Qatar have been my favourite airline for over a year now. Based in the Middle Eastern kingdom of the same name, the airline has been growing aggressively adding destinations, planes and crew at a rapid pace. Along the way, they seem to have maintained their quality. The airline, has in more recent years become profitable.
Skytrax list Qatar as one of the few five star airlines in the world, along with Asiana, ANA, Cathay Pacific, Hainan, Malaysia and Singapore airlines. Surprisingly, in 2013, Skytrax gave Qatar the number two spot as airline of the year with four star gulf rival Emirates getting the top gong. Qatar was voted by Skytrax as best airline in 2011 and 2012, however.
Booking: 9 out of 10
Our choice of airline between Hanoi and Bangkok firstly, came down to price. Qatar offered the sector at a fare lower than any other carrier on the sector including Air Asia! Combined with my Qantas Gold status which gave us lounge access etc, this was an easy decision We were told that Qatar use the sector primarily for freight haulage and the passengers are almost a secondary consideration!
The Qatar.com booking engine is very easy to use. The images are clear, steps logical and process simply. The one frustration I had was that the booking engine did not seem to store my Qantas frequent flyer number. I tried to enter it a few times using the “manage my booking” function. Also, we could choose seats on line but I was unable to choose any “premium seats” (eg exit row and bulkhead).
There are no nasty surprises with insurances or fees.
Check In: 8 out of 10
On -line check in was a breeze. It is open 36 hours prior to flight and closes 90 minutes before the flight’s departure time (except for US flights where it opens 24 hours prior). Qatar offer a range of tools for your boarding pass including MMS, email or the option to print. Again the same problem with my Qantas number so I typed it in again.
Hanoi airport is 40 minutes out of the city and there is no rail link. We left plenty of time for the $12 taxi ride (you can be charged anything for this ride so negotiate carefully!).
There were almost no lines at the airport check in counters. so we waited about two minutes. The staff member who served us was very warm, courteous and helpful. My Qantas number was still not in the system. She tagged my bags “priority”, switched us to the emergency exit seats and advised us where the lounge was. More complex questions or comments threw her as her English was quite limited. As was her Arabic, interestingly enough. I was surprised, considering this is the airline’s first language and we were in the Business check in line. One assumes that a Qatar supervisor would be able to help customers with difficult problems in their native language if needed.
I normally check my boarding passes closely but for some reason I missed the fact she had put one of us in 25J and the other in 26K. Not a big issue on this empty flight but could cause grief on some sectors.
Immigration and Security: 10 out of 10
Hanoi is an old airport -the terminal was opened in 1978. Late last year, a new Lobby was opened up in the Terminal which has apparently helped already. There is a new terminal (T2) being built along with a new freeway with japanese support. This will be opened later this year, we were told.
The airport was very busy but despite this, the exit processes were surprisingly smooth. Staff were courteous and friendly. Security seemed through and the liquids/gels/water rule applied. A lot of people lost their bottles of water, at this point.
Lounge: 3 out of 10
The airport has a Vietnam Airlines Lounge for Skyteam passengers and a general lounge accessed by a large number of airlines including Qatar. The airport has a Vietnam Airlines Lounge for Skyteam passengers and a general lounge accessed by a large number of airlines including Qatar.
At the general Lounge entrance, the unsmiling attendant demanded to see our Lounge invitation. We advised her, that we had not been supplied one. She was very unhappy with us. To her credit, she let us in while taking our boarding passes and my Frequent flyer card to check with Qatar. Some lounges would throw you out first! I also asked her to follow up with the airline about our seating.
It was ten minutes before she was back. Still unsmiling, she told me there was no problem but I was not to enter her lounge without a proper Lounge Invitation again. I asked her about the seating and she told me that we were now both in the same exit row!
The lounge is not one of Qatar’s better ones! The drink selection was good, the seats comfortable and the wi-fi was fast and free. There were lots of chip like snacks, some fresh vegetables and hard boiled eggs, some dire looking sandwiches and a small amount of fresh fruit. Staff chatted amongst themselves and completely ignored the six passengers in the lounge.
I have been told it is possible to buy lounge access for $US10 from the book stall downstairs but the price may be negotiable. For a long wait it may be worth it. The airport itself is very basic and the chairs in the waiting areas are universally condemned as being very hard! If you are looking for a shower, take a breath though. The shower was very mouldy. I was not inspired to have my traditional pre flight shower!
Boarding: 10 out of 10
Boarding was late. It was very fast, however, on account of the very small number of passengers flying this sector. We were warmly welcomed at the gate, as we stepped onto the craft and by the flight attendants through the plane. Boarding was late. It was very fast, however, on account of the very small number of passengers flying this sector. We were warmly welcomed at the gate, as we stepped onto the craft and by the flight attendants through the plane.
On Board: 10 out of 10
The 777 was very new. Qatar have two layouts for their long range 777s. Both have a two class layout. On this version, there are 24 flat bed business class seats arranged 2-2-2 with a Pitch (distance between seats of 78” and width 22”. The 356 Economy seats are arranged 3-3-3 with a pitch of 33” and a width of 18.9”. Contrast that with Air Asia’s A320s on the same sector with 29” pitch and a width of 17”!
We estimated that there were less than 30 people on board this flight!
Flight attendants came around soon after boarding, with a refreshing towelette and a boiled sweet (candy). The captain introduced himself and gave the usual flight information. He then spoke once during the flight and once just before descent. His style was unusually “folksy” for Qatar airlines.
Lavatories were sparkling clean and filled with nice extras like moisturiser.
The cabin crew were very friendly and very professional. Most of our crew were from India. The attendant sitting opposite us was from Bombay and we had a fun conversation about the best places to shop in Bangkok.
Security Briefing: 10 out of 10
The briefing was taken seriously despite the light load. It consisted of a video in English with fight attendants demonstrating followed by a video in Arabic. Attendants were though with electronic equipment to be shut down, bags put away etc
After a long taxi, take off into the Vietnamese sunset was smooth.
Meals: 8 out of 10
The snack on this short sector was a basic hot savoury pie served in a cardboard box. Qatar normally serve a decent spread so I was a little surprised at the generic dullness. Perhaps a small salad with it or an ice cream for dessert?
While Air Asia will charge me, they have a decent array of snacks. We were sated by what we ate at the Lounge but others may have been more hungry?
The crew came around with another drink service but left us alone for most of the flight.
Entertainment: 10 out of 10
The Qatar entertainment system is called Oryx, after the antelope native to Qatar which is the company’s logo. It is very easy to use and responds rapidly. The system has an amazing range of movies, TV shows and music. All seats on Qatar come with a USB port so I charged my phone from Hanoi to Bangkok. B787 services and some A320s also allow in flight use of your cell phone to call and text.
We landed smoothly into a dark Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport. Another long taxi followed by a long walk through the corridors of this sprawling airport brought us to a slow immigration. Our baggage was waiting for us on the carousel.
My Flight Rating: Overall 94% (4.7 out of 5). This does not include the lounge rating! Including the lounge reduces the rating to 86%!
My Overall rating of Qatar: 100%
Skytrax: Qatar has a 5 star rating from Skytrax.Its customers give the carrier a rating of 9.1 out of 10
Positives: Crew, Entertainment, Drinks, Website
Negatives: Meals adequate but would have liked a little more
Would I fly them again? Yes, Yes, Yes
- World’s best airlines -skytrax 2013
- My Top Airlines for 2012
- Rating US airlines
- Trip report: Malaysia “five star“