Switching from British Airways to Qatar Airways

Switching from British Airways to Qatar Airways

Switching from British Airways to Qatar Airways 1310 760 Chris West

If you’re read some of my previous posts you’ll know I’ve returned to very regular flying in 2023. The trips are getting more frequent and now I’m being asked to go further afield. So naturally I have been looking for better, more interesting and fun ways to fly.

Coming up between July and October this year I need to be in Dubai, Seoul, Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur.

When I started looking for flights for my next trip to Dubai, I was given a budget equivalent to flying direct on BA in Premium Economy. However the BA flight lands at 11pm, meaning that by time I’ve got through immigration, collected my bags and taken a taxi to the hotel, I’m not in bed before before 1am. With the 3 hours time difference that makes it particularly hard to get up for an 8am meeting the next day. So I looked at alternatives. Of course I could have flown direct with Emirates, but their prices were significantly higher and they’re not a One World airline, so no good to my points collection with BA. The other good One World option was Qatar, they had a nice flight option, via Doha, landing in Dubai at 9pm, but they have an issue as well, no Premium Economy. I was a little surprised about this, so I did do some research into the reasons. According to the owner, they think their economy is so good, they don’t need a Premium Economy service. Let’s find out.

As the outbound flight was a day flight and the return was over night, I decided to book Economy out and Business back, which balanced out to be within my budget.

Qatar check in experience

At London Heathrow, Qatar operate from Terminal 4, this is now the third oldest terminal, having been opening in 1986, after T2, (opened in 2014) and T5, (opened in 2008). I haven’t flown from T4 in a long time and I had forgotten how small it was compared to the newer terminals.

Upon arrival I headed for Qatar check-in, which is located in a far left corner. There was a very large zigzag queue for Economy, which I did not relish getting into. However, thanks to my BA Executive club status, I should be able to use priority check-in lines. There was a Qatar person standing at the entrance to the queue and he sent me around the side of the queue. It was not sign posted so you wouldn’t know it was there unless you went hunting for it. Around the side the new queue split into two, with a sign saying Business and First class left and Priority right. Both signs had the Green and Blue ovals of One World Emerald and Sapphire status, so I think I could have used either line. The left line led into what looked like a nice little lounge area to wait for check-in, the right priority lane just led to a dedicated couple of check-in desks. I chose the right lane on this occasion, even though I think my status would have let me use either, (I’ll do the left next time when I’m flying Business).

Compared to the Economy queue, which easily had over fifty people queuing, there were two families ahead of me in the priority queue. Once I reached the front, check-in was quick and easy. I had also upgraded the second leg of my trip to First Class, more detail on that later, but it resulted in quite a funny issue with the check-in person. She printed both my boarding passes, then noticed my second boarding pass was First Class, but it was printed on an Economy piece of card. She decided this was not acceptable and immediately ripped up my boarding pass and spent a good few minutes reloading her printer with “First Class” boarding passes. Once I had my plain boarding pass for my Economy flight and my fancy new First Class boarding pass for my second flight I was off to security.

Qatar airport experience

I had assumed since I always get fast track security with BA and thanks to my status, that it would still apply with Qatar. However when I got there I was told that it only applied to Emerald status for non-Qatar members, however it was very quiet and he let me through anyway.

Qatar has two lounges at T4, both located very close to the gates they use, which is very convenient. There’s the premium lounge, which is for Business and First Class customers. The other lounge is the frequent flyer lounge, basically intended for people like me who aren’t flying in a premium cabin, but have airline status entitling them to lounge access.

The lounge was a nice space, with plenty of seating, some with good views, although it is located around one side of the building, so not a lot of aircraft to see. There was a good food selection of hot and cold breakfast items. As well as hot, cold and alcoholic drinks, including sparkling wine if you want it. They offer a nice service of personally coming around and letting you know when your flight is ready, which makes for a more relaxed experience.

I did decide to pop out to stretch my legs. I had read on the One World website that the lounge next door, the Plaza Premium lounge, is open to all One World members as well, so I decided to compare it. However they didn’t let me in, stating it was only for Malaysian Airlines customer. I guess the One World website info is not quite up to date.

When it came time to board, I headed to the gate where they were boarding by “zone” number. I was number 3, but turned out my status did allow for queue jumping here, so I headed down the ramp.

Qatar Economy experience

This flight was on an A350-900, which has Q-suites and Economy sections on it. I had selected seat 20K, which at the time had nobody next to me. Qatar offer a service for quiet flights when flying economy, whereby you can book the seats next to you to be empty. However my flight was full, so this option did not appear on check-in.

The seat was pretty comfortable, with quite a nice recline for an Economy seat and good leg room. Definitely more comfortable and spacious than flying a short haul aircraft. There was a blanket, pillow, headphones and a safety kit (face mask, wipes etc). Which is all great for a daytime flight. The screen on the seat in front was a great size with a very responsive touch system. The range of films was colossal, with plenty of new films and a lot good oldies, including a few films I’d not seen for years. The headphones are the on the ear type, not noise cancelling type, so I used my own headphones. You need a plane adaptor for this, which luckily mine have with them. There was WiFi on board, which you can pay for to access. However logging into it (without paying) will give you access to the menu. There was a choice of main courses, and a selection of drinks.

Qatar Airways Economy Onboard menu

The drinks trolley came down straight after take off, offering juices, soft drinks, wine, beer and even spirits. This was followed by the meal service, I selected the beef, which was delicious. It came with a starter, bread, and a dessert. The drinks trolley cam down with the food and then again 3 more times throughout the flight, almost once and hour. This is great for an economy flight. I settled in with some movies and enjoyed a peaceful flight. Before landing they brought around a hot snack, a choice between a spicy chicken puff or a cheese and tomato pizza slice. Despite taking off a little late we arrived on time, however I had a short turn around, so it was straight to the next gate for me.

Qatar Airways Economy meal

Qatar Upgrade

Let’s talk about my sneaky upgrade. An offer came through on the app a few weeks before the flight offering me a chance to upgrade the last leg from Doha to Dubai to “First Class”. Let’s be clear here, Qatar do have 3 cabin flight options on long haul routes, with Economy, Business and First Class seats. However on short haul routes, they operate like American domestic flights with Economy and a First Class, which is actually in Business Class seats. This is mostly intended for smaller single aisle aircraft, however some more popular routes have larger aircraft on them. This means I lucked out as the Doha to Dubai route is run with an A350, meaning I could sit in a Q-suite, Qatar’s latest business class product. The upgrade offer was £199, which is a little pricey for a 1 hour flight, but I decided to treat myself, especially after 6 hours in Economy!

Qatar First Class (short haul)

To be honest, I didn’t feel tired when I got off the first flight, the Economy seat was quite comfortable, I’d happily do it again. With the short turn around I headed straight to the next gate where they were already boarding. This gate was a bus gate, so I headed up to board, but was turned away being told First Class customers get a special bus which wasn’t there yet.

After 5 minutes we were called forwards and directed to a smaller bus with nice leather style seats on it. Once everyone was onboard we headed to the aircraft, another A350. Upon boarding I was welcomed and escorted to my seat, where I was immediately offered a drink.

Qatar Airways A350 Q-Suite

There was a choice of champagne, so I chose the Rosé option and settled in exploring the Q-suite. These seats are arranged with a window seat facing rearward and an aisle seat facing forward. The dividing walls with the screens on separate each seat, with a foot well pushing into the space in the other suite. The screen was huge and there was decent size locker next to the seat with plenty of room for my iPad, headphones and other bits. The seat itself was a good size and of course it could move all the way down into a bed. The only thing I found odd was the take-off position was very relaxed, reclined quite heavily. It had a mode to move it to more upright for eating, but that was not the take-off position.

The champagne arrived, which was in a full sized glass and tasted great, it came with a hot towel and a menu for a meal, which I was not expecting on such a short flight.

Qatar Airways Welcome Champagne

Before push back the cabin service manager came to welcome me on board, then I was offered another drink before take off and they took my order for food. I declined the extra drink as the first glass was a decent size. After take off another glass of champagne arrive for my dinner, served with warm nuts.

Qatar Airways Short Haul First Class Menu

Then my meal arrived, halloumi sticks, a chicken slider and some mini desserts, quite impressive for a short flight. All were delicious and even though we were already descending they offered me more champagne before landing, which I again declined, 2 in an hour is more than enough.

Qatar Airways Short Haul First Class Meal

We landed a little behind schedule and, as Qatar flying into Dubai is quite recent, we were once again at a bus gate. After a short ride into the terminal and about 20 minute queue a immigration I was in Dubai and on my way to the hotel.

Bottom line

My first experience with Qatar was great. I think I agree with their claim, their Economy service is easily as good as, if not a lot better than some Premium Economy products on other airlines. And Q-suite, wow, that’s a good seat, can’t wait to try a long haul flight in it one day. However I would still rate the BA Club Suite and mostly the Finnair new Business seat as better seats. But the service was far above anything else I’ve had, especially for a short haul flight where they give you long haul service, that was amazing.

My next report will be on my homeward journey, which as you know is in Business all the way, so First Class from Dubai to Doha, then Business to London. The first flight will be the same as above on an A350, but my second flight is on an A380, with older seats, not Q-suite. But there is a bar on board, so I’m looking forward to trying that.

Let’s plan your next trip…

Find your next flight upgrade
Subscribe to
Reward Flight updates
Flight upgrade tips - straight to your inbox. 
Stay Updated
Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime and we promise not to spam or sell you credit cards.