Doha - London (Heathrow)
- One of the world's best business class seats
- 'Dine on demand' meals
- Inflight bar/lounge
Qatar Airways is steadily increasing its footprint 'down under', with flights from Sydney to its Doha hub taking off this week and Adelaide to follow in May, joining Melbourne and Perth on the airline's network map.
The flag carrier of the State of Qatar – a tiny but oil- and gas-rich country nestled on the edge of the Arabian Peninsula, adjacent to the UAE and in the shadow of Saudi Arabia – boasts one of the world's best business class seats across its Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 fleets, and Australian Business Traveller sampled the superjumbo while darting between Doha and London.
Qatar runs six flights a day between Doha and London's Heathrow airport, including two each on the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner, along with over 30 other destinations within the UK and Europe and 21 more to Africa.
The Doha-London route averages at eight hours, and with those six flights to choose from there's ample scope to tailor your itinerary to suit your schedule.
However, with flights from Australia landing around 5am, if you're heading straight through rather than stopping over to explore Doha you'll be aiming for the 6.35am (tight but very do-able) or 7.45am (less rushing, more lounge time) London-bound services.
Qatar's Airbus A380 has a relatively compact business class cabin of just 48 seats in a single 'zone'.
These are sandwiched behind eight elegant first class suites...
AusBT review: Qatar Airways Airbus A380 lounge and bar
As mentioned earlier, Qatar flies the same comfortable business class seat on its Airbus A380, Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 fleets.
It's also going to be a very familiar seat to many Aussie travellers as it shares common parentage with Virgin Australia's Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 'The Business'.
And what's not to like about this impressive seat? Every passenger is just one step away from the aisle, for starters.
But instead of the seats all facing forward like school desks, passengers closest to the window will find themselves angled with a perfect view to contemplate the clouds...
... while the middle seats skew towards the centre line of the aircraft.
A sliding divider panel makes it easy to chat with (or ignore) your seatmate.
The 55cm (22 inch) wide seats are very comfortable in a standard recline...
... or as a 2 metre (80 inch) fully lie-flat bed.
There's plenty of legroom, and the footwell area looks narrower than it really is.
There's also an insane amount of storage space for all the carry-on kit you want to keep close at hand rather than stash into an overhead luggage bin.
First up are two side table areas: one right at your elbow, and another smaller one just ahead of that.
Under the smaller table is a deep bin where you can stash your shoes (or anything else that fits).
A similar cubby on the other side of the seat contains a water bottle and the supplied noise-reducing headphones.
The headphone socket is situated just behind the seat control panel at the edge of the smaller side table, which is not only within easy reach but faces the passenger.
And you can fiddle with the seat's settings until you've got everything just right.
Our time on board Qatar's A380 also revealed that the best business class seats will probably be those in the very front (row 10) as long as you don't mind the noise and light from the galley.
The window seats (10A and 10K) have access to a large drawer and a hatch just before the bulkhead.
Got one of the middle seats in row 10? The tall monument under this display panel is hollow...
... providing stacks of space for yet more carry-on gear.
Rather than a fixed menu with certain dishes served at specific times during the flight, Qatar's 'dine on demand' approach lets you enjoy any dish you want at any time you want.
Here's the full menu for the Doha-London leg.
I began with the Bircher muesli before getting stuck into some work...
... and later had the Arabian breakfast plate, which of course can serve as a lunch or dinner if you so wish.
It's always hard to go past a good cuppa (and this was an excellent coffee), especially when accompanied by Godiva chocolates.
For champagnes you can choose between Billecart-Salmon and Taittinger's Prestige Rosé (although Krug is served at the bar), with Chival Regal 12 and Glenfiddich 15 on the whisky menu.
But you don't need to feel confined to your seat: you can also enjoy a light bite at Qatar's A380 bar and lounge, including this cheese plate from the main menu.
In fact, I spent at least half of the flight in the lounge: doing some work on the laptop, some reading on the Kindle and chatting with fellow passengers.
No matter how good your business class seat is, it's still refreshing to be able to move into a totally different space and a different 'mode' that's less solitary.
Entertainment & Service
Inflight entertainment is courtesy of the 17 inch HD display, which comes with a touchscreen controller housed in the edge of the main table – again, a very user-friendly location.
If you've brought your own laptop or tablet, you'll find AC power and USB ports in a recessed panel beneath the larger side table.
The dining table is one of the largest in the skies, with room for even a 17 inch notebook.
As an added bonus, there's inflight satellite Internet – with the first 15 minutes free (enough for a catch-up on your email plus an in-seat selfie for social media), with pricing from US$5 for one hour, US$10 for three hours or a flat US$20 for the entire flight.
On both the Doha-London and London-Doha legs Qatar's cabin crew were attentive and pleasantly relaxed rather than adopting a stricter straight-jacketed formality.
This could simply be their response to me as a passenger - I'm an easy-going low-maintenance kind of guy – and if so, then it's even better to see crew calibrate their service to the passenger instead of stick to a safe but sometimes impersonal default setting.
David Flynn travelled as a guest of Qatar Airways.