Five star economy and five star business from the only five star airline

I have been flying Qatar Airways for the past 5 years on medium and long haul destinations, both economy and business, mostly to India and the Middle East, connecting in Doha. In time, I also signed up for their ”award winning” loyalty program, yet, I am still striving to understand what is 5 star about this airline. Maybe it is the advertising campaigns which feature a beautiful female model as a flight attendant or their movie lists in the in flight entertainment.

Speaking to a Qatar Airways executive a while ago, I posed the same question and the reply was that Qatar Airways has the most generous space between seats in economy class. But how true is this?. Other airlines such as Russia’s Aeroflot, Indonesia’s Garuda or Belgium’s Brussels Airlines have similarly generous space between seat rows in economy.

Beyond the marketing gimmick, how can Economy Class be ranked as five star? I wonder how would a four star or three star cabin look like… In the case of Qatar Airways, besides the space between seat rows, there is absolutely nothing even of a premium level, let alone five star. From the cheapest uniforms which flight attendants wear (lowest quality materials and finishes) to food, there is nothing five star about Qatar Airways’ economy.

While most other national airlines have the decency to serve fruit juices with 100% fruit content, Qatar Airways serves a locally produced brand which is of the lowest quality, with at most 20% fruit content. On all my Qatar Airways flights and comparing with any other airlines, the quality of food, in both economy and business, is very modest – mostly frozen foods and foods rife with preservatives and artificial ingredients and colourants. I do not think one could find worst quality croissants, bread and yoghurts (90% artificial ingredients, preservatives and colorants.) than those served on Qatar Airways flights.

As for the ground experience, until the much anticipated Doha airport is inaugurated next year, all the aircrafts are served with buses. Business Class passengers have the perk of riding with a smaller van , but far from being a luxury one. As for the ”business” lounges within the main terminal, they are again of very poor quality – run down furniture, uncomfortable chairs, limited snack menus etc. The worst about these lounges is the fact they have smoking booths where many cram in at the same time so the rooms fill with smoke and then, there are the showers – on all my transits through Doha, they never worked…

Qatar Airways in-flight entertainment system is no better than airlines such as Turkish Airlines or Avianca, not to mention Asian carriers such as Korean Air or Singapore Airlines. As the years passed bym and the airline has been making efforts to stay competitive, less new release movies or music have been added. On older aircraft, i.e. Boeing 777, which I flew from Jakarta to Doha, economy did not have touch screens, but the classic ceiling screens.

As for its business class, apart from more personalized attention from cabin staff, Qatar Airways offers no special services or features, which would qualify it for the ”five star ranking”. Seats in business class do not recline to a full bed (at least not on the long haul Boeing 777, which I have often flown). The amenity kit is again made up of modest quality cosmetics and the same is valid for the blanket.

There is also another huge discrepancy between the flights Qatar Airways operates to Asia, Africa, Australia and the Middle East, which fly mostly passengers working abroad who seek the lowest fares – and the flights Qatar Airways operates, for instance, to the U.S. and Western Europe, which carry more business passenger and more Qataris.

Hopefully, with the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner which the airline received earlier this year,  the new airport in Doha and the flying Chef program, there will be some improvements, although, in order to offer the lowest fares, it will be difficult to make significant improvements.

Oliver Petcu

Qatar Airways, Five Star Economy Class