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The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN Review

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand Park Lane, London
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A330 “First” Class DOH-MCT
Oman Air Business Class Lounge, MCT
Oman Air E175 Business Class MCT-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Vistara A320 Business Class BLR-DEL
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
Cathay Pacific Arrivals Lounge HKG
W Hong Kong
Touring Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


I rushed over to the boarding gate from The Bridge, the final CX lounge I visited in my 3 for 4 tour of Cathay Pacific’s HKG lounges. My heart pounding, I arrived at the gate…only to discover that boarding hadn’t even started yet.

I joined the line nonetheless so I could be first on board to take photos. One thing I’ve come to realise about writing trip reports is that an empty cabin is like ambrosia- you have unobstructed views of the seats, and you can take a million and one photos without someone giving you weird stares.

Boarding eventually started 15 minutes late (would that have been enough time to sprint to The Pier, I wondered), but I managed to overtake the two gentlemen infront of me in the jetbridge and be first on board. I’m a regular Jesse Owens.

I entered an empty cabin, decked out with CX’s brand new A350 J seats.

Obviously with a 1-2-1 configuration you’ll go for the sides if you’re travelling by yourself, but if they’re all taken the centre isn’t bad either. You can see that there is a lot of privacy between the two middle seats. This obviously doesn’t work out if you want to talk to your seatmate, as both of you have to lean very far forward. But bah, conversation is overrated. 

Cathay Pacific’s A350 seats have not had a charmed existence so far. The seats, provided by Zodiac Aerospace, were plagued with manufacturing defects. As per AusBT-

(the seats) have been beset by problems such as ill-fitting seat fabric and trim, peeling and flaking laminate surfaces and broken latch mechanisms.

That’s an extensive laundry list of problems for a brand new seat. Here’s a great rundown (with lots of photos) from the Runway Girl Network that documented the issues with the first gen of A350 seats. Long story short, Zodiac agreed to replace all the business class seats on the first A350 aircraft that joined CX’s fleet. For aircrafts four to ten, which also had issues, CX’s internal engineering team rectified them. Supposedly.

I have no idea whether I flew on a newly-delivered A350 or one that had been remedied, but for what it’s worth I didn’t encounter any particular issues with the seat on my flight.

On first glance, the seat looks very similar to the one you find on the A330, but closer inspection reveals significant differences.

One feature that they have thankfully kept from the A330 is the large “ears” around the seat which enhances privacy.

Indeed, the profile of the A350 J seat provides similar privacy to that of the A330- it’s difficult to see the top of anyone’s head, unless they’re very tall

Where have things changed? If you read my review of CX’s A330 you’ll remember how I talked about Cathay putting everything you need on the side panel. They’ve gone and changed that a bit, and you no longer find the USB or power plugs on the side panel. You will, however, find a modern touchscreen IFE controller.

J seat side panel, A350
J seat side panel, A330

I could not, for the life of me, find the power plug or USB ports and desperately needed to top off my devices. I flagged a passing crew member, who amazingly also couldn’t find the plugs. She said she’d need to consult with a team member (I’m guessing she’s new to this aircraft type, or Cathay’s internal training procedures aren’t as robust as they used to)

A few minutes later she returned and clicked open the cupboard on the side panel (you’ll remember the A330 has this storage area for your headphones too).

Inside the cupboard, lo and behold, the power outlets! (I do like the shade of red they’ve chosen for the interior too)

The screen that CX has chosen for its A350s is very bright and crisp, even with the mid-day sun steaming through the windows. On SQ’s 2006 J seat the screen can be washed out in bright light, so this is definitely an improvement over that (the 2013 J seat has very good backlighting and this is less of an issue)

There are additional storage areas in the A350 seat as well. For example, here’s the panel where your legs usually rest (note the unsightly coffee (?) stain that wasn’t cleaned properly)

This area opens up to reveal a shoe storage area, in fetching red.

They’ve also made some space for you to put a water bottle in the aisle facing armrest.

You gotta love how high tech A350 cabins are- like how the ubiquitous fasten seatbelt sign and no smoking have gone digital.

It was a full house in the cabin as the plane taxied for takeoff.

The crew distributed menus shortly after takeoff for the meal that was to be served on this flight to Singapore.

I’m not sure whether this counts as cost cutting, but this meal wasn’t tagged as lunch but rather refreshment. The flight left HKG at 1520, so I get what they mean by it’s neither here nor there, but on SQ I believe they would have done a full dinner service on such a flight. It’s funny because you have some people complaining that SQ is cheap compared to Cathay by not offering caviar service in First Class on supper flights (Cathay does), but here you have an example of CX having gone the other way in business class on a regional flight with a truncated meal service.

Nuts and drinks were served before the meal was brought- CX serves Moet in the lounges but Billecart Salmon in the air, the same thing that QR serves.

A little while later, the appetizer of cured salmon, fennel and creme fraiche was served.

The salmon was nice, but there were only two pieces of it. A small blob of fish roe was served on the creme fraiche.

The crew then did something interesting by wheeling a cart through the aisle. This cart had all three refreshment options on it (afternoon tea set, beef stroganoff and roast duck noodle soup)

I’m not quite sure what I thought of this. I eat with my eyes, so it’s always helpful to see what each dish looks like before deciding. At the same time, it doesn’t seem very business class to use carts for serving.

In the end it didn’t matter because seeing the items didn’t necessarily help me pick the best one.

The duck noodle soup was not what I expected from a country with as proud a food culture as Hong Kong. The soup was watery, the noodles bland, the veggies limp and the duck had that taste meat gets when you microwave it too much.

I will say this, though. Nothing beats Haagen-Dazs ice cream for desert. So what if it’s not Danish? Caramel biscuit and cream is amazing.

After the meal, I checked out the latest iteration of Studio CX on the IFE system. You’ll notice the version of IFE they’re running is different from the one on the A330- this has many more features and a much nicer interface.

The screen is fully touch sensitive but if you don’t feel like leaning forward you can always use the controller. Recent movies like Beauty and the Beast and the Lego Batman movie were being shown.

A big selection of games too, but sadly none of them reach the heights of the old Nintendo 64.

One feature that CX has on their IFE which I’d really like SQ to copy is satellite TV. Or even better- do what Etihad has done and broadcast sports live. I can’t tell you how surreal it was to watch Arsenal live from 30,000 feet. I can’t tell you how even more surreal it was to see them try not to pass the ball into the net.

The flight ultimately isn’t very long at slightly over 3.5 hours, and soon we were descending into Singapore. I realised it would be the first time I’d set foot on home soil in 2 months.

Wrapping up the 2017 RTW Trip

I said at the start of all this that I probably have one of the most interesting jobs in the world, because I can’t think of any other occupation that lets you do this sort of thing. Unfortunately, this will be the last time I’ll do a RTW trip (at least for business) because in subsequent years I’ll be handing off this particular portfolio to a colleague in the interest of spreading around the professional development.

That said, the discovery of how great value RTW tickets are has got me thinking about possibly using some of my miles to redeem an RTW award one day. Think about it- round trip saver business class to the USA is already 176,000 miles, but doing a RTW J ticket via Krisflyer is 240,000 (a round trip standard business class ticket is 240,000 miles too fyi).

I realise there are tremendous logistical difficulties in booking an award RTW ticket, because unlike a revenue ticket you’re at the mercy of airlines opening up award space for routes/dates you want. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you want to book a RTW award ticket, you need to plan your destinations around what dates and routes are available, not the other way round. I’m still interested in booking one however, and that should if nothing else make for a very interesting experience.

SQ to unveil new A380 cabin products on 2 November

After much speculation, we finally have a date: As per AusBT, SQ will unveil its new Suites, business class and economy class seats for its new A380s on 2 November. The media event will be held in Singapore (and The Milelion was not invited, but good thing he is mature and completely not petty).

What’s interesting about the choice of date is that it looks to get the jump on Emirates’ new first class launch at the Dubai Airshow that runs from 12-16 November.

Based on what we’ve seen in the past, the gap between product announcement and product launch has been anything between 60-80 days

So I think it’s safe to say we won’t see these new products until start of Jan at the earliest.

What do we know about the new products?

Say what you will about SQ, but they’ve been playing their cards very close to the chest on this one. Here’s a collection of what we know and don’t know about the new A380 cabin products

  • Suites will be moved to the upper deck and cut from 12 to 6 in a single aisle formation
  • Suites will not feature a shower
  • Sydney will almost certainly be the launch destination for the new A380 products, with SQ221 and 232 likely to be the inaugural flights (neither is selling more than 6 Suites seats from January)
  • Some rejected designs for SQ’s new cabin products can be found here
  • The business class seat introduced on 2 November will be the same as that which appears on the ULR A350s that will restart non stop service to the LAX, New York and a third unnamed destination (Boston? Seattle? Chicago?)

Suites saver award availability on 221 is near impossible to find, but I managed to secure a date in late March. For those of you who are thinking of making a speculative booking, my advice is that you don’t bother messing around with the website checking date by date- just call up KF membership services, tell them you want to fly 221 in suites saver and don’t care what date. They’ll look through the months and feed you possible dates. That’s what I did.

This is all very exciting. Let’s see what SQ has up its sleeve.

What Singapore-based flyers need to know about the SQ-Alaska Airlines partnership

This really came out of nowhere, but Singapore Airlines and Alaska Airlines have announced a new frequent flyer partnership that provides for codeshares plus reciprocal frequent flyer mile accruals and redemptions between Krisflyer and Mileageplan (Alaska’s frequent flyer program).

A reader actually tipped me off on this about a week ago. He said he called up Alaska Airlines and an agent just let it slip, but of course we had no way of verifying it then so didn’t write anything.

But it’s now official, and from 27th September you’ll be able to start reciprocal mileage earning, with reciprocal mileage redemption starting at a later date.

Here’s what’s relevant to those of us in Singapore.

SQ passengers can now earn valuable Alaska Mileageplan miles

This is one of the biggest pluses for me because it represents an opportunity for those of us based in Singapore to earn one of the most useful points currencies out there.

Here’s how many miles you get when you credit SQ revenue tickets to Mileageplan:

Crediting SQ revenue tickets to Mileageplan. Remember to add up all 3 columns for the total

Mark over at The Shutterwhale has produced a useful comparison chart of how crediting to Krisflyer differs from Mileageplan, but to summarise, with the exception of

  • Premium Economy (110% KF vs 100% MP)
  • Economy E & M (100% KF vs 75% MP)
  • Economy H&W (100% KF vs 50% MP)
  • Economy N, Q, K&V (10-50% KF vs 0% for MP- these are SQ’s Super Saver and Sweet Deal fare buckets)

So there are some gaps in economy coverage, but otherwise you always come out equal or better in terms of absolute number of miles when crediting SQ flights to Mileageplan. (this is obviously not an apples to apples comparison insofar as 1 Krisflyer mile will not be worth the same as a 1 Mileageplan mile, but given how common Krisflyer miles are in Singapore I’d value 1 Mileageplan mile higher than a Krisflyer mile)

Don’t feel bad about not crediting your SQ flights to Krisflyer. In Singapore, we can easily earn Krisflyer miles from credit cards, Kaligo, Mileslife, petrol stations, telcos, fashion, airport loyalty programs, even your PAssion card…the list goes on and on. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that 80% of my miles are earned from non-flying means.

Remember that you can choose to credit your miles to Alaska Airlines but still earn PPS Value on Singapore Airlines for the purposes of renewing PPS membership.

Alaska Mileageplan has awesome partner awards on Cathay and JAL

Once upon a time, Alaska’s Mileageplan was the best way to redeem Emirates First Class awards.  For only 100,000 miles, you could fly one way First Class on Emirates from SIN-DXB-JFK where you’d get not one, but two showers in the sky on their A380. Alaska sells their miles as low as 2.11 US cents each, meaning you could buy this experience for US$2,110. Not cheap, but a heck of a lot better than paying revenue rates.

emirates

But like all good things that went away with a massive unannounced devaluation (plus, the most ridiculous explanation ever).  A First Class award ticket to the USA from Singapore now costs 180,000 miles. Similarly, Business Class awards went up from 75,000 to 105,000.

Image result for cathay pacific first class
CX First Class

The good news is that Mileageplan still has some spectacular value partner awards on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.

  • One way business and first class awards from SIN to the USA on CX cost a mere 50,000 and 70,000 miles respectively
  • One way business and first class awards within Asia on JAL cost 25,000 and 30,000 miles respectively (you won’t really find F award space intra-Asia on JAL, but you could fly SIN-HND/NRT for 25,000 miles on business class. Or better yet, fly DEL-SIN-NRT for the same price. The engine allows it!)
  • One way business and first class awards within Asia on CX cost 22,500 and 27,500 miles respectively
  • If you don’t mind taking a very roundabout way to New Zealand or Australia, you can fly from Hong Kong on CX business for 30,000 miles one way. You’d need to plan your own way to HKG though

It won’t really mean less award space for you

If you’re worried that SQ adding another American partner means less award space for you in Singapore, don’t be. This is not like what happened back in 2014 when SQ added Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citibank in the USA to its transfer partner list. When that happened, yanks were able to transfer their steroid-enhanced credit card bonuses into Krisflyer miles and start competing with the rest of us for award space.

Image result for sq new business class
SQ’s 2013 J seat- not available to partner airlines

We all know that SQ is notoriously tightfisted about releasing its award inventory to partners, and long haul J/F awards are only available to Krisflyer members with Krisflyer miles. Therefore, if a US-based flyer wants to redeem SQ long haul J/F awards, he or she will need to convert credit card points into Krisflyer miles then book. They won’t be able to access these awards through Alaska Mileageplan.

Image result for sq regional business class
SQ’s regional business class seat- available to partner airlines (snicker)

At most, Alaska Mileageplan members will be able to access SQ’s economy space + regional business class routes served by the A330s/772s, however. So from that point of view there might be more competition, but it’s really on routes that we don’t care so much about.

It means better award connectivity in the USA when redeeming Krisflyer miles

We have yet to see Krisflyer’s award chart for Alaska airlines awards, but there is the potential for greater connectivity for those of us in Singapore trying to get to destinations in the US that SQ does not serve (and who don’t want to rely on United)

If you’re flying into SFO, for example, you can connect on an Alaska one-stop flight to Seattle, Kansas City, Minneapolis/St Paul, Albuquerque, even Mexico City. Alaska is historically mostly a west coast airline, but their acquisition of Virgin America will open up more routes on the east coast to them.

I will be interested to see how SQ implements this, although my sense is that they will have a separate award chart for Alaska that features only domestic US routes. In other words, you won’t be able to save miles by redeeming a SIN-HKG-SFO-SEA ticket, you’ll have to redeem one with SQ for SIN-HKG-SFO and another with Alaska for SFO-SEA.

Conclusion

Although this partnership was unexpected, it’s certainly great news for those of us in Singapore. From a miles redemption and accrual point of view, we certainly have more to gain than flyers based in the US.

I’d certainly start paying a lot more attention to Mileageplan sales, and try to supplement that balance whenever I fly on SQ.

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG Review

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand Park Lane, London
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A330 “First” Class DOH-MCT
Oman Air Business Class Lounge, MCT
Oman Air E175 Business Class MCT-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Vistara A320 Business Class BLR-DEL
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
Cathay Pacific Arrivals Lounge HKG
W Hong Kong
Touring Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


I wrote about how I deliberately rerouted myself through Delhi instead of flying direct from Bangalore to Hong Kong, so as to avoid the horror that is recliner seats on a red-eye flight. But as I gathered my luggage off the belt at 11.20 pm and shuffled towards the international area at Delhi airport where I’d wait a further two hours to board, I started wondering whether it was worth it.

I had now been on the road for 6 whole weeks and wanted nothing more than to climb into bed and set my out of office reply to a gif of a hibernating bear (the ursine creature, not the San Francisco kind)

Fortunately check-in was lighting fast at Delhi’s international airport. Delhi’s Terminal 3 was opened in 2010 and is very modern, a far cry from the Indian airports of old (I lived in Mumbai long enough to see the crossover between the old Mumbai airport and new one, and the two are night and day too). My bags were checked through to Hong Kong and I was invited to the Plaza Premium lounge in Delhi.

There isn’t an awful much to write about the lounge other than it was really crowded (given that it’s the main contract lounge for airlines flying out of T3) and I ended up having to sit at one of the computer terminals to eat.

So I’ll leave you with some photos of the buffet selection and move on.

 

Flight CX694 started boarding about 30 minutes before its 0110 departure slot. I left the lounge at the T-40 mark and the lounge staff had horrified looks on their faces and urged me to make haste for the gate. I thought they were being drama queens, but after seeing never ending travellator after travellator, I was starting to think they had a point. Terminal 3 is huge, and I arrived at the gate with 20 minutes to go, well after boarding had started.

Cathay’s Business Class cabin on its A330 is configured 1-2-1 with in business class with both a forward and back cabin.

I originally chose a seat in the rear cabin, 20A, but after discovering there was the most delightful of wailing babies in the economy cabin just behind asked if there were seats upfront. Fortunately, 14G was available, albeit with a busted IFE system (well, not busted, but the screen didn’t swing out fully). I only wanted to sleep, so gladly made the trade.

I have to say I like CX’s business class seat. It’s reasonably spacious and puts all the lights, controls and plugs you need on one convenient side panel.

What I also like about the seats is that they have these privacy ears that block you from the main aisle. It’s amazing how many airlines order reverse herringbone seats then exclude this feature. A simple extension can make the seat feel that much more private.

The seat had storage for books, computers and newspapers.

There was more space at the base of the seat in front of you, but this was already occupied by the in flight magazine and safety card.

All the controls you needed were on the side panel. Here’s where you’ll find your IFE controller, reading light, seat controls, power plugs, you name it.

A close up of the seat controls- I liked that they actually physically resembled the seat, rather than the button layout that other airlines use. It’s a lot more intuitive.

I kept wondering where my headphones were, until I found this small cupboard in the side panel that had a mirror and a hook to hang the headphones.

The tray table pulled out from underneath the control panel and flipped over to create a large and sturdy surface

No alcohol was served on the ground in Delhi, so I took water as a pre departure drink.

Hot towels came along too. I declined to take one, but noted that the lady seated to my right found…a better use for it.

I should point out that throughout the flight she kept on taking selfies with flash. Like she’d turn the camera around and flash her own face. Now, I suck at photography but I know enough to say that (1) you won’t get nice photos that way (2) camera phone flash is not going to be very helpful in a really dark cabin (3) you’re annoying the hell out of everyone else around you. She also kept asking for more wine in a loud voice.

I haven’t flown Cathay an awful lot but it felt like they had made some cutbacks where the menu was concerned. Today’s menu was printed on some flimsy feeling paper, the kind you imagine someone runs down to the local photocopying shop to assemble.

This flight departed well past midnight, so the plan was to get everyone to bed and serve breakfast before landing. I think this makes sense, insofar as there is some buffer time required to get meals ready, so that time might as well be when people are sleeping as opposed to Takeoff–> Buffer–> Eat–> Sleep

But nothing on the menu appealed to me. I knew from experience that the Western options ex-DEL would be absymal, and omelettes are never good for planes anyway (they always end up super dry). I decided to skip breakfast, sleep more and take a meal in the CX arrivals lounge

We received an amenities kit designed by Seventy Eight Percent. This is a Japanese brand that bills itself as making “fantastic bags for extraordinary men.” Well, I certainly think I qualify. I once started the League of Extraordinarily Endowed Gentlemen in my JC class.

The bag reminds me of blue jeans.

Inside you’ll find earplugs, mouthwash,  a toothbrush set, lip balm, some hand cream and moisturizer.

After takeoff, the crew did a round of drinks service. There wasn’t a wine list so I never actually knew what champagne I was being served. For what it’s worth, other recent trip reports say it’s Billecart-Salmon Brut, but it tasted nothing like the one I had on QR.

The crew also gave out two bottles of water to each passenger. I was surprised to see one cheap brand and one expensive one.

Before I got into bed I went for the toilet. There was a bit of a line for the loos, so I hovered in the middle galley where I browsed the magazine selection.

Cathay’s A330 toilets are really old- manual soap dispensers and taps, manual flush loos. How I miss the high tech bathrooms on ANA’s 787…

The bathroom amenities were Jurlique-branded.

I quickly pawed through Cathay’s IFE system before going to bed. Like I mentioned, the screen in this seat was slightly defective in that it would not swing out fully from the notch holding it in place.

StudioCX has an excellent selection of the latest movies and TV shows. I think that on most top class airlines IFE has ceased to be a serious point of differentiation. I’ve read great things about Emirate’s ICE system, but am struggling to think how you can differentiate your IFE system beyond content.

Job done, it was time to rest. Many people seem to prefer business class seat designs that allow you to pick the exact angle you want to recline at, as opposed to SQ’s all or nothing approach. CX’s seat should make such people happy- I’ve generally found that the optimum angle is not full flat, but maybe 170 odd degrees. It might have something to do with the fact that the aircraft doesn’t fly completely straight, or maybe I’m just weird.

The problem with a flight like DEL-HKG is that it clocks in roughly just over 5 hours, which isn’t any time at all. Before I knew it we were being woken up for landing. I realised at this point I was indeed quite hungry, but was excited to check out the arrivals lounge that Cathay operates in HKG.

I was now in the final city of my RTW trip. Almost home!

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Vistara A320 Business Class BLR-DEL Review

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand Park Lane, London
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A330 “First” Class DOH-MCT
Oman Air Business Class Lounge, MCT
Oman Air E175 Business Class MCT-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Vistara A320 Business Class BLR-DEL
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
Cathay Pacific Arrivals Lounge HKG
W Hong Kong
Touring Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


After 6 weeks on the road, it was finally time to return home!

map

My initial plan was to fly from BLR to HKG on Cathay Dragon and then catch a connecting flight from HKG to SIN on Cathay Pacific. But Business Class on Cathay Dragon consists of recliner seats, and the prospect of a 6 hour red-eye flight leaving at 0130 on a plane equipped with this didn’t exactly fill me with joy.

Image result for cathay dragon business class a330
photo credit: Efficient Asian Man

So I started thinking of other options, and realised that Cathay Pacific operated an A330 from DEL-HKG, which was equipped with their reverse herringbone full flat J seats.

Image result for cathay pacific a330 business class

The price difference compared to Cathay Dragon was negligible. Furthermore, I was able to find a deep discount Vistara premium seat from BLR-DEL that would put me in DEL in good time for the CX flight.

map

Domestic flying in India is rarely anything to get excited about, but I was intrigued at the opportunity to try Vistara. Image result for vistara logoFor those of you who don’t know, Vistara is SIA’s joint venture with Tata Sons in India. The airline started operations in Jan 2015 and now flies 19 domestic routes in India with a fleet of A320-200 aircraft. Vistara comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “limitless expanse”. (cue jokes from wags about “limitless expense” should the airline do badly)

Image result for vistara launch

There’s an interesting piece in CampaignAsia about how Vistara got its branding off the ground and it’s interesting how Vistara tries to tap SQ’s strong service DNA while trying to retain an identity of its own.

I got to Bangalore airport in the late afternoon, well ahead of a 7.30pm departure. Bangalore airport is pleasant enough- high ceilings, natural light, well marked signs.

Vistara’s check in area at Bangalore’s domestic terminal was quite distinctive, with purple carpets and cheerful staff. There was only one other person in line for Business Class check in.

My bag was tagged to Delhi (Vistara and CX don’t operate interline agreements, and even if they did I didn’t want to be at the mercy of a missed connection after what the geniuses at Omanair did with my stuff) and boarding pass issued. You can earn Krisflyer miles when you fly Vistara, and Vistara recognises Krisflyer Gold benefits.

I love Vistara’s boarding pass design. Maybe I just have fond memories of gold boarding passes, after my SQ Suites experiences. But there’s something decidedly elegant about the design that made me wish SQ didn’t cut all the color out of their economy class boarding passes.

I saw an invitation printed on my boarding pass for the “Above Ground Level” lounge. That’s helpful, I thought. At least I know where the lounge is. I wonder what it’s called?

Well. Can’t say I wasn’t warned. The lounge was crowded, but had a good spread of food and drinks. I didn’t get good photos so I’ll just post some shots of the layout. There were a few live cooking stations, a paid bar and lots of seats.

They had an egg station. It was 5.30pm, but I can never say no to some sunny sides. And maggi mee.

Boarding was delayed by almost an hour due to the late arrival of the aircraft from Delhi (Vistara’s hub), which made me glad I had plenty of time to catch my connecting CX flight.

Vistara only operates one kind of aircraft, and their business class cabin is 2-2 configured. The seats, as you’d expect, are recliners, but they have the benefit of being extremely new (the airline only started in 2015 after all). I do like the choice of purple leather for the upholstery.

There were only 8 seats in total in Business Class. You can see that legroom is plenty sufficient, even if the person infront of you reclines fully.

I assigned myself a window seat in the rear row, but realised that meant my recline was somewhat obstructed. There’s a bit of noise leakage from the rear cabin as well because the partition does not fully align with the side fuselage on your right.

Vistara has not chosen to install IFE on its aircraft, nor was any portable IFE system offered after takeoff (unlike on Royal Air Maroc). This was a bit disappointing, especially since they’re trying to position themselves as a premium carrier.

I know that Vistara was planning to launch IFE via Wi-Fi streaming, and the plan was that all aircraft would have it by the end of 2015. But the rollout has been delayed and there wasn’t any entertainment available on my flight.

One of the issues I have with tray tables in economy (or in business class on narrow body jets) is that they’re invariably flimsy, and you keep worrying they’ll flex in the wrong direction and send water all over your lap. Vistara has a clever engineering innovation that attempts to address that- see the bottom right of the tray? There’s an extendable component of the table that can anchor itself against the armrest, providing more “grip” for the table.

The seat had an additional legrest that extended out from beneath the seat that made it a bit more comfortable to nap in.

The Vistara crew were extremely pleasant and cheerful. I was addressed by name (possibly the first time that’s ever happened on an Indian carrier for me, although to be fair the only other Indian carrier I ever flew premium with was Air India…) and very well looked after throughout the flight.

They brought out an assortment of welcome drinks after I’d taken my seat. I went with water and orange juice.

I really like that Vistara doesn’t just use generic glasses- they’re really trying to build a brand, and the logos imprinted on these glasses go some way towards doing that.

They also gave me a menu and told me they’d come around to take my dinner order after takeoff.

I have to say I love the paper that Vistara used for the menu- you can see subtle prints of the Vistara logo on the glossy menu, which was a nice touch (I had a long debate with a friend over Whatsapp whether it was “pore” or “pour”.  Turns out “pore” is right)

The captain came on the PA system to welcome us onboard, apologise for the delay and inform us of the 2h 45 minute flight time to Delhi. After a manual safety demonstration (no video screens in these A320s), we pushed back, taxied and got airborne.

The crew came around to take drinks and dinner orders. I need to say a special word about the catering on this flight, because it was really, really good. I’ve always been very weary about catering out of Indian airports because if you don’t like Indian food (which they do phenomenally), you’re not going to have a very good time. I find Indian airport’s catering of Western food to be questionable and as for Chinese food…let’s not go there (which is why I was so intrigued by ANA’s catering ex-BOM, knowing how particular the Japanese were about their food).

Vistara serves the entire meal on a tray, which some people dislike for business class but never really bothered me. The meal opened with a very nice cream of broccoli soup. I was impressed with how rich it was.

Salad was salad. The greens were crisp and fresh.

The garlic bread wasn’t great, however. It was more like garlic biscuits and was over toasted.

Indian Airlines do not serve alcohol on domestic routes, but Vistara has some very lovely mocktails with fresh mint. I asked the flight attendant twice what this was but both times didn’t understand what she was saying, so I’m just going to call it a Bombay Blue and take credit when they adopt that name.

The main of pepper coriander fish with fried rice and bok choy was delicious. Now I know it’s Indianized Chinese food, but still, this tasted good. The fish was tender, the fried rice fragrant and the green chili that came with it gave it a lot of kick.

I’m glad that Vistara went with a old fashioned crowd pleaser for desert- ice cream. Give me this over fancy pants macaroons any day.

With the meal done I reclined my seat to catch a few Zs. Here you can see how the bulkhead behind the last row of sets somewhat restricts recline.

The crew were very attentive even after meal service, occasionally patrolling the aisle to see if anyone wanted more water, or coffee, or tea. You could tell they were really proud to be part of the airline (and probably relieved not to be working for Air India).

Just before landing I checked out the loo. Vistara hasn’t done anything fancy with the loos, sadly, as they’re the typical A320 stock bathroom. No fancy toiletries either.

The lack of IFE was a bit of a let down, but fortunately I had all the Netflix content synced to my phone so I finished out the very mediocre Season 5 of House of Cards.

So yes, my Vistara experience was head and shoulders above any other domestic Indian flight I’ve had so far. Great crew, good catering, new cabin and seats. Rumour has it that Vistara might order widebody aircraft as they go international in 2018, and I for one would be very interested to see what cabin products they’ll put in it.

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand Park Lane, London
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A330 “First” Class DOH-MCT
Oman Air Business Class Lounge, MCT
Oman Air E175 Business Class MCT-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Vistara A320 Business Class BLR-DEL
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
Cathay Pacific Arrivals Lounge HKG
W Hong Kong
Touring Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


Boarding for QR 572 began promptly at 7pm for a 7.30pm departure. Priority boarding was strictly enforced, despite a load  of people crowding around the boarding pass scanning area.

I headed down the jetway and entered the cabin of Qatar’s 772.

First impressions did not blow me away, but the 772s are among the oldest aircraft in Qatar’s fleet with an average age of 7.6 years, second only to the A330s (which have received refurbished seats in recent years)

Now, these seats may look like angled flat ones, but they’re not. I can attest that they are full flat seats. Not the best in the market, for sure, but certainly better than an angled flat seat.

If you’re traveling with a partner, you won’t mind one of the two seats at the side which at least gives the window passenger more privacy.

But if you’re traveling by yourself you might want to go for the 2 seats in the middle, which allows you to access the aisle without bothering your seatmate.

There is a whole lot of legroom inbetween seats, as this photo shows.

However, you can see some potential issues for someone  who needs to hop over you to get to the aisle when you’re fully extended, especially in the bulkhead seats.

I was originally seated in 5E, the bulkhead near the front of the cabin. One super annoying thing about bulkhead centre seats in 2-2-2 configured J cabins is that fellow passengers seem to think it’s ok to cut across infront of you instead of walking behind through the galley.

These seats in general don’t have the best amount of privacy.  I mean, glance across and you’ll see everyone else (the gold standard of business class, for me, is what I proudly call The Milelion’s stand test. When I stand up, how many other people can I see in the cabin? SQ’s 2006 and 2013 J seats pass this test with flying colors)

The middle privacy divider is pathetic. This is how far it extends. I don’t even know why they bothered to build a privacy divider if the only thing it does is stop your elbows from touching your neighbour’s.

The Qatar Airways rule on alcohol during Ramadan is somewhat inconsistent. Some crews won’t serve alcohol at all until after takeoff. Others will serve it when the doors close. Fortunately, the crew today believed in serving it straight from boarding. A full glass of Billecart Salmon brut was poured and appreciated. A hot towel was also given.

I was also given an amenities kit by the crew that had socks, an eye shade and lip balm.

I realise QR has two types of amenities kits- the small one they give on short/medium haul flights and the bigger, BRICS one on long haul flights.

Business-class-men's

The tray table had faux marble walnut in it and felt really solid.

I also had a chance to fool around with the armrest seat controls. I believe the seat had a massage function but I was never able to get it working.

There were only four people in the entire rear business class cabin so I relocated to a pair of seats by the side as soon as the doors closed.

A 2-2-2 configuration is still bearable if you have an empty seat next to you. Trust me, it’s not fun to be in such close proximity to a stranger on a sleeper flight.

Note the storage space around the front of the seat that the bulkhead seats don’t have. You could put a pair of shoes in there.

The crew noticed I relocated and happily delivered another (full) glass of champagne.

Each seat has USB charging and in-seat power (not pictured)

And a reading light near your shoulder. The whole set up really reminds me of SQ’s Spacebed seats, just full flat…

After takeoff, the crew started drinks and nuts service. Another glass magically appeared in front of me and who was I to say no?

The IFE system on this place was as extensive as on all other Qatar flights, but I had work to do (writing reports is so much easier after a few glasses of champagne, I assure you)  so I didn’t have a chance to browse.

The crew distributed menus after post takeoff drinks were done. I love the subtle texture that QR has on its menus. Simple, elegant, classy.

The drinks list was exactly the same as what I had on my QR flight from DAR, which you can refer to here. So I’m just going to show you the most important page and move on.

I’m actually quite surprised they had both Rose and Brut available. Most airlines don’t stock Rose.

Here’s the menu for our evening flight to Bangalore. Nothing really caught my eye from the menu.

The table was set and a warm bread basket placed on the table. I love the dinner rolls that QR serves and it’s a pity they can’t give you three of the same thing.

The first course was cream of broccoli soup. At least I think it was. It was euphemistically labelled “soup of the day” in the menu and I realise was never properly introduced to me.

After the soup came the Arabic mezze. Look, I’ll be the first to say I’m not big on Middle Eastern food, so I couldn’t tell if this was good or not. I did enjoy the warmed flatbread with butter though.

For the main I had the paprika marinated chicken breast with herbs and cheese. Didn’t care for the cheese, but the most awesome thing was the crew came around with condiments of spring onions and green chili. I love green chili and kept asking them for more until my eyes started watering and my nasal cavities started…well anyway the chicken was much improved by the garnish.

Hazelnut and caramel tart sounded like a winner combination, but turned out to be a sticky mess.


A visit to the loo confirmed a very no frills layout. I think bathrooms are an area where we’ve not seen as much innovation from airlines as we should. It strikes me as a missed opportunity- not everyone needs to do what Eithad and Emirates have done on their A380s, but surely a bigger bathroom that feels less sterile can’t be far away?

There were a few toothbrushes and a box of Kleenex that seemed haphazardly scattered on the counter.

The toiletries on offer were by Rituals.

After finishing my work I tried to catch a few winks, knowing it would be well past 3am before we got to our hotel in Bangalore. The bed, as I mentioned, goes full flat, but padding leaves a lot to be desired. QR doesn’t provide any additional mattress pad, or at least they didn’t on this 4.5 hour flight.

Sleep was fitful though, because of the lack of proper cushioning in the seat. Fortunately by this point we were barely 90 minutes out from BLR.

I was now at that awful state of barely awake but couldn’t fall asleep, which made the preparation for descent and subsequent taxiing all the more tiring. Fortunately there were no lines at immigration and our bags came fairly quickly. Before long we were being whisked away to the Ritz Carlton Bangalore.

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge DOH Review

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand Park Lane, London
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A330 “First” Class DOH-MCT
Oman Air Business Class Lounge, MCT
Oman Air E175 Business Class MCT-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Vistara A320 Business Class BLR-DEL
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
Cathay Pacific Arrivals Lounge HKG
W Hong Kong
Touring Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


Qatar Airway’s Al Safwa First Class lounge in Doha was, all things considered, not the life-changing experience I’d hoped it would be. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I came away wondering if Qatar Airways was really all that and a bag of chips.

Image result for Al Mourjan Business Class

The next challenge would be to see how its Al Mourjan Business Class lounge in Doha stacked up. Needless to say, the expectations of a Business Class lounge are quite different from those of a First Class one. In a First Class lounge, you’d be right to expect total luxury- spa treatments, big shower cabanas, getting driven to your gate, dine on demand instead of a buffet etc. In Business Class, you’re more focused on productivity and therefore having quiet working spaces, fast internet, charging stations, quick service buffets and many smaller shower rooms to minimize waiting become more important.

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Our RTW trip was now wrapping up but we had a whole week to spend in India before returning to Singapore via Hong Kong. We were now flying from DOH-BLR, a route I was relieved to see operated by Qatar’s widebody 772 aircraft and not a narrowbody one.

Doha airport is undergoing some renovation work and you can see it at the entrance to the Qatar Premium Services area. It’s not pretty, and detracts from the ambiance somewhat.

Making a left at the welcome area sends you to the Al Mourjan Business Class check in area, where there are numerous counters waiting to receive you. My luggage was checked through to Bangalore and we received our lounge invitations.

There’s actually a good deal of seating around the Business Class area which I found confusing, given that this is really a transitory point more than anything and no one would stay longer than they had to. But it seems that Arab families travel with a lot of luggage (like, really a lot), and normally the man of the household will handle all the formalities while the women and children sit elsewhere and wait.

The Doha airport is gorgeously designed with high ceilings and a lot of natural light. It was very quiet when we checked in at around 4.30pm for our evening departure.

There is a special immigration booth and security after the Business Class check in, which opens out to the main terminal. I still think Doha airport has great facilities for premium cabin passengers, but if you’re travelling at the back of the bus good luck. Queues for immigration and security are usually very long due to the high volume of migrant workers traveling in and out of Qatar.

The lounge wasn’t too hard to find, with many signs pointing you in the right direction. We took an escalator upstairs and found the reception area.

Our boarding passes were scanned and we were admitted into the lounge, where the first thing you see is this…thing. Horrary for art.

Perhaps more inspiring is this water feature to the right of the entrance area. This stretches across half the lounge, towards one of the work areas where we were headed.

Yes, that’s right, I said work. Believe it or not, my colleague and I actually had work to do on this trip, and finding a quiet space with power outlets where we could discuss things was important.

Fortunately we found this quiet corner with lots of blue chairs.

Each set of chairs had a tablet with Qatar flight information and newspapers, similar to the ones I saw in the Al Safwa lounge.

Each seat had USB charging and power outlets, so it was a good place to sit and have a discussion. Nearby were some light refreshments on a table.

You won’t find substantive food on this floor; that’s what the restaurant on the upper level is for. But if you just want drinks you’ll be able to get coffee, soft drinks, juices and still and sparkling water from these refreshment counters.

There’s also a few small plates of pastries and sweet things.

Here’s a reverse angle of the water feature, looking back towards the entrance area of the lounge. Note the spiral staircase on the left. That was where I was now headed to get a bite.

There’s a hanging chandelier almost reaching into the water from the ceiling as you go up the stairs.

Come up the stairs and you’re in a different zone (this reminds me of what JAL did in their Sakura lounge where they clearly demarcated the eating spaces from the working and resting spaces. However, unlike JAL you can find food on the first floor of the Qatar lounge…read on).

Here they have a two buffet tables spread laid out over both sides of the floor, with different options at each. I understand that at one point in time there used to be dine on demand as well, but I didn’t see any menus available. It might be that they cut back on staffing during Ramadan.

There’s also plenty of seating and thankfully, none of those nonsense high tables that become really uncomfortable after a while (you do know that when lounges feature such tables it’s part of a subtle nudge to stop people from staying too long right? Welcome to aggressive architecture)

   

There is also a bar counter, but since it’s Ramadan you’ll have no booze. The staff were happy to take orders for fresh fruit juice though.

Here’s the buffet- for starters you have an assortment of small plates

None of which really appealed to me to be honest. Beet salad, Arabic mezze, tuna something or other.

The hot items weren’t much better

As a general rule, if you can’t identify what something is just by looking at a picture, it’s probably not good. Such was my experience putting together a bit of everything- basmati rice, “Chinese Style” vegetables, white fish with cream sauce, roasted chicken and some lamb.

The desert section also…had room for improvement. I don’t know why more lounges don’t just get ice cream. It’s cheap, it’s a crowd pleaser and it’s difficult to get wrong.

So that’s two for two where Qatar has struck out on meals. Again, I wonder how much of this is just me not liking the style of cooking in the Middle East, but it’s safe to say that they’re not going to be challenging Lufthansa’s DO&CO catering anytime soon.

After a very underwhelming meal I returned to the first floor to explore some more. Here’s a view of the dining area from the first floor- it’s that frosted glass section on top.

I returned back to the entrance area of the lounge where I noticed a map. It’s always good when a lounge is large enough to require a map.

It was when looking at this map hat I realised there was a second dining area in the lounge on the first floor! It was tucked away at the other end of the lounge. I headed over to have a look.

En route, I passed through the raised wooden platform that, if you were to fold the lounge in half, would overlap with where the water feature is on the other side.  There are many chairs here for resting and having light snacks.

I reached the other side of the lounge and entered the second dining area.

This area is much nicer than the dining area upstairs. It certainly feels a lot more roomy given the higher ceiling, and it seems as if fewer people have found out about it given how quiet it was.

The downside is that they only did sandwiches here. The upside was that they were made to order with waiter service.

I ordered a smoked salmon sandwich on ciabatta bread instead of the whole wheat. I was sad to note that they did not have any avocado in the lounge.

The sandwich itself was passable, certainly not great. Limp iceberg lettuce and a few tomato slices rounded out the dish, which isn’t going to be changing the world anytime soon.

You also had a small selection of deserts, cheese and coffee at self-serve stations.

I took a brief walk around the rest of the lounge before finding the showers. There are some sleep pods in the lounge with high walls for privacy. However they won’t block out much noise from the terminal (or, if a fellow traveler decides this is the best place to watch a movie on his phone…without headphones. Ugh. People.)

There’s also the mandatory family room that you’ll find everywhere in the Middle East. I wonder if these stencils are official Disney licensed…

Before boarding I grabbed a quick shower in one of the many cubicles they had available. An attendant showed me to a small but functional room which had an attached toilet.

Al-Mourjan-Lounge-Doha-61
Photo Credit: onemileatatime (mine turned out really bad)

You had to request amenities like a shaving kit and toothbrush, which I thought was a shame (the gold standard is to have it all there waiting), and the bath products were wall-mounted push bottles for Rituals.

My overall thoughts are that Qatar’s business class lounge is comfortable enough for getting work done. I didn’t like the F&B options, but I realise that’s highly subjective. The lounge is definitely more style over substance, in that it’s really nice to look at but doesn’t have any of the wow factors that a world-leading business class lounge like, say, Turkish Airlines in Istanbul has.

I’m starting to wonder if Qatar’s ground services are overrated. Having read so much about it on other travel blogs, I really expected to be blown away. The experience wasn’t bad by any means, but it certainly wasn’t something that I’d go out of the way to extend my layover for.

I will have another opportunity to visit this lounge on my way back from Philadelphia thanks to the recent Qatar mistake totally intentional fare, so I’ll do a follow up review to see whether the removal of Ramadan restrictions improve things.