A Week in the Gulf: QR J, EK J, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE
- Introduction, Planning, and Booking
- Qatar Airways JFK Check-in and British Airways Galleries Lounge Review
- Qatar Airways A350 Business Class JFK-DOH
- 24 Hours in Doha
- DOH oneworld Business Class Lounge and Qatar Airways Economy Class DOH-MCT
- Grand Hyatt Muscat Review
- MCT Plaza Premium Lounge and Emirates Business Class MCT-DXB
Having ultimately decided not to fly in “first” (regional business) from Doha to Muscat as I discussed previously, I was curious what the experience would be like flying Qatar Airways as a oneworld elite in coach. The carrier joined oneworld only a few years ago, but has at times had a fairly tenuous relationship with the alliance and its other member airlines, at one point even threatening to leave (though of course most things that come out of the Akbar Al-Baker’s mouth should be taken with a grain of salt). Recent comments by Doug Parker and Akbar Al-Baker notwithstanding, the relationship seems to have stabilized over time, but ever since QR joined oneworld there have been reports of oneworld status benefits not being honored by the carrier.
The premium check-in area for Qatar Airways at DOH is at the far end of the terminal (right side of the terminal if on the street looking towards the terminal). Oneworld elites are entitled to use premium check-in areas regardless of cabin of service on oneworld flights and though I was fairly certain I’d get turned away, I headed towards the Qatar business/first class check-in desk. Before I even got to the desk, a Qatar Airways agent approached me to ask if I was flying business/first. When I responded no but that I’m a oneworld Sapphire, he directed me to Row 3, another check-in area near the QR premium check-in area. While there was no signage indicating that it was a dedicated area for oneworld elites, the DOH airport website shows that check-in row 3 is specifically for QR Privilege Club elites and oneworld elites. At any rate, the check-in area was completely empty and within minutes I had my boarding pass.
QATAR AIRWAYS BUSINESS CLASS (ONEWORLD SAPPHIRE) LOUNGE
Qatar Airways, like SQ at Changi and BA at Heathrow, operates separate lounges for business/first class passengers flying their own metal and passengers who are have status with alliance partners but are flying in coach. While Qatar Airways business and first class passengers are entitled to use of the much-praised Al-Mourjan and Al-Safwa lounges, respectively, oneworld elites flying in coach can only use the Qatar Airways Business Class (oneworld Sapphire) and First Class (oneworld Emerald) lounges. The contrast between the true business/first class lounges and the oneworld lounges is quite stark.
By virtue of my AA Platinum/oneworld Sapphire status, I had access to the regular (not Al-Mourjan) business class lounge. The lounge consists of a main area that is one large rectangular room with various types of seating and a dining area with buffet towards the back. Near the front of the lounge are restrooms and showers, while a dedicated smoking room, a family/children’s play room, and quiet sleeping rooms are located along the side of the main seating area. The décor is nice and overall it’s an attractive lounge.
Breakfast was being served when I first arrived so I took a glance at the offerings. I’m not sure if it was because it was Ramadan, or if the food selection is usually this way in the lounge, but the breakfast selection was disappointingly limited and about on par with what is offered at the BA Galleries Club at JFK.
After grabbing some yogurt and tea, I settled into a seat to shoot off some quick emails. The lounge does not have dedicated wifi, but I found the airport wifi to be just fine (of note, a Qatar Airways PNR is required to access the free airport wifi). There are also several individual shower rooms inside the bathroom, and I reserved one after getting some work done. The shower rooms are on the small side, and I’d imagine that a standard walk-in closet in the US is roughly the same size if not larger than one of the shower rooms. There is a small bench on which to rest items, a sink with mirror, and a waterfall shower with dispensers for body wash, (very watered down) shampoo, and conditioner. Nothing special, but perfectly adequate for a quick shower.
By the time I got out of my shower, lunch had been put out in the lounge. The selection was better than the breakfast spread, and consisted of a few different sandwiches and wraps, along with salads, hummus, and tabbouleh. I sampled several different items and found the quality to be decent. Notably, all of Qatar’s lounges were dry during Ramadan, so I wasn’t able to try out any alcohol.
The lounge was largely empty and quiet in the time I was there. Overall, it’s fine for a quick stop to shower or get caught up on work, but is certainly not worth building in extra time for. Most notably, the food selection (at least while I was there during Ramadan), leaves quite a bit to be desired. The catering is particularly disappointing considering the lounge is in QR’s home base — they clearly have the resources, space, and ability to create a great experience like they’ve done with Al-Mourjan and Al-Safwa, but have chosen not to give partner elites a comparable offering while at the same time barring them from those two better lounges.
About fifteen minutes before boarding, I left the lounge to head to the gate for my flight to Muscat.
- June 2, 2017
- Qatar Airways QR 1126 DOH-MCT
- Airbus A321
- Seat: 9A
- Dep: 1:39 PM Arabia Standard Time
- Arr: 4:10 PM Gulf Standard Time
- Duration: 1 hr, 31 min
Boarding was organized by group number, and despite my boarding pass showing Group 3 (out of 3), oneworld elites boarded with Qatar Privilege Club elites, after first class but before the rest of the cabin.
Boarding group numbers ended up being irrelevant, as the flight had an incredibly low load. With fewer than 25 passengers on the A321, it felt a bit like a charter flight. The seats on the plane were quite nice, with substantial padding and a comfortable, adjustable headrest. There were seatback TVs and USB plugs at each seat, and TV monitors were also mounted on the bulkhead. Seat pitch in coach was a standard 31” as it is in the US, with a bit more room in the bulkhead row.
Service on the flight was very good, particularly in comparison to the abysmally low service standards we’re used to in the US. Headphones, water, and warm towels were passed out prior to departure, and every flight attendant I encountered onboard was cheery and seemed genuinely happy to be there. I actually found the crew on this flight to be more friendly and cheerful than on my JFK-DOH flight, and my interactions with them to be less stilted.
Within minutes after takeoff, the flight attendants sprang into action and passed out orange juice and a light snack box with a warmed chicken sandwich/pocket and a sweet pastry; both tasted pretty good.
The short flight was otherwise pleasant and unremarkable, and before I knew it we were on the ground in Muscat. All in all, the experience was good and I’d take a short regional flight in QR coach over a coach flight on a US carrier any day.
We parked at a remote gate and deplaned via stairs. While the single passenger sitting in first class got an entire bus to himself, the rest of the plane filed into a second bus that took us to the terminal. I was able to quickly grab my bag and clear immigration, and within 30 minutes I was on my way.