A few weeks ago, I had the chance to fly Qatar Airways on their (current) longest flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Qatar’s home hub in Doha – about 16 hours. Given all the talk about them being named a “Five Star Airline” by Skytrax, and our previous coverage of flying Qatar, I was really excited for this flight. It would be my first experience on Qatar, and it would be in business class. Unfortunately, I was let down by my experience, at least on the flight to Doha (my flight home to the states was much better at least).
I arrived at LAX via a quick domestic hop from Denver on United. Getting from one side of the airport (T7) to the other (T2) was a mess. I walked outside, on foot, as I had a long layover and it was a decent day out. While the south side of LAX is now fully connected post-security, the north side is still old-school separated.
The LAX Terminal 2 (T2). My wait started out a floor below this.
Surprisingly, Qatar flies out of the newly-renovated T2, which seems to be the terminal of bastard airlines at LAX. Hawaiian, Air Canada, Virgin Atlantic, and other low-frequency carriers are based there, as opposed to the excellent Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). Although the actual terminal is updated, getting there did not seem equipped for prime time. Even with a business class ticket, I was held at the lower level of the terminal. Once enough room cleared on the next level at the packed security checkpoint, I was allowed to take the escalator up to join the queue.
Security was an absolute mess. The older facility just wasn’t designed for modern-day TSA security. The floor was sloped towards the gates as my bag was constantly rolling off — it was pretty comical.
A6-LRE, a 777-237LR, loading up at LAX for the long flight back to Abu Dhabi – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
“That was the bulliest experience I ever had. I envy you your professional conquest of space.”
Thing is, Teddy Roosevelt never flew Etihad. Guy missed out. If a small biplane could impress our only president to ever ride a moose, I think the sheer awesomeness of Etihad would likely have left him a gibbering fool!
AirlineReporter Senior Correspondent Jacob Pfleger flew Etihad’s first class product back in the days when it was still called “Diamond First Class.” It was amazing, but with the introduction of the Facets of Abu Dhabi scheme and removal of the word diamond, Etihad has taken it even further. Out of a sense of curiosity and jealousy, a need to travel to South Africa, and a desire to best Jacob, I found a good fare from Los Angeles to Johannesburg that would let me put Etihad to the test on their longest pair of flights. I flew from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi and back, the route that Etihad purchased their 777-200LR fleet from Air India specifically to launch.
The suite was too long to fit its entirety in my 14mm lens! – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
Now, when these planes came from Air India, they were in legendary Air India style. Missing parts, missing documents, pretty much close to the axe; the aircraft were not taken care of. Worse, Air India had decided to purchase the auxiliary fuel tanks from Boeing that were necessary for their dream routes to the U.S. West Coast that will only materialize this year (maybe). Etihad and Boeing worked for months to bring these aircraft up to scratch.
However, when you get on board, there is not a trace of the old horrors and neglect that these wonderful machines faced. The result is a first class cabin that is better than both Gulfstreams I have flown on.
The extremely wide seat extends into a bed well over six feet in length. Feeling exposed? Yeah, I would be too. Even though you can’t really see any other passengers when seated, that’s not the point – you have the ability to shut your doors and have ultimate privacy. When I fly, I’d rather not see anyone but the cabin crew. Commercial flights are not about socializing for me. Etihad understands.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777-200LR – Photo: Qatar Airways
After getting the opportunity to fly on the first Qatar Airways 787 and then also flying back to the US on-board a Qatar Airways 777-200LR I wanted to be able to write a story to compare and contrast the two aircraft.
Since my Qatar Dreamliner flight back in November 2012, the 787 has run into some issues, but at least the aircraft is still flying. Both of my flights were in Business Class and both were about the same length, giving me a great opportunity to compare. Let’s break this down bit by bit…
Delta Boeing 777-200LR in Atlanta. Notice the special signature on the nose. Photo by Brandon Farris.
I recently had the opportunity to fly from Atlanta (ATL) to Los Angeles (LAX) on Delta Air Lines flight 110, that was operated by a Boeing 777-232LR. Being the AvGeek that I am and having never flown on a 777 I just couldn’t turn this opportunity down.
I hopped on a red eye out of Seattle (SEA) that got into ATL at 05:30am giving me nearly 3 hours for my connection. I believe it literally took me maybe 20 minutes to get from where my SEA plane was parked in the B gates to gate F4 where I lay eyes on N708DN, a 2009 777-232LR that would be my ride back to the west coast. This aircraft is dedicated (with a special logo on the nose) to Delta’s former CEO David C. Garrett Jr who served for the airline from 1978-1987.
Being that I was at the airport so earl,y not many shops were open yet, so I mingled around the terminal where I saw a Boeing 767-432 arrive from Rio as DL60 and an Airbus A330-323 pushed back at 06:10am and depart as DL8860 to Saint Martin which was a surprise.
Delta configures their 777’s in a 3-3-3 layout. Photo by Brandon Farris.
Gate agents finally arrived around 07:00AM for our 08:10AM departure, at this point I was assigned 53E which is literally middle middle on this aircraft as it is a 3-3-3 configuration in the coach cabin.
It finally approached time to board, but were told that there was a slight delay with the cleaning crews onboard the aircraft and boarding would begin as soon as possible. Once boarding began I waited until the very end to get on since all I had was a backpack and wouldn’t require any overhead space.
Walking down the jetway the excitement began to settle in that I was about to step foot on my first ever 777 flight even if it was domestic, it is still a 777. By the time I boarded near the end, it didn’t take very long to get to my seat near the very back of the aircraft.
The time was now 0819 and our push-back began, only 9 minutes late so not too shabby. This was the part that I was most looking forward to; that howling growl start of those amazing General Electric GE-90’s as they spool up and come to life. I heard the first one start and it was like music to my hears. I know that I had the biggest and dorkiest smile/look on my face like a 5 year old. Yes I am in love with that howl!
Delta’s Economy in-flight entertainment. Photo by Brandon Farris.
Following the push-back, we begin our taxi out. The pilot came on the intercom and alerted us that we are number five for departure, 19 minutes after departing the gate the aircraft begins to turn on the runway. I was ready to feel the full 220,000lbs of thrust but since we were so light with only going to LAX the pilots really didn’t seem to throw the throttle that high. It didn’t seem very long for us to climb to our cruise altitude of FL400 as we headed west. I must admit that this was one of the quietest cabins I have flown on at cruise.
Now, I had the opportunity to check out the seats. They seemed very wide which I absolutely loved but at the same time each row is extremely narrow to where my knees were almost in the seat in front of me (I am 6’0″). I couldn’t imagine if someone had been sitting in front of me and reclining the seat. It would have crippled my space, in a long haul flight I definitely would consider upgrading to the front cabin if possible, but luckily this was a shorter flight.
The lack of leg space however was made up for with the ability to plug my phone in to charge and a seatback TV which had a very wide array of movies to choose from including ones that had just come out on DVD last week like Life of Pi, to classics like The Goonies.
I choose Lincoln, but since I was so tired, I fell asleep about 20 minutes into it and I actually took a nap for about 3 hours. When I woke up, the cabin crew was coming through with a final beverage service. As a part of the service, they offered three choices for snacks: pretzels, peanuts or the infamous biscoff cookies. This was a welcome change as I am just used to the standard AM or PM snack depending on when my flight was.
Flying on the 777. Photo by Brandon Farris.
At this point we were now about 40 minutes out from LA so I decided to get up and stretch a little and see if I could find a window to peak out somewhere and at least get a couple of pictures and was lucky to find that the cabin doors all have windows and was able to snap away for a couple of minutes. I also took this opportunity to visit the lav to find it was surprisingly very spacious.
But now it was time for me to return to my seat as we began our descent into LAX and was a fairly smooth approach. We landed on 25L and the pilots brought us in very gently before I was able to hear the roar of that GE-90 as the thrust reversers were kicked in. Following a short taxi we parked at the gate at 0957, three minutes early even after the late push.
Deplaning was brief, only being about 15 minutes from the back of the plane. I had the opportunity to talk to the pilots and was invited to make a brief visit to the flight deck before finally leaving the aircraft.
Flight deck of the 777. Photo by Brandon Farris.
Overall for this being my first time ever flying on Delta and the Boeing 777 I was extremely impressed on both fronts. The gate agents were extremely friendly which can be rare to find, especially at 0600 and 0700 in the morning. The inflight crew was great and was willing to answer any questions I had. It was nice to see such happy and helpful employees working for Delta after I have heard mixed reviews. Now to try and test out the 777 on a longer flight.
NOTE: Brandon covered the cost of this flight on his own and it was not paid for by Delta.
||This story written by…Brandon Farris, Correspondent. Brandon is an avid aviation geek based in Seattle. He got started in Photography and Reporting back in 2010. He loves to travel where ever he has to to cover the story and try to get the best darn shot possible.
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