Qatar Airways Is Improving First & Business Class Catering

Qatar Airways has been doing quite a bit of cost cutting lately, given the financial situation they’re in. This has been especially evident with the cuts they’ve made to their loyalty program.

I’ve also heard some people comment that Qatar Airways catering has gone downhill. I last flew Qatar Airways in January and didn’t find that to be the case at all. Rather I continue to think that Qatar Airways has the world’s best business class, both in terms of the hard and soft product. My one complaint with Qatar Airways catering is that I wish there were a bit more variety. Most people flying with them are taking four flights roundtrip, and the menus often overlap.

I’m not sure how much of this is just marketing rather than actual changes, but Qatar Airways put put out a press release yesterday indicating that they’ve launched a new onboard dining experience for premium customers. They claim that these changes start with their European routes, and include newly designed tableware, menus, cutlery, and chinaware.

Here’s how they describe the rest of the dining changes:

Qatar Airways has also put a greater focus on featuring regional influences within the menu design process, which now sees the inclusion of new signature dishes to the in-flight menu based on route destinations, such as the offering of porcini and truffle risotto on Italian sectors. Traditionally prepared Arabic main dishes such as kabsa, biryani and flame-grilled meats, which offer a taste of the Middle East, will feature as a choice option across most routes.

New signature warm desserts will be introduced to passengers in the Business Class cabin, in addition to a luxurious afternoon tea experience on board selected routes. Attention to detail has been given to every new concept, from the mini condiment grinders dispensing ground black peppercorns and Himalayan pink salt, to tableware such as the linen-lined bread baskets that house a freshly baked trio of bread.

The national carrier of the State of Qatar has recognised the emerging trend of its travellers being more aware of their dietary needs and expressing interests in healthier food options. Qatar Airways supports its customers’ desires and will now feature lighter options, such as fresh crisp salads, woodland berries, warm breakfast oatmeal and more. Healthier drink options such as “cold pressed” juice with great flavour combinations will also be available on selected menus to revitalise during a long flight.

The airline has also improved its indulgent treats, including an enhanced caviar service offering for First Class passengers, which is perfectly accompanied with a Balik-style salmon and showcased on a bespoke crystal plate.

While these are all minor things, I’m a fan of all of this. Afternoon tea, cold pressed juices, basic salads, and balik-style salmon? I like the variety.

Qatar Airways also notes that they’re expanding their option to pre-select dining. This allows first and business class passengers to pre-select one main course from the onboard menu between 24 hours and 14 days before departure. Passengers can select their meals by logging into the “My Trips” feature on Qatar Airways’ website. Personally I’m not sure I’d find that to be too valuable, since I’ve rarely had issues with getting my first choice of meal on Qatar Airways.

I’m surprised to hear that they’re making updates now, because Qatar Airways already recently updated a lot of their premium cabin meal presentation, around the same time that they introduced Qsuites. For example, they have (fake) candles during the meals, as well as new glassware.

Furthermore, they already have a breadbasket, so that’s not new either.

They’ve also exclusively had a small “snack platters” menu on flights equipped with Qsuites. I can understand introducing a new service concept around the same time you introduce a new business class seat, but it’s odd to me that they only offer these snacks on flights with Qsuites, since up until now there hasn’t been a cost difference between that and “regular” business class (though that has now changed). Hopefully this is expanded to other flights as well.

Anyway, I’m not sure how significant these changes to Qatar Airways’ catering actually are. Personally I’ve been impressed by Qatar catering and haven’t noticed a decrease in the quality (at least as recently as January). What remains to be seen is if Qatar is actually improving the quality of catering, or if this is an attempt to create the impression that they’re making improvements.

If you’re a frequent Qatar Airways business or first class flyer, have you noticed a change in the catering quality?

Comments

  1. Flew QR business last week and already had the himalayan salt grinder and afternoon tea. Also Kabsa and biryani have been on the menu for years. Seems like mostly a PR change rather than an upgrade?

  2. I haven’t noticed any deterioration in food quality (but, as DC-PHLyer said, the afternoon tea was already an option a couple of weeks back).

    I have noticed a reduction in *quantity* – the menu boasts that you can choose what you want, when you want it, but it turns out that if you don’t grab it at the first opportunity it will often be gone later in the flight.

    I guess this is a consequence of their “pre-ordering” system where they are trying to reduce food waste / match more precisely their food quantity to customer demand. But when you have a greedy bugger like me on board, who wants to eat maybe later in a flight, it can be a bit irritating when only the snack stuff is left.

    How can they run out of Arabic mezze? *How*? (First World Problems…)

    PS: I don’t think you understand what GDPR is (or maybe you’re labouring with Stone Age IT?) – that checkbox every time is not a GDPR requirement, despite the label describing it as that.

  3. I flew last week and the changes are subtle but really noticeable (partly as I was connecting Europe to Asia, and changes were mainly on Europe flights) and appreciated. Small, but thoughtful and high quality stuff – new salt & pepper grinders, new crockery and glasses, offering olive oil and individual condiment bottles, the hot chocolate cake, etc. Oh, and the food does run out, so the sooner they roll out preordering the better!

  4. Most of these changes were made months ago (the new crockery, caviar service etc. started back in March as I reported on Flyertalk at the time). Having said that, they are beautiful and somewhat shame the plates used in F on many other carriers, so no complaints there. I haven’t noticed any material change in food quality, really. The menus could definitely use more variety and it’s easy to get bored if you fly from Europe to Asia even just a couple of times in a month.

    The pre-order meals have been around for quite some time on ex-DOH legs only, but the crew rarely seem to receive the pre-orders (I’m something like 1/10 for crew actually being aware of my pre-order this year). Wonder if they might make an effort to change this now they’ve made a PR fuss over it.

  5. The catering change was in effect on my flights yesterday… They ran out of the afternoon tea snack option when I wanted it 2 hours before arrival. They also ran out of my first entree choice when I ordered before takeoff (I was seated in row 1 and the first of the second half to place my order) and the crew had to work some magic to get me my choice.

    The fresh pressed juice option on both flights were carrot juice (barf) so hopefully there are some freshly pressed fruit juice besides carrot or orange.

    Salt/Pepper grinders and the new bread basket are the real deal – not what is shown in your picture. The grinders were actually very heavy and of high quality. Bread basket is a spiral wire basket not a ceramic bowl.

    The purple beverage glass is still there. Pommery brut is an improvement (minor) but not sure about the rose wine.

    All in all, very positive change. Concerned about how much food they are loading though – I would recommend booking seats closer to the front of the plane to ensure you get your first choice.

  6. Recently we fly BKK-DOH in First Class (issued by Gol Smiles mileage program). Only two passengers in First Class Cabin: me and my wife. She choosed the main course before me, and I choosed the same option, but the flight attendant said they had only one choice of each on board!

  7. I have noticed during the past few years a reduction in the food available on board, specially long haul flights , mostly Asia and NA. Often your choice of preference in Business class is not available, shortage of bread, no pita bread with the Arabic mezze, missing blinitz for caviar in first class to LHR. Food menu is descent but no as good as it was a few years ago, in general terms they offer a good soft product and service is always impeccable.

  8. QR catering is overrated.

    Flew with them on QSuite CDG-DOH.
    Those snack platter ran out and only catered 40% of the passengers occupancy.

    The ‘fake candle’ basically copying Turkish Airlines.

    The new set up of black plate, and fancy glass copying Garuda Indonesia.

    There are trying very hard for the Pre-Select dining option to be able to do the cost cutting of their catering.

    My recent flight, BKK-DOH. They ran out of caviar even the passenger load were only 5 in first class A380.

    The canapes display at the A380 on board lounge are just meh. Only one type of nuts now.

    Not impressed!

    Emirates are way better when it comes variety and quantity of catering on board.

  9. I flew recently HKG-DOH-LHR and back. Catering was mostly excellent, with much of the new features reported here, and at least the dishes I ordered were all available. My only gripe was that on DOH-HKG, a 7.5-hour flight which takes off at 8AM (DOH time) and lands at 8:30PM (HKG time), the only meal service on offer was breakfast and then snacks, which were not that great. So I ordered the delicious Arabic breakfast twice.

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