Melbourne to Doha
The Loyalty Scheme
Qatar's Privilege Club, but it is also part of the Oneworld Alliance.
First class, eight open suites
14 hours and 35 minutes
Daily, Sunday to Wednesday
Is a breeze - it's even more advantageous on the return leg as you get to experience the standalone terminal for first and business class passengers plus the incredible lounge facilities in Doha. In Melbourne, I'm whizzed straight through customs and security at lightning speed, but Qatar doesn't have a lounge. You can use Mahaba - but that's likely to be a bit of a let-down for first class passengers (no offence to Mahaba).
50 kilos checked in plus two pieces of hand luggage totalling 15 kilos.
At the front of the upper deck of the A380, the lights are already dimmed in the evening when you enter the cabin and slide into your "seat" which, let's face it, feels more like a small loungeroom. Smooth curves, timber panelling and the burgundy/beige colour scheme make for an extremely stylish seat. It features a lamp in the far right corner and occupies three window spaces with buttons to open and close them electronically, with mock-blind effect. There's a mini-wardrobe at the front of your "cabin" for hanging clothes.
With a 33 inch (84cm) wide flat bed, a seat pitch of 90 inches (229cm) and a width of 23 inches (58cm), this is a much larger, grander space than the business class pods on this flight. There's an extra tray table that is handy for drinks and snacks. You can stow your luggage underneath the foot bench in front as there are no overhead lockers. Sleeping is no problem as the bedding is extremely comfortable, and includes two pillows and a soft burgundy comforter.
But what we really need to put our hands together for here is the well-thought-through bathroom. There are two for first-class passengers occupying the first part of the plane, and although they don't include a shower, the huge space in here makes it a luxurious place to wash up. It's decorated with roses, and there are amenity-filled drawers, coathangers to use while you get changed, and huge amounts of bench space to sit and park your things. The toilet itself is hidden under a part of this "benchspace". The seat comes in handy when you're getting changed and there's turbulence, for example. These are by far the best airline bathrooms I've experienced. Added perks of first class include slippers and comfortable pyjamas from the White Company; BRICs bag with a strap so it can be used as a handbag (upgraded from business class); and toiletries by Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio.
You can't fault the service in First. No sooner am I seated than I'm offered a glass of Champagne (Krug? Yes, please) and snacks of Parmesan chunks and green olives. My winter jacket is whisked away. I'm offered PJs, amenity kits and water; and before I know it, the plane has left the tarmac and meal service has commenced, during which Qatar continues to spoilt me rotten.
In this mini-lounge, there's no chance in hell of reaching the touch screen. But you can operate just about anything from a seatside touchscreen - reading lights, lamps and the 26-inch (66cm) television screen. There are really good TV dramas to binge, such as Killing Eve, Lodge 49, The Handmaid's Tale and True Detective.
The table is set with a faux candle and colourful glassware, and first up is a caviar service, with Krug Champagne or Bollinger Rose. This is followed by large pieces of unforgettable smoked salmon, warm bread with French butter, flavoured oil and vinegar. For the main meal, my flight attendant recommends the Gulf-style chicken machboos with toasted cashews and cucumber raita, which is very good; dessert is a warm chocolate fondant, with a delicious spicy Arabic coffee. Breakfast is also served on the flight a few hours before landing. You can choose to go to sleep immediately as this is a late flight and eat breakfast earlier followed by a lunch before landing. The wine list, too, is excellent.
While cabin crew are required to wear protective clothing, passengers must also wear face masks throughout the flight, and hand sanitiser is available from the galley. With a rigorous cleaning process after each flight, re-useable items such as headsets are sanitised and refurbished, and bedding and linen cleaned. Seatback screens are sanitised and digital newspapers and magazines are now available on Qatar's app, Oryx One, which you can download on your own device. Qatar's planes have the HEPA air filtration system, which removes 99.7 per cent of contaminants from re-circulated air.
One More Thing
There's a bar and lounge on the flight which is a great space to utilise over the 14-hour journey if you need to stretch your legs, or feel like a chat with the attendant behind the bar. You may have to mingle with business-class passengers, but all manner of drinks and coffee are available, and there are snacks left out on the bar as well as a swag of magazines to read (the lounge areas are currently closed due to COVID).
Plane travel is officially ruined forever by this first class experience.
Our rating out of five
The writer was a guest of Qatar