Will you be flying long-haul from North America or Europe to the Middle East, Africa, Asia or India? Qatar Airways offers very competitive ticket prices – often considerably less than other airlines such as KLM and Cathay Pacific.
You may know Qatar’s Business Class service is renowned. (Those Qsuites with double beds and privacy doors look pretty sweet!)
But what about the airline’s Economy Class service? What’s it like to fly Qatar Airways Economy Class?
Fasten your seatbelts and fly with us, virtually that is, as we take you through our Qatar Airways economy review.
Qatar Airways Economy review
Doha is the capital city in Qatar and the connecting hub for all long-haul flights on Qatar Airways.
From North America, Qatar has direct flights to Doha from Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Miami, New York and several other cities.
On our recent trip to Sri Lanka, we flew Qatar from Los Angeles to Doha, then Doha to Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. We chose to overnight in Doha so we could get some sleep after the almost 16-hour flight from L.A., before tackling the final 5-hour leg to Sri Lanka.
On the return from Sri Lanka, we also connected in Doha before returning to L.A. (But we flew straight threw without a sleepover in Doha.)
Qatar Airways Economy seats
Let’s start our review of Qatar Airways Economy class with the airline’s legroom.
Qatar Airways seating arrangement:
For many flights from Los Angeles to Doha, Qatar uses Boeing 777-300ER planes.
Until recently, Qatar Airways 777’s were configured with just 9 seats across in Economy – 3 seats on either side of the aisles and 3 seats in the middle. The seats were 18.2 inches wide and gave passengers 33 inches of seat pitch (leg room).
That has unfortunately changed on many routes.
Between L.A. and Doha, seats on our flights were configured 3-4-3 in Economy Class. They were 17 inches wide and offered 32 inches of leg room.
Our flight from L.A. was not full, however (about 3/4 full). We lucked out with an empty middle seat between us, sharing 3 seats on one side of the airplane. That made the almost 16-hour flight to Doha fairly comfortable (as comfortable as you can get when flying Economy these days).
From Doha to Colombo (a flight of just under 5 hours), Qatar uses the A340-600. The seats are configured 2-4-2. They were narrower, with less legroom, than seats on the Boeing 777-300ER planes between L.A. and Doha.
The flight from Doha to Colombo was also full, so it wasn’t as comfortable either.
Qatar Airways seat selection:
After booking our Qatar Economy tickets, we were able to select seats online without paying a fee – no waiting until 24 hours before the flight departure (as is customary for North American airlines). Exit row seats can’t be booked in advance though.
Obviously, the further out you book, the better the seat selection will be.
Qatar Airways amenity kit and comforts
Upon making our way to our seats, we found each seat had a thick grey fleece blanket and pillow.
As soon as our flights took off, cabin crew handed out refreshing towel wipes.
Shortly after on our long-haul flights, each passenger was given a small flight amenity kit – a pretty tear-open plastic bag (decorated with a colorful London scene). It contained grey disposable socks, a teeny tube of lip balm, toothbrush and toothpaste, yellow earplugs and a sleep mask.
Qatar Airways meals
Flight attendants handed out menus for all our flights.
Three meals were offered on the extra-long flights. And we found the Qatar Airways Economy Class food quite good.
For the long-haul flight from L.A. to Doha, the following was on offer:
We left L.A. at 3:05 pm, so “lunch” was the first and main meal.
There was a choice of:
- Chicken Pomodore with broccoli and creamy polenta
- Dawood Basha with tomato sauce (a Middle-Eastern dish of meatballs in a tomato-herb sauce with rice)
- Paneer Tava Masala with Dal Tadka (Indian cheese with spiced lentils), potato and pea rice – the vegetarian option
Flight attendants suggested the chicken Pomodore for us – presumably they suggest the food option based on your nationality, so they don’t run out of the food preferred by different cultures.
There was also a rice-and-bean salad, bun (with butter), slice of cheese, chocolate dessert and a Toblerone chocolate.
Mid-way through the flight, a tuna sandwich and fruit salad was offered.
We asked for the mocha Haagen Dazs ice-cream that was also on the menu. We were told it had unfortunately melted, but a kindly attendant managed to find a cup that was semi-frozen, which we enjoyed (to the envious stares of a fellow passenger across the aisle).
Two hours before arrival in Doha, “brunch” was served.
It consisted of fresh fruit and yogurt and a choice of the following:
- Pulled BBQ chicken with vegetables and fried rice
- Scrambled eggs with potato hash, baked beans and sautéed mushrooms
- Corn Tikki (corn cutlets) with tomato chutney
The scrambled eggs were runny and unappetizing. But the strong cups of Ceylon tea were fair compensation!
Doha to Colombo flight:
On our tray the next morning?
On the morning flight from Doha to Colombo, the fresh sliced apple and warm croissant with jam and butter was decent. But the strawberry yogurt was too sweet for our tastes.
For breakfast, we had a choice of:
- Scrambled eggs with sausage and potato cubes
- Paratha (unleavened Indian flat bread) with spinach
Qatar Airways alcohol
As well as complimentary red and white wine – which you’d expect on international flights – the following alcohol was also free on all our Qatar flights (including our morning flight from Doha to Colombo):
- Beefeater Gin
- Johnnie Walker Red Label Whiskey
- Smirnoff Red Vodka
- Camus VSOP Elegance Cognac
- Bailey’s Irish Cream Liqueur
The cognac and Bailey’s, in particular, was a pleasant surprise!
Unfortunately, the white wine wasn’t chilled and served at room temperature on this flight, so we quickly switched to red wine instead.
As expected, Qatar Airways’ drinks menu also includes complimentary soft drinks, coffee and tea.
Qatar Airways inflight service
We found the inflight service excellent on all our flights.
The cabin crew worked hard. As well as serving meals, they walked through the plane often with plastic cups of water and orange juice.
They also kept the bathrooms clean and refreshed, replenishing toilet paper and tissue (something which North American cabin crew don’t do).
Qatar Airways entertainment
According to the airline’s website, Qatar Airways’ inflight entertainment system – Oryx One – offers up to 4,000 entertainment options, from music, games, TV shows and, of course, movies.
Certainly, we found lots of choice for newly-released movies, more than enough to keep us happily entertained.
The screens on the long-haul flights were high-resolution, bright and large (almost as wide as the seatback).
We give Qatar high marks for its good quality entertainment system!
Qatar carry-on baggage allowance
Our Qatar Airways review wouldn’t be complete without pointing out the airline’s carry-on baggage limits – which you’ll definitely want to note.
Their carry-on baggage allowance is smaller than most other reputable airlines. And Qatar is very strict about enforcing what you’re allowed to take onboard with you.
Electronics, such as a laptop, camera and computer cords) are excluded from the 15 lbs weight restriction.
We’ve gotten accustomed to taking one small wheeled carry-on suitcase and a small backpack or shoulder bag each as carry-on luggage (allowed by Air Canada, Delta, KLM, British Airways, etc.). But this was not allowed when we checked in at the L.A. airport for our Qatar flight to Doha.
The first thing Qatar check-in staff did was to weigh our carry-on rollaway bags. Both of ours were over the limit.
We ended up repacking twice and checking in one of the rollaways to get our carry-on luggage down to under the allowable limit. (We were glad we had a collapsible day pack in which we stuffed the binoculars, laptop, Kindle, phones, cords and chargers.)
Emirates has a similar hand-luggage allowance of 7 kg (15 lbs).
But we found Emirates less strict about enforcing their hand-luggage limits when we flew Emirates from Seattle through Dubai to Africa. (Maybe we just lucked out?)
Airport, customs and security
Hamad International Airport:
Hamad International Airport in Doha opened in 2014. It’s bright and light, with lots of glass – very clean and new-looking. But for such a big airport, it looks quite empty compared to Dubai or Heathrow or even Vancouver’s airport.
That could be in part because few big-name airlines (apart from Qatar, Sri Lankan Airlines and Turkish Airlines) fly to Doha.
Customs and immigration:
When we arrived in Doha from L.A., we had to wait more than an hour in the long customs and immigration line before exiting the airport. (Remember, on the way to Sri Lanka, we overnighted in Doha to break up the long journey.)
Waiting in line was quite frustrating, because there were so many booths. However, all but three were empty of officials for the “other travelers” section.
Qatari nationals had their own entry customs line, which we could see was very quick.
Also, if you’re flying business or first class, you get special exit privileges.
Having to wait so long to proceed through immigration was such a stark contrast to everything else in the airport, which was new, spiffy and orderly (including a speedy Disneyesque tram to take you from disembarkation to the huge entrance hall).
Returning to the airport the next morning to catch our ongoing flight to Colombo, we again encountered long lines, this time to go through security.
We only had hand luggage (as our checked luggage was checked all the way through). But for a 9:00 am flight, it was just as well we arrived at the airport before 7:00 am, as it took some 2+ hours to go through security and get to our gate.
Doha airport hotel
Qatar Airways allows you to break up your long-haul flight with an overnight stay in Doha. You have the option of checking your suitcases (except hand luggage) all the way through to your final destination.
As mentioned, we took advantage of this option.
When looking into Doha airport hotels, we discovered that Doha doesn’t really have any such accommodation (as we’re familiar with them), with free shuttles to and from the airport (like the Delta, Sheraton and Hyatt airport hotels in many large North American cities).
Doha airport transit hotel:
The one exception is the transit hotel right in the airport, the Oryx Airport Hotel (5 star).
When we previously flew on Emirates from North America to Africa, we stayed overnight at the Dubai airport transit hotel – a great stay!
But unlike the Dubai transit hotel (which was around $200 USD), the Doha airport transit hotel was coming in at over $325 USD a night. While this would have been the most convenient option, we crossed it off our list.
Hotels near Doha airport:
Many 5 star hotels in Doha cost considerably less than the Doha transit hotel.
For about $70 USD, we chose to stay at the Zubarah Hotel, a boutique 5 star hotel that’s rated highly by luxury-loving but budget-conscious travelers. It was very comfortable and offered everything we needed for 8 hours of sleep. (It is a “dry” hotel though – no alcohol is served.)
We also paid about $60 USD for the hotel’s private car transportation service to and from the airport. (Taxis are cheaper, and we’d read they’re safe, but as this was our first visit to Qatar, we went with the less-hassle and less-stress hotel transportation offer.)
Bottom line: Is Qatar Airways good?
Qatar was rated the 2nd best airline in the world in the 2018 Skytrax World Airline Awards.
In terms of safety, Qatar (which has been flying since 2004) has never had a single plane crash and maintains a “squeaky clean safety record.”
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Photos 4 to 6 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | Photos 1 to 3, 7, 8 and 11 courtesy Qatar Airways | Photo 9 courtesy Oryx Airport Hotel | Photo 10 courtesy Zubarah Hotel