Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Qatar famil, Day One - It actually really was the business!

With thanks to Qatar Airways for this trip
Normally, when you turn up to the airport to start a famil, and there's a hiccup at the check-in desk, it's not a good start - but today it really was. Arriving a bit grumpily for my flight with Qatar Airways to Doha, resigned after having had the golden enticement of travelling in the airline's new and enticing QSuite business class whisked away in a brief email just yesterday, I stood in the queue for ordinary business class and tried to remember to be grateful for that. And straight away, payback! A Qatar lady pulled me out of even that short queue to deliver the news that yes, in fact this was a plane with QSuite fitted, come and check in over here, and get your pass to the lounge. Result!

It was only the Qantas lounge, but it had everything I needed, I met my two other famil companions, one of whom was at school with my daughters - no, I don't feel old, why do you ask - and after some useful charging time (new camera!) we were escorted onto the plane ahead of the other passengers, to have a quick once-over. 
For the airline of a dry country, there was a lot of wine. The colour, that is, which combined with grey, gave a muted and sophisticated air to the d├ęcor. A glance back down the plane at economy showed rows of seats in 3:4:3 on this Boeing 777-300ER - very standard, nothing enticing about that. But QSuite - now that is the business. 
Single seats on the sides, alternately rear-facing; and in the middle, what they understandably boast about: sets of four seats that, with some sliding of partitions, means that you can sit facing each other to work or socialise, in virtual privacy thanks to the doors that slide across along the aisles. Clever. And yet everyone in the foursome still has their own space, TV screen and multiple stowage places, and the option when desired to pull the screens back across again for total isolation. Even more remarkably, it's possible to create an actual double bed in one half of the quartet - the only one in the world outside actual first class. (This does not enable a cushy entry to the Mile High Club, note: you're both still meant to wear your seatbelts at all times; and the walls are only chest-high, so anyone can peep over, any time.)
Of course I didn't want any of that, so I had a window seat, facing backwards for a novelty - which I then had to give up for someone who wanted to sit alongside her friends, pft, and ended up sitting facing forwards and not quite next to the window, though I could see out of it if I leaned over a bit. Still, there were lots of good things to explore and enjoy - multiple seat positions, lots of nooks for gear stowage, a cute little pillow with a slogan in Arabic and English which I was told I could take with me, a set of pyjamas to change into - tracksuit, basically, but stylish - food and wine menus to peruse, the TV entertainment library to scroll through... and cheerful Sun welcoming me, leaping forward with a cry of dismay when I went to load my bag into the overhead locker by myself, and then delivering a Buck's Fizz. (Though Qatar is officially dry, you can get alcohol on the airline, and in some restaurants and hotels, and expats can buy it from the one liquor store in Doha - and they certainly aren't stingy about it on the airline).
And so we set off for our 17+ hour flight to Qatar, most of it spent crossing Australia's red and hazy Outback, and then the Indian Ocean. I ate early - asparagus soup, mezze, a spicy chicken rice dish, with champagne - got into my pjs, broke out the mattress and the plush blanket, and settled in to watch four movies and sleep, Which I did, lying completely flat and comfortable. I've had similar pod comforts on Emirates, but the sliding door is the big difference, and a very welcome one too, adding mental comfort to the physical. I really like to get into my own zone when I fly, even with a companion, and this made it literal.

We arrived at Doha in the middle of a very warm night, and were whisked through the special system they offer, which means being met off the plane and taken to a lounge while checked-in baggage is collected for you, bypassing queues for customs and immigration (we'd had the same back in Auckland), and then being escorted out to our taxi. Very smooth operation, and so lovely to skip the queues.

We did have a bit of a transport hiccup at this point, but it was soon sorted and we drove into the city along a wide, new motorway, lit by streetlights with decorative solar-powered patterning up the poles. The city was lit up too, in all colours, the buildings modern and soaring, all shapes, heaps of glittery glass and the overall effect very 21st century, and attractive.
We checked into Hotel W, all very upper and comfortable, and finally hit our soft beds at around 1.30am local time, after about 20 hours of travel. Tough life...

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