Review: Qatar Airways Boeing 787-8 Business Class Doha-Tokyo Haneda (Return)

Review: Qatar Airways Boeing 787-8 Business Class Doha-Tokyo Haneda (Return)

The outbound sector was my second worst flight on Qatar Airways ever.

Qatar Airways 787-8 Business Class Cabin

After flying from Dubai to Doha on the first segment of the ticket the night before, I went home and slept for a solid few hours and left for the airport at 04.30. Qatar typically opens its gates at least one hour prior to a flight’s departure, and the exact boarding time varies depending on equipment and passenger loads. In this case, it was a Friday morning departure during the summer, so I figured check-in might be busy (it was), and knew the lounge would be packed (it was), so I wanted to get to the airport early and beat the rush (I did).

At 05.00 I arrived at the Al Mourjan Business Class Check-In Area, which is right next to the Al Safwa First Class check-in area. These desks are available solely for passengers ticketed in those cabins – your Oneworld status won’t get you access to them.

There is a separate check-in area just for Ruby, Sapphire and Emeralds, but I’d caution that it gets very busy early in the morning. Given that I wasn’t checking my carry-on and I had my boarding pass already, I walked straight past the check-in desks and was through immigration and security in a matter of minutes.

Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge

Much like its older sister, the Al Safwa First Class Lounge, and the related check-in areas, this lounge is only for passengers flying in Business Class on Qatar Airways. There are separate lounges for passengers with Oneworld status – the First Class Lounge for Emeralds and the Business Class Lounge for Sapphires. It can be confusing, I know.

The lounge gets crowded in the mornings ahead of the big departure rush for Europe, Asia and North America. I’ve been in the lounge when the restaurant upstairs, the cafe in the back, and the main seating area have all been 100% full. The lounge has a serious shortage of bathrooms, as well, so the queues can get lengthy. In these cases, I usually leave the lounge and walk around the terminal.

I was fortunately able to secure one of the great booths in the restaurant upstairs that overlooks the rest of the lounge. I hadn’t eaten since the “afternoon tea”‘ platter on the flight back from Dubai the night before, so I was quite hungry – I had a small slice of mushroom omelette, two beef sausages and sliced fruit from the buffet. When the lounge opened, it featured menus and a la carte dining, but that is no longer the case.

Unfortunately, as it was still Ramadan, there was no booze. 

I headed for the gate early because it was at the end of the B Concourse, which is about a ten to fifteen minute hike from the lounge,. When I arrived the holding area was near full, so I went and stood in a far corner next to the garbage bins that faced the jetbridge.

The Outbound Sector: Doha (DOH) to Tokyo Haneda (HND)

QR812
DOH-HND
D: 07.00
A: 22.40
Business, 2A
Boeing 787-8
A7-BCP

Boarding was called at 06.25, and I was the first across the threshold. The first thing I noticed was that the cabin was extremely warm, which, believe it or not, is not normal at all for Qatar Airways, even during the Summer heat in the Gulf.

I asked for a cold towel, a glass of champagne (Billecart Salmon Brut), and a sparkling water. All 3 were quickly delivered. The crew also brought me a sleeper suit and slippers. Qatar Airways’ policy on sleeper suits and slippers has changed in the last couple years due to budget cuts. Sleeper suits are now provided on all overnight flights and those that are 10+ hours. Slippers are provided on 10+ hour flights. Given that it’s technically a day flight, I honestly wasn’t sure if they’d give them out, so I brought my own Qatar pants with me.

The Captain came on about 15 minutes prior to departure and advised us we’d have a 9.5 hour, mostly smooth flight. The 22-seat Business Class cabin was full except for 2E and 2F, which I knew were reserved for the flight crew.

Qatar Airways’ Boeing 787s (all -8s) do not feature a crew rest bunk, which you’d think would limit their range. It certainly restricts them from deployment on ultra long-haul flights, but they do ply a few 10+ hour flights. One of those is Haneda – the return is 12 hours – and another is Cape Town, which I flew a few years back, and is about 11 hours in each direction. As you can imagine, despite the great destinations at the end of the flight, many cabin crew aren’t leaping at the opportunity to run around, stand and sit on a jump seat for that long. This is also problematic because it means that on these flights, where three or four pilots are necessary, one or two Business seats have to serve as flight crew rest – ultimately, this means less revenue.

As I mentioned, Qatar’s 787s feature 22 seats in Business, arranged in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone layout over 5 rows, with a sixth row of just a pair of seats nestled between the two bathrooms reserved for Business passengers and crew members. They are not the seats you want – ever. The seat itself is OK – it’s decent for sleeping and the tray is sturdy, but it’s not great for lounging, unless you’re in 1A or 1K, which have larger footrests and foot cubbies.

The Cabin Services Director came by with a BRICS amenity kit and menus just as we were pushing back. She wasn’t very happy, nor was she pleasant, she was very robotic. I knew this didn’t bode well for the flight.

I ordered the breakfast “Energizer” drink (basically some sort of green juice) and more champagne, and asked for the Japanese kaiseki to be served a bit later on. We took off at 07.15, but it was an hour before any drinks were served. This is abnormal for Qatar, but on a flight this long, it is understandable.

Qatar’s crew are usually amazing. They keep a close eye out – like Cathay Pacific – and premium passenger’s use of the call button is irregular at best. This flight was a different story.

The crew brought the Energizer and mixed, warm nuts but not the champagne. The kaiseki came and I finished the energizer but had a long wait for the champagne. The glass was also not cleared, so I hit the call button 20 minutes later to reconcile the issue.

Over the next few hours I relaxed, looked out the window at the Himalayas, and watched some TV.

The Android controller was glitchy, but not enough that I’d ask for a system re-boot. Neither the USB nor the power port worked. Pro tip: always carry a fully-charged back up charger with you for situations like this.

The crew were consistent in their un-attentiveness so I had to call and ask for everything.

Mid-flight I ordered a sushi platter and sake – the sashimi was very good. The sake – it did not specify which distillery – was very basic. It’s great for someone who hasn’t had sake before and is seeking that first taste.

 

About an hour before landing the CSD came around to snatch-up the menu cards. She didn’t say anything to anyone as far as “thank you for flying,” etc. go.

We landed at 22.50, and thanks to my APEC card I was through immigration within minutes.

The Cheatline

Seat: 8/10
Service: 3/10
Food: 7/10
Spirits: 6.5/10
Overall: 5.5/10

Political Crisis & the Ticket Reissue

While I was in Japan the Gulf political crisis began. Because this ticket originated in Dubai, there was a fourth and final DOH-DXB sector. That flight was now cancelled. This wouldn’t be a problem for me, given that I am Doha-based, except that Qatar Airways thinks it has a passenger in Japan that needs to get back to Dubai.

There was a very real risk they’d automatically re-route me and send me a ticket – this type of problem was unprecedented as far as my experience with Qatar went so I wasn’t sure how the airline would handle it. In the event it would automatically re-route me, it’d likely be on Cathay Pacific via HKG. I won’t go into all the details, but conversations with friends and my own experience that week proved that Qatar and Emirates were not re-booking passengers on each other’s metal.

So I called Qatar up when it was the middle of the night in the Gulf – I figured the lines would be less busy. Within a few minutes a very pleasant call agent picked up and offered to re-route me or give me a refund for the remaining sectors. I explained that my meetings had been cancelled and I actually just needed to get back to Doha. Because of the ease of this “change” she was ecstatic, and within an hour the ticket had been re-issued – same seat, same flight.

With that all settled, I went back to enjoying Kyoto and Tokyo.

Lounging at Haneda

I arrived at the airport about 30 minutes before the check-in desks opened. I had been with friends in Hayama, a beautiful beach town just over an hour south of Tokyo, and I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get to Haneda. I spoke with the JAL staff members who were setting up the queue lanes and switching on the computers and they suggested I use my mobile boarding pass to go through immigration and security. That way I can skip the wait, get to the lounge sooner and do my document check at the boarding gate.

Qatar Airways uses JAL’s Sakura Business and First Class Lounges at Haneda. The First lounge is quite nice and features a library/study called the Red Room (not “of Pain” though). It has a Laurent Perrier champagne and sake bar, which is the only requirement I have of my future house. It also has a spa, where 20 minute treatments are offered for free. The kitchen and buffet are – as you’d expect in Japan – top-notch, which chefs on hand preparing dishes made to order.

I got a quick back massage then headed to the other end of the terminal to the Cathay Pacific Lounge. This lounge is notable because it was the first in the Cathay network to be refurbished in their new design style. It is stunning. It features warm dark woods, a long bar, the airline’s signature noodle bar, and amazing views of the tarmac. The lounge is usually open this time of night because of a Cathay Dragon flight that departs at around 01.30 – which makes it a special treat for other late-night Oneworlders.

But it was closed. My guess is that night’s Cathay Dragon flight had a really light load, and Business and elite passengers can otherwise use the JAL lounges. Thoroughly dismayed, I headed back to the JAL lounge (but not before stopping at one of the Duty Free shops to buy my brother a huge box of Green Tea Kit Kats).

Our flight’s departure time had been moved up from 00.01 to 23.45 without explanation – my guess was because of the airspace restriction in the Gulf. Given that Qatar  closes check-in an hour early, this didn’t seem to be a big problem.

The Return Sector: Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Doha (DOH)

QR813
HND-DOH
D: 00.01 (23.45)
A: 05.50
Business, 2A
Boeing 787-8
A7-BCF

Boarding began at 23.20 despite the new departure time. I arrived at my seat and stowed my belongings. I found a blanket, slippers and sheets for the flatbed were already on the seat. Crew member Uchnan immediately came to offer welcome beverages of water, juice, Billecart Salmon Brut and/or Piper Heidsieck Rosé.

Shortly after, Captain Sharif came on the horn to advise us of a mostly smooth 11hr35min flight time. At 23.45 the door was closed and the crew began handing out amenity kits, menus and sleeper suits to everyone – well, everyone except me. Ten minutes later we pushed back and I had still not received anything, so I asked the crew and the CSD brought them around. I’m not sure what the lapse was about.

We had a long taxi and finally took-off at 20 past midnight. There was lots of turbulence on the way up and out, and it continued for more than three quarters of the flight. The crew came around to take orders, and I changed my clock back six hours to Doha time.

I ordered a glass of d’Arenberg’s The Stump Jump Vintage Shiraz from McLaren Vale, Australia, which came out very quickly. The more it aired, the better it was – I recommend decanting this wine if you come across it. The crew placed a warm bread basket (featuring pretzel bread!) on the table. The amuse bouche, a piece of shrimp (Japanese preparation) with small cherry tomatoes and a peanut sauce, was subsequently served. After that I had the crusted salmon main dish, which was okay, and a fruit platter to close.

After sleeping for several hours I woke up for breakfast.

I asked for the energizer drink, the smoothie and an Arabic mezza platter from the dinner menu, but Uchnan said – without explanation – that it is no longer on offer. I think the spares had been packed-up already. So, I ate the omelette, which was fine.

At 04.45 the Captain said we’d be starting our descent shortly, notably avoiding Emirati airspace. Hot towels were distributed again, and we crossed Bahraini airspace briefly along the restricted track connecting Iranian and Qatari airspaces, landing shortly thereafter, at 05.30.

The Cheatline

Seat: 8/10
Service: 7/10
Food: 7/10
Spirits: 8.5/10
Overall: 7.5/10

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