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Melbourne - Doha
- A flight that's perfectly-timed for sleeping
- Fully-flat beds with a light mattress and pyjamas
- 2-2-2 layout in business class
- 'On-demand' dining to suit your schedule
Qatar Airways isn't the first name that springs to mind when you think of those powerhouse Gulf airlines which are are busy reshaping the aviation map.
Its Aussie footprint – which is limited to Melbourne and Perth – doesn't put it front-of-mind for the business traveller.
But with a rapidly-growing fleet including the latest Airbus A380, Boeing 787 and most recently the Airbus A350 – with a sprawling new hub at Doha's Hamad International Airport – plus its membership in the Oneworld alliance alongside Qantas and many others, Qatar Airways is certainly not an airline to leave off your list.
Its fares are also competitive: we priced a return business class Melbourne-Doha-London trip in early September 2015 at just under $7,520.
How good is Qatar's business class from Melbourne? Read on...
As a member of the Oneworld airline alliance, travellers on Qatar Airways' Melbourne flights can begin their journey at Qantas' first class or business class lounge, depending on your class of travel and frequent flyer status.
If you're in business class (the topmost class on Qatar Airways' flights out of Australia), hold a gold card in the airline's Privilege Club frequent flyer scheme or the equivalent – such as Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold or any other Oneworld Sapphire-grade card – the Qantas Business Lounge lays out the welcome mat.
Packing a Platinum Privilege Club, Qantas Frequent Flyer card or Oneworld Emerald-grade card in your pocket or purse? Then you can head straight to the Qantas First Lounge:
The only wrinkle is that with a scheduled 10.55pm departure, any delay beyond the Qantas First Lounge's closing time of 11.15pm means you'll need to relocate to the business lounge downstairs.
Qatar Airways' daily Melbourne-Doha flight QR905 runs on a Boeing 777-300ER with 42 business class seats and 293 in the economy cabin.
After the 10.55pm wheels-up from Melbourne it's a long 14 hour trek to Doha, where the new Hamad International Airport awaits – as do scores of connecting flights to the UK and Europe as well as Africa, the Middle East and India.
Given the late departure and 5.30am arrival into Doha, the flight is geared towards a solid slab of sleep bookended by supper, a movie and breakfast.
Business class is split over two cabins: a slightly larger 24-seat zone (rows 1-4) at the pointy end, followed by an 18-seat cabin (rows 5-7) behind that and ahead of economy.
(As any savvy traveller will tell you, avoid that second business class cabin if you want to be away from crying babies bundled into bassinets in the front row of economy.)
As you'd want from an overnight international flight the business class seats are not just wide and comfortable, they convert into a fully lie-flat bed that can be topped with a thin mattress while you change into the supplied soft grey pyjamas.
The 2-2-2 layout makes the centre aisle seats (designated E and F) preferable – not only can you step into the aisle without climbing over your seatmate, but you won't have them gingerly stepping over you to do likewise, as is the case with the window seats.
Legroom? There's plenty of it.
There are a few well-placed pockets to keep some carry-on items close at hand, while a sliding cover on the console between each pair of seats reveals a bottle of water handily tucked away.
If you need to work, we're pleased to report that the large and stable meal tray takes a laptop with plenty of room to spare.
And as you'd expect, each seat has AC and USB sockets to recharge your laptop, tablet and smartphone.
Qatar's inflight dining is built around an 'on-demand' menu, from which you can choose dishes "in any order and at any time during your flight."
There's a natural expectation from the crew that you'd tuck into dinner shortly after take-off, then hit the hay and wake for breakfast a few hours out of Doha.
However, as I'd already dined a few hours earlier at Melbourne's Qantas First Lounge, I opted to 'mix and match' from the menu with a light supper, then dive into some work on the laptop and break for a main dish before sleeping.
That's certainly not the ideal pattern for a flight like this, but sometimes it's the only way to catch up – and it's where you really appreciate an airline's flexible approach to dining.
Here's the dinner menu for our flight to Doha:
For a light starter on any Gulf airline, I find it's impossible to resist a mezze platter.
After that, I settled down to a few hours' work, although I took the precaution of asking the cabin crew to set aside the basil marinated chicken breast for my mid-flight main.
The presentation wasn't fancy but the meal itself hit the spot.
I followed that with dessert: a unique cardamom panna cotta served with poached rhubarb and apple compote.
As is sometimes my habit on flights with an early morning arrival, I opted to sleep as close to the 'top of descent' as possible and have breakfast at my hotel in Doha.
But if I'd wanted breakfast on board, the choice would not have been an easy one...
As for champagne, here are the two quality drops offered:
Entertainment & Service
Qatar's Oryx inflight entertainment system feeds a solid selection of movies, TV shows and music into the large 17 inch screens mounted smack in front of you.
You can browse the library at Qatar's website – click here to dial up any route and to see what's currently playing on the Melbourne-Doha leg.
As mentioned earlier, this is a flight for sleeping more than binge-viewing – or working, for that matter. After dinner in the lounge and perhaps a light supper on board, relaxing with an enjoyable movie or an episode of your favourite TV show might be all it takes to help you settle in for a good night's sleep – indeed, a good flight's sleep.
The service was attentive without being intrusive, and warm without overly familiar – in other words, a safe default setting for an airline which carries travellers from all corners of the globe.
David Flynn travelled as a guest of Qatar Airways.