Qatar Airways, Melbourne to Doha, Economy Class.
The plane is full of what seems to be twenty-something-year-old university students jetting off to Europe for their mid-semester break. An overly friendly vibe fills the cabin as passengers take photos of one-another swapping stories of where they’re going, and what degree they’ll be forgetting about for the next six weeks.
Sitting in seat 28F the two young sisters next to me are travelling to Greece. Both of them are anxious – they each take it turns to nervously asks the other if they have everything. Not that it would help – the plane was taxing towards the runway.
Conversation eventually breaks out between us and they’re straight on the attack, demanding I tell them who I think looks older because “everyone get’s it wrong”. Safe to say … I got it wrong.
The 14 hours and 15 minute journey qualifies as one of Qatar Airways many “long-haul” flights. Qatar Airways flies once daily from Melbourne to Doha, departing at 10.55pm, and arriving at 6.10am. Arriving at Doha International Airport passengers continuing their journey can catch a connecting flight to the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe.
I have an aisle economy seat with the cabin set out in a conservative 3-43 formation. The seats are bearable and recline much greater from memory – the fidgety-first-time-flyer in front is quick to slam his seat backwards into my head – he was trying to work the entertainment system.
The bearable seats and lengthy legroom left me dumbfounded to find limited space in the slots behind the chairs. After the menu, sickness bag, in flight magazine and emergency card there was no room for my book – leaving me to place it on the floor.
Nothing unexpected stood out from the usual bag of goodies an airline provides on a long-haul flight like this one. Socks, eye-mask, toothbrush, refresher towel, along with the usual pillow and blanket were on offer.
Qatar Airways source their in flight programming from Oryx Entertainment with a mix of western and Arabic programs showing on the 7-inch screen. There is a good mix of genre along with recent and older programs but the incessant reminder to go online and vote for Oryx quickly became tiring.
Difference in quality of picture and sound was vast. The image quality was fine but the sound was only bearable if you brought your own headphones. The Qatar Airways branded headphones were either too quiet or too loud. So at times I opted for a book with the backing track of passengers conversations instead of a film.
Oryx Entertainment also offers a range of television programs, music, games and supposed live news updates – with 4-day-old content.
There was also a mix of local (Melbourne) newspapers on offer.
Being a long-haul red-eye flight the cabin crew pushed out the meal-cart soon after takeoff – as if to increase the rest period to passengers as much as possible.
The two sisters next seated next to me loudly whisper to each other about the menu – they soon turn to me – I answer that yes food and beverage is free, and that you can consume as much as you desire. Quickly, the sisters start rattling off what alcoholic drinks they will have and in what order. Sadly for them, Baileys is not on offer. Gin, Whisky, Rum and Vodka are available along with a Red and White wine.
I don’t take much notice of the mains on offer as I requested a strict vegetarian meal. But I did not know they were a lamb dish and a curry dish. I eagerly wait to be served first early as the requested dishes come out. This doesn’t happen. I am one of the last in the cabin to be served – but if this was to be the worst thing to happen – considering I forgot to book travel insurance – then it would be far from the end of the world. I fill in time waiting for my meal by switching between my John Pilger book and a film with a plot so dry I quickly forget the title.
The strict vegetarian meal eventually arrives and the sisters next to me seem to be more interested in my food than I am – leaning over to inspect what I have.
To my dismay I lift the lid to a pile of steamed soggy vege’s and an odd dried out mix of rice and potato. I kick myself for not eating earlier at Tullamarine (Melbourne Airport).
The Cabin Crew did considerably well and at times looked tired out by the loud passengers. The crew held themselves especially well with the young gentleman across the aisle from me hounding the stewards every 15 or so minutes for an alcoholic beverage not on the menu.
Value for money:
Qatar Airways offer a valuable high quality service at a time when other airlines struggle to keep their head above water. Flying into Doha from Melbourne – Qatar Airways offer flights to countless cities in Africa, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
This flight to Doha was the first leg of the Melbourne to London journey at a total cost of $1196.00.
The author paid for the flight himself.