Review: Qatar Airways First Class A330 Cairo to Doha

Introduction
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Qatar 1304
Cairo (CAI) – Doha (DOH)
Thursday, October 9
Depart: 1:15PM
Arrive: 5:30PM
Duration: 3hr15min
Aircraft: Airbus A330
Seat: 2J (First Class)

Upon being dropped off at our remote stand I took the stairs up to door 2L, where I was greeted by the friendly crew.

They pointed me left to the business class cabin. Much to my surprise I was the first passenger in business class, despite the fact that I wasn’t on the first bus to the plane.

Before I get too far into this report, I think it’s worth clarifying what’s a rather confusing matter for Qatar Airways on flights within the Middle East. The business class cabin on flights within the Middle East is marketed and sold as first class. So on flights from Doha to Dubai, Cairo, Bahrain, etc., there is no business class cabin. Instead there’s only first class, though it features business class seats.

The good news is that since you’re technically in first class you get first class lounge access, first class champagne (KRUG!!!), etc. If you’re on a paid business class fare you’ll automatically be booked in first class on the connecting flights within the Middle East.

The downside is that if you’re redeeming miles you are charged the first class price. So if you were on a business class award and connecting to a flight within the Middle East, you’d be seated in economy for sectors on Qatar Airways.

Why does Qatar Airways do it like that? The explanation I’ve always received is because most passengers on flights within the Middle East are “locals,” and at the end of the day they want to cater to them as much as possible.

With that in mind, I turned left into the “first” class cabin.

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Qatar Airways A330 business class cabin

This Airbus A330 had a total of 30 seats, spread across five rows in a 2-2-2 configuration. While I didn’t love the color scheme, the seats were well maintained. It’s worth noting that the seats on this plane are angled flat. Qatar Airways is slowly retrofitting some of their A330s with reverse herringbone seats, much like on their Boeing 787s. However, that’s not the case throughout the fleet yet.

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Qatar Airways A330 business class cabin

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Qatar Airways A330 business class cabin

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Qatar Airways A330 business class cabin

I quickly settled into 2J, my aisle seat on the right side of the aircraft. Waiting at my seat were a pillow and blanket, which were quite nice for the short flight to Doha.

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Qatar Airways A330 business class seats

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Qatar Airways A330 business class seats

The seat controls were located on the left side of the seat, and fairly intuitive. Angled flat seats are among my least favorite. I’d almost rather have a recliner seat, as I can at least lounge comfortably. I find with angled seats there’s just not a comfortable position, whether you’re trying to lounge or sleep. Of course that’s more or less a moot point on a short daytime flight.

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Qatar Airways A330 business class seat controls

Waiting in the compartment between seats were the menu and wine list, which were in a leather binder.

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Qatar Airways first class menu

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Qatar Airways first class menu & wine list

The moment I settled in, the cabin service manager, Celeste, introduced herself. She was from the Philippines and told me to let her know if I need anything during the flight. She first offered me a towel, with the choice between a hot and cold one (I selected a cold one).

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Qatar Airways first class cold towel

I was then offered a beverage, and decided to start the flight off with some rose — it was a delightful Henriot Rose Millesime 2008.

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Qatar Airways first class Henriot Rose Millesime 2008

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Qatar Airways first class rose

Within about five minutes the first class cabin began to fill up. My seatmate also showed up, who was an awesome Scottish guy living in Cairo. It’s rare I talk to my seatmate, but he was goofy and hilarious. I knew we’d get along swimmingly when he ordered champagne, and was happy to see it was Krug.

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Qatar Airways first class Krug

Soon the guy seated in 1F showed up, and as he arrived at his row he saw that the overhead bin immediately above his seat was full. Rather than placing his bag between rows one and two — where there was plenty of room in the overhead bin — he physically grabbed the flight attendant and said “move it.” She said “I’m so sorry sir, it is already taken. Is it okay if we put it right here, as there is open space?” “No. My overhead. Move the stuff now.”

At this point Celeste came over and tried to explain to him that the space was taken, and that he could place his bags in the open space literally right behind it. “I ALREADY SAID MOVE IT NOW,” was his response. Rather than watching, I lifted the bag out of the overhead and moved it back two feet, so he’d have room for his bag exactly where he wanted.

Situations like this make me cringe. The single biggest way I judge people is based on how they treat other people they don’t know, be it a flight attendant, server, etc. Clearly this guy wasn’t going for a Mr. Congeniality award, but my gosh…

It kind of made me wish I were on a US airline, where he would have no doubt been removed before he could finish a sentence.

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Mr. Dick

After that Celeste came over to apologize to us for the situation, and did so with a bottle of Krug in hand to pour us a refill.

Anyway, as boarding finished up the crew came around with Arabic coffee and dates. Qatar Airways wraps their dates. On one hand it’s kind of a tacky presentation, but then again I kind of prefer that to everyone picking dates out of a tin with their bare hands.

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Qatar Airways first class Arabic coffee and date

Right on schedule at 1:15PM the door closed and the captain came on the PA to welcome us aboard our flight to “our new home, the state of the art Hamad International Airport.” He informed us that our flight time would be 2hr50min, and he also invited us to enjoy “Qatar Airways’ five star service.” Other than a handful of seats, the first class cabin was full, much to my surprise.

We pushed back at around 1:20PM, and began our rather long taxi to runway 5C. The safety video played at that point.

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Cairo Airport tarmac

Also during our taxi out, flight attendants Reetika and Varant came by to introduce themselves and take our meal orders.

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EgyptAir Cargo plane Cairo Airport

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Cairo Airport

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EgyptAir A330 Cairo Airport

At 1:35PM we reached runway 5C, and were immediately cleared for takeoff.

Our climb out was steep and smooth, and within five minutes of takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off.

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View after takeoff from Cairo Airport

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View after takeoff from Cairo Airport

Shortly after takeoff the curtains were closed between the cabin and galley, and the meal service began.

The menu read as follows:

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And the wine/cocktail list read as follows:

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My seatmate and I were having too much fun, so I didn’t actually turn on the entertainment system aside from the airshow.

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Qatar Airways airshow

After takeoff we had another round of champagne, along with the amuse bouche, which was a delicious chicken roulade.

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Qatar Airways first class amuse bouche — moroccon spiced pistachio and chicken roulade

After another couple of rounds of Krug, lunch was served. My starter consisted of a salad with sundried tomatoes, cucumbers, and toasted almonds, along with an Arabic mezze. Simply fantastic.

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Qatar Airways first class lunch — seasonal salad and classic Arabic mezze

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Qatar Airways first class Arabic mezze

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Qatar Airways first class seasonal salad

Meanwhile my seatmate had a roasted tomato and lentil soup, which looked good as well.

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Qatar Airways first class roasted tomato and lentil soup

For the main course I had grilled prawns with Arabic tomato sauce.

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Qatar Airways first class lunch main course — grilled prawns with Arabic tomato sauce

My seatmate had the beef.

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Qatar Airways first class lunch main course — harissa spiced beef steak with black pepper jus

Lastly, for dessert I had a cappuccino, which was served with a box of Godiva chocolates. I also had the pistachio praline cake.

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Qatar Airways first class cappuccino and dessert

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Qatar Airways first class dessert — pistachio praline cake

The meal service took about 90 minutes, and it was absolutely perfect. It was definitely “first class” quality food, and when you factor in that this is “really” business class, it was a hell of a meal. Throw in copious amounts of Krug and a fun seatmate, and we were having a blast.

After the meal service, Celeste came by and asked us if we could keep our voices down, as “someone” said we were too loud. As she said that she pointed her eyes in the direction of Mr. 1F. The irony is that Mr. 1F wasn’t trying to sleep or watch a movie or do anything. He literally just sat there chewing on a toothpick the whole flight.

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Qatar Airways airshow

Anyway, while the airshow itself seemed to be accurate, the flight information seemed a bit off to me. 😉

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Qatar Airways airshow

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Qatar Airways airshow

I briefly visited the lavatory before landing, which was pretty basic, though did have a few amenities in it.

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Qatar Airways A330 first class lavatory

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Qatar Airways A330 first class lavatory

About 20 minutes before landing the captain came on the PA to advise us of our updated arrival time, and thank us for flying with Qatar Airways, “the world’s five star airline.”

The sun set as we descended, which made for some nice views.

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Sunset on approach into Doha

We touched down in Doha at 5:20PM, and made it to our stand right on schedule, at 5:30PM.

There were virtually no queues at immigration, so I was in a taxi on my way to the hotel by 5:45PM.

Qatar Airways first class bottom line

Krug, an amazing meal, great service, and an awesome seatmate — what more could you ask for on a sub-three hour flight? If we could have evicted Mr. 1F I might say it was the perfect flight.

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Comments

  1. Excellent trip report. Very interested about the First/Business distinction within the region. Does this happen on widebody flights to Male &/or Colombo?
    Thanks for info.

  2. FYI – there is “Business Class” available on selected flights between Doha and Dubai which are operated by 3-class aircraft.

  3. I’m actually really happy you Outed Mr. Dick. I found myself clenching my fists when you were describing his behavior. Can’t wait to met you at FTU!

  4. New drinking game…let’s all take a sip of champagne every time Lucky mentions the words champagne, Krug, or the name of another brand…;)

  5. I will be flying AUH-DOH-FRA in First (A320) /Business (787). Do you know, If I have access to the First Class Lounge in Doha?

  6. great report Lucky,as always! I learned so much from you…and because of this, I was able to book Cathay first class to Asia on both ways for me and my partner next August/September. Thank you!!!

  7. Haha! Was waiting for Mr. Dick (in his elegant track suit) to complain about loud conversation! I see he didn’t think of using ear plugs.

  8. There’s always that flight spoiler…(on a side note, my school principal was also called Mr. Dick, who, sadly, died in 2009. To say he was a nice person would be an understatement. I kind of wanted you to change it at first, but I don’t think you need to cater to comments that “personal”…)

  9. @ Thomas — Well Qatar Airways hasn’t yet opened up their first class lounge, though they do have the Al Mourjan lounge, which is excellent, and shared between first and business class passengers. So you’d have access to that.

  10. Here’s a better picture of Mr Dick:

    [img]http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20091213213413/americandad/images/c/ca/General_1.jpg[/img]

  11. reading about “Mr. Dick” made my blood pressure rise a bit.

    any idea where he was from? he has the look like he could be from any one of 50 countries. accent?

  12. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr Dick’s bag was full of cash. It’s quite regular on these flight and you can always tell because the pax gets really funny about not having the bag in their sight.

  13. I’ve flown Qatar a couple of times last month and believe “welcome to our new home, the state of the art HIA” is a sentence they’d say every time. Though with the passion they’re saying it I kind of feel that they are actually proud of it.

  14. @ Ismael — It could be that it’s one of the few three cabin planes operating the route. Does your Dubai to Doha flight show as being booked in “U” class?

  15. Love your ability to make posts both informative and hilarious. The 1F side show was captivating. And appreciated your recent line about flight attendants “And some of them are cute/age appropriate, but that’s a different story…” 😉

  16. @Lucky. Nope, its a A320 booked in “Z”. 30,000 miles were deducted from AA. Confirmed with QR and even chose seats in “First” cabin.

  17. Lucky,
    I booked DPS to AMM on AA miles in business class. When booking the DOH-AMM leg the agent said no business class seats available. I told her about not operating a business class and that they book into first. She said that I would need to book whole flight in first if I wanted that cabin. After a lengthy discussion about how US airlines have a similar philosophy of only (generally) having economy and first on domestic flights and that an international business class with a U.S. connection automatically books the connection into first she agreed to humour me and try adding the first class leg to my business class redemption. Bottom line is that it automatically priced as a business class award.

    Might be worth knowing for anyone having a similar conversation with an agent.

  18. It doesn’t matter what Mr 1F was doing, if you’re too loud then that’s your problem. Regardless of whether or not the other guy is a douche

  19. @Lucky , I’m flying to India on Qatar Airways this weekend from JFK. I couldn’t get upgraded to Business on the JFK-DOH route on the 777 as it is full, but they offered me an paid upgrade on the DOH-MAA route which flies the A330.

    Your review helped me make the decision (KRUG mostly :D) and I got the only aisle seat available 2J too. I get to relax for 2hrs at the Al Mourjan Business Lounge at dinner time, I’ll take some pics and share my trip experience If I can.

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