Flying Economy on the “World’s Best Airline”

Qatar Airways Dreamliner

A bit like Ryanair’s more than slightly annoying self-congratulatory bugle every time they manage to land an aircraft on time (a feat quite easily achieved, as the sector times are blocked out so generously that it might just be quicker – and certainly a lot more pleasant – to walk) Qatar Airways is proud to blurt out the trope that they have continually been voted the world’s best airline by Skytrax. They’ve picked up this prestigious award seven times in a row, so expectations are high.

The truth of the matter if you happen to be travelling in economy class? Qatar Airways is just OK. But obviously being voted ‘the world’s most OK airline’ doesn’t quite have the same ring, although it’s undoubtedly more accurate.

There’s a reason why most airline bloggers tend to focus on the premium cabins for review, and that’s not just to make their readers jealous. Instead, it’s because the cabins with more frills on them tend to provide more points of difference and so stuff to talk about. The more you pare things down, the more things end up a bit the same. Think of two rival brands of supermarket ham sandwich. Then take away the bread, ham, mustard and condiments on each. You find that it becomes somewhat harder to compare them.

In fairness, I tried two different types of nothing in Qatar Airlines economy class, en route from Dubai to London via Doha recently. The first was a short hop of a mere 45 minutes in a Boeing 777-300ER (they really didn’t need the ‘ER’ – extended range – bit for this flight) and the second a somewhat meatier six and a half hour offering from Doha to London on an Airbus A350-1000: again, the longest-haul variant.

Surprisingly it was the Boeing that was the more pleasurable experience, principally because the journey was almost an eighth of the duration of the longer slog back to London. Also, because the older and saggier seats felt more like flopping into a familiar armchair.

Basically though, your experience in economy is nearly always directly correlated to how busy the flight is. Both legs were reasonably full, and again, it was the more modern A350 that somehow felt slightly more cramped and uncomfortable.

Qatar Airways crew member

One aspect that was great on both flights was the staff, who seemed to take genuine pride in flying for what was voted the world’s best airline (did they mention that?) This even applied to the ground staff in Doha, after a traffic delay leaving Dubai turned what was a reasonably tight 45-minute connection into an almost impossible 20-minute one (including a security check). Thanks to a small army of burgundy-jacketed Qatar Airways staff easing the process at every turn, I somehow made it.

The food was also objectively better on the short flight as, given the time constraint, they just served hummus with flatbread, plus a drink. I defy even the most incompetent chef to screw that one up.

On a longer haul flight, the oven gets involved: and that’s where the trouble invariably starts. There was a choice of chicken or beef or ‘vegetarian’ for lunch – personally, I can never manage a whole vegetarian by myself – but somewhat ominously the chicken had already run out by row 24 – which meant that it had to be beef.

This was euphemistically labelled as ‘Irish stew’ but to be brutally honest it looked (and tasted) like the sort of stew you’d put in the bowl of an Irish cat. If you don’t like cats, that is. Luckily the fantastic crew came to the rescue once more and a chicken curry was summoned from out of nowhere, which was pretty good, by the standards of the stew at least. About an hour and a half before landing there was a toasted wrap, which was also just about OK, leaving aside the usual level of cremation.

But really, what do you expect? Nothing particularly bad happened, and nothing particularly good happened either – which is a decent result, all told. At the front in business and first, I suspect it would have been a rather different story, with the world’s best airline coming into its own.

Whichever class you’re in, the service is great – and that’s the biggest takeaway from the whole Qatar experience: no mean feat when you consider the quantity of airline crews out there for whom passengers (or SLF – ‘self-loading freight’ – to use an RAF acronym) seem to come as a distinct inconvenience. As for the rest, Qatar is definitely a worthy winner of the ‘world’s most OK airline’ in economy.

Author Bio:

Anthony Peacock works as a journalist and is the owner of an international communications agency, all of which has helped take him to more than 80 countries across the world.

Photographs courtesy of Qatar Airways

1 Comment

  1. We must have gotten two entirely different meals because I got Irish beef stew too on Monday and it was delicious. I fly economy on Qatar for all my international flights (BOS-Ph) and I am very pleased with their flights.

    The only issues I have with Qatar is their app has quite a few bugs making ticket buying hard and sometimes their own app fails to credit me the frequent flyer Qpoints.

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