Qatar Airways : Doha - London Heathrow

Pre-Christmas Europe Extravaganza
8 December 2017

The Prior Flight : QR 317 Hong Kong - Doha

I didn't want to pay a fortune for a cab ride to the airport if I didn't need to. I made my way to the main bus station near Souq Waqif to find the airport buses. There are actually 3 lines that go to the airport, 2 of which start from here. The ticket office agents were very friendly and sold me the short-term smart card for 10 QAR which included the ride's fare, followed by broken English on the route numbers to take, and asking me where I am from with a smile. The bus station itself was basic and fairly chaotic with the bus route numbers mostly scrubbed off on the signage so I scanned around looking for my 747 or 109 bus. After panicking a bit, I finally found the 747 pull into a bus bay. The driver was very friendly and directed me to the bus next to him, the 109, which he said was an express.

We left the station just after 10am and indeed it went without much stops and then onto the highway to the airport. It only took about 20 minutes for the journey.

I walked into the airport and noted the finer details of the new terminal. Grand yet simple. The roof was made of wood-like coloured tiles, reminiscient of KLIA. Small rectangular skylights arranged in a chaotic fashion added character and intrigue. With the London boarding pass already from Hong Kong the night earlier, I didn't need to go through the check-in desk anymore, but I went to the screen to find my gate and discover a departure delay of 35 minutes. The terminal was empty at this hour and there weren't many flights at this time of the day.

Unlike my arrival, there was a far shorter line for departure immigration. The staff were just as inefficient, chatty, and slow, but I had plenty of time to kill. My bottle of water strangely made it through the security check as well. Soon, I emerged airside with a grand view of the big yellow bear.

This part of the terminal is a junction point and I wasn't too sure what to expect as there were corridors on all sides. I randomly chose one direction to find high-end stores, the lower-end convenience shop, and a food court with tarmac views. Prices were over the roof.

My gate sat at the front of the C pier, which was a short walk away past a comfortable TV lounge area and rows of Apple computers. With 2.5 hours left to my revised departure, I explored the empty terminal, but plane spotting was nearly impossible since passengers need to sit in enclosed seating areas by the windows for boarding. The wifi was a hit and miss despite so few people roaming around.

Since the terminal stretches quite far out, a people mover connects the further gates, but is not fully operational yet. The tracks hang above the concourse so it is interesting to spot trains moving over your head every now and then.

Today's delay was due to the incoming aircraft arriving late. There was a larger group of passengers waiting in the enclosed lounge this time, but I ended up having the entire row to myself once again. In fact, the rear section of the aircraft was quite empty with many passengers enjoying their exclusive rows just like me.

The 777-300 looked slightly older and the remote control was not as sleek as my prior A350 flight. We ended up pushing back at around 1:37pm and with light traffic at the airport, we took off after a short taxi.

I picked a left window seat to capture Doha's emerging skyline and waterfront beauty. I was not disappointed.

I would come back and explore the new business district on my return trip.

Wetnaps were again first distributed followed by drinks. Lunch was served out of carts this time and the main once again looked small. Today's flight would take just under 7 hours and in addition to lunch, a snack would be served before landing. Throughout the flight, the crew came by with drinks several times. However, I didn't see wifi connectivity advertised in-flight. Perhaps the 777 doesn't have this sort of thing.

Meanwhile, the weather outside was decent with lovely aerials.

The snow was a reminder I'm heading to Europe during winter.

As the sun set over Europe, it was time for a pre-arrival snack. Too bad it was already night-time by the time we descended over central London.

Service Summary
Empty planes aside, Qatar offers a far better experience from gate to gate than its other Middle Eastern counterparts, namely Emirates and Etihad, both of which I have tried earlier in 2017. Transit through Doha was quite comfortable thanks to a brand new airport facility, whereas Dubai is a crowded and dirty dump and Abu Dhabi is an even older crowded dump with flashback from the 1970s. The only downside was the lack of things to do in Doha, but that is reflected by the cheap hotel prices and plentiful choice for a decent overnight.

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