A few days before departing for Warsaw, I had a stark realization – I actually had no reason to be in Poland other than a milage run. Polish Christmas is not what we are familiar with here in North America. Indeed, the idea of potentially-radioactive Belorussian carp as my main feast for such a joyous occasion caused me some dismay. I admit, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Poland (including two great military and aviation museums) – just not on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Both days, the entire country – including the trains – more or less grinds to a halt.
Now, I could have spent a couple of days in a hotel in downtown Warsaw, and maybe gone shopping before my return home. But practicality is not, and never will be, how I solve problems. My original goal was to fly on Biman’s DC-10 from Kuala Lumpur back to Dacca, but I couldn’t make the times work. After a call with my usual travel agent (who has come to understand that I have a flare for the weird), I discovered that I could, within the window of my original British Airways fare to and from Poland go on a day trip to Singapore! I also had another goal – could I do it for a similar cost to a week of peak rate hotel time at a luxury hotel in Warsaw? Thanks to Polish currency (3 Zloty =1 USD) I could, and what an itinerary I booked!
We at AirlineReporter have always been fans of Qatar Airways; it was high time I found out what the fuss was about, starting with their Airbus narrow-body fleet. To say the least, I was excited. I had heard nothing but great things about Qatar’s business class from our other staff members. I am, probably, the harshest and most pedantic critic on the AirlineReporter staff. If you are already bored of the article, I can summarize my experience with QR in one word. AMAZING! If you are interested in why, please do continue.
I had expected Warsaw’s Frederic Chopin International Airport to be something like an Omega Man scenario. It was not a busy day, and I was surprised not to be the only one wandering around the facilities.
Security in Poland is a joke. Their restrictions make anything you’d ever have to say about the TSA seem like insolent whining. Not only did I have to remove all my camera gear (on top of the usual laptop + 311 bag) I even had to remove my toothbrush! Also, for no specific reason, I was “randomly” selected for additional screening – probably for having the audacity to carry a toothbrush and an external hard drive in my carry on.
Customs was also less relaxed than normal. I don’t presume this was because of anything I did, I just imagine that, even with overtime pay, most of the staff would rather have been with their families on Christmas. It may also have been a problem that I have forgotten most of my Polish in lieu of Russian – and due to history – I assumed speaking Russian might be a bad idea.
Once I was finally through the language barrier, I made my way to the contracted lounge in the “non-schengen” portion of the airport. It is not much to write home about, but it has free wifi and a great view of the ramp! It also had a generous amount of Polish sweets.
One does not, however, fly Qatar for their outstation contract lounges. One flies QR because, in terms of service and product consistency, they compete for the best of the big three in the Gulf.
My first leg was on an A320-232. From the looks of the cabin, I assume it was brand-new, or at least under two years old. According to numerous sources, the best business-class seats on the narrowbody Airbus fleet are in row 2. I despise bulkhead seats, and it seems that Qatar Airways may on some level concur with my view. These seats are often blocked out unless the cabin is totally sold out. Row three has full recline, but I believe it has a fraction of an inch less of seat pitch. Not that I would’ve noticed (for long), but I had been observing the seat map closely to see if anyone else was as crazy as to fly on Christmas eve as I was and wanted to ensure I had the best seat possible.
The seats themselves are extremely comfortable. They may look like a domestic business class seat on many other airlines, but I assure you the only similarities are only cosmetic. Qatar’s “narrowbody” business class boasts 165 degrees of recline, two separate foot and leg rests, and even variable massage functions.
Upon a quick perusal of the drinks menu, I discovered a French sparkling grape juice that undergoes no fermentation. Perfect for me, as I’m unable to consume alcohol! It is an impressive beverage with a complex, champagne-like flavor and just the right amount of bubbles. I think I drank an entire bottle over the course of the flight.
Takeoff was a shorter roll than I expected – I would soon learn that because tailwinds were working in our favor groundspeed would rise above 540kts. The IAE V2527-A5 have a very nice Rolls-Royce-like buzzsaw note to them at higher RPM, so I was rather sad I did not get to hear it for long.
Qatar Airways’ Business Class has incorporated many features from other airlines’ first class products. The first one I encountered was the ability to dine on demand. Starving, I opted to as soon as it was legal to commence. I apologize for the lack of photos, but sometimes I forget I am supposed to be doing my job when I am hungry.
Long story short, I started with some of the best pierogy and sour cream I have ever tasted. I ate the entire aircraft’s stock. I am still trying to figure out the sweet finish on the sauce. Then I moved to the vegetable and barley soup. It was hearty and, even at 34,000 feet, perfectly seasoned. Finally, I had the apple walnut cake with creme fraiche; my one complaint about Qatar catering is the lack of chocolate dessert options. The flavors were deep and complex, the cake was neither too moist nor too dry, the apple compote was surprisingly springy. Flawless execution – just not my cup of tea. Did I mention that Qatar Airways has an extensive tea selection? I cannot just congratulate Qatar on their skills, but also Warsaw’s local catering by Do&Co. Fabulous work.
For the rest of the flight I continued to watch 2013’s best movie, Pacific Rim, and then passed out due to extreme jet lag.
Upon landing in Doha, it was time to pull out my purple folder to illustrate that I was heading to the Premium Terminal. My coworker had already done an extensive look at that facility, so I used this as an opportunity to fill myself with pastry and check my email until my flight to Singapore.
A7-BAS would be my ride to Singapore. A 24-J high-capacity aircraft. At this point, I was so tired that I decided to skip the late night indulgence (it was 2:00am) and go to bed. When I awoke few hours later, It was time for “breakfast” (my clock was distorted) – I opted for the traditional chicken sausage and omelet. Top quality. So too was the signature Nobu fruitplate.
Landing was a little bumpy as our captain had informed us that we would start passing by lines of towering cumulus starting near the border of Thailand and Malaysia, but it was not as bad as I had expected. Upon deplaning and clearing customs in Singapore Changi’s T3, I made my way to AirlineReporter’s usual Singapore hotel- the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport.
So, what does one do with a day in Singapore? Well, again, many people on the team have done the exact same thing. So I had to do something equally entertaining while still having time to get to my favorite chicken rice stall at the Maxwell Hawker Center.
It turns out that the Air Force Museum at Paya Labar is worth visiting. Especially because the curators are considerate enough to put the full serial numbers of every aircraft on display right on the information placards, so no searching!
After gorging myself on chicken rice, it was time to take a taxi back to Changi.
In Singapore, Qatar uses the Dnata lounge in Terminal 3, which they share with Garuda Indonesia. I was not hungry and was more excited about Qatari catering, so I took a shower instead. Would I call it a lounge to write home about? No. Then again, the Premium Terminal had ruined me.
Back on A7-BAS, with the same captain and other flight deck crew no less, I was greeted with more pajamas and So Jennie.
Out of all other entertainment options, I decided to watch World War Z – it was a mistake, but I did not want to pass out before dinner.
I had the duck confit with onion ragout, a chicken kway tow noodle soup, the braised beef noodle, but no desert due to tiredness. As the cabin was pitch-black, there was no easy way to take photos without annoying everyone.
Sleeping for roughly seven of the eight hours on the flight to Doha, I landed wide awake.
Much to the confusion of those greeting me at the airport, I professed I had no interest in sleeping. From there, I was given a tour and an (unused) nap room in the first class lounge.
The lounge is extremely impressive. It boasts a hot tub and adjacent sauna, two massage parlors, showers… you name it.
After exiting my nap room, I grabbed a nicely-sized breakfast and giant pile of pastries, and then waited for an attendant to tell me to head to the gate to catch my flight back to Warsaw.
There was a problem with that flight, though. It seems as if a loadsheet had gone missing. Most airlines would take hours to fix that, or at least pretend they’d need hours. Qatar Airways had us good to go with only a tiny twenty-minute delay.
After take off, I tucked into my almond milk smoothie and reclined my seat. I then noticed I was too far back from my tray table; ordinarily, no problem, but my seat would not come back up!
Again, a quick-thinking Qatar Airways crew was able to solve my problem and, after take off, moved me to the seat across the aisle.
Breakfast began with a traditional plate of cold mezze. Various forms of arabic cheese, labneh, and bread. Very well done.
I then moved to the Bombay Omelette. Imagine a vegetable korma in omelette form. It was delicious.
After that, I had a nice pot of Ceylon Spice Chai and became sad that I would no longer have any more Qatar Airways flights for a while.
In conclusion – if you need to go to Asia from the U.S. east coast, Africa, or Europe in business class – you need to fly Qatar, or you are seriously missing out.
I have never had better flights.