Qatar Airways: Detailed review of recent travel

Dave Zimmerman

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In reviewing my travel plans to head to South Africa to hunt, as many have seen, there are lots of flight options to choose from. Ive heard many members of this forum book the Delta flight from Atlanta to JoBerg for its ease, and while I looked at that flight, it ended up being $400 more than the flight I booked. On a budget and having heard better reviews from international carriers, it made my decision to NOT fly delta easy.

In my research process, it seemed every flight I would pick had a layover in a foreign country. This is understandable since planes need to refuel and rarely does a flight these days go from your home airport to a destination (at least for me in KC area). So in seeing I would have to have a layover, it became a decision what carrier and where the layover would be. There were tons of options to choose from, some close in price and some far outside the others. In my initial planning, it came down to Qatar, Turkish, Ethiad, KLM, Ethiopian, and another European carrier I cant recall.

So now that ive narrow down the searches to a handful, I started to review the layovers and times. The European flights laid over in Amsterdam, London, Paris, or Zurich. Since I had never visited Europe, this sounded like a good plan...until I researched leaving the airports on long layovers. Most of the layovers I was seeing were 5-10 hours, but the time needed to clear customs, travel from airport to anything worth seeing, and the travel back to airport, plus the cost of all of that, just made it not something I was interested in paying for. So European layovers were off the table, since I had plenty of options elsewhere.

Now we hit the African and Middle Eastern carrier options. The Ethiopian flight did layover in 2 different African countries, but the layover was only 1-2 hours and since I couldn't leave the airport to see any of those countries, it made no sense to have that many planes...so it fell off the list. THis left Qatar, Ethiad, and Turkish. Ethiad had a 22 hour layover in Abu Dhabi, which would allow me plenty of time to leave the airport and explore the country, but in researching Abu Dhabi, it didn't seem like there was much to do there and that long of a layover might include a hotel, but again...why when there were other options that were better.

So now it was between Turkish and Qatar. Price was only $20 difference between both carriers, times were similar in flights and layovers, so the only difference was the layover destination and the US Carrier to use to get to a hub. Turkish used United, Qatar used American. Turkish and Qatar airlines both offer a free city tour of their hub/layover, something that was a nice bonus if your stuck at the airport for hours waiting on your next flight. Both tours seemed to be about 4 hours, offered for free by the airline itself, and seemed to be a bus tour of the major highlights of the city with a guide. They seemed like a nice way to see a few things and be a part of a group. In the end, I decided on Qatar over Turkish because Qatar had better reviews internationally on service and the options in Doha Qatar seemed a bit easier than in Istanbul Turkey...plus I had heard that if there was a delay due to weather or cancelations, Istanbul didn't seem to handle the distruption as easily as they did in Doha.

So I booked my flight with Qatar Airways, for just at $1200 with insurance included for roundtrip economy from KC to Chicago, then Chicago to Doha, then Doha to Johannesburg...and of course back the same route. The layover in Doha was just at 10 hours, plenty of time to clear customs and leave the airport to enjoy the city rather than sit in the huge airport. Id hear that Qatar was voted best airline for 2017 recently, so it made my choice a little more assured that it was a good move.

In the posts following, I will detail the entire process of flying with Qatar from start to finish...with photos of the seats, amenities, meals, and drink options.
 
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Dave Zimmerman

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First Flight with Qatar: Chicago O'Hare to Doha Qatar

Arriving at Chicago O-Hare from KC, I was directed to a specific gate at O'Hare for my airline. It turned out, this gate was only used for transfer from terminal 3 to terminal 5, which was the international terminal at O'Hare. After about 20 minutes the bus came and drove those passengers who were waiting with me to terminal 5. I had a 5 hour layover from landing at O'Hare to flying out, so plenty of time. The Qatari board 1 hour before departure and the plane was at the terminal already docked when I arrived. It seemed they needed to load necessary items, clean it, and whatever else they needed to do. Terminal 5 at O'Hare had a nice big food court, duty free shopping, and plenty of seating outside of the many lounges for each airline. The gate agent arrived about 2.5 hours before we departed to start processing passengers and getting correct boarding passes printed. Since I was flying economy, I was allowed 2 free checked bags as well as 1 carry-on and 1 personal item...which did have weight limits. The agent was a very nice man who I observed actually weighed the passenger in front of me in line's carry on, as she did not have any checked bags. It seemed she had a far east Asian passport and maybe he was being a little more strict with her than others. When he saw my passport and boarding pass, he was very nice and when I told him I just had my backpack as carry on, he put an economy carry on tag on it with no weighing and told me to have a pleasant flight.

Boarding was a bit similar to other airlines, but the passengers were a little different. 1st class and business of course boarded first, then anyone requiring assistance or with children. it seemed like half of the plane had kids with them, so that took forever. Being that Qatar is a huge carrier to India and Asia, I noticed a great deal of the passengers seemed to be from India or SE Asia. After a bit I finally boarded and found my seat, 38C. I chose the aisle seat in case I needed to get up and walk around during the flight...but also chose the back of the plane from many points of advice I had received. The further back in the plane, I was told, the more likely it wouldn't be as full and more likely to not have a neighbor. I got lucky on this flight as a pleasant 30 year old woman from Indian had the window seat, I had the aisle, and nobody was in the middle. For a 13.5 hour flight, this was great! The seats had normal leg room, normal width, but the extras already at each seat seemed a little out of the ordinary for me. Each seat had a blanket, pillow, headphones, and small bag of amenities they provided free. The amenity kit included a pair of socks, an eye mask, a toothbrush and toothpaste, disposable ear plugs, & lip balm. Before take off the flight attendance brought around packets of "refreshing towels" for anyone, basically a lemon/citrus scented wet wipe. Each seat had its own TV screen type device that had tons of movies in all categories, tv shows, music, games, a map of our flight, and other helpful items. The amount of new release movies was surprising, as most I had heard were up for awards or just left the theaters back home. TV shows were common on most channels, and the music was good variety. They did have it divided into categories such as Bollywood, Hollywood, new releases, comedy, drama....

Within our first hour the flight crew brought around folded cardstock menu for every passenger, yet another new encounter for me. THe menu had 3 entrees to choose from, with standard salad, sides, and extras. on the 2nd page was the brunch menu with again, 3 entrée choices. The back side included the beverages offered to any passenger, which included a variety of name brand spirits, beer, wine, cordials, soda, juice, coffee/tea, water.... Johnny Walker Red, Smironoff Vodka, Cognac, Baileys, Hendricks Gin, red and white wine, as well as Heiniken...all included. At any time as well, you could simply walk to the back of the plane to the galley and request any drink or often snacks such as chips, fruit, candy bars, or others. For dinner, I chose the chicken dish in tomato sauce, which came with polenta, broccoli, a roll with butter and cream cheese, a rice pilaf salad dish, as well as orange mousse cake. Each meal tray had a container of still water included as well. With dinner was a nice red wine, not the best but not cheap quality either. The meal was good, way better than I expected for airline foods. Real silverware was a nice touch. After dinner was a nice coffee with Bailey's to relax and try to sleep.

The lights of course were dimmed most of the flight and I found it easy to sleep. When the urge came, the bathrooms were large and had multiple options throughout the plane. Each bathroom had nice liquid soap, a perfume/cologne spray, moist and dry towels, and plenty of mirrors.

2nd meal came and I chose the chicken with BBQ, with vegetable fried rice as side. It came with orange juice container, roll with butter and cheese again, an unusual bean salad with cucumber, a package of apple slices, and a small wedge of Godiva chocolate. No complaints about this meal either, good flavor and decent portion size. Another Baileys and coffee to help relax and we were over 2/3 of the flight done. Throughout the flight the crew brought around trays with cups of water frequently to keep everyone hydrated. They also came with bags of chips, candy bars, fruit snacks, granola bars, and fruit.

one thing I did notice about Qatar Airways is the attention to details in most everything. The one area I noticed the most was how they treated children. Each child was given a decent sized bag which seemed to have coloring books, a stuffed animal, and other toys inside. At meal time, the crew brought special kid meals out first before anyone else was served. The TV system had tons of kid programming as well as the games. On a nearly full flight with lots of kids, I rarely heard an upset child or baby for more than 2-3 minutes in the entire 13.5 hours.
 

Dave Zimmerman

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Doha Qatar

Arriving at Doha, we deboarded using the stairs and were bussed to terminals. At arrival the staff pleasantly directed everyone transferring to one point. SInce I was leaving the airport rather than stay inside it the airport. Customs was too long of a wait and within 30-45 minutes I was leaving the airport. Qatar has a great government taxi service that are bright turquoise color and easy to spot anywhere. Outside the airport was a line of them available and all you had to do was tell the driver where you wanted to go and you were off. The vehicles all were newer with leather seating. They each had a screen on the dash that showed the drivers name, your taxi meter in Riyal, and destination. charts on the windows showed the rates and a little portion at the bottom I would advice everyone to review...."if the meter isn't working, your ride is free". Id heard of drivers who didn't turn meter on and trying to charge, so just be aware and its easy to see the meter. I was heading to the Souq Waqif, the old standing market in the middle of town. The Souq is a big market with cafes and shops, all set up in sets of alleys and pathways. The area is patrolled by police and was the one thing I was told I had to do while in country, as it wasn't just tourist but locals as well. Arriving after 5pm also ensured the sun was setting and temperatures weren't so hot. The taxi ride took 15-20 minutes total due to traffic and driver was very nice. When I asked him about getting a taxi back to the airport, he showed me where they parked to pick up fares at the Souq Waqif or simply walk to the road and hold out your hand and one would stop.

The Souq Waqif:
This market is a site to behold and just awesome. When I arrived, the outer edge had a carnival going on with rides, games, and bouncy houses for the kids. The entire area is laid out almost like city blocks and the vendors seem to be clumped together based on the products they sell. One part had every kind of pet you could think to buy, along with supplies and accessories. One section had fabrics and clothing next to it. One section held spices and candy. One had jewelry. The rest was a mix of souvenirs, cafes, and what not stores. Lots of traditional wares such as daggers, lanterns, hookah, wood carvings, Arabian style gifts, and others. Yellow gold is huge in Qatar, so most stores had plenty on display. Pearls also were historically big for Qatar, so lots of pearls on display. All prices were in Qatari Riyal but each shopkeep bargained and it was encouraged to haggle. The spice vendors had large sacks of incense, spices, candy, and what not...all sold by weight or the scoop. Lots of candy varieties by the package or individually by the weight to mix and match. I purchased a pair of hand inlayed wood boxes for my sisters as well for 20 riyal each, as well as 100% cashmere scarves for 15 riyal each. A metal and glass middle eastern candle lantern was purchased for 40 riyal to come to my home. The café and restaurants served a variety of food and drink options such as Indian, Turkish, European.... Quite a few had outside tables that allowed smoking shisha/hookah. I found a café to have a double apple hookah and a milk tea, which was enjoyable to sit back and watch everyone walking around while having a smoke and drink to relax. Tea and shisha was 45 riyal. After nearly 4 hours I decided to head back to the airport as I was unsure how long customs and security would take. Taxi was available right where previous driver had said it would be and was back at the airport in 15 minutes. Cost from airport was 50 riyal due to a 25 riyal base charge, cost back to airport was 32 riyal. At my time of travel, 1 US Dollar =3.64 Riyal, so all total my taxi, souvenirs, drinks, and smoke...all were $80 US with a few riyal as souvenirs.

The airport itself
Arriving back the airport, customs was a breeze. I simply showed my passport and boarding pass, and was back inside. Security had me remove my laptop and tablet from my backpack, walk through metal detector, and was done. I didn't have to empty my pockets, remove my hat or shoes, or unpack my entire bag. The airport is big with lots of neon signs and every shop you can imagine. This was the first airport I had ever seen where you could purchase a BMW or higher end cards in the airport terminal. Every big international store had a place, such as Coach, Burberry, Ferrari, Gucci, Armani... Lots of gold jewelry as well was for sale. Large statues throughout the entire complex could be seen, as was quite a few kid play areas as well as Apple computers for a free internet café. One feature I hadn't seen much anymore was smoking rooms inside the airports, all had nice ventilation and TV to watch while you got your nicotine...all without having to leave the airport and mess with customs yet again. The entire airport also had free wifi for everyone, a nice way to stay in touch with home even though it was an 8 hour time difference. Boarding was again easy and started 1 hour before takeoff.
 
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Dave Zimmerman

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Did you take firearms?
No, I didn't take a firearm, as I was using outfitters. It was so much easier and frankly less stressful. Ive heard of issues with multiple carriers and firearms...so it didn't seem worth it to hassle when our outfitter had a nice 300 Win Mag we used. When I go back, I wont use my own rifle as the headaches don't outweigh the thought of using my own.
 

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Doha to JoBerg...and my thoughts on Johannesburg airport

2nd flight was just over 8 hours with identical features and comforts as previously. This flight had a breakfast course since our flight left Doha at 2:20am, which was a cheese omelette with diced potatoes and mushrooms as sides. All great flavor and filling. Before we landed we were given a snack box which had a chicken, red pepper, and onion filled hot sandwich pastry (think chicken fajita) and a chococlate cupcake type desert. We landed a bit after 10Am and was met by my outfitter at the gate to collect luggage. Tambo International also offered free wifi, a nice unexpected extra.

JoBerg airport
The departure hall is a little confusing, as each carrier seems to rotate which desk they used for each flight. Took about an hour before someone showed up to start check in, but very nice once they did arrive. The airport itself was nice and large, with a huge selection of shopping. The duty free shop had a huge variety of South African wines to take home, something I recommend to anyone. Lots of shops had biltong for sale as well, but since the US doesn't allow them back in the country I only got a small bag to eat while there. Departure was a little different as we were scheduled to board at 7:20 but another flight was departing a bit before ours at the same gate, so we weren't allowed to sit until that flight was gone...even though it was fully boarded for 30 minutes. Regardless, we finally boarded and flew back to Doha.
 

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Doha to Chicago to KC: The trip home

Since I only had 2 hour layover in Doha, I felt a little self-induced pressure. The security at this gate was much more detailed since it was bound for the US. Each electronic not a cell phone had to be bagged in red customs bag, including camera, go pro, tablet, laptop, and camcorder. They also were strict on liquids not in duty free bags and I lost a bottle of south African soda I got as a souvenir. One we boarded, it was normal Qatar service and quality. Meals this time included a lamb dish that wasn't on the printed menu, which was very good and had lots of meat in the portion serve. Also included another warm pastry sandwich snack...another chicken based dish with a warm lemon cake this time. We landed in Chicago and had to take a train to terminal 3 yet again. But this time, we had to go back through security with all the new flyers. Even though we had just deboarded a flight and had another, still had to go through US security hassle. Shoes off, pockets empty, hat off, bags on track, all electronics flat....full body scanner...all yet again. This time they pulled my bag for additional scanning, not because of the warthog tusk in my bag or the tea...but the wine still sealed in duty free bag from South Africa with receipt in the bag.

Chicago O'Hare was a mixed bag for me. Our gate was changed 3 times on my final flight home with no reason given. Boarding took longer than other flights and I just wanted to go home. Flight was uneventful on American Airlines. At KC my luggage arrived unopened and I was driving home after my girl picked me up!
 

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That sure as heck doesn't sound like Delta 200/201 flights.
That is why I chose Qatar over Delta. Ive flown domestic flights plenty and how they treat you and charge you for stuff, I didn't want to be stuck 25+ hours on them. My buddy flew Emirates for his part of this trip and said the same thing I did about Qatar. The middle eastern carriers know how to treat passengers, with what they give you with even economy flights in terms of food, drink, extras, and comfort/entertainment. Only difference I could see in economy to Business was business had lay flat beds, noise canceling headphones vs normal ones we had, thicker blankets, and more room...and im sure their menu was better. But frankly, if someone can sleep on a plane, why pay $4000 more for business class when that money could go for more trophies in Africa?
 

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Everyone has their own experience. My group likes Emirates. I scanned your post and didnt see anything about them. They have been top notch and best value from our experience. And don't mind rifles.
 

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Everyone has their own experience. My group likes Emirates. I scanned your post and didnt see anything about them. They have been top notch and best value from our experience. And don't mind rifles.
My buddy flew Emirates for his journey, since he lives in Alaska and cheaper for him to fly them than to get on my flight. When we compared photos and menus and features, he said the same thing....top notch service and comfort. Only thing he couldn't talk about was leaving the airport in Dubai on layover, as he chose a 4 hour vs 19 hour layover option he had. He traveled with 2 friends so they had entire rows to themselves on flights. Id try Emirates or Ethiad if options were there for me...Qatar was just cheaper for my specific dates and flights
 

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Thanks for the review. It's good to have some reassurance that Qatar is all they're cracked up to be. I'm flying on Qatar for the first time ever in June to Namibia. I'll take American from St. Louis to Dallas. Then Qatar from Dallas to Doha and then on to Windhoek, Namibia. I've flown Delta 200/201 before so I'll have a point of comparison. I'll do a review when I'm back.
 

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Both Qatar and Emirates are great rides. If your really want a treat, take their business class. I flew Emirates to J'burg last October. Just a perfect trip (whoever says that about an airline?) Am slumming in June taking South African from Dulles, but they had a business deal I couldn't ignore.
 

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Here are a few photos I took specifically for this forum so everyone could see exactly what to expect on Qatar airline in economy seats. This includes the meals, the menu, the seating area, the entertainment center in the seatback in front of you

cheese omlette on qatar airways.JPG
chicken pastry on airplane.JPG
qatar airlines seats with amenities.JPG
qatar airways chicken bbq meal.JPG
qatar airways chicken tomato meal.JPG
View attachment 223598 View attachment 223599
qatar airways drink menu.JPG
qatar airways legroom.JPG
qatar airways menu 2.JPG
qatar airways menu.JPG
qatar entertainment screen.JPG
 
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cls

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Great review, thanks.
 

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I have flown Qatar on my last two hunting trips(2016-2017) to south Africa and found them as the op reported.

RSCN0609 (2).JPG
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I flew Qatar last summer to RSA. It is a very nice airline and had no complaints. I still think if flying coach it is better to get the misery over with as soon as possible. I personally can't sleep very well in a plane or the airports.
 

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I'm figuring out my flight for my October 2018 hunt in Namibia. Your report on Qatar Airlines and your airport experience in Doha was extremely helpful and detailed. Thank you very much for your posting. Good luck in future hunts and travels.
.............Mekis
 

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Thanks for the review. It's good to have some reassurance that Qatar is all they're cracked up to be. I'm flying on Qatar for the first time ever in June to Namibia. I'll take American from St. Louis to Dallas. Then Qatar from Dallas to Doha and then on to Windhoek, Namibia. I've flown Delta 200/201 before so I'll have a point of comparison. I'll do a review when I'm back.
Doug375
I’d love to hear a report on your trip to Namibia. I’d like to know what you think of Qatar.
Philip
 

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