It felt like being jolted out of a long dream. I think I’d forgotten what flying business class was supposed to be like, until I recently flew Qatar Airways from Delhi to Doha and then onwards to Izmir, their latest destination. While business class across the world is, increasingly, bland and unmemorable, Qatar Airways has managed to retain the old-world glamour of flying in style. We tend to make a virtue of non-obsequious service. More often than not it’s just a euphemism for indifferent. Flying Qatar reminded me what service on an airplane is supposed to be like.
What follows will sound like an ode to Qatar Airways and their lounge at the Hamad International Airport in Doha; but I’m helplessly smitten, I’m afraid.
My seat, to put it modestly, was nice, with ample storage, tucked away in nifty nooks. There was a colourful Nappa Dori amenity kit, a far cry from the muted offerings of other airlines. As soon as I was seated, someone whisked my coat away and offered me a choice of hot or cold towel. When my choice (hot) arrived, it was suffused with the heady aroma of roses. The touch screen was the most responsive I’ve experienced on any business class in recent times. A standout feature of the seat itself was the mode option, so you could choose to ‘sleep’, ‘sit’ or even ‘dine’ by pressing a button just once. There was an award-winning wine list and an à la carte menu, from which you could order anything, at any time. The cabin itself was large, with no floor-to-ceiling galley in the middle to interrupt the view. An hour’s worth of wifi was on the house, and the full-flight package eminently affordable. Even the travel products in the in-flight shopping catalogue had been chosen with care.
But all this paled in comparison to the service. Every member of staff came forward and introduced themselves to each guest. And they seemed genuinely pleased to see us (no, really).
I slept like a baby, their signature Oryx noise-cancelling headphones wrapped around my ears. When they brought me breakfast, they remembered my towel temperature preference. Just before landing, they returned to individually thank each of us and seek feedback.
There was clapping on board as the inaugural flight to Izmir took off from Doha, and the buoyant mood persisted. A nice Arabic breakfast was on offer, and, in accordance with aviation tradition, we were welcomed by a water cannon salute when we landed.
That evening, it being the holy month of Ramadan, the new flight was celebrated with an iftar dinner where Zebeck dancers and other traditional musicians performed, before the headline act by a wildly popular Turkish pop singer.
It was only on the return leg that I was able to check out Qatar Airways’ Al Mourjan Business Lounge at Doha. Needless to say, I’d never set eyes on anything like it. Spread over 10,000 sq m, it was so big—10 times the size of an Olympic-size swimming pool, they said—they’d actually put up a map at the entrance to help you navigate it. There were many sections, including quiet rooms, family rooms, several restaurant areas, showers as well as a tranquillity pool. After a short rest, I was ready to head back to reality.