26th January 2023
My first trip of 2023 happened almost entirely by accident. Towards the end of last year I made vague plans to engineer a layover in Qatar as part of a business trip, but when that didn't work out the rough itinerary I’d concocted went into the crowded mess that is my future trips folder. It would almost certainly have stayed there indefinitely were it not for the fact that I had a huge stack of Oneworld miles that were about to expire due to inactivity (thank you COVID). A random search of the Avios booking system made me realise that I could get a round trip to Doha with Qatar Airways in the business cabin for slightly less coin than a weekend in Amsterdam with Ryanair. The flights were earlier in the morning than I'd have preferred, but they were still during daytime hours in both directions, meaning that I could do a stupid long weekend with minimal jet lag. I had a book I wanted to finish anyway, so I figured why the heck not!
My morning began with a 4:45am wake up call, a rapid breakfast, and a taxi to Dublin Airport. I arrived at 5:50am for a 7:35am flight, which was less than advised but far more than necessary. There was nobody in front of me at the check-in desk, and the bundled fast track security allowed me to clear all formalities in less than ten minutes.
Qatar Airways’ premium passengers are entitled to use the East Lounge, widely regarded as the best of the four options in Dublin Airport. My only previous visit was before the pandemic, when I was able to enjoy a respectable cooked breakfast and a free newspaper. Neither luxury was available today; instead, media offerings were online via PressReader, and the culinary "delights" were limited to pre-packaged fruit bowls and shrink-wrapped brown bread that looked and tasted like it had been there for several days. The bar was available for those who wanted something heavier, though I didn’t see anyone partaking of it, perhaps due to the time of day.
While the vast majority of my flights are in economy class, I have been privileged to sample a few business class products over the years through the magic of air miles – and I have to say that the Qatar Airways offering edges out both Etihad and Emirates for both comfort and cabin service. Seats on the 787-8 are laid out in a 1-2-1 pattern, with a slight angle away from the aisles. This feels a little odd during take off and landing, but you don’t notice it in flight. Lie flat mode is completely flat, spacious, and comfortable, and a huge upgrade over the not-entirely-flat front seats on the Emirates 777. Meal service is on demand, and you can order from whatever section of the menu you feel like; two hours before landing I enjoyed a breakfast fruit selection, fresh bread, and tandoori chicken, all of which were excellent. I did giggle slightly when my meal was presented with a mock electric candle at the back of the tray; it's the little things I guess.
On landing in Doha, the plane taxied no more than a hundred feet before coming to a halt on a remote stand. Though not my favourite airport feature, a bus for business class passengers was ready and the journey to the transfer area took less than five minutes. From there it was around a ten minute walk to the arrival lounge, a unique feature for those up front where you can enjoy a few nibbles before exiting into Doha through a dedicated immigration area.
I decided not to hang around here given my plans for the evening, so once through the formalities I began looking for the metro. I immediately spotted an overhead sign, though it wasn't illuminated which in hindsight should have been a clue. I followed the arrow all the way to the end of the terminal building before realising I had to have gone astray somewhere. Rather than faff about I asked a security guard, who pointed me across the car park and told me that it was about a ten minute walk. While I don’t know what the future holds for Hamad International Airport, I rather suspect an additional station is planned closer to arrivals, as it’s a bit of a trek to the current one, particularly if you have luggage with you. Perhaps I’ll find out some day.