To end seven straight days of flying around the world it was finally time to head home. Upon landing in Chicago I will have flown 41,610 miles in a week. All of this was part of my insane Qatar Airways Mileage Run which I took late in the year to earn AAdvantage Executive Platinum status.
At this point in the trip I had just disembarked a Qatar Airways A330 flight from Ho Chi Minh back to Doha. I had nearly an 8 hour layover between these two flights which meant I had plenty of time to explore the incredible Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge. After spending just over 8 hours in the lounge it was finally time to head to the gate to board my flight back to Chicago.
Hamad International Airport Terminal Train
Qatar Airways scheduled the flight from Doha to Chicago to board through gate D1. While the D gates are fairly far away from the main terminal, the terminal train helps shorten the journey to just a few minutes.
The C, D, and E gates are located behind Urs Fischer’s famous lamp teddy. After passing the giant bear and walking under the huge C, D, and E gate signage you’ll find signs that direct passengers to the terminal train.
The terminal train is completely automated and trains arrive every few minutes. As I boarded the terminal train I noticed that Hamad’s terminal train is the most elegant airport terminal train I’ve ever been on. The train is one continuous train car which is entirely enclosed by glass.
I boarded the first car of the train so I could enjoy the forward view of the train through the large front windshield.
The glass walls of the train allow passengers to enjoy Hamad International Airport’s beautiful architecture.
The terminal train arrived at the second station within a minute. The same journey would have taken about 10 minutes on foot.
Exploring The End Of Hamad International Airport
After leaving the train I explored the empty airport before entering the secure gate area.
This end of the airport felt abandoned and was incredibly quiet.
After exploring for a few minutes I returned to the gate. Before entering the gate area I was required to clear the additional security checkpoint for all US bound departures.
Additional Security Screening At The Gate
During my travels the United States implemented yet another electronics ban.
This time around the US required additional screening for all carry-on electronic devices larger than a phone. Once screened, security staff placed the electronic devices in question into a sealed duty-free bag. Passengers were not allowed to open the sealed bags until they reached their final destinations.
After completing the additional electronics screening I moved towards the security check point. On US bound flights, security personnel required all passengers to pass through metal detectors and have their bags scanned.
In addition to the required screening, I had an extra SSSpecial SSSSurprise in store when I tried to clear security. Apparently someone didn’t appreciate my around the world travels quite as much as I did. As a result, I found the dreaded “SSSS” stamped across my boarding card.
Since I had the SSSS stamp on my boarding card my bags and my person were subject to an additional screening. The security agent opened and emptied my carry-on bags before wiping them down with a hazardous materials detection swab. I then had to re-pack my carry on baggage. While the security staff checked my bags I was asked a series of questions and received an extra SSSSpecial pat down. This pat down wasn’t quite as aggressive as the one I received prior to my flight to New York, but nonetheless the security agent touched every part of my body before allowing me to pass.
Boarding My Qatar Airways 777 Business Class Flight To Chicago
After the somewhat intrusive security screening I took my seat in the secure gate waiting area. As with all gates in the Doha Airport, gate agents scan your boarding card away from the gate boarding door. Once the gate agent scans your boarding card you enter a secure gate area to wait. You aren’t able to leave the gate waiting area once inside unless you’re willing to go through the entire security process again.
After a short wait the gate agents opened the boarding door and requested all business class passengers and passengers needing extra assistance board the aircraft. As I passed through the gate entrance I received my first view of the 777-300ER that would take me home.
After passing through the gate entrance all passengers entered a large two-story gate area.
At the far end of this area were two jet bridge doors. The door to the left was for first and business class passengers while the second door was for economy class passengers.
The business class boarding door directs premium cabin passengers down the jet bridge to the L1 boarding door. The L1 boarding door is located toward the front of the aircraft.
As I boarded the aircraft an extremely welcoming flight attendant directed me to my seat. Since I was traveling alone I chose seat 7F which is an aisle seat located in the aft business class cabin.
Qatar Airways 777-300ER Business Class Cabin
A metallic Oryx greats each passenger as they board the aircraft.
I was seated in the aft business class cabin which only features three rows of seats in a 2-2-2 arrangement. The below photo is of the forward business class cabin, but gives you an idea of what to expect from either section of business class.
The aft business class cabin felt much more intimate with only 3 rows of business class. A crew galley and set of lavatories separates the two business class cabins.
The cabin features massive overhead bins throughout. Both the aisle and center overhead bins were large enough to store my full size carry on bag.
Since the cabin was just 3/4 of the way full nearly every passenger had an entire overhead bin to themselves.
As I settled into my seat I greatly appreciated the number of windows available to passengers on either side of the aircraft. I often feel slightly claustrophobic when sitting in the middle section of the aircraft.
Qatar Airways 777 Business Class Seat
As I arrived at my seat I found an extremely spacious seat albeit dated seat. Prior to boarding the aircraft the flight attendants placed a pillow, plastic wrapped blanket, and sealed bottle of water at each seat.
The old Qatar Airways 777 business class cabin may look dated, but it’s actually the most spacious business class seat you’ll find in their fleet today. However, since the seats are so spacious they lack the privacy many have come to expect in more modern business class cabins. You’re completely exposed when sitting or sleeping in any of the aisle seats.
The window seats offer passengers more privacy, but you’re also trapped by the person next to you if they choose to sleep. I personally avoid window or aisle seats in a 2-2-2 layout so I don’t have to climb over anyone to use the restroom or worse, get woken up by my seat mate when they need to get up.
In between the two business class seats is a large central divider. Toward the front of the seat is a fixed table which is large enough for two or more drink glasses. Farther back, toward the seat back are two movable tray tables which slide out into each seat.
You can open these sliding trays by pressing the small silver button next to the table. When you open each compartment you’ll find a cupholder with a fresh bottle of water for each passenger.
Qatar Airways 777 Business Class Seat Storage
Speaking of storage, one thing I loved about the Qatar Airways 777 business class seat was the amount of storage immediately available. In addition to the water bottle storage areas, there are two other storage compartments next to your legs when you sit down. The first compartment is very near the seat back and is just large enough to fit a mobile phone or a headphone case.
This compartment also features the Oryx One headphone outlet, a USB charging port, and a phone cable input which highlights the age of the seat.
The forward seat storage pocket is much larger. This area had enough room for a book or two and a tablet. You’re not supposed to store tablets or laptops in this compartment during taxi, takeoff, or landing.
There is also a ton of storage in the seat back in front of you. Under the seat is a large storage compartment where you’ll find a mattress pad. Upon request the flight attendant will unwrap the mattress pad and turn your seat into a true bed.
Next to the large compartment are two long compartments which were best used for shoe storage. You’ll find your in-flight slippers in these compartments when you arrive at your seat. Just above the shoe storage compartments were two tall compartments which house the aircraft safety card, the in-flight magazines, and the Qatar Airways noise canceling headphones for the Oryx One entertainment system.
Qatar Airways 777 Business Oryx One Entertainment System
In the center armrest you’ll find the remote which controls the Oryx One entertainment system. This remote also features the flight attendant call button and the overhead reading light button.
On the reverse side of the remote was a full QWERTY keyboard and gaming controls.
The Oryx One screen is located on the back of the seat in front of you and is touch sensitive. However, the screen is much to far to reach while seated so you must use the remote to navigate the Oryx One system.
Oryx One is Qatar Airways’ proprietary entertainment system. Qatar loads the system with thousands of hours of feature films, tv programs, music, and games. There is more than enough programing to keep you entertained throughout a 13.5 hour flight. The Oryx One system is especially valuable on the 777 as the aircraft lacks in-flight WiFi.
Qatar Airways 777 Business Class Seat Controls
Located on the aisle or outer armrest of the business class seat are the seat’s controls. The seat moves between a completely upright position all the way to a lie-flat position. As the seat reclines, the aisle armrest also lowers until completely lowered to the same level as the lie-flat bed.
Although the seat controls look confusing, there are really only a few buttons you need to worry about. Essentially, the only buttons you actually need to use are the large buttons encircled in purple. Pressing and holding these buttons for three seconds automatically moves the seat into these pre-programmed positions. You can use the other buttons to make smaller adjustments to the seat, however I didn’t find the buttons incredibly useful.
The only buttons that I found somewhat useful were the wavy buttons with the “+ and -” buttons beneath them. These wavy buttons activate the seat vibration settings. Surprisingly, the 777 business class seat vibrates which I found somewhat relaxing as I tried to fall asleep. While sitting I found the vibrating seat somewhat annoying.
An individual reading lamp is found between the two seats. Just below the reading light is a button which you’ll find incredibly useful when sleeping.
These buttons move the seat from a full lie-flat bed into either the reclined or upright positions. The buttons are easy to see when in the lie-flat position which isn’t the case with the armrest controls.
Qatar Airways 777 Business Class Pre-Departure Services
After familiarizing myself with the seat I sat down and strapped in for the 13.5 hour flight to Chicago. A few moments later the flight attendant stopped by my seat to drop off a Bric’s amenity kit. Flight attendants handed men a navy blue kit while women received a bright yellow kit.
Inside the amenity kit were a few items designed to make the flight more enjoyable. There was a pair of in-flight socks, a Qatar Airways branded eye mask, and a pair of ear plugs. There were also assorted beauty products from Monte Vibiano which included lip balm, city cream, and a facial mist.
While distributing the amenity kits the flight attendant also took pre-departure beverage orders. I requested a glass of the Lanson Brut Rosé champagne and a hot towel which arrived a few moments later.
When the flight attendant returned to retrieve my empty champagne glass and towel she also distributed a pair of Qatar Airways branded pajamas.
A few minutes later the flight attendants took their seats and we began our takeoff roll. After a somewhat long takeoff roll we were climbing out of Doha and heading west for Chicago.
Qatar Airways In-Flight Dining Menus
Shortly after takeoff the flight attendant returned with the business class in-flight menus. There are two menus, the first menu is exclusively for wine and alcoholic beverages while the second included dining options and non-alcoholic beverages.
Inside each menu was a short inscription which described the dine on demand concept used by Qatar Airways and a note which welcomed passengers to the onboard dining experience.
In the back of the wine menu was a list of cocktails and spirits.
Our flight left early in the morning so our menu was setup to feature breakfast first which was followed by a lighter dinner menu.
Toward the back of the dining menu was a list of mocktails, teas, and cofees available on the flight.
Qatar Airways 777 Business Class Dine On Demand Dinner Service
Although the flight departed in the morning I was already on Chicago time. While the menu suggested passengers begin with breakfast, I opted to begin with dinner. After placing my meal order the flight attendant returned to my seat to prepare my tray able for dining.
The tray table on the 777 is quite large and cleverly folds out from below the center armrest. The only downside to such a clever tray table design is that once it’s opened, you’re stuck in your seat for the duration of the meal service.
A short while later the flight attendant returned to my seat with a table-cloth, a bowl of fresh breads, salt and pepper shakers, and a pad of butter. She again returned a short while later with my first dish, the Classic Arabic Messe appetizer.
The Arabic Messe was fantastic as always. I wish this dish featured more muhammara (red bowl) as it is truly delicious. After finishing the Messe the flight attendant returned to take my empty dish and replace it with my main course, the grilled filet of beef with creamy peppercorn sauce.
Airlines tend to overcook meat dishes, but thankfully the crew cooked the filet perfectly. After finishing my entrée I, of course, ordered dessert which was a white chocolate and mango mousse cake.
After finishing my dessert the flight attendant again returned to my seat to retrieve my empty plate and the remaining service items. She then folded and stored my tray table. I then sat back an enjoyed a nice post-meal slumber.
Qatar Airways 777 Business Class Dine On Demand Breakfast Service
Before falling asleep, I requested my breakfast service to begin approximately two hours before landing. Sure enough, two hours before arrival, the flight attendant returned to my seat to begin the breakfast meal service. Since I had eaten quite a bit in the lounge before the flight and my dinner service was quite filling I ordered a fairly light breakfast.
As with all meals in Qatar Airways business class, the meal began when the flight attendants prepared my tray table for a meal. She began by opening the tray table and putting down a table-cloth. Next, she returned to my seat with a bowl of fresh breakfast breads, salt and paper shakers, and a pad of butter. Like clockwork, every single business class meal begins with these preparations.
A short while later the flight attendant returned to my seat with my first breakfast dish, a bowl of greek yogurt.
After finishing the greek yogurt, my second breakfast dish, a smoked turkey and beef pastrami dish with cheese arrived.
After finishing these two breakfast dishes it was nearly time to land. The flight attendant promptly cleared my plates and stowed my tray table so that I could access the lavatory to change out of my pajamas and into my own clothes.
Qatar Airways 777 Business Class Lavatory
What would a plane review be without a proper review of the aircraft lavatory? The lavatories on the Qatar Airways 777 aren’t especially attractive, but are much nicer than a traditional economy class airline lavatory.
Between each use the Qatar Airways staff would go in to the lavatory to tidy up. They’d wipe down the sink basin and make sure there were plenty of amenities on the counter.
Next to the sink were a variety of dental and shaving kits, soaps, and lotions. One thing that frustrated me with this and all Qatar Airways flights was the lack of paper towels. Instead of thick paper towels the lavatories on all my Qatar Airways flights only offered tissue paper. The issue here being that the paper had a tendency to fall apart when pulled with wet hands.
As you can see the business class lavatory was quite spacious. There was plenty of room to change in and out of pajamas without pulling a “Tommy Boy.”
Arriving At Chicago O’Hare International
We landed in Chicago on a snowy Friday afternoon. I personally loved seeing snowflakes after spending a week in various destinations with 90 degree heat.
After exiting the aircraft I proceeded to the congested customs hall of Chicago O’Hare Airport’s international terminal. I don’t have global entry, but instead I had another ace up my sleeve. When traveling internationally I use the incredible Mobile Passport App. When I landed I filled out the DHS questionnaire and submitted my arrival information. I was then given a QR code to scan at the customs agent’s terminal. With Mobile Passport you’re able to skip the lines much like you’re able to do with Global Entry. However, Mobile Passport is a free app that is available to all US passport holders!
After a few minutes I had made it through customs and the international baggage claim and was on my way to hail a cab back into the city.
My Impressions Of The Qatar Airways 777 Hard Product
While many consider the 777 to have the “worst” business class hard product in the Qatar Airways fleet today, I personally enjoyed it. As airlines try to maximize cabin density you often end up in very narrow business class seats. On the American Airlines 787 for example, the business class seat is so narrow my shoulders touched each wall when in the lie-flat position. I’m not exactly a big guy either so I can’t imagine what that a narrow seat must feel like if you’re well over 6 foot tall.
Another issue with a narrow seat is that usually your feet are restrained to a small foot well. While you can usually get comfortable laying on your back, it’s nearly impossible to sleep comfortably on your stomach.
The Qatar Airways 777 business class cabin however doesn’t have foot wells. In fact, in the lie flat position the only thing limiting your toe room is the overhead bins. This makes it incredibly easy to sleep in nearly every position imaginable in the old Qatar Airways 777 cabin. The only downside to this spacious seating arrangement is the total lack of privacy. I don’t mind the open cabin design, but I could see how people would feel uncomfortable in such an exposed seat while sleeping.
It’s worth mentioning that this cabin configuration will eventually disappear. Qatar Airways is in the process of converting their fleet 777-300ER aircraft to the new QSuites hard product. Qsuites is widely regarded as the best business class cabin flying today. I personally can’t wait to give this new hard product a try.
My Impressions Of The Qatar Airways 777 Soft Product
As far as the soft product, this flight was a perfect example of Qatar Airways’ stellar service. From the moment I boarded the aircraft I felt welcomed and well taken care off.
One of the things that stuck out about this particular crew how quickly they retrieved all the used plastic wrap. The in-flight slippers, mattress pad, blanket, and headphones were all wrapped in plastic. It’s easy to make a mess at your seat as you unwrap all of your in in flight accessories, but this crew did a phenomenal job collecting all of the used plastic nearly immediately.
Another thing that made this crew so fantastic was how proactive they were. The cabin crew constantly circulated the cabin offering awake passengers refreshments. I try to drink a lot of water when flying to avoid the dehydration that comes from an airplane cabin so the proactive beverage distribution was well received.
Lastly, the crew executed the dine on demand meal service perfectly. When ordering my flight attendant actually encouraged me to sample as many dishes as I desired from the dine on demand menu. I wasn’t hungry during my flight, but after each dish I ordered the flight attendant simply asked “are you sure you don’t want anything else?” I never once felt like an annoyance to the cabin crew and they were absolutely lovely throughout the flight. This crew set the standard of what you can expect from Qatar Airways business class across the airlines’ fleet.
This flight was absolutely perfect from start to finish. Sure, the additional screening for all US bound flights was a little ridiculous and I wasn’t happy about my SSSSpecial SSSSurprise, but it’s hard to argue against added security these days.
While the 777-300ER’s hard product is a far cry from the updated cabins of Qatar’s A350, A380, 787, and new 777’s I still really enjoyed my flight. I liked how spacious this seat felt compared to the more confined business class products offered today. My cabin crew on this flight was again excellent. I don’t have a single negative thing to say about the service on this flight.
One thing I found interesting about this flight was how I felt at the end of it. After 13.5 hours in the 77W I felt dehydrated and groggy. I had not felt like that after my 13 hour A350 flights. Aircraft manufacturers consistently say how newer aircraft are designed to make passengers feel better after long flights and I’m beginning to think there is some validity to these claims. I felt fantastic after my A380 flight to Asia and my A350 flights to and from the United States, but I felt terrible after this flight. My eyes were dried out, my throat was sore, and I was simply in a daze. Perhaps in the future I’ll try to avoid the 77W.