QATAR AIRWAYS A340-600 ECONOMY CLASS FLIGHT REVIEW BASICS:
On a recent trip to the Middle East, I had to take a flight from Dubai (DXB) to Doha (DOH). While the flight distance is only around 235 miles, with flight times rarely more than one hour, there is a surprisingly large selection of flight options. These range from low-cost carriers such as Fly Dubai right through to the full service options of Emirates and Qatar Airways.
As I had never flown Qatar Airways before, I thought I would give them a go, especially given all the hype about them being a five-star airline. Qatar runs many flights per day between the two cities, and they pretty much utilize their entire fleet on the route from A319/A320s right through to Boeing 777-300ERs. The type that excited me the most, however, was the Airbus A340-600, a type normally used more for ultra-long-haul 14+ hour flights rather than hot hops across the Arabian Gulf.
I arrived at Dubai Airport Terminal One a little over two hours prior to departure. Having now experienced all three passenger terminals at Dubai Airport, I must say T1 is the worst by far. While the terminal is functional, the demand for the terminal far outweighs its capacity. It took me one hour, yes one hour, to get from the check-in desks to my departure gate. Most of this time was spent waiting in the line for outbound immigration. It was not that there were not enough desks open – in fact they were all open – but there were just too many passengers to process at the time.
When I arrived at my gate, I was delighted to see the scheduled A340-600. Apparently Qatar Airways has a tendency of substituting to smaller aircraft last-minute for the Dubai flights when the seat factor is low. Luckily, this did not occur for me, despite the light load of only 65 passengers, due to the inbound flight having a healthier seat factor, thus justifying the use of the A346.
Once on-board, I was warmly welcomed by the crew members who almost outnumbered the passengers in my cabin section. Prior to departure, moist towels and boiled candy was handed out — this was very impressive and a sure sign Qatar is ahead of the competition, even in the economy class cabin.
Despite our light load, there was no spirited take-off from our A340-600. Aside from the shorter take-off roll, you would not notice the difference versus a fully-loaded flight. The climb out was also as equally unimpressive and in true A340 fashion it was very, very slow.
Flight time was announced by the captain as being 45 minutes — I was not expecting much in terms of service on a flight of this length. I was very surprised, then, to see the cabin crew begin the service with first a drinks run of water/juice. They were then followed by a warm snack of chicken shawarma calzone and almond cake along with more drinks, and finally a third drinks run to conclude the service. I have been served less on a five-hour transcontinental flight, let alone a 45-minute hop!
I was positively impressed by this experience, although it would be interesting to see how the crew would cope with a full load of close to 300 passengers as opposed to just the 45 flying in economy. While the crew only served water/juice/tea and coffee from the service carts, it was possible to order other beverages which were brought from the galley (this included beer, wine, and spirits, as well as soft drinks).
Arrival into Hamad International Airport, Doha was on-time, and I was out of the airport in 15 minutes. This airport is the complete opposite of Dubai, whereby the capacity at the present time far outweighs demand. The airport management has also mentioned that even for the upcoming 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the airport will still have excess capacity.
Overall, Qatar Airways truly delivered a five-star product even on the shortest flights within their network. I look forward to trying them out on the longer routes in the future and perhaps even on the improved A350.