Airbus A330-200; Qatar Airways has 13 of these in its fleet. The airline was named the world's best in last year's World Airline Awards, the fourth time it has won the award.
Doha to Kigali via Entebbe
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
8 hours and 15 minutes
20K. The seats have a 32-inch (81-centimetre) pitch and a width of 18.5 inches (47 centimetres) and are arranged in configurations of 2-4-2 and 2-3-2
I've requested a window seat so that I can see the cities of Entebbe and Kigali – neither of which I have visited before – as we land. While the plane is reasonably full, the seat beside me is empty and I'm able to spread out. The space between seats allows for some leg-stretching, and taller passengers shouldn't find their knees grazing the seat in front of them unless they recline their seats and sprawl themselves lengthwise.
However, those who keep their seats upright will find themselves almost nose-to-screen should passengers in front of them recline fully. Qatar Airways has one of the youngest fleet of aircraft in the world, and this fact is borne out by the cabin's fresh interior. The toilets are kept clean throughout the flight, but I'm not keen on the fragile tissues provided for the drying of hands – thicker-ply paper towel would be better.
This aircraft is fitted with seat-back screens from which passengers can select a wide range of entertainment, including recent Oscar-winning movies. The control is located in the armrest, and I find the screen difficult to navigate – the menu is not well-illuminated and it's tricky figuring out how to move from one icon to the other. I enjoy the in-flight magazine, Oryx, which contains well-written articles and information about Qatar's charitable projects, including its support for the anti-trafficking program ROUTES (Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species) – a hot topic for those setting off on a safari or gorilla trek.
The flight attendants are uniformly young (I'm hoping Qatar Airways doesn't discriminate against older candidates) but they've been meticulously trained, for they offer unflustered, professional service. They also represent a wide variety of nationalities. During the hour-long stopover in Entebbe, Kigali-bound passengers remain onboard. Security personnel check our boarding passes and ask us to identify our carry-on luggage; cleaners swiftly vacuum and tidy the cabin; a fresh cabin crew and new passengers board the plane.
Breakfast, served an hour after take-off, accommodates passengers who've converged in Doha from vastly different time-zones. There is breakfasty fare (yoghurt, croissants, fruit) for those just waking up, and savoury dishes and alcoholic beverages for the ones who are winding down. I select the chicken curry with jollof rice, because my body is screaming "dinner!" and I'm keen to get into the local mood with this classic West African dish. About an hour before landing in Entebbe we are offered a "sandwich", which is really a pastry filled with chicken or vegetables, and a small cake. During the 37-minute flight from Entebbe to Kigali, the attendants miraculously serve and clear away the same hot snack, paired this time with a banana cupcake.
ONE MORE THING
During the stop-over in Entebbe my Ugandan flight attendant, Kudra – who is disembarking here – takes time to come and say goodbye to me and wish me well on my journey. It is such touches that make the trip more personal.
Regional flights that include stopovers can resemble long bus trips – interminable, dull and jarring. But the frequent provision of snacks and meals, clear communication about procedure during the stopover, and careful attention to passengers' needs ensures a smooth and pleasant flight.
Tested by Catherine Marshall who travelled as a guest of The Classic Safari Company.