop down center overhead bins, but fit snugly in the outer bins.
Once I took my seat I was finally able to admire the attractive Qatar Airways A330 Business Class cabin.
Qatar Airways A330 Business Class Seat
The A330 business class cabin features a 2-2-2 layout. Of the current Qatar Airways aircraft, this is arguably “the worst” business class cabin. That’s great news because it’s still fantastic!
For my first flight I pre-selected seat 4E, but after speaking to the chief flight attendant, Vanessa, told me that I could occupy seat 4A as there was no one in seat 4B. Window seats on the A330 do not offer direct aisle access. The aisle seat isn’t a great option as your seat-mate may need to climb over you while you’re sleeping. The two middle seats both offer direct aisle access and are better options for those traveling individually.
As I reached my seat for the flight a large pillow and plastic wrapped blanket were on each seat. Occupied seats also had a bottle of water in the oddly placed cup holder which doubled as a magazine rack.
Oryx One Controls and Seat Power
In front of each seat is a massive Oryx One entertainment screen.
The screen is touch sensitive, but each seat also features a handheld remote.
Next to the remote housing is the Oryx One headphone jack and a USB port. Each seat comes with Qatar Airways noise canceling headphones. Additional seat power outlets are found in between the two seats near the leg rest.
Each seat moves between upright and lie-flat with the controls on the center armrest. You must hold each button to move portions of the seat, but can hold the takeoff, reclined, and lie flat button for just three seconds to move the seat to each of the preprogrammed positions.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that each seat has their own air vents. This isn’t something that I would normally notice, but it’s a welcomed feature when traveling on long-haul flights. Often carriers keep the cabin much too warm for my liking so it was nice having an air vent to cool off my area when I got too warm.
Qatar Airways Business Class Seat and Pre-Departure Service
The Qatar Airways A330 Business Class seat is a bit narrow compared to some business class offerings, but it by no means uncomfortable. Each passenger receives a pair of noise canceling headphones which plug into the three prong headphone jack, but I found my Bose QC35 headphones more comfortable and worked fine with the airplane adaptor provided by Bose.
After taking my seat my flight attendant Natsumi visited my seat to introduce herself. At that point she offered me a pre-departure beverage (Lanson Brut Rose) and my choice of hot/cold towel. Your towel decision at this point determines the type of towel the staff will bring you throughout your flight.
A few minutes later Natsumi stopped by again to drop of my Bric’s amenity kit. For this flight men were handed the navy blue version while women were given the yellow version.
Inside of the Bric’s amenity kit were a few items designed to make each flight a little more enjoyable. Namely a Qatar Airways eyemask, flight socks, a facial mister, lip balm, a moisturizing cream, and, ear plugs
After settling into my seat and finishing my champagne it was nearly time for takeoff. Natsumi distributed the in-flight menus and collected any service items or trash at our seats.
Qatar Airways Business Class Pajamas
When the flight attendant made the final pre-departure rounds, she also dropped off a “sleeping suit” provided by The White Company London.
I was given a “large” on this flight which proved much to big for my 5’11” frame. The pants were a bit loose and quite long, but actually quite comfortable. The shirt on the other hand was way too large and the sleeves extended well beyond my hands. I opted to just wear the pants and my own shirt while flying.
On my other Qatar Airways flights I tried out the Small pajama set. With the small set the pants were much too small, but the shirt fit well although a little snug. The medium set ended up being the perfect size, but it took three separate flights before the crew had an available medium set. After a few days of flying with Qatar they quietly switched to an off-brand pajama set. The off-brand set fit similar to The White Company’s, but the pants offered pockets which was a welcomed addition.
Dine On Demand Meal Service
Disclaimer: Bear with me, but this section is going to be rather long. I’ll first outline the in-flight menus and how the dine on demand meal service works, then highlight which food options I went with and when.
If you’re unfamiliar with Qatar Airways Business meal service, it’s quite unique to other airlines. Qatar Airways features a Dine On Demand meal service which means you can select any available item on the menu at any time. There are no pre-set meal times nor do you have to stick to breakfast or lunch, etc. It works extremely well when well executed, but seems a bit clunky if not. I found the service to be impeccable on both of my A330 flights from Ho Chi Minh to Doha.
As I mentioned, just before takeoff the flight attendant distributed the in-flight wine and food menus. This gave passengers a few minutes to look them over before deciding once airborne.
Inside the wine menu passengers could find a fairly wide variety of white and red wines. I personally enjoyed the Brute Rose Lanson Champagne during my flight.
Qatar Airways A330 Business Class Wine and Beverage Menu
Qatar Airways Business Class Dining and Refreshments Menu
After selecting my beverage options it was then time to decide what I wanted to eat. Our flight left at 7:30PM which meant most passengers opted for a dinner option before converting their seats to the lie-flat configuration and sleeping. The dining menu was fairly limited as the flight was just 8 hours and departed and arrived in-between typical meal times.
Shortly after takeoff the flight attendants again circulated the cabin and took drink orders and food orders if you wanted. Since I didn’t eat before the flight I then ordered a few items off of the A La Carte menu. At that time I also ordered another glass of the Brut Rose champagne.
When the flight attendant brought a fresh glass of Brut Rose she also dropped of a small serving of warm nuts.
Qatar Airways A330 Business Class Meal Service
About 30 minutes after takeoff Natsumi again stopped by my seat to setup my seat for the meal service. The tray table pulls out of the central arm rest and is quite spacious. However, once you extend the tray table you are “trapped” in the seat. Keep this in mind if you have to use the restroom when the meal service begins!
Each Qatar Airways Business Meal starts with a fresh bowl of breads and usually some type of specialty appetizer offered “complimentary” by the Chef. For our flight, the specialty appetizer was an amuse bouche.
One thing that surprised me about the meal service was just how attentive the crew was. I’m sure this was partly because the cabin was only 50% full, but throughout the meal I rarely had to wait for anything. Further as the meal progressed Natsumi began placing my fork to the left which I’d like to assume is because she noticed that I eat left-handed. Maybe that’s just me mentally improving the experience a little, but either way the service is fantastic. More on that a little later.
Qatar Airways Business Class Main Meal
I began the meal service with an order of the “soup of the day” which as it happened was my favorite; tomato soup.
After I finished the amuse bouche and soup, the next dish I ordered, the Roast Beef Tenderloin with Caramelized Onions arrived.
Shortly after finishing the delicious tenderloin appetizer, the flight attendant brought my main course. For the main I ordered the Mie Goreng Noodles and Beef with Oyster Sauce. Let me tell you, it tasted just as good as it looked.
For dessert Natsumi delivered a chocolate torte which again was absolutely delicious.
Directly after the meal service Natsumi cleared my place setting and stowed my tray table. Shortly thereafter she stopped by yet again to drop off yet another hot towel and a box of Godiva chocolates.
As the flight is only 8 hours passengers typically only eat a single meal on this flight. However, about 2 hours before landing in Doha I decided to sample yet another dish off the A La Carte menu. This time I ordered the Pan Fried Breaded Chicken dish which was again quite tasty.
My Impressions Of The Dine On Demand Meal Service
Overall the Dine on Demand meal service on this flight was fantastic. Since I felt a bit tired when we took off I delayed the meal service so that I could first nap. I ordered food that point to reserve my choices, but didn’t plan on eating for a few hours. After a 30 minutes of flying I changed my mind and asked if I could instead have the meal service immediately. Without missing a beat the flight attendant explained that they’d need a few minutes to warm everything up, but that it wasn’t a problem.
No more than 10 minutes later Natsumi came by to set up my tray table for the meal service and dropped off the amuse bouche to begin the meal service. From then on the meal service went as quickly as I could eat. I ended up finishing the up the first meal service around the same time as most passengers. I was one of a few passengers who ordered a second dish prior to landing.
Each food option I orders was delicious. I’ve had some good meals on airplanes before, but never anything this good in business class. Typically business class meals on domestic carriers represent a slight improvement over economy. Qatar Airways business class meal service is near restaurant qualify and well portioned.
I was lucky that this particular flight was only about 50% full. This meant the flight attendants were extra attentive and the crew never ran out of meal choices.
Qatar Airways A330 Business Class Restrooms
I realize this is an odd transition, but let me explain. The business class restrooms on our A330 flight to Doha highlighted just how attentive the crew was throughout our flight.
There are two restrooms located toward the front of the business class cabin of the A330. For our flight just 15 passengers had access to the two business class lavatories. Once inside, you quickly realize that the A330’s lavatories are anything but spacious. However, for such a small space there are still amenities on the sink for passengers to use during their flight. The crew kept a continuously stocked pile of dental and shave kits on the counter surrounding the sink basin.
The toilet was, well an airplane toilet, but at least it came with a view!
The cabin crew kept the lavatory window closed most of the flight. They also replaced the toilet seat cover after every use. Every time I entered the lavatory there was a fresh toilet seat cover, fresh amenities, and a clean sink. It was one of many small touches that reminded passengers that they’re flying on Skytrax’s Airline of the Year.
One small thing I disliked about this, and all Qatar lavatories, was the tissue paper. Within the lavatory only tissue paper is available to passengers when drying their hands. When pulling the tissue paper out of the dispenser with wet hands it frequently ripped and fell apart. It would have been nice if the lavatory offered more robust hand towels, but this is a minor inconvenience.
Arriving In Doha
After a mostly smooth 8 hour flight from Ho Chi Minh to Doha it was finally time to land in Doha. The entire flight was overnight so the flight attendants left the window shades open the entire flight, but dimmed the cabin lights. This was great because the views of Doha on approach were fantastic.
After landing at Doha’s Hamad International Airport we taxied to a remote stand where the moving stairs arrived for us to deplane.
Once at the bottom of the stairs, ground staff directed business class passengers into a luxury shuttle bus which took business class passengers from the remote stand to the main terminal. Economy passengers use a less comfortable shuttle bus similar to those offered as rental car shuttles at large airports. Once inside, all passengers must clear a quick security check before entering the main terminal.
I was very impressed by my Qatar Airways A330 Business Class flight. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post. The A330 features one of Qatar Airway’s “worst” business class hard products. Newer aircraft like the 787, A350, and the A380 all offer direct aisle access. While the 777 also doesn’t offer direct aisle access, the beds and seats are much more spacious. As a result, many consider Qatar’s A330 to offer their worst business class seat in the air today. The only issue I had with the seat was the narrow footwells. I found the footwell much to small to sleep comfortably in any position other than on my back. Anyone over 6 foot tall may feel cramped in any position. Those worried about leg/foot room should try to select a seat in row 1.
Besides the “sub-par” seat (lol), the entire experience in Qatar Airways business class was fantastic. Cabin crew members constantly circulated the cabin assisting passengers. I rarely found the bottom of my glass as crew members consistently re-filled water or champagne before I’d have a chance to finish either.
The Dine on Demand meal service also functioned as advertised. I loved knowing that I wouldn’t miss a meal just because I fell asleep or wasn’t hungry at that time. You’re free to order any menu item at any time throughout the flight.
Overall, this flight was fantastic. It really set the bar high for my other upcoming Qatar Airways Business class flights.
Related Qatar Airways Reviews
Over the next few days/weeks I’ll be reviewing Qatar Airways A350, 777, and the incredible Al Mourjan Lounge in Doha. You can use this link to my 2017 QR Mileage Run to view other reviews from this trip report series.