Qatar Airways Business Class KL to Doha during coronavirus

Travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic can be a troublesome affair mainly because each country has their own rules about who can enter and leave. With frequent flight cancellations and government’s advice changing, your flight bookings are also at risk of changing overnight. It can cause a lot of confusion and headache. As one of the only airlines still operating, I booked my flight with Qatar Airways to travel from Borneo to Copenhagen (via Kuala Lumpur and Doha) in April, to reach my home country. The quality and service while flying Qatar Airways Business Class during coronavirus is still impressive.

Flying internationally amid a coronavirus pandemic is unusual, which means that this is not going to be a standard flight review! I was fortunate enough to fly in Qatar Airways Business Class during the coronavirus pandemic and I hope this review will give you a bit of insight into what it is like.

In this review:

Qatar Airways Hazmat Suit
Qatar Airways introduced the use of personal protective equipment for all cabin crew

Suffice to say, it’s unlike any Qatar Airways business class flights I’ve been on. I’m impressed that the airline has continued to maintain their high standards, even if the cabin crew all looked like aliens in their hazmat suits.

Checking your flight status regularly

Getting the right clearance to travel comes with its own challenges and the evolving nature of the situation caused a lot of changes to my booking, before I travelled. A few days before my departure date, I checked my flight status online and to my surprise my booking was different from the ticket I had booked. I got in touch with a Qatar Airways’ sales representatives in Malaysia, and after multiple attempts, I was unsuccessful. I tried the European office instead and I eventually got to the airline’s call centre in Poland. After several attempts and multiple hours on the phone with Qatar Airways, I finally got it sorted and was all set to fly. Be prepared to spend a few hours to get it sorted. Usual with Qatar, the booking and pre-flight experience can be very frustrating.

Transiting through Kuala Lumpur International Airport

When we arrived, all other Malaysian citizens on the flight from Borneo were greeted by police and taken to quarantine facilities for 14 days.

The whole experience of travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic can be rather surreal. As I was travelling from Borneo to Copenhagen transiting in Kuala Lumpur, I was expressly told not to leave the transit area in Kuala Lumpur. And if I did, I would be quarantined for two weeks at my own expense. Worryingly, when I arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport the transfer counters were closed which meant that I had to leave the transit area to board my connecting flight.

The security guard informed me that I should follow the normal rules, leave the transit area and proceed to level 5. Nervously, I did what the guard advised and luckily was allowed to continue with my journey after clearing immigration. The airport was deserted and only a handful of people were travelling. Kuala Lumpur International Airport was effectively close, none of the shops and lounges were open and passenger numbers were very low.

Flight Details

Flight No: QR 853
From/To: Kuala Lumpur to Doha (on route to Copenhagen)
Departure time: 21:35
Aircraft: A350-1000
Ticket Class: Business
Seat: 8F
Flight time: 6 hours 45 minutes
Oneworld Tier Points: 140

Qatar Airways Flight
Qatar Airways QR 853 from Kuala Lumpur to Doha in the A350-1000

Check-in & Fast Track

  • The Good
    • Airports were deserted meaning fast check-in and security checks
  • The Bad
    • Rules are different for different nationals and countries, there can often be some confusion among ground and airplane staff

Many Malaysians citizens aren’t allowed to leave their houses, let alone the country, so the airport was like a ghost town. As you’d expect, check-in was quick and fast track was unnecessary, as you’ll just breeze through the airport. It’s a strange world we live in.

You need to have all the right documents to leave and enter a country. As the rules are different for different nationals and countries, there can often be some confusion among ground and airline staff.

Score: N/A

Lounge

Usually, travelling on Qatar Airways Business Class means that you’ll have access to airport lounges, but with coronavirus, all the lounges and shops were closed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. There was therefore no access to any lounges at the airport.

Score: N/A

Boarding

Qatar Airways Hazmat
Passengers in face masks and cabin crew in protective gear
  • The Good
    • There were extensive checks before I was allowed to board the plane, showing that airlines are taking appropriate steps
  • The Bad
    • Expect airline staff to be confused about the entry rules for different countries and to be questioned about these
    • They will also ask questions about your health and travel history

There were substantial checks and questioning before I could board the flight. Once I was cleared to board, I was surprised to see so many cleaners on board. I knew cleanliness was key in helping to prevent the spread of the disease, but I wasn’t expecting to see so many of them during boarding. They were all wearing hazmat suits and face masks. It turned out that they were not cleaners but cabin crew, all wearing protective equipment. It felt like I have boarded an alien spaceship and I expect this will be the future of air travel for the foreseeable future.

Qatar Airways recently announced that it has introduced temporary addition to safety measures onboard for passengers and cabin crew. Cabin crew will now wear protective equipment and passengers are expected to wear face masks from 26 May.

As part of the new service, passengers were no longer offered a hot or cold towel during pre-boarding. However, I still got a pre-flight drink (champagne!) accompanied by a refreshing towel.

Qatar Airways champagne
Qatar Airways champagne accompanied by a refreshing towel

Score: 70%

Aircraft Configuration

A7-ANC
Aircraft type: Airbus A350-1000
Number of classes: 3
Number of seats in flying class: 46
Position: 8F – right hand side of the aircraft

Amenity Kit & Washrooms

  • The Good
    • High quality products available in the washrooms
    • The washrooms were cleaned regularly
  • The Bad
    • No toothbrush and toothpaste in the amenity kit

Washrooms

There were three washrooms in the business class cabin, two at the front and one at the back. In the era of heighten focus on cleanliness, the facilities were cleaned regularly during the flight. High quality products were available in the washrooms.

Amenity Kit

Instead of the usual BRIC’s amenity kit, I was given a Nappa Dori bag on the flight. We received the same amenity kit for our Business Class Flight from Sofia to Doha, and thought the Nappa Dori bag was reserved for short-haul flights. It came with an eye mask, earplugs, socks facial hydrating mist, lip balm and anti-ageing moisturiser. However, it would have been useful to include a toothbrush and toothpaste.

Score: 70%

Seat

  • The Good
    • Privacy door offers new levels of privacy
    • Do not disturb sign and privacy door can limit interactions with other passengers and the cabin crew
  • The Bad
    • The rear facing seats can be uncomfortable for some people
    • The closed cabin can be tight and potentially claustrophobic for some

The QSuites offers unparalleled privacy when flying. Displaying the ‘do not disturb’ sign and keeping the privacy door shut can limit interactions with other passengers and the cabin crew, which some might find comforting during the coronavirus pandemic.

If you’re travelling solo and sitting in certain seats (rear facing middle seats), you might find yourself very close to your neighbour. The seats in the middle of the cabin was separated by a small partition which was fairly thin. As you can see from the photo, the “couple” seats are not designed for solo travellers and may pose a problem being so close to others, especially if you don’t know them. The QSuite is unrivalled when it comes to Business Class products in the sky. It has caused other airlines to “up” their game, like the British Airways Club Suites or ANA’s Room. The QSuites has great features to ensure maximum comfort.

Access & Storage

There was ample storage space in the QSuites. There were lots of little nooks for you to put your things in, so do remember where you have left your items as the dark cabin meant that we’ve previously forgotten and left items on the plane.

Storage space in the QSuites

Cleanliness

In a recent press announcement, Qatar Airways claimed to maintain the highest standards of health and safety, regularly disinfecting it’s flights using cleaning products recommended by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). This was clear to see on my flight. The aircraft was spotless. Cleanliness is truly Qatar Airways forte, it’s a far cry from British Airways questionable efforts to cleanliness. Flying Qatar Airways Business Class during coronavirus is probably the safest, if not the only, option currently available.

Power & Wi-Fi

I got one hour Wi-Fi complimentary on the flight. There is an option to have Wi-Fi on the whole flight for USD 10. Wi-Fi worked well for messages and posting on social media.

Score: 70%

What is the best seat on Qatar Airways QSuites A350-1000

The best seat in the cabin is really a matter of preference. Technically, there are no bad QSuites. We first flew in the QSuites from Doha to Shanghai and were impressed by the privacy and world leading product. We tend to avoid seats close to the galley or washrooms to minimise the noise. Go for a window seat if you’re travelling solo.

See the seating plan on SeatGuru.

Qatar Airways A350-1000 seat map

In-flight Entertainment

  • The Good
    • A large range of movies, box sets and music to suit all interests
  • The Bad
    • The movies shown is generally limited to PG content

Equipment

The A350-1000 is a feat of engineering. It’s The screen was sizeable and in-flight entertainment was very responsive. You can either use the touch screen or remote next to your seat to control the in-flight entertainment.

Remote control in the QSuites

Content

There was a good selection of movies, music, TV programmes, and there’s so much content you’re unlikely to be bored on the flight. The only downside are that the movies are usually limited to PG content.

Score: 90%

Cognac – XO

Drinks Service

  • The Good
    • Full bar and service available with a good selection on offer. This is impressive when most airlines are only offering bottled water
  • The Bad
    • As interaction with the cabin crew is kept to a minimum you’ll need to order upfront and may feel awkward to change your order

I was impressed that Qatar Airways still offered a full drinks service amid the coronavirus pandemic. Other airlines have reduced or in some cases eliminated any drinks or meal services. It has been stripped bare to a bottle of water, a bag of nuts and perhaps a sandwich in premium cabins. On the menu was a choice of two champagnes and three different types of white and red wines. Traditionally the champagne on Qatar Airways business class has always been subpar to its competitors, so it was good to see the Laurent Pierre Cuvée Rose on the menu. It would be good to see the airline introduce a premium Brût.

Score: 80%

Food Service

  • The Good
    • Excellent onboard service by the cabin crew
    • The choice and variety of food available on the menu
  • The Bad
    • Due to coronavirus, it was obvious that there were changes to how the food was being served

Main meal

I was impressed that Qatar Airways has maintained the quality and service expected when flying in business class. It’s not easy to maintain food service amid the coronavirus pandemic but Qatar Airways has adapted to the situation without compromising their service. It was also great to see that the airline has an items with a local twist on the menu. I opted for the stir fried king prawns with chilli crab sauce for my main, just to try it.

You’ll notice from the photos that the meal is served on a tray instead of the usual set up on the table. The cutlery is also handed out wrapped rather than handed over individually. This is to reduce the contact between the crew and passengers. It doesn’t diminish the quality of the food though.

If you enjoy looking at images of airplane food, don’t forget to check our blog post about the wonderful world of airplane food.

Score: 90%

Arrival

qatar airways planes
Qatar Airways planes parked at Hamad International Airport on arrival
  • The Good
    • The Al Mourjan Lounge was pretty much fully functional with all the facilities open
    • There were no problems with social distancing in the lounge as it was the quietest we’ve seen it
  • The Bad
    • Nothing much to report here! Given the current climate, it’s amazing that the lounge is even open

I had a 9 hour transit before my flight to Copenhagen, so I made my way to the Al Mourjan Lounge. When I say open, I do mean it. It was fully functional and open. The bistro, restaurant and other facilities were available. Very impressive when you consider most airports around the world and airlines have closed their lounges.

Score: 90%

BGI Verdict

  • The Good
    • The food and drink service was excellent, with good variety and selection available
    • High quality and standards maintained with clear focus on cleanliness
    • The overall service was excellent
  • The Bad
    • Although we understand the safety aspect of the crew wearing personal protective equipment, it can make for an uncomfortable experience

I thought flying Qatar Airways Business Class during coronavirus might mean a reduced service, but this wasn’t the case. The airline has taken steps to deal with the pandemic while maintaining the high standards I expected from the airline.

I have a lot of positives to say about Qatar Airways and they have responded well to this pandemic without compromising on passenger safety. Recently, the airline even announced 100,000 free seats for healthcare workers, which is just the icing on the cake. Well done Qatar Airways for navigating around this pandemic professionally and with common sense.

I must say that the crew checked on me regularly and asked whether I would like more drinks or coffee. They also kept offering various food items like chocolates, muesli bars or nuts. Before arriving they gave us a delicious box of GODIVA. There were plenty of sanitising wet wipes offered throughout and the during the flight to keep hygiene levels up.

Total: 82%

BG1 Tip

Check everything. Check your reservations regularly as flight bookings can change frequently. It’s really important that you keep checking your flight status, as things can change at the last minute. If you’re travelling through multiple countries, make sure you understand the different government advice, and that you have all the right documents to enable you to travel. Check your country’s advice and contact the local embassies for further details. Most countries are still in lockdown, so travelling in the pandemic can only be done under certain circumstances.

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N.B. This blog was written by one of our contributors, a Danish national, travelling back to Denmark from Malaysian Borneo.

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