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In late 2019, the Doha-based carrier began taking delivery of the first of 30 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners that will eventually join its fleet in the coming years.
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However, the aircraft did not end up flying passengers until last June, after operating exclusively cargo missions during the height of the pandemic.
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When these Dreamliners finally entered commercial service for Qatar, they also introduced new business-class seats, a novel take on the airline’s award-winning QSuite. These are specifically designed for the smaller width of the cabins aboard the 787-9 (compared to Boeing 777s and Airbus A350s, on which you’ll find the Qsuite).
There are now seven of these 787-9 wide-bodies in Qatar’s fleet, and I look forward to trying out the new business-class product. The opportunity came on the way home to the US after flying to Dubai in Emirates’ new premium economy.
So, how has Qatar’s latest business product fared? Read on to know about my experience flying from Doha (DOH) to Madrid (MAD).
Although the 787-9 has the range to reach the US and other long-haul destinations from Qatar Airways’ hub in Doha, Qatar’s current deployment strategy has it flying shorter routes.
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A look at the Cerium schedule for December shows that the aircraft are operating mostly on a handful of frequencies between Doha and the following cities:
If you’re interested in flying the jet on your own, you’ll want to confirm the type of aircraft on your specific flight before booking, and note that schedules are always subject to change, especially at the last minute due to the pandemic.
For now, Qatar Airways only has seven of these planes and due to manufacturing delays with the Boeing assembly line, the aircraft maker has suspended all new Dreamliner deliveries until April 2022 at the earliest.
Since Qatar Airways is a member of the Oneworld alliance, it’s fairly easy to redeem miles for the carrier’s new 787-9 business-class product, assuming you’ve got award availability.
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You can book these flights with British Airways Avios for 62,000 Avios plus £106.50. It’s just a steal of 45,000 AA miles if you have American Airlines Advantage miles.
Of course, you can also pay for your business-class seat, which may make sense during one of Qatar’s frequent promotions. Just be sure not to book one of Qatar’s new “Business Class Lite” fares, which don’t include lounge access or a seat. assignments, assuming those things matter to you.
In my case, I made a deal regarding booking this single segment from Doha to Madrid. I have booked a total of around $3,500 (£2,634) starting in Dubai and arriving in New York, a multi-segment business with connections in Doha, Madrid and London- Purchased class fare – which included the segment on the Boeing 787-9 to Qatar. , Iberia’s Airbus A350 and British Airways’ Boeing 777 with club suites.
It always pays to play around with connections and itineraries to see if you can unlock lower fares.
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I had just arrived in Dubai (DXB) after flying Emirates’ new premium economy and was on my way back home with Qatar via Doha and Madrid.
As such, the entire check-in process for my itinerary was completed in Dubai. I was asked to present my negative COVID-19 test result (to satisfy U.S. entry requirements), and was then issued onward boarding passes for my connecting flight.
Upon landing in Doha—at a gate, thankfully, rather than a remote stand that would have required a bus transfer—I made my way to the airport’s transit area. This required clearing a security checkpoint, although it took only a few minutes due to a dedicated area for premium-cabin passengers.
From there, I navigated through crowds of people (yes, 1 a.m. really is rush hour at Hamad International Airport) before arriving at Qatar’s Al Safwa first-class lounge, a quiet oasis for the night.
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If I were in Doha, I would not have access to Qatar’s first class lounge – it is limited to those departing in first class (London, Paris and other points in the gulf region), as well as the top tier Privilege Club nonstop Those who fly
First class passengers have historically had access to the Al Safwa lounge if they were arriving via a European route. However, during the pandemic, anyone traveling in first class, regardless of destination, has been able to temporarily access the Al Safwa lounge. It’s unclear whether this will become a permanent change to the access policy, but I’m certainly hopeful.
While I was sitting in a business-class cabin from Dubai to Doha, Qatar technically sells these seats as first class on routes within the Gulf region, meaning I would have access to Al Safwa.
Had I not been eligible to use the Al Safwa lounge, I would have been admitted to the Al Mourjan business-class lounge instead. It’s one of the best business-class lounges in the world, but Al Safwa still has it beat.
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We’ve reviewed the Al Safwa Lounge extensively here at TPG, so I’ll cover some of the highlights of my six-hour stay there.
The first thing I did was head straight to the spa area to inquire about the availability of one of the 12 private nap rooms.
Luckily, one was ready when I arrived, and after signing some paperwork, I was ushered into room number 12.
With beds dressed in proper linens, a desk, a closet, and a private bathroom with walk-in shower, these rooms resemble a hotel room more than a dorm room. This was my second favorite airport lounge bedroom after the one I used in the Swiss first class lounge in Zurich in 2019.
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Everyone who has access to the Al Safwa lounge can access these rooms on a first come first serve basis. The first six hours are free, and blocks of additional six hours cost 450 Qatari riyals, or roughly £94.
Luckily, my stay was only a little over six hours, so I was able to use the room free of charge for the rest of my stay. I snoozed for an hour but was frustrated that I couldn’t turn off every light in the room (a safety feature, I figured). At least the twin size bed was extremely comfortable.
At the end of my stay, I showered in the private bathroom, and I especially appreciated the Woody Diptyque shower amenities. More than anything, the private room proved to be a great place to safely store all my belongings while I moved around the lounge.
While I spent a significant portion of my stay in the private room, I did go around the lounge in the middle of the night, around 3am, to take some photos.
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This is one of the most attractive lounges I have visited so far. The extremely high ceilings provide an open-air feel without the noise from the terminal. Inspired by the design of Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art, the lounge featured some historically significant vases, ceramics, and textiles on display along the wall – and indeed, walking around the lounge in one of the busiest airports It felt more like browsing a museum than spending time. In this world.
I was a big fan of the two water features inside. One had light water dripping from a wall and the other was a tall cylinder with water flowing down from the ceiling into a circular pool. White noise generated by the movement of the water added to the feeling of relaxation.
The best thing about the lounge was that it never felt too busy (unlike Al Mourjan, which often gets very crowded during peak hours).
I ordered dinner for the middle of my stay, and I was impressed by the quality of all the food. You can’t go wrong with Qatar’s traditional Arabic mezze, which includes individual bowls of hummus, tabbouleh, and muhammara served with some Arabic bread.
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I also tried vegetable falafel with spinach and tofu tortellini, then baked apples for dessert—all of which tasted more like something you’d find at a restaurant than an airport lounge. All food orders were served à la carte, with servers taking orders from a digital menu that was available after scanning a QR code (and linked here).
About an hour before boarding, I decided to book a treatment at the lounge’s spa. Unlike some other first class lounges, which offer smaller, supplemental services, all available here are a la carte, and they are expensive. My 20-minute massage cost 230 Qatari riyals, or roughly £50.
It was a splurge, but one I found worth it. After all, it was a legitimate spa: There were several treatment rooms with massage beds and individual bathrooms—no chair massages you might otherwise find in an airport lounge.
There was a menu of treatments available via QR code (and linked here), which included body treatments as well as facials and skin treatments (all available at an additional cost).
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Once my service was over, it was
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