Qatar Airways : Vienna - Doha

Pre-Christmas Europe Extravaganza
20 December 2017

I had several cities to choose from for my affordable return back to Hong Kong. Vienna was one of them, but the flight time was not ideal with a morning flight and pretty much losing the whole day upon arrival in Doha. On the other hand, the stopover program kicked in and I got a free night at a local hotel with free airport shuttle.

Before the rest of the city woke up, I headed to the main railway station for my Railjet train to the airport. The ticket was easy to get, costing only 3.9 euros, and the ride was on a comfortable train taking only 15 minutes. Vienna's main train station has been renovated and doesn't look seedy at all.

However, the airport train station was an elevator ride and outdoor walk away from Terminal 3's arrivals hall. Vienna's airport has been rejuvenated, similar to many of Austria's large railway stations. The design was sleek and clean, but many stairs remained. I headed upstairs, where I saw the online check-in line being longer than regular check-in.

My bag was tagged with "long transit" and boarding passes were issued quickly. I then explored around the terminal. A large group of Austrian passengers were grouped around the check-in kiosks and the separate bag drop belts. Luckily, Qatar was not subjecting me to this sort of pain today.

To get to air-side, I had to descend back downstairs for the automated gates. A large duty-free shop followed and the terminal was quite empty at this point of the day.

My gate at pier D would be a short walk away past a few restaurants. By now, a long line had snaked out from the gate for the security check. There was not enough seating inside the secured area for our flight ... surprise surprise with this type of arrangement.

My boarding pass had a 7:35 boarding time. Judging from the crew's arrival after I checked my bag in, I knew this would not happen. We eventually started boarding after 8am but we were able to push back a few minutes early from the 8:50 departure time. The loading was quite good while the middle seat next to me was luckily empty.

This would be my first flight on Qatar's Dreamliner.

Being a chilly day, we went to a remote stand to de-ice before departure.

Being safely de-iced, off we went into the cloudy sky. It would take some time for the clouds to clear out and some aerial views.

Ah ... Air Berlin, the airline that caused me grief on my last European trip in September.

The Dreamliner boasts windows that can turn dark at the press of a button. This can be centrally set. I noticed the effect on photography is a weird blueish tint which I could not shake off. Also notice the curvature of the Dreaminer's wings, which seem to bend higher than other aircraft.

Breakfast on the plane is usually the same stuff over and over again but this one was tasty enough.

The personal TV screen is huge and easy to use. Some notable features of the in-flight amenities include wifi, which Economy passengers get a very small sample quota.

Being from a Muslim country, praying during flight requires a safety reminder.

Doha is actually not that far from Vienna. It is only a 5 hour flight, although I would lose pretty much the entire day due to the time zone difference. I would have preferred an afternoon departure so I could have some time in Vienna. Instead, I would have an evening sightseeing in Doha.

Flying a Middle Eastern carrier means we are spoiled for food and entertainment. An additional snack was served before descent on this short 5 hour hop.

With the blockade under way, a few cities have dropped off from their destination map. Being based in Hong Kong, the Middle East is a longer but still feasible connecting point. Qatar has quite a decent network in Europe.

The headset is decent quality. A small menu card was also provided to us.

As the sun begins to set, Qatar's coast came into view. We had deliberately avoided certain airspace as we came into the Persian Gulf. We avoided Iraq and flew over Iran. We also didn't come near the Saudi Arabian coastline.

The West Bay skyline is in the background around the bay's bend. It is possible to walk the entire length of that curvature, an area known as the "Corniche".

We flew past the city and its huge new airport and looped around for landing. Too bad the sun was setting, so the glare got in the way from beautiful city views.

Welcome to Doha.

With a 4pm arrival, I would definitely make the bus into the city this time. The stopover program has a number of hotels available across various levels of luxury. I wasn't interested in being pampered on such a short stay, so I picked a mid-range hotel just off the city centre. The Qatar government had also loosened its visa requirements to boost tourism in the aftermath of the blockade.

Doha's new airport is built just off the old dingy airport. It is a very nice facility now and the bus station is mostly a covered walk from the arrivals hall with only a short outdoor section to the bus stands. A QAR 20 smart card allows unlimited trips within 24 hours and can be purchased on board.

The bus trip took about 40 minutes to West Bay, the new business district with lots of colourful skyscrapers and a nice waterfront promenade. December nights are comfortable for a good walk in the park, and so many others thought of the same, too.

Then I hopped back on the same bus into the old city for a walk in the souq.

Qatar offers a solid product and the Dreamliner is fast becoming one of my favoured aircraft thanks to its humidity regulation. There was no shortage of entertainment to keep me busy during this short flight, and Doha is an up-and-coming destination of its own. It is smaller than Dubai, so a day or two would suffice, and the free stopover accommodation is a great plus for breaking up the long journey from Asia to Europe.

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