We love travelling to exotic new destinations, however, taking over 3 hours to get up to London through rush hour traffic is the part of the journey we could easily do without. Returning home can be even worse, arriving in the early hours, jet-lagged and dreading the long, slow drive ahead of you.
So it was good news when Qatar Airways launched their new route from Cardiff, our local airport to their Qatar hub at Hamad International Airport. This service connects with many places we are hoping to visit in China, India and Australia. The Qatar Airways route adds to the increasing number of airlines which now fly to Cardiff including FlyBe, Vueling and our old favourite, the KLM Cityhopper to Amsterdam.
Somehow, despite Cardiff Airport and Qatar Airways watching our YouTube travel videos, it was a nice surprise for them to still invite us on a press trip to experience the business class service to Doha, Qatar. They must have seen my inner Michael Palin or my suave Alan Whicker side.
Arrival And Check-In At Cardiff Airport
Cardiff airport has recently started a ‘Meet and Greet’ parking service, which is the closest option to the terminal building although there’s still a short walk to the terminal itself, so remember your umbrella if it’s raining. Unfortunately, our booking was organised through a third party and we took them by surprise, there wasn’t a “Meet” part, they weren’t expecting us. Although to be fair, they were still very helpful and the mix-up was quickly sorted. On our return, collecting the car went smoothly and quickly.
Checking-in at the airport was painless, even if you were travelling economy the check-in process was quick and easy. The Qatar check-in staff were very helpful especially when it came to accommodating Mrs W’s bizarre seating requests (she’s a nervous flyer).
As we were flying business we had the priority security channel but the regular lines were very short. This is one of the advantages of flying from your local airport, the queues can be much smaller making the whole trip much less stressful.
The Executive Lounge At Cardiff Airport
The Cardiff departure lounge has recently been refurbished and extended so there are now plenty of seats in an area with lots of windows and natural light, you no longer get that dark claustrophobic feeling.
You can see more of the lounge is our ‘Cardiff Airport departure lounge opening‘ video, but don’t expect the choir on every trip!
There is also a new executive lounge, ’51 Degrees’. It is split into two parts, the main executive lounge where you can buy access for up to 3 hours and a section exclusively for customers flying business class. They both offer Welsh food and drink including Cawl, Welshcakes, Glamorgan Brewing beer and Penderyn whiskey. There were plenty of snacks available although the choice of hot food was not large.
As now expected, there were plenty of plugs and USB sockets for phones, iPads, laptops, cameras and whatever other gadget has been launched since writing this.
Onboard Qatar Airways – Inside The Business Class Cabin
Being a smaller compact airport, it was nice to get to the plane without a 3-mile walk to the gate, last time we flew from Heathrow we were sure the gate was in Windsor! It was also good to see Cardiff using the new air-bridge to access the plane, I don’t think I could have managed stairs after stuffing my face with Welshcakes.
On boarding the plane we were greeted by name and led to our seats. The business class cabin of the Boeing 787 is very open with a high roof as there is no overhead storage down the centre. The only downside of this arrangement is that the seats in the centre do not have their own air vents.
I always like to sit by the window and the layout of the seats do allow you to see out. We have recently flown with Virgin Atlantic Upper Class on their 787 and the seats were angled away from the window which feels slightly odd and the cabin did feel darker than Qatar’s.
The seats were very comfortable and easy to operate and recline to a flatbed. There was a decent size screen with a good pair of noise cancelling headphones, the choice of movies and TV shows were not that large although there were enough to keep you occupied for 7 hours. I went for ‘Deadpool 2’ and the original ‘Ghostbusters’.
What we do like about the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is that it’s so much quieter than the old 747’s.
There was an extensive choice of drink and food available and after take-off, dinner was served on request so you could have whatever you wanted whenever you liked it. I chose the asparagus soup, chicken Kabsa and the cheese plate. All this, combined with a glass of wine and a well-reclined seat, I was soon asleep, which is always a great way to pass the time. As I get older I can definitely list sleeping as a hobby.
There was also a very good amenities kit and I was advised by Mrs W that the exclusive Italian moisturising cream and balms by Castello Monte Vibiano were excellent. Personally, I always enjoy a good eye mask.
Shaving kits and proper size toothbrushes are available in the bathroom, which unlike most planes, has a window in the room which gives lots of light during daytime hours but can be a bit scary when you look at yourself mid-flight in the two large mirrors.
Arrival At Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar
After a very comfortable flight and deep sleep, it was time to land at Hamad International Airport, Doha. This was one of the most comfortable flights we have taken in a number of years. Although we highly recommend taking at least a couple of days out to visit Doha and Qatar if you were directly transferring to another flight you would be feeling quite refreshed and ready to tackle the next leg.
No offence to Cardiff airport, we like the new lounge and the improvements you’ve made but unlike Hamad International Airport you don’t have a 25-metre swimming pool, hot tubs, spa and a fitness centre, maybe those are on your plans for 2019.
Seriously, Hamad International Airport is excellent, especially after experiencing a number of US airports in the last few months. Business class immigration had its own line but again, economy immigration did not have very long queues.
Getting around the airport was easy despite it being very busy, one of their peak periods is midnight to 2 a.m. When you are passing through, you must have a look at the 23-foot bear by Swiss artist Urs Fischer which presides over the extensive duty-free hall, (don’t forget your credit card for some serious shopping).
As mentioned, the press trip was arranged by Cardiff Airport and Qatar Airways but we would genuinely recommend the route especially if you are travelling to Asia or Australia. We are looking at our options for early 2019 as we want to visit Sri Lanka for Mrs W’s birthday.
Finally, when we returned to Cardiff it was good to be back home within the same time as it normally takes us to just collect the car at Heathrow or Gatwick.