Qatar Airways runs a mixed fleet to the Maldives, two A320 (one is parked on the airfield for 10 hours) and two A359. While in Economy the experiences are often comparable in Business Class the A359 provides a huge lie-flat seat while the A320s just of recliner seats.
The local airport staff took a solid 15 minutes to check us in. Immigration and Security were super quick with no wait time this morning.
There is no Priority Pass lounge past security and Qatar Airways (like almost all other airlines) use the Leeli Lounge. The lounge itself is fine. A decent selection of snacks and fast WiFi. However, it can get crowded and loud and it is just so dark in there.
The inbound flight was about an hour late and boarding was amoved to 60 minutes later No big deal but the announcement process was poor with most people only realizing the new boarding time when getting to the gate and talking to a gate agent.
After this poor management, the mood lightened after stepping aboard. The interior design of the A250 Business Class cabin is just strikingly beautiful. There are a forward cabin and a small Business Class mini-cabin behind the second aircraft doors. I vacated to the mini-cabin since it was empty!
The seat generally comes with lot’s of space and a firm, solid lie-flat surface when fully reclined. There is not much storage space though.
The entertainment system came with all the bells and whistles you would expect and loaded with lots of movies and TV shows. I was responsive and one day someone will explain why we still need these little fiddly remote controls.
The cabin crew was super friendly and knowledgable – a rare occurrence. I could not have asked for a better crew.
Unfortunately, just 30 minutes outside we got into some major monsoon clouds even at 43,000 feet and got badly shaken for about 90 minutes. The crew did their best to ‘dance through it’ and bring out food despite the precarious shaking.
I find the catering Qatar Airways use consistently good and was very happy with the appetizers and main courses. It was made after a high-quality recipe by a good local caterer.
I also love the wine selection – especially the brut champagne that Qatar Airways flights carry.
The violent shaking eventually stopped as we got closer to the Saudi Arabian peninsula and I found time to nap in the excellent lue0-flat seat. Qatar provides a high-quality, very comfortable blanket to keep you warm. Since the mini-cabin was so quiet I thought I was indeed in heaven.
Qatar Airways does include 8 MB of free data with onboard WiFi. Unfortunately, most of the flight was outside the coverage area. When it worked it was slow and the paid option for $20 for 200 MB is just too low a bandwidth cap for what I want from satellite Wifi. I want all airlines to install JetBlue style WiFi finally!
Landing in Doha again had beautiful views and was perfectly executed.
In sum, this was one of the best Business Class flights ever. While the ground experience at Male airport is satisfying at best the on-board experience is superb and felt more like First Class or Private than regional Business Class.
Starting from the moment I boarded until I exited Hamad International Airport I struggle to find much of area of improvement besides the slow/too low bandwidth WiFi.