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Flight Review: Taking Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350 Delivery Flight to Doha

Qatar's first Airbus A350 at Toulouse, ready to fly to Doha - Photo: Chris Sloan | AirwaysNews

Qatar’s first Airbus A350 at Toulouse, ready to fly to Doha – Photo: Chris Sloan | AirwaysNews

This story was written by Chris Sloan and originally published on AirwaysNews

At 9:28 PM LT on Tuesday, December 23, Qatar’s first A350 XWB landed in Doha–under the cover of darkness–with approximately 70 Qatar employees, VIP’s and media on-board the delivery flight from Toulouse, France.

On Monday, Airbus handed over the first A350 XWB to launch customer Qatar Airways, and shortly after taking delivery of the aircraft, several executives and more than a hundred members of the media flew on a short demonstration flight over the Mediterranean.

The Qatar A350 Bar. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / JDL Multimedia

The Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350 bar – Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren | JDL Multimedia

The delivery flight to Doha would be operated as a normal commercial scheduled flight, but just with fewer people then typical. Business Class was full while approximately ten passengers–who were all employees of Qatar–would have the two economy cabins to themselves.

A Business Class Seat on the A350. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / JDL Multimedia.

A Business Class seat on the Airbus A350 – Photo:  Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren | JDL Multimedia

As much as I was anticipating experiencing the Airbus A350 XWB in a true commercial flight, I was equally as curious in putting Qatar’s renowned SkyTrax 5-star rated Business Class, marketed and self-proclaimed as “World’s Best Business Class,” to the test. Burning questions include: Would it live up to all the hype and marketing expectations? Is it truly a First Class product at a Business Class price? Is the Airbus A350XWB cabin truly an “eXtra Wide Body” experience in the same league as its 787 competitor from Everett?

Continue reading Flight Review: Taking Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350 Delivery Flight to Doha on AirwaysNews.com

Taking the Inaugural Bangkok A380 Flight on Qatar Airways

The Qatar First Class product on the A380. For our flight, there were no First Class Passengers

Qatar First Class product on the A380. For our flight, there were no First Class passengers.

The more that I fly the Airbus A380, the more I like the aircraft — as a passenger, but I am not so sure as an AvGeek. It is so smooth during take-off and landing, one might not even realize that they happened. Turbulence is mostly absorbed by the jumbo jet, making the flight smooth. The windows and walls are so thick, the aircraft stays quiet and passengers are removed from the flying experience.

As an AvGeek, these are some of the reasons why I am not a huge fan of the A380. I want to feel the take-off, I enjoy a little turbulence, and I want to stay connected to the entire flight experience. But this doesn’t mean I cannot enjoy an A380 flight, especially when it is on a Qatar Airways aircraft with an impressive on-board product.

Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 in flight - Photo: Clément Alloing | Flickr CC

Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380 in flight – Photo: Clément Alloing | Flickr CC

Recently, I was invited to participate in the inaugural Qatar A380 flight from Bangkok to Doha, and who am I to refuse? Overall, it was an amazing flight, but I wished it was a bit longer — it was only about six hours.

One of the biggest disappointments I had regarding the flight was not being able to get an exterior shot of the A380. And believe it or not, that was partially due to both Bangkok and Doha airports being designed where photos are hard to get, and also because of the King of Thailand.

Continue reading Taking the Inaugural Bangkok A380 Flight on Qatar Airways

Exploring Qatar: A Tour of the New Doha International Airport

Imagine back to 2003 when the preparations for the Summer Olympics in Athens were underway. It was time that the Bush Campaign was back in full swing, the Concorde made its last revenue flight and it was also the same year that the Qatar government was developing the master plan for their new airport: Doha International Airport (DOH).  The airport has come a long way since then and is close to being fully complete.

Currently Doha Airport has no jet bridges and every single guest, no matter the class of ticket held,  is bused to the gate.  This isn’t the most efficient and means long minimum connect times, but it is only temporary.

The Outside of the New Doha International Airport – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com

The airport was scheduled to be fully operational later in 2013, but there have been construction delays and the official opening has been pushed back.

At present the terminal is approximately 97% complete, the runways are ready for use and most of the major infrastructure is complete. I had the opportunity to tour the facility and if you just cleaned the dust away, you would have an almost fully operating airport — you just wouldn’t be able to shop or eat just yet.

Going on a tour of the New Doha International Airport at the moment means dressing like a construction worker – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com

The airport is built to accommodate 24 million passengers a year. The airport has 17 million meters (roughly 10,000 miles) of electrical cabling, 9000 phones, 3800 parking spots, two runways (which will allow 100 aircraft movements an hour), a cargo facility (able to handle 1.4 million tons of cargo annually) and a catering facility capable of  preparing 90,000 meals per day.  This is a huge investment for a relatively small nation in the Middle East.

With design elements taken from two world leading airports (Singapore Changi and Hong Kong Chep Lap Kok), DOH will be an amazing new facility that will allow the passengers to have a world leading experience.  Inside the terminal will be 25,000 square meters of retail, food and beverage space allowing travelers to get their shopping fix or grab a meal at a number of outlets between connections.

You should have ample time to go shopping at DOH. The new airport is designed to allow a 30 minute connection between flights; including the time required to disembark and re-board your next flight.  This is a staggering figure and one that is going to be a true test.  To compare, most professionals suggest you have almost four hours to connect between flights at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

What Airport in the Middle East would not be complete without a Mosque and this one a Fine Example - Photo: Mal Muir airlinereporter.com

What Airport in the Middle East would not be complete without a Mosque and this one a Fine Example – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com

Qatar is a Muslim country, where a high majority of its travelers and workers are of Muslim faith.  This means that you would need some form of prayer facilities for them as the call to prayer happens five times a day (and is a good sign when you can hear it, that you know you’re in the middle east).  Right outside the main entrance to the airport facility is one of the most staggeringly beautiful Mosques I have seen.

The airport also offers a new cargo terminal and a new maintenance facility for Qatar Airways.  This impressively large building was essentially raised in one piece from the ground up and is so large that it can accommodate eight wide bodied aircraft at any one time.

The Amiri Terminal at the New Doha International Airport - Photo: Mal Muir airlinereporter.com

The Amiri Terminal at the New Doha International Airport – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com

What would Qatar’s new airport be without somewhere for the Amir of Qatar to spend some time?  He has to hop on board his “unconfirmed” 747-8I at some point right?  So the airport design also includes a new Amiri Terminal.  Again another stunningly beautiful facility, surrounded by water and palm trees.

There are many other VIPs who are expected to visit the airport and many of them have come to expect red carpet treatment.  Obviously it would take quite a bit of work to roll out a red carpet upon each arrival and departure, so the designers came up with a novel idea.  They created an air bridge that allows anyone to step off their aircraft onto a red carpet and right into a greeting ceremony.

No matter the height of the aircraft, it can be accommodated (although after clarification, they weren’t sure if it was A380 capable, but it is definitely 747 capable).  Not even a single step is required. Although it doesn’t look as cool, stepping off waving to the crowd then coming down your steps to the awaiting band, and yes there is a band stand there as well.

All of this high level of service is just the beginning. The airport has already been signed to expand further, adding more terminals, railway stations, metro links, and more facilities. DOH is expected to double in capacity in time for the 2022 Soccer World Cup to be held in Qatar.  Given all of this, this will truly be a fantastic new airport.

Disclaimer: Qatar Airways paid for the trip to Qatar, all opinions are my own.
This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.

@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos

Exploring Qatar: A Tour of Qatar Executive Jet

Three of the Qatar Executive Jet Fleet, The Challenger 605 and Global 5000 – Photo: Qatar Executive Jet

Qatar Airways already has a pretty good product on their long haul and short haul fleets. A premium ticket will give passengers access to a VIP terminal, delicious cuisine, amazing crew and of course those comfy seats and amenities.  But how can you top that?  Well what about the ability to come and go when you want, fly where you want and even eat or drink what you want on-board your own private jet?  Enter Qatar Executive Jet:  A premium airline within an airline.

Only one other airline in the world has a wholly owned executive jet fleet and that is Delta Air Lines.  The next closest is Lufthansa who uses NetJets Europe for their private jet flights and even Singapore Airlines has a working relationship with JetSuite.  But there is no one in the Middle East/Eastern Europe that offers an executive jet fleet with the facilities and access of a major carrier, like Qatar Airways.

A Qatar Executive Jet Challenger 605 at Doha International Airport – Photo: Mal Muir airlinereporter.com

Qatar Executive Jet is based out of Doha International Airport where they have a small hangar next door to the Qatar Amiri Fleet facility.  They currently operate a fleet of six aircraft: 2 Bombardier Global 5000’s, 1 Global Express XRS & 3 Challenger 605’s.  They offer 24/7, on-demand service, with the ability to go from booking, to flying in as little as four hours — not too shabby.

Qatar Executive can also be hired for charter work and if the six aircraft in the fleet are not large enough, you can also get access to the Qatar Airways main fleet.

The Interior of the Challenger 605 as it is being readied for a Flight – Photo: Mal Muir airlinereporter.com

I was lucky enough to access the ramp and hangars while in Doha on a quiet Saturday morning.  Unfortunately only one aircraft was available. We had only a very short window to tour the Challenger 605, since it was being serviced ready for a flight to Mauritius — wish I could have joined.  Even though the 605 looks small on the outside (it is almost 20 feet shorter than its CRJ200 sibling), it is incredibly spacious on the inside. With the ability to turn its seats into two single beds and a double bed along with the sofa… it makes it the perfect size for a few couples heading off somewhere exotic.

Big comfortable leather seats, designer amenities, food and drinks of your choice (McDonald’s anyone?), an amazingly immaculate interior, personal crew and in-flight connectivity all add to ideal you are not an average citizen. Also, smoke ’em if you have ’em.  For the smokers out there, you can smoke your favorite Cuban, without a problem. They will even light it for you.

A Comfortable Leather Seat onboard the Challenger 605 – Photo: Mal Muir airlinereporter.com

With only six aircraft in the fleet, Qatar Executive Jet still managed to win Best Business Aviation Operator of the Year 2012.  Surely this shows that for a small airline that has been around for just three years, it was a smart business decision.  All those little touches and the knowledge that the Executive Jet service is backed by the main airline makes it a sure fire winner in the private jet arena.  Now that is the way to travel right?

Disclaimer: Qatar Airways paid for the trip to Qatar, all opinions are my own.

This story written by…

Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.

@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos