When you really think about it, flying is such a strange experience. You fall into line after line to board a tiny metal tube, then spend hours whizzing through the clouds passing the time with activities you never usually have time for. I’ve inherited my dad’s habit of buying a puzzle book in the airport and flick through languidly to find my favourites, usually whilst half watching a film I’ve seen dozens of times before.
While my budget means that all long haul flight experiences tend to be relatively similar, there’s still a selection of airlines that I’d love to fly with and one of them was Qatar Airways. So when it came to book my fourteen hour flight to the Philippines, I thought it’d be a great time to check out their in-flight sevice. They’re well known for their Q-Suites and have been voted the World’s Best Business Class in the Skytrax Awards 2018, but how did Economy Class match up? Along with my friend Ciiy, I’ve documented my whole experience of the journey there so you could find out!
Our outbound flights were split into two sectors: Manchester to Doha followed by Doha to Manila. With just over an hour connecting time, I was worried that we’d struggle to make our second flight but transitting was an absolute dream in Hamad International Airport. The majority of people on our flight were also heading onward to other destinations so the bus from our plane simply stopped outside the transit area and we were directed to a large screen telling us our next gate. Easy!
Manchester to Doha
The first sector of our trip was actually pretty short, with a flight time of 6 hours 15 minutes to ease us into our marathon journey. Boeing 787 Dreamliners are said to be great long haul aircrafts as they boast improved air quality, humudity and lighting in comparison to older models and we noticed the air felt noticeable more ‘normal’ than on our second flight. They also had cool electronically-dimmable windows and a remote that could be used instead of the touch screen on your entertainment system.
Before take off, the flight attendants offered us a much-welcomed refreshing hand wipe: I did catch myself thinking that a reusable flannel would be a more sustainable option, although these are probably already used in premum cabins. We also had a blanket and fairly substantial pillow (compared to other airlines I’ve flown with) waiting for us on our seats, although I decided to leave my blanket unopened as it was wrapped in plastic.
The legroom on offer was smaller than I imagined, although this was partially due ot the guy in front who immediately reclined his chair the entire way back. Don’t you just HATE it when people do that? Halfway through the flight, he switched seats to sit in front of Ciiy and attempted to do the exact same thing to her too! When the seats are reclined like this, it makes it almost impossible to reach your possessions on the floor (annoying) but thankfully, the entertainment screen pulls out at the bottom a little so you can still enjoy a film.
The film selection was pretty good, with a few new releases and variety of classics including a special Valentine’s themed ‘Love is in the Air’ selection. I immediately selected Goodbye Christopher Robin (The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was one of my absolute favourites as a kid and this didn’t disappoint!) and continued with the whimsical theme with Coco. If you haven’t seen this film yet, download it right now – it’s brilliant!
Now for the biggie – food. I’d contemplated stuffing my bags full of snacks just in case but as I missed my chance to stock up at the supermarket before flying, I put my faith in the airline to deliver the goods. You can pre-order many different types of special meals online including vegan and a few different veggie options. Because egg is revolting (unpopular opinion), I decided to swerve the Western veggie meal and chose the Vegetarian Oriental meal instead. I’m not sure how oriental my breakfast of beans, mushroom and tiny potatoes was but it was decent enough and came accompanied by fruit, a tasty muffin and orange juice. I loved how our meals came with sturdy metal cutlery, something I’ve not experienced on a longhaul flight before but it was a simple touch that made everything seem just a bit more fancy.
As the flight was fairly short, we were served a hot snack before landing rather than a separate meal. Ciiy opted for the menu vegetarian option of a tomato pastry that also came with a chocolate muffin, both of which she really enjoyed. She even generously split her chocolate muffin with me – isn’t that the sign of a great friend!? My special meal option was yummy chickpea curry roll from Monty’s Bakehouse that I wolfed down in no time. This marked the start of our descent and before we knew it, we were descending into a very smoggy Doha.
Doha – Manila
When I checked out my flights before flying, I was surprised to see that the second leg of our journey was significantly longer than the first. My geography has always been pretty weak so when I imagined the two places being close together, I couldn’t have been any more wrong and the 8 hour stretch took us across northern India, southern China and Hong Kong before we landed in Manila.
From reserving our seats in advance, I’d noticed the plane was a different configuration (3-3-3 rather than 3-4-3) as this time we were flying on a Boeing 777. I expected this to be less swanky than the Dreamliner but actually, we felt like we had more legroom. As well as a blanket and pillow, I was super excited to see that we had a dinky little amenity kit containing a cosy pair of socks, earplugs, lip balm, toothpaste, a toothbrush and an eye mask – not bad for economy!
Our entertainment screens also had a more modern design on this aircraft with a couple more film options, although my headphones weren’t working properly on this flight. However, we were experiencing some turbulance so rather than bothering the flight attendants, I battled through to watch ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’. Richard E Grant’s Oscar-nominated performance was adorable (any fellow 90’s kids remember him in the Spice Girls movie?) and after attempting to nap for a few hours following this, I put on The Greatest Showman because you can never watch it too many times, am I right? Shoppers may be interested to know that you also have the option to browse some of the duty free products via your screen as well as the in-seat guide. The only flaw with this entertainment system was the map view: on our previous flight, this was quite interactive with several different options to choose from but this just scrolled through different views and languages automatically.
When it came to meals, I predicted that I’d fancy a bit of a change so pre-ordered the Vegetarian Indian option this time and after waiting a bit longer than usual due to some bad turblance, mine was served at the same time as the menu meals which I liked. The veggie option on the menu was egg noodles but my pre-order was a delicious paneer curry accompanied by a chickpea salad, bread roll, yoghurt and melon. Quite randomly, there was also a sachet of olive oil and balsamic glaze on my tray which I drizzled over the chickpea salad and bread for a bit of a treat. Ordering from the menu, Ciiy opted for the beef stroganoff which she said was very tasty but also spicy – something to be aware of if you’re expecting a more creamy texture!
Breakfast was served a couple of hours before landing and while Ciiy chose a spinach and egg based breakfast, my pre-ordered option was a roti with curry and some kind of spiced falafel-type ball. Eating this brought back so much nostalgia of eating similar breakfasts while travelling in Malaysia, although it was accompanied by a very Western croissant, yoghurt and fruit with a tiny cup of orange juice. Once our rubbish was cleared away, we began our incredbly picturesque descent and the smoothest landing I’ve ever experiencd completed our flights to the Philippines with Qatar Airways.
Overall, we had a great experience with Qatar Airways. They were incredibly organised, punctual and service was friendly. When you’re flying such a long way in economy, it’s always going to be a struggle spending so long in a confined space but a great selection of entertainment and tasty meals helped the time to pass faster. We’re actually flying home with them in two weeks so I’ll be sure to come back and update this with anything new or different from our return flight! I’m still hoping that one day I’ll learn to sleep on planes but for now, I’ve always got sudoku to keep me company.