Thanks to my ‘special friends’ at the Department of Homeland Security, I had a big SSSS on my boarding pass and I knew that without a TSA approval I would not be able to fly. However, I had arrived for my Qatar Airways flight from San Francisco with American Airlines First Class and I would not even have to go through security since I never left the secure area. I walked over to the boarding gate and the gate agent confirmed that I would not need to pass security and was ‘good to go’ (even if my boarding pass clearly said SSSS).
Doubtful, I approached the TSA supervisor (from within the secure area) and he wasn’t sure either if I would need a secondary security check. He was happy to run a check on me though, if I would volunteer for it, and so I did. It took a good 30 minutes until it was all done, incl. the special ‘JFK pat-down’ (quite a love affair). Now I did this to myself and according to the gate agent apparently it wasn’t needed.
The TSA supervisor stamped and cleared one boarding pass. Come boarding, I showed up at the gate and the scanner promptly beeped and the agent did not let me board. I referred to my prior conversation with her co-worker and while seemingly being more senior, she flatly told me that he was wrong. She needed the TSA stamp on the correct boarding pass or no flight for me.
There were just 35 minutes left to departure! Running through a secondary check would have been tight! However, thanks to my voluntary check earlier I was able to just get another stamp. Would I have relied on the QR gate agent, I very likely would have missed my flight.
The business class cabin on this Sunday evening was pretty full. I had a window seat and a seatmate. The angled lie-flat seat of Qatar Airways isn’t exactly a state of the art product. Nevertheless, the cabin still looks beautiful. I love how they play with the light tones to make it warmer. That’s something Cathay Pacific really needs to work on.
Boarding was quick and we were looking at an on-time departure. The huge engines of this 777 right outside my window screeched at take-off and we made off into the windy skies of New York City that night.
Meal service started right away – and by right away, I mean right away. At barely 2,000 feet of elevation, the cabin attendant came by to ask for dinner choices. Holy cow!
I selected both appetizers (I was more curious than hungry) and the chicken entree. All of them were delicious, well-prepared, well-designed and came out at just the right temperature.
My assigned flight attendant was extremely friendly and maybe a bit too subservient. Drinks and food took a while to come out but hey, I was also at the very end of the business class cabin that had 42 seats (about 35 were taken).
I received PJs just after take-off and put them on; they were at least 4 sizes too big but oh well. After the meal service and a movie, I was ready to call it a day.
I wasn’t looking forward to sleeping in an angled lie-flat seat but after dessert and some more delicious red wine, I felt I had to give it a try. Little did I know that I would have trouble waking up before getting into Doha (9.5 hours later). I did not wake up once! Indeed I had trouble taking pictures of breakfast, clearing up and getting dressed before we approached Hamad International Airport.
The seat was much better than I thought it would be for sleeping and I could sleep in all sleeping positions (it is rather wide). My sleep was even more amazing as the babies and toddlers generated quite a high noise level. In fact, I slept better than on my last Etihad Business Class flight (which had a far superior seat).
All in all, I’m not sure what to make of this flight. The QR gate agent should have known better – I could have easily missed my flight. He needs to know his work better! The angled lie-flat seat felt odd but I slept like a baby (if not better), the food was just perfect and I can’t think of a better flight attendant!
I think Qatar could do very well with new planes and better-designed seats. Their soft product (the food, the service, the whole cabin layout) is very well done and should get more praise than it usually does. Qatar Airlines feels very much like a good, luxury, Indian hotel – aging hardware but superb service, awesome food and just a general aura of luxury. Very different than the cold ‘bling machine’ of Emirates.
I’d love to fly Qatar again!
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