Why was I in Doha last week?

Starting tomorrow on Head for Points, I will be running a series of articles on my trip to Doha last week.  I will be looking at the Qatar Airways Boeing 777 and Boeing 787 business class products and lounges, as well as the new Hamad International Airport in Doha and the St Regis Doha hotel.

To avoid repeating myself numerous times in the different articles, I wanted to use this post to explain the background to the trip.

I have always written very positive things about Qatar Airways on HFP.  Even before they joined oneworld – and it became possible to redeem Avios for Qatar flights – they were a partner with bmi Diamond Club.  The airline has a good reputation, flies a modern fleet and, importantly, has a large and growing route network which can get you to pretty much anywhere via Doha.

Despite all this, I had never actually flown them.

Qatar 787 business class seat

The Qatar Airways office in London reads the site and got in touch to offer me a free return flight to Doha in business class.  It seemed a good opportunity so I accepted.  This was effectively worth 65,000 Avios and £385 of tax which would have been the cost had I redeemed for the same flights (London – Doha – Zurich).

However, Qatar did NOT pay for my transfers in London and Doha, my hotel stay at the St Regis Doha or my food and drink costs whilst I was there.  I settled all of those costs myself.  Neither did they pay for my connecting flight on the return from Zurich to London (long story ….!)  The flights were booked in a way which meant I did not earn any miles or tier points from them.

I think that my Qatar Airways pieces are as objective as any of the other airline reviews on HFP.  Given that flights are high value products, though, it is only fair that you understand the background to the trip before you read the reviews.

ALL of the flights I review on HFP, of course, have been booked using Avios or other frequent flyer miles.  To that extent, I always have less ‘skin in the game’ than if I had paid hard cash for them.  Take my review of British Airways First Class on the A380 last month – someone who paid £13,500 of their own money for that flight – which is the fully flexible price – would presumably review it differently from someone who used 150,000 Avios points.

It was an interesting few days last week and I look forward to sharing it.

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Comments

  1. Fair enough. I’ve got a feeling QA are extremely confident of the excellence of their product 😉

  2. Would be interested to hear how it compares with BA First from Doha-LHR, doing that in March.

    Hope you get more of these opportunities, (other companies take note), we appreciate the transparency, however I do know we can always trust your reviews to be balanced and offer constructive criticism where needed.

    • I will also be interested as I have a FRA-DOH return in April and was considering changing it yesterday, to, lhr-doh return in BA F outbound, club return, using 2 companion vouchers.

  3. flitting says:

    I always appreciate when you point out exactly what blogger freebies you get, as I always find it very sneaky when blogs promote a certain brand or campaign without pointing out that they’re getting free stuff! I wouldn’t go so far as to say it deceptive, but it’s … not very nice.

    Great job, looking forward to reading your review about Qatar Airways!

  4. Interesting comment re “would you review the product the same way, whether you paid GBP 13500 or used 150000 Avios Points. From a personal perspective, it would make no difference to me, as the Avios points would have been well earned. Reviews would be identical!

    • If you are willing to pay £13,500 for a first class ticket then HfP is certainly in esteemed company here today!

      • I have paid for first class tickets on many occasions, but always at a rate well below the published fares or by using fares such as RTW tickets. If I was to pay GBP 13500 for this trip, I would be losing my sanity, but that said, First Class is First Class and regardless of whether I paid for it or used points, my reviews would be identical. I would though be uncomfortable writing an honest and frank review as a guest of an airline, unless the ground rules were very clear up front. Mind you, if an airline was to offer me a chance to write a review as one of their guests, I would be thrilled to bits!!!!

        • It also depends, of course, how important the money is to you. It is also the same with points though. I have 30k Hyatt points and no easy way of replacing them so I keep holding back waiting for the ‘perfect’ redemption (top hotel, trip where I can fully enjoy it etc). I am swimming in IHG points, though, and tend to blow those without a second thought.

          • Andrew S says:

            It wasn`t that long ago that i thought someone must be insane to pay 3x the economy price on a business class product – as you get a little older and the finances improve (and your back deteriates!) you tend to see things differently.

            I guess its no different with first class at a different mangnitude of income.

          • Given how much I’ve paid in osteopath fees since wrecking my back on a WT flight back from Houston in February, I will seriously consider paying more for a seat which isn’t being kicked every 30 seconds by a high school senior.

    • “whether you paid GBP 13500 or used 150000 Avios Points. From a personal perspective, it would make no difference to me, as the Avios points would have been well earned.”

      Well then I’ll happily sell you 150,000 Avios for just £3,000, which is far cheaper than you feel earning them is 😉

      You might be the exception but it’s normal for people’s opinion to be influenced by how much something costs. I tend to find it’s the people who accept this and try and compensate for it who do the better job of giving unbiased reviews, rather than those who think they are above such basic human foibles.

  5. I will be interested to read the next few articles. I chose QR for a trip to SIN last month ex LHR, returning to EDI as I live in Orkney. I chose due to the EDI route for getting home and the fact 3 of 4 flights were new 787’s in Economy. Also earned a few Avios. While on-board service was good, our outbound flight was delayed by a few minutes due to the Air Conditioning on the LHR/DOH flight not working. They had to effectively “turn off” the aircraft systems and restart them. We left the gate late, waited behind 8 other aircraft to take off, landed late in Doha where our connecting flight to SIN had left early. This resulted in a very long and boring 19 hours in a Doha hotel until the next flight to SIN. I’m in the process of trying to claim some sort of compensation but Qatar are not budging, saying the delay was due to ATC restrictions at LHR. Clearly their dispatcher has put an ATC delay code rather than a technical delay code into their system. Offering me a pitiful US$250 voucher which I cannot use as we have already made travel plans for the next 12 months, along with other financial commitments. The CAA are also contacting QR on my behalf but I have yet to hear from them. The service in Doha was terrible – we were pointed from pillar to post, eventually finding the elusive Transfer Desk where the staff couldn’t have cared less about the circumstances, the fact we had lost a day of our holiday etc. On top of this the meal allowance they gave us was not enough for Breakfast, lunch and dinner, only 2 of 3 meals. This must happen a lot judging by the many, many people walking around with hotel and taxi vouchers. QR have a serious problem in DOH, I believe they are cutting their connections too fine especially since so many of their flight park at remote stands, needing a bus to the terminal, and their transfer security being so strict. Had it not been required to go through security again at DOH, despite the fact we were airside the whole time there was a chance we’d have made the connection. There are many complaints I have, and parts of this story but I think for me QR is out of the question for the future. The service on board is fine on most airlines, but for me I want an airline that will help me when things go wrong – QR did not to this at all and their post flight service also leaves a lot to be desired.

    • Eshaq Choudhury says:

      Wouldn’t you be covered under the EU compensation scheme since you flew out of LHR?

      • I have put this to them but as their dispatcher has entered an atc delay code for that flight they are claiming it was not their fault. In reality, as I said, the delay leaving the stand was due to having to reset the aircraft’s systems. I have the details of other people on the flight who also have the same claim in but Qatar are not budging.

        • What was the date and flight number Deenesh?

          • QR2 LHRDOH 11Sep connecting to QR938 DOHSIN 12 Sep. Missed 938 and moved to 944 13Sep. Insider info??

          • Let me see 😉

          • Deenesh, as you have already noted, if it wasn’t for the delay caused by the shutdown and re-start due to the aircon failure, you wouldn’t have been delayed further. There was actually an ATC delay but this was triggered by the technical problem (at 2135) as the aircraft departed a few mins late from the gate (at 2137) which caused the flight to pickup an ATC restriction entering Iraq airspace from Turkey.

            Bearing in mind the aircraft departed only 14 mins later than scheduled, I’m surprised it caused you to miss the connection. QR either ran the connection far too tight (14 mins late at 2205 from LHR is no big deal particularly as flight times are generally published longer than actual flying times so that delays can be “absorbed” as you magically arrive on-time or early at destination after a late departure) or the decision to depart your connecting flight early was a bad call on their part.

            Either way, sounds to me like this is worth challenging further….

  6. I’m really looking forward to your reviews – i have a LHR-DOH QR4 flight next month, and then onwards to PER, with a stopover in DOH, so it will be interesting to compare findings

    • I was sat next to a couple going to Perth on the way down. In fact, I gave up my window seat for them as they had been separated due to not selecting seats early enough (and, frankly, not keeping a regular eye on the seat map after that as it moved about a lot).

      • Im sure BA have removed some of my seat selections recently.
        I booked some flights last December for Saturday and my seat selection was confirmed, but not in the seats I think I would have booked, and my wife had no confirmed seats.
        Cabin was full so couldn’t get our preferred choice.

      • That was very kind of you

        I was originally EDI-DOH-PER, but re booked from LHR, when it became apparent the A380 was finally going to happen – whilst my seats were never moved, seat availability on the seat map changed weekly (not that i checked a lot

    • I’m looking forward to HfP reviews and yours if you blog one up with the on-board wifi.

      • Not at the price Qatar charges for it!

      • Col A-B
        I will try my best to write up the whole event, with lots of pics, subject to me not being busy stuffing my face with Krug and food :)

  7. I flew MAN-DOH-MEL last month in J (Avios redemption). It was all excellent. As a BA silver, got moved to the F-seats on the A330 MAN-DOH leg, the short (55 minute) connection in DOH was flawless (sadly no time to check out the lounge), and I got a good 8 hours sleep on the 13 hour DOH-MEL leg.

  8. I’m surprised it has taken so long for you to be offered a flight freebie. A lot of bloggers in other countries seem to do quite well out of the free flights they get, the best (or worst) one I saw was in Asia where a traveller blogger (with little content on their blog) had scored free flights to Hong Kong with CX. Turns out there was a whole bunch of them on freebie flights and whilst in HK they were sent out on a treasure hunt – it was a tourism board promo to promote the sights.

    • There are huge numbers of free trips available to ‘travel’ bloggers (which I am not) and if I was 20 and happy to run around the world in economy, staying in mid range places, then it would be great.

      Most travel bloggers – who have about 5% of my readership whenever I am able to verify their numbers – seem to be able to score at least one free holiday per month with little effort. They also make no money from their blogs because they have no readership, and the readership they do have is not very lucrative. It is effectively a big con which both sides support, with tourist boards happy to buy publicity (which no-one reads, but which impresses their paymasters) at low cost, and travel bloggers (with minimal readership) overstating their abilities in order to score free holidays.

      I’ve forgotten the URL now but someone started a website last year devoted to how to create a fake travel blog in order to get free trips. It explained how to use Fiver to buy Twitter followers, Facebook likes, hits to your page and even buy fake comments.

      A huge part of World Travel Market, in London next month, is now devoted to bloggers and helping them hitch up with national tourist boards who want to throw free trips at them.

      I have a wife who works full time (and travels a fair bit) and two little kids. The sheer amount of content on this site now also means that it is effectively a full time job in itself. I have no real interest in taking any freebies involving 3-4 days away unless they are genuinely interesting and relevant and would not want to do more than 2-3 of those a year.

      (This also means, of course, that I only look at stuff which I know I will like. I’m not going to abandon my kids to fly a badly regarded airline to a dump of a city. If you find my reviews of freebies positive, that is because I only agree to things that I expect to like, not because I am in thrall to the provider.)

      • FIRSTclstraveller says:

        I am sure others on here will appreciate your honesty and also the time you take to post articles which benefit us all. Thank you.

      • It is effectively a big con which both sides support,

        So so true with many sites out there!!

        • Lady London says:

          Haha OT but a lot of professional consultancy jobs are like that.

          Something I struggle with, as a consultant!

  9. I know Raffles will say their biz class product is great. Most things are when they’re free.

    Should anyone be interested, I flew their in their best biz class 787 product (and paid for it myself, no freebie) and had an awful experience. Broken USB, no dessert cheese (even though order for it was accepted, they later told me they forgot to load it at DOH!) no night flight PJ’s (apparently they had ‘just’ run out) No inflight wifi service (or rather, it wasn’t working) Shockingly poor selection of movies on their IFE (Robocop anyone?) and aloof staff.

    Post flight, I brought matters to the attention of QA customer service which was a waste of time – they weren’t remotely interested, or rather ‘apologised’, offered 5000 Qmiles (essentially worthless) and that was it.

    Summary? An appalling experience.

    As for DOH airport and their lounge – sprawling & poor.

  10. What's The Point says:

    Will these articles create as much noise as the infamous Yacht-Gate!

    I am not bothered if you got the flight for free or paid for it using cash/Avios, I would expect a fair handed review either way.

    • No-one has actually offered me money for a sponsored post since then, luckily, so I haven’t been in a position to decide how to deal with it. 90% sure that any future ones – if there was one – would just appear on the site and not be sent to the email list.

    • plastikman says:

      the ‘roamer’ piece was one that left me feeling a bit ‘meh’. clearly some comments on that piece added by the guys from roamer without any declarations. Roamer is now the most prominent ad on the site!

      • It says in the article that Roamer had booked some advertising which is why I started to take a look at them.

        Anything which sounds like it was copied from their website is probably because I am the least techy person you will ever meet who actually runs a techy business and so I just copy stuff hoping that it makes sense :-)

  11. I’ve got a BKK-DOH-LHR flight coming up at the end of December with the wife and our 3 year old. All in C and the second leg on the all business class flight. We do have a 3 hour stopover so as a father in 40’s I’m looking forward to your report especially on the new airport and how you imagine the whole experience would be with a toddler! Thanks in advance!

    • The lounge has a small kids playroom which is OK but not lifechanging. However, what I had never seen before, in the dining room is a separate eating area with a door marked family eating area. You can go in there with your food, your kids can cause complete chaos whilst you eat, and no-one else will hear or see them.

      Should you be able to shake off the family, there is also a pinball room in the lounge. I kid you not. Table football as well.

  12. “You can go in there with your food, your kids can cause complete chaos whilst you eat, and no-one else will hear or see them.”

    Thanks for the tip Raffles. This is music to my ears, and also I’m sure to the people not travelling with kids!

  13. Simon Robshaw says:

    Looking forward to what you have to say. I’m in Doha right now having just flown from Manchester and about to fly to Seoul. So far I’m must say I’m not that impressed. Service is sloppy, and the slants bed did not impress me at all. I already have half a customer service letter written.

    • Simon Robshaw says:

      Should have said slanty bed.

    • Simon Robshaw says:

      Just this second boarded the 777 to Seoul and the difference in layout is vast. I wish I’d started the trip in London now!!

      • Basically – A380, B787 – flat bed business class with solo seats if you want one; A319 / B777 – flat bed business class but 2×2 or 2x2x2; A330 / A340 – slopey business class which is best avoided, planes on the way out as soon as the new ones arrive.

        • I flew DOH-LHR back in April in First with Qatar. Even though it was old First, the best bit was being driven from the premium terminal to the steps of the plane in a Merc. I was first on the plane too. Felt like royalty!

          • Reminds me of my Diamond Club miles redemption from Frankfurt in First with Lufthansa and the drive in a Porche from the First Class Terminal to the aircraft steps, then the handshake welcome at the door and direction to seat 2A as they closed the aircraft door behind me.

            Lots of pax peering out the windows and staring…if only they new it was a 25,000 miles/£200 redemption using a couple of MBNA credit card sign-up bonuses! :-)

          • Mikee, thanks for the info above, would not let me reply directly to your comment. will get back in touch with QR and see where they go from here.