Do 30 Minute Flights Get More Over The Top Than This?

It goes without saying that US airlines don’t exactly excel when it comes to service on shorthaul flights. Non-US airlines are generally a bit better, though not across the board.

In shorthaul business class on European airlines you get decent food and service, but the seating is typically just an economy seat with a blocked middle.

Shorthaul business class within Asia is highly variable. Service and food are generally good, though the planes can sometimes be on the old side.

Which brings me to the Middle East. A couple of days ago I flew from Doha to Abu Dhabi on Qatar Airways, and I think it qualifies as the most over the top service I’ve ever received on an ultra-shorthaul flight.

The flight from Doha to Abu Dhabi is just 200 miles. For context, that’s ~40% shorter than San Francisco to Los Angeles.

DOH-AUH

The 30 minute flight was operated by a 777-300ER, naturally!

Qatar-Shorthaul-1

It featured fully flat beds up front, allowing you to catch up on rest for the 45 seconds you spend at cruising altitude. 😉

Qatar-Shorthaul

During boarding the crew came around to introduce themselves and offer pre-departure beverages of choice as well as cold or hot towels.

Qatar-Shorthaul-2

During boarding drink refills were frequent.

Shortly thereafter Arabic coffee and dates were offered.

Qatar-Shorthaul-3

Then menus were distributed (yes, they even have menus!).

Qatar-Shorthaul-4

After takeoff the meal was served, which consisted of a salad with hummus, warm tandoori prawns, a bread roll, and a Laduree dessert. I was offered yet another glass of champagne (and was offered refills), along with a hot towel.

Qatar-Shorthaul-5

I was actually rushing to eat since I figured that’s what I needed to do on a 30 minute flight, especially when you keep in mind the crew has to be seated for at least 10 minutes of that.

I chugged my champagne towards the end, and the flight attendant said “no rush, take your time. Can I get you anything else, like maybe a cappuccino or espresso?” Hah!

Bottom line

This flight gave me such a chuckle. I remember flying US Airways several years back shortly after they started offering meals in first class on flights of under 3.5 hours. I was flying from Phoenix to Chicago, which is just under three hours. The flight attendant was genuinely frazzled during boarding, and said “I don’t know how they expect me to serve all these meals on a flight under three hours, it’s impossible.”

I think they need to send her on a 30 minute Qatar Airways flight to see how it’s done. 😉

Comments

  1. That’s amazing they did that! Reminds me of when I flew from TPE to HKG on Hong Kong Airlines which was roughly an 1.5 hours. I was so happy when lunch was included with my economy ticket. Fried rice with shrimp and all! And the whole row all to myself. Imagine a US carrier doing that…

  2. “The 30 minute flight was operated by a 777-300ER, naturally!”

    That sort of enforces the view of the ME3 that the likes of DL would want people to believe..unnecessarily large aircraft and/or frequency that would result in the dumping of a lot of cheap seats.

    Only 2 of the 6 daily flights between these cities are served by long-haul aircraft (777s, A330, 787s) but the other 4 are A320s.

    The image that your comment betrays will falsely legitimise the protectionist nonsense that the US carriers spew.

    NB. Never thought I’d ever write a comment *almost* in support of Ali Baker’s QR!

  3. With the right resources anything is possible. Expecting a three person crew with limited ovens to provide meal service is different than a two dozen person crew with more than enough galley space and equipment, no matter the passenger load.

  4. Ben,
    I was on this flight in September, and everything from the seats (electronic foot rest) to the food beat anything a major american carrier could offer. This 30 min flight experience exceeded that of the many 5-6 hour transcon flights I have been on in F on American and US Air. I mean Laduree dessert for goodness sake! Qatar’s A350 business product is also just generations ahead of US carriers!

  5. @Nancy I took that TPE – HKG flight on Hong Kong Airlines recently. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was.

  6. According to Google Flights, the fare from DOH to AUH in Business Class on Qatar in June 16 is $1039.

    For 30 minutes……

  7. Basically, the food is already cooked and prepared before the flight takes off. It usually takes 9 minutes to ‘cook’ the food on board which is done pre take off and kept warm.
    Also, they need the capacity for these short flights as Qatar are trying to take customers away from Emirates and Etihad – Qatar airways is based in a different country to Dubai and Abu Dhabi so the extra capacity and indulgence offered is needed to take customers away from Emirates and Etihad

  8. I used to live in Dubai and did the DXB-DOH shuttle dozens of times over the years. Usually in first, sometimes in business, and just once (thankfully) in economy. I usually did day trips, so I remember the EK F class breakfast service well – 3 courses in 40 minutes! Back then, fares were about $1800 return in business, and I usually got upgraded to first. Total ripoff to be sure, but I wasn’t paying.

  9. From Bali to Lombok, a 15′ flight (circa 100 miles perhaps?), on Garuda, we were served a meal prior to departure (and kids got souvenirs). That was in coach….

  10. Ben,

    Was wondering how you got into the Al Safwa lounge, seeing OWE are banned. You got a regional First class ticket, that’s how!

  11. I was genuinely surprised when I flew CGK KUL two years ago on KLM, they had the time to do a full meal, let people eat, collect the trays, then go around one more time for drinks before landing. And that was in economy! Imagine business…

  12. I received quite a nice service on 166 miles long flight from ATH to CHQ on Aegean in J, including hot towels, drinks and small apetizers. I was impressed to say the least.

  13. I wasn’t as lucky as @Matt, but I have flown MH J on that route (SIN-KUL). Small plane but a delicious meal for the 184 mile flight. Pure awesomeness.

  14. I haven’t picked a side in the US airlines vs ME3, there are merits to both sides but just wondering when people that pick the US airlines side and/or throw around words like monopoly etc…….you do realise the ME3 compete fiercely amongst themselves. They probably honestly don’t care much about any of the US airlines but are constantly watching each other. They might each be hub monopolies but their hubs are literally minutes apart (no hub amongst the three is more than an hour flying time from the other).

    That effectively means they’re not really hub monopolies either. Also since the bulk of their passenger traffic is connecting, not originating, they are playing the true hub and spoke game with both spokes on a global level.

    We all hate QR a little bit more than EY and EK, but without running wide bodied planes to ferry connecting passengers from AUH to DOH, they could never win because DOH as an originating hub is incredibly weak (both qualitatively because its not a major destination or business capital like Dubai and quantitatively because its population wouldn’t even qualify it as a city in many countries).

  15. Not all ME shorthauls. I flew the 92-mile BAH DOH in BA premium economy and for that they just walked around and gave each passenger in premium a plastic cylinder of orange juice.

  16. You should try DOH-BAH next time. Even shorter and the times I’ve done it on economy you still get a snack!

    I didn’t have time to finish my breakfast from DOH-DXB on Emirates! That was business so I wonder what those in first got?!

    I wish they would use better aircraft for flights to places like India. 4 hours in their smallest planes and awful flight times which is not ideal with small kids so we ended up choosing Sri Lanka for our next holiday.

  17. @Matt: I was recently flying KUL-SIN C on SQ and it was not at all the same. No champagne and a sandwich in plastic…nothing else. That was quite disappointing compared to a AUH-DOH flight with Qatar.

  18. Commenting on the introduction – I think here in Australia we also have a great short-haul business class product (although maybe slightly inferior to the ME). Proper seats, good food & wine and excellent lounges. And unlike the USA you can even take liquids through security.

    And not to mention the 3-4h A380 flights to New Zealand.

  19. @SG I booked a lastminute ticket to BKK, AUH-DOH(Y)-BKK(J)
    They served hot sandwiches, muffing and soft drinks.
    On my way back BKK-DOH-DXB(F) I was happy to hope 40min on 777, but the flight was pretty much empty, swaped to A320 with regional F – at least they had Krug at 6am flight 😉

  20. I’m surprised they’ll serve food, it would seem to be all about the alcohol consumption between those countries.

  21. Ben-

    I realize that this is a travel blog, and I am an avid reader for sure-but this post left me a little nauseated. I’m wondering today why you are interested in glorifying an airline that continues to be accused of abusing it’s employees led by a CEO who clearly is slightly short of a full deck in the mental health department. In addition, Qatar Airways, as a government controlled airline, functions as an extension of the Government of Qatar and its policies. As a gay male, I would argue you are at best taking a serious risk by even being present in countries that have rather draconian laws governing gays. As you may know, expressing physical love for another male in Qatar and a number of other countries may get you 7 years in prison. If you are Muslim, in Qatar it may get you the death penalty old.ilga.org/Statehomophobia/ILGA_SSHR_2014_Eng.pdf

    I just think its time we have an open, constructive and respectful discussion about this issue. Just looking the other way and promoting countries and airlines that are clearly mistreating gay brothers and gay sisters across this world ultimately does ALL members of communities a disservice. You have built a great business with talent, hard work and great expertise. I would argue that you can be an activist as well with equal success.

    Many thanks!

  22. The smaller Middle Eastern airlines also offer ridiculously good service on their short haul business flights. Recently flew Gulf Air on BAH – DWC and was offered three choices: Arabic mezze, a ‘hot meat platter’ (samosa, kibbeh, and similar items), or a salad. All served with warm breads, dessert, and two rounds of drinks.

    On a morning flight with Oman Air from DXB – MCT I was offered ”an omelette or a muffin”, which sounded a little underwhelming. The muffin came with yoghurt, breads and preserves, fruit salad, cheeses, and a chocolate. In the end a far more substantial breakfast than Lufthansa offered me on a 1000 mile journey (about 5 times longer) the following week.

    Should also mention that both these flights were on narrowbodies with limited galley space, so the service isn’t limited to the big aircraft.

  23. Did the same flight a couple months back on a 787 with my kids. First time I flew a Dreamliner and it had to be for a 30 minute flight. Of course, it was a couple of days before Al Safwa opened so I had to stick with the biz lounge.

  24. WONDERFUL! So nice that these impeccably run companies are refreshing and setting the standards showing how it has to be, and CAN be done..

    They’ll get as much as my support as possible.

  25. Providing such service on a short sector is also a way to compete on taking passengers off direct flights with EK and EY.

  26. I’ve done BAH-DOH-BAH several times in a BA 777 (having originated at LHR), plus had QR chuck me on an A340-600 on the same rotation.

  27. I remember many years ago flying ATL-Madrid-Barcelona on Delta. Of course DL couldn’t take on additional pax from Madrid to BCN so I found myself the only passenger in F being served a full meal service by two flight attendants. That flight is 300 miles, but i was still impressed to be served a three course meal. This was, of course, back when Delta (and all the US airlines) had a higher standard of service.

  28. I have travelled on Qatar Airways First class (since flight doesn’t have business) on short flights from Bahrain to Doha (30 minutes as well) to take connecting flights thereafter on business class.
    There was no food service, only drinks, but i haven’t expected more to be honest. The only issue is that its a matter of luck in terms of what plane they shall use! Sometimes its a Qatar Airways 787, which is really nice, and sometimes they use their subsidiary AlMaha Airways (planned to be used for domestic flights in KSA) which is really basic in their front cabin (business class) although when buying your business class ticket from Qatar airways as Bahrain-London-Bahrain via Doha, the first sector appears on First class on the outbound flight so is on the return sector (Doha-Bahrain). If i knew that prior to buying the ticket, i would get an economy for the 2 30 minute connecting flights, with business for the long haul sectors.

  29. I recently flew Qatar Business Class Joburg to Manila via Doha return. Great service as usual on Qatar but the food, for me was horrible, unless you are a fan of Middle East or Asian cuisine. I was unable to eat anything on 4 sectors and they don’t offer sandwiches, so if you enjoy Western Food it’s tough luck. I wrote to the airline and complained about the lack (No) western food and had a nice reply. In a few weeks I have booked the same flight again and asked if I could have some Western food on the 4 sectors. The reply I had was they offer an extensive list of “special requests, such as Hindu, Vegetarian, Vegan meals etc and I can have one of these, but they cant offer Western Food. They suggested I bring my own food, subject to airport security!!! On reading your excellent blogs I gather you are fans of the food on Qatar, I found talking to some other fellow passengers in Qatar’s excellent lounge, that the lack on any food that is Western was a problem in that, like me they were unable to enjoy anything substantial to eat whilst flying. I really enjoy the airline and recall some years ago the food was excellent. I have come to the conclusion that the 2 celebrity Chef’s ( Japanese & Indian) aren’t fans of Western Food! What Qatar ought to consider is that on all the sectors I have flown with them, a good percentage of the passengers are Western, and probably a good percentage of them enjoy the foods accompanied by rice and lentils! Likewise, there are many passengers like myself who would love to eat something that is remotely similar to what I normally eat.

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