I recently completed a trip to London, where I didn’t catch The Coronation, but had fun enjoying the aftermath nonetheless.
Seriously, it’s incredible to see the entire (Frogmore) cottage industry that’s sprung up around this event, like Fortnum & Mason (which holds not one but two royal warrants to supply goods to the royal family) releasing an entire series of coronation-themed food and drink.
Munching on Scottish Ling Heather honey biscuits while enjoying a cup of organic Darjeeling tea or a glass of bubbly English brut, all while bashing Harry & Meghan- what more could you want?
All the same, there were more important things than royalty on the agenda: a revisit to The Private Room, Qatar Airways’ new flagship lounge in Doha, and that most elusive of white whales: Qsuites.
|👑 Monarchy in the UK
|✈️ Monarchy in the UK: Flights
Cabin: First (B777-300ER)
|Cost: 125,000 miles + S$60 (Pre-devaluation price)
Arrive: 0640 (+1)
Cabin: Business (B777-300ER)
Cabin: Business (A350-1000)
|Cost: 75,000 Avios + S$677
Before the KrisFlyer devaluation in July 2022, I made a few speculative redemptions just to lock in existing prices. This included a one-way Singapore to London First Class Saver award for 125,000 miles + S$60 (it now costs 141,000 miles).
I chose a random date in May 2023, and that random date has now come.
Since I’ve reviewed Singapore Airlines’ B777-300ER First Class more than a few times…
- Singapore Airlines B777-300ER First Class HND-SIN (2020)
- Singapore Airlines B777-300ER First Class FRA-SIN (2021)
- Singapore Airlines B777-300ER First Class SIN-CGK (2022)
…I don’t intend to review it again. What I will review is The Private Room experience, roughly a year after its opening (more on that in the lounge section).
I normally wouldn’t fly back from London, on account of the UK’s ridiculous Air Passenger Duty (£200 for long-haul premium cabin travel!). But I made an exception this time because:
- the cost of an additional repositioning flight to another city with Qsuites service would offset most of my savings on APD
- it meant I could review the Qatar Premium Lounge at LHR
- it offered me the opportunity to try Qsuites on two different aircraft (B777-300ER from LHR-DOH, A350-1000 from DOH-SIN)
Yes, that Qsuites. My Qsuites curse is a matter of public record, with the past three attempts wrecked by aircraft swaps and COVID-related cancellations.
But this time, this time would be different. By flying into Doha, I would be able to see beforehand which aircraft was making its way over (by tracking the tail number on FlightRadar24 and cross reference it with the Qatar fleet database). If necessary, I could make a last-minute swap. Qatar has a “Qsuites guarantee” (last verified in January 2022) which grants customers a one-time free change if the aircraft is substituted for a non-Qsuites one.
Moreover, QR948 is operated by a A350-1000 aircraft with 327 seats. This means it’s logistically much more difficult to swap it for an A350-900 (283 seats, regardless of whether it’s a Qsuite or Super Diamond aircraft).
While Qatar Privilege Club doesn’t impose fuel surcharges for redemptions on Qatar Airways, it does have an annoying “award segment fee” of US$50 per segment in Business Class. Since my flight had two segments, this added up to US$100, and my total cash co-pay was a whopping S$677.
On the plus side, the cost was only 75,000 Avios; for comparison, Singapore Airlines would charge 103,500 KrisFlyer miles for a similar flight in Business Class!
|🏨 Monarchy in the UK: Hotels
|Per Night Cost (Nett)
|Premier Inn London Heathrow Terminal 4
|Conrad London St James
|Hyatt Regency Oryx Doha
I reached London in the late evening, and since I was jetlagged I didn’t fancy lugging my bag on the tube into downtown.
Therefore, my first night was at the cheap and cheerful Premier Inn at Heathrow Terminal 4. This cost just S$77, and I’m not bothering to review it (tl;dr: does exactly what it says on the tin, pop further questions in the comments).
The second night onwards was in London proper, where I stayed at the Conrad London St. James. This cost 80,000 Hilton points per night, and from what I read on FlyerTalk it’s one of the better Hilton properties in the city.
You might have noticed my odd flight timings into and out of Doha: I land at 0640, and depart at 0240 the following day. That’s not because Qatar doesn’t have better connections; it’s a deliberate choice on my part so I have more time to review the Al Mourjan Lounge.
However, it does leave me with a problem, insofar as hotels are concerned. Do I select a Thursday check-in and Friday check-out, or a Friday check-in and Saturday check-out?
- A Thursday check-in would mean I need to vacate the room by 12 p.m on Friday
- A Friday check-in would mean I couldn’t check-in until 3 p.m on Friday (early check-in is certainly possible, but 6.40 a.m is pushing it)
If I really wanted to guarantee an available room on arrival, I would need to book two nights, and that would be a colossal waste of money/points.
Fortunately, some commenters pointed out to me that Qatar Airways offers highly discounted stopover hotels via the Discover Qatar programme. What’s more, you can select the exact check-in and out time, ensuring your room is ready on arrival.
All bookings can be made online; you just need to provide your Qatar Airways e-ticket number to confirm eligibility.
Thanks to this, I booked a 16-hour stay at the Hyatt Regency Oryx Doha for S$54, an excellent price if you ask me. As I ended up only staying a few hours here, it’s probably not going to get reviewed either, though feel free to ask questions if you want.
|🍸 Monarchy in the UK: Lounges
Flying First Class out of Singapore gave me an opportunity to revisit Singapore Airlines’ flagship lounge: The Private Room.
I already visited this lounge in June 2022, just a few days after it officially opened. While I thought the hardware was about as good as you could hope for from Singapore Airlines, the food quality didn’t quite hit the mark. It felt rather conservative and by-the-numbers, definitely not up to the standards set by the Qantas First Lounge at Changi.
So my second visit was an opportunity to see how much had changed in the year since
Qatar Airways Business Class passengers flying out of London Heathrow can use the Qatar Premium Lounge, which incidentally was the airline’s first outside of Doha. This offers amenities like showers, a dining room and a tended bar, together with views of the tarmac.
On arrival in Doha, Qatar Airways Business Class passengers have access to a landside arrivals lounge, which features everything you need to get up and running: showers, workstations, nap areas and a buffet. It’s perfect for those who arrive early in the morning before hotel check-in, and an amenity I wish Singapore Airlines had (although I know that space constraints at Changi Airport make this impossible- maybe Terminal 5?).
And on departure from Doha: the brand new Al Mourjan Garden Lounge. This opened in April with space for 700+ guests (it’s actually smaller than the existing Al Mourjan South Lounge, which will remain in operation). It’s set amidst The Orchard, Hamad Airport’s take on a garden-in-an-airport, and features a dining room, showers, quiet rooms, a game room, plus a gym and spa.
Qatar has spent big on this lounge, and while it did some things right, I felt there were just as many misses as hits. More on that in the full review.
This was a fun little trip which allowed me to get an updated take on The Private Room, finally close the door on my old nemesis Qsuites, and check out the latest and greatest that Qatar Airways has to offer in Doha.
I’m working hard to get the trip reports out, so stay tuned.