I’m no stranger to flying. This year alone, I’ve already racked up almost ten flights. Normally, I’m sitting (often rather uncomfortably) in so-called cattle class. Recently, however, I was lucky enough to be offered an unmissable opportunity to turn left upon boarding a plane when I was invited to experience flying Business Class with Qatar Airways – the Middle East’s leading airline – from Cardiff to Doha.
- 1 Qatar Airways: Cardiff to Doha via Cardiff Airport
- 2 Hamad International Airport, Doha
- 3 Flying Business Class with Qatar Airways: is it worth it?
Qatar Airways: Cardiff to Doha via Cardiff Airport
Situated just outside Cardiff in Rhoose, Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff Airport is home to a single terminal that connects over 1.5 million passengers every year with 900 destinations, via 50 direct routes.
In May of this year, Qatar Airways launched a brand new route from Cardiff to Doha. This is the first regular direct long-haul flight linking Wales and the South West to a major global hub in the Gulf region and significant global markets across the world including Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Asia. Currently operating seven days a week, the new route targets both leisure and business travellers.
Getting to the airport
As Cardiff Airport is only a 30-minute drive away from my home, getting to the airport was much quicker and easier than usual. I usually have to travel to Bristol or London whenever I fly long-haul, and not having to book coach or train travel or worry about getting delayed on the road eliminated a lot of the stress that usually comes with a trip to the airport.
As I’m still learning to drive, I convinced one of my friends to give me a lift to the airport on the morning of our flight. Drivers dropping off passengers at Cardiff Airport are entitled to free parking directly outside the terminal for up to ten minutes, with a cost of £5 for every ten minutes thereafter.
If I can’t find anyone to drive me to Cardiff Airport, I usually catch the TrawsCymru T9 Cardiff Airport Express Bus Service, operating every 30 minutes from Customhouse Street and Penarth Road (at the rear of Cardiff Central train station) in the city centre and Cardiff County Hall in Cardiff Bay. This service takes around 30 minutes to reach the airport and a single adult fare from Cardiff city centre to Cardiff Airport costs £5, while a return journey costs £8. On weekends, there is no charge.
Check-in at the airport
When you enter Cardiff Airport, you’ll find yourself standing in the Check-In Hall. As we were flying Business Class with Qatar Airways, we were entitled to VIP fast-track check-in, although the queues for Economy check-in weren’t very long at all.
With a checked-in baggage allowance of 40kg and up to two pieces of hand luggage weighing no more than 15kg together, for once I didn’t have to worry about exceeding the luggage weight limit.
The friendly staff had us checked in before we knew it and we were on our way to Security within less than 10 minutes.
The Security area at Cardiff Airport is much smaller than at other airports, so it takes considerably less time to get your bag checked and pass through the body scanners. Despite this, you should still arrive around two hours in advance of a domestic flight and up to four hours early for a long-haul flight.
51° Executive Lounge and Business Lounge
As we were flying Business Class with Qatar Airways, we enjoyed complimentary access to the recently refurbished 51° Executive Lounge and Business Lounge at Cardiff Airport, launched in April of this year along with the brand new £4m Departure Lounge.
Available exclusively to Business Class passengers travelling with Qatar Airways or KLM, the Business Lounge can be accessed via the 51° Executive Lounge. It boasts comfy seating, free WiFi, charging points, complimentary newspapers and flight information screens.
As we waited for our flight to board, we were able to access an unlimited selection of tea, coffee and soft drinks; beer, wines and spirits, and light snacks. Sipping on a Welsh Brew tea while nibbling on freshly baked Welsh cakes was the perfect way to unwind before our flight.
A piping hot soup looked rather appealing, although I did expect there to be a greater variety of hot food items to choose from, as is usually the case in Business Class lounges.
The 51° Executive Lounge and Business Lounge is open daily from 5am – 9pm, but closes at 5pm on Saturdays. It costs £20 per person to book the Lounge. Once you’ve booked your flight and obtained the flight number, simply visit Cardiff Airport’s website and book the Executive Lounge. Alternatively, you can pay at the door upon entry.
Other features of Cardiff Airport
Besides its brand new 51° Executive Lounge, Cardiff Airport has also benefited from several other improvements since my last visit, including a swanky new Departures Lounge.
In addition, there is a new WHSmith (in addition to the store on the ground floor of the terminal), Well Pharmacy and a Tax and Duty Free store stocked with locally sourced food and drink and Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) merchandise.
Fancy a bite to eat while waiting for your flight? Pop to The Beer House for some gourmet pub grub or visit Ritazza or Costa Coffee for freshly brewed tea and coffee, sandwiches and light snacks.
Another Costa Coffee can be found in Arrivals, while Caffi Cwtch can be found on the first floor of the terminal, just before you pass through Security.
Flying Business Class with Qatar Airways
As Cardiff Airport is much smaller than average, the walk to the gate is much quicker than usual. After leaving the 51° Executive Lounge, we were standing at the gate ready to board within around five minutes. Business Class passengers are called to board the plane first (along with any passengers requiring special assistance) so we didn’t have to hang around at the gate for ages, as is often the case when flying Economy Class.
Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Stepping onto the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, we were greeted with a smile and kindly directed to our seats by the friendly, immaculate Qatar Airways cabin crew. Each plane features just 22 Business Class seats and 232 Economy seats, so it wasn’t difficult to locate where we were sitting.
Spacious and snug, our seats were enclosed within their own pods and equipped with fold-out polished mahogany desks, wide TV screens complete with a remote control, in-seat buttons to call the crew for assistance, and bottled water and noise-isolating headphones packed into a compartment in the arm of each chair. Our seats also came with plush pillows and fur-lined blanket.
Before I flew with Qatar Airways, I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to drinking alcohol on-board the aircraft. No sooner had I sat down than the cabin crew were coming over and introducing themselves, offering me a drink from the extensive selection of beers, wines, spirits, soft drinks and hot beverages. I was sipping on a fruity mocktail before we’d even taken off and as soon as the plane was in the air, I was offered another drink, served with an assortment of warm nuts.
Throughout our journey, the LED mood lighting cast a pretty pink glow over the plane. Meanwhile, the advanced air technology filtered away any nasties in the air and replaced them with plenty of oxygen, helping to ensure our skin stayed moist and supple, and avoid the usual dry mouth and throat you tend to get when flying long-haul.
If I’m honest, however, I did find it a little too toasty on-board the aircraft at times, although fellow blogger, Mellissa from The Diary of a Jewellery Lover and Fly Drive Explore mentioned this to our cabin crew and the temperature was adjusted immediately.
Complimentary newspapers and magazines are also available to read during the flight.
Where food is concerned, the menu takes the form of an on-demand à la carte menu and there’s no need to eat at a particular time; you simply order your meal whenever you feel hungry and it will be prepared fresh for you. The selection of dishes featured an array of authentic Arabian cuisine, alongside several typical British and continental options. You can even order afternoon tea if you like! As I love to explore the local cu travel, I went for the traditional Middle Eastern options.
Having taken my order, my cabin crew assistant transformed herself into a waitress as she whipped out a crisp white table cloth and laid it out on the desk in front of me, followed by an LED-powered electronic candle, elegant silver cutlery, a basket of fresh bread and butter, salt and pepper, and a serving of Italian extra virgin olive oil with balsamic vinegar. It was just like eating at a fine dining restaurant, only miles high in the sky!
An appetiser of smoked salmon with quinoa, fresh tomato and parsley left me wanting more.
A mixed Arabian mezze of fresh tabbouleh, hummus and moutabel with pillow-soft Arabic breads further tantalised my tastebuds.
For my main course, I ordered the Saudi Arabian national dish, chicken kabsa. Aromatic, spiced fluffy rice was dotted with chunks of tender, spiced chicken, teamed with a tangy yoghurt sauce for drizzling.
My dessert was an Arabian twist on a typical British classic – a rich, sticky pudding topped with fresh dates. As I found out when I got to Doha, this is a popular dessert choice in Qatar, available on many restaurant menus.
Fit to burst, I was then presented with a duo of indulgent Godiva chocolates in a fancy presentation box.
In between meals, you can tuck into an unlimited choice of complimentary crisps, confectionery, nuts and chocolate.
After dinner, I browsed some of the 4,000+ in-flight entertainment options available on Qatar Airways’ in-flight entertainment system, Oryx One.
The video selection included Hollywood blockbusters and top TV shows, while the music included popular artists spanning different genres, and a variety of world music. You can either control the system using the touchscreen or navigate using the remote control.
In addition, Oryx One also offers games, children’s entertainment (including Hasbro, Nickelodeon, Disney and Cartoon Network) and the ultimate source of in-flight entertainment, the live flight map; I mean, who doesn’t love staring at that little plane on the screen for minutes at a time, watching it move less than a millimetre a minute?
The entertainment facilities on-board Qatar Airway’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner offer each passenger 30 minutes complimentary WiFi, with the option to purchase additional WiFi at a cost of $15/£7.90. My 30 minutes free WiFi soon ran out and I had a blog post I really wanted to finish en route to Doha, so I purchased two hours of WiFi usage. Within no more than an hour, however, it cut out; it appears there is a limit of 200MB per session, so even though I was only writing up a blog post and uploading a couple of photos, I soon hit that limit.
It can’t be overlooked that this is a downfall of the Business Class service on-board Qatar Airways’ Boeing 787 Dreamliner. When paying for a Business Class experience, I would fully expect to have WiFi as standard and if I’m not able to access a reliable service, that could be an issue.
If you need to freshen up during the flight, zip open your in-seat toiletries kit, packed into a hard-shell case designed by prestigious Italian travel bag brand, BRICS. Each case includes a selection of expensive Italian toiletries by Italy’s Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio, including a hydrating facial mist, lip balm and anti-ageing moisturiser, along with flight socks and an eye mask.
Furthermore, in the bathroom you’ll find dental kits complete with toothbrushes, floss and toothpaste, as well as razors and shaving cream.
Feeling sleepy? Get changed into your complimentary, 100% cotton pyjamas and slippers by The White Company, recline your seat flat and wrap up warm in your blanket. I never manage to sleep on flights, but I slept like a baby all the way home from Doha to Cardiff and before I knew it, the cabin crew were waking me to take my breakfast order.
Flying Business Class with Qatar Airways also enables you to take advantage of the industry’s first ever double bed with the QSuite offering, currently running on select routes in Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East and the Americas. The panels dividing adjacent seats can be lowered at the press of a button, allowing couples to enjoy a greater level of intimacy. Meanwhile, groups travelling together can adjust their panels and TV monitors to create their own private quad, where each member of the group sits facing each other.
Hamad International Airport, Doha
Strategically located at the crossroads of the East and the West, Hamad International Airport is one of the world’s largest hub airports, handing 30 million passengers every year. The airport has one terminal with five concourses, serving over 150 destinations worldwide and placing Doha at the centre of global business and leisure travel.
Arriving at Hamad International Airport, Doha, we were transported into the future. After disembarking the plane, we stepped onto a sleek, futuristic train that glided through the airport until we reached the baggage collection hall, where we were greeted by a member of airport staff, escorted to a private lounge and offered a cold glass of water as we waited for our bags to be returned to us.
Having been reunited with our bags, we were taken to a private immigration and customs area and escorted to a cab waiting outside to transfer us to our hotel.
Checking-in at at the airport on our return journey was just as convenient and hassle-free, with no need to queue whatsoever; we just strolled up to the check-in desk and within minutes, we’d dropped off our bags and had our boarding passes in hand. Again, there was a designated Immigrations and Customs are for Business Class guests, so we simply passed straight through without any need to queue.
This is the kind of airport I wouldn’t mind getting delayed at.
There are so many high-end stores, the airport practically doubles up as a shopping mall. Add to that a seemingly never-ending selection of cafes, restaurants and bars, the world’s only in-airport swimming pool, fitness centre, spa and jacuzzi, an airside hotel, and a giant teddy bear worth 2 billion dollars, and you could just about take a vacation in Hamad International Airport.
When it comes to lounges, Hamad International Airport’s offering makes Cardiff’s Airport’s 51° Executive Lounge look like a glorified cafe. The airport boasts no less than twelve different lounges and the Al Mourjan Business Class lounge alone could accommodate 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools! Many of the lounges offer an a la carte restaurant dining service, while others serve light snacks and sandwiches. This has to be one of the highlights of flying Business Class with Qatar Airways!
Flying Business Class with Qatar Airways: is it worth it?
With a single Business Class journey from Cardiff to Doha with Qatar Airways starting at £3,501 (versus £417 in Economy) this certainly isn’t a cheap way to travel.
However, if you’re going to splash out on a Business Class experience, Qatar Airways ranks very high in comparison to other airlines. While I haven’t flown Business Class previously and so I have nothing to compare my experience to, my perception of Qatar Airways Business Class offering is extremely positive. Recently, the airline was awarded World’s Best Business Class and Best Business Class Seat in Skytrax World Airline Awards 2018 and having experienced the service for myself, it’s clear to see why. From the five-star hospitality to the dining experience, comfortable seats and entertainment facilities (WiFi aside), everything about the Qatar Airways Business Class experience screams
With the introduction of the new route from Cardiff to Doha, it is a very exciting time for Cardiff Airport and for Wales as a whole and looking to the future, it’ll be fascinating to discover what else the airport has planned. We are miles apart from Hamad International Airport, not only in terms of distance but also in terms of facilities and size. However, with plans for an on-site four-star hotel, a second terminal, a transport hub and a multi-storey carpark, it seems like Cardiff Airport is doing a fantastic job of putting Wales on the map!
Compare prices on flights from Cardiff to Doha with Qatar Airways using the Skyscanner search box below.
What would you enjoy the most about flying business class with Qatar Airways, and have you ever been lucky enough to experience it for yourself? Join in with the discussion in the comment section below.