Edited by: Nick Ellis
& Keri Stooksbury
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Airline: Qatar Airways
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Route: Doha (DOH) to Sydney (SYD)
Date: December 28, 2022
Duration: 13hr 47min
Cabin and Layout: First class, 1-2-1
Cost: 105,000 Avios and £107 (~$133) one-way; or from ~$9,800
In March 2022, while writing an article about Qatar dropping its former Qpoints currency in favor of Avios, I did something I’d never done before: booked a spontaneous redemption in Qatar Airways’ first class to Sydney, Australia, simply because I couldn’t believe how good it was.
Even after well over 3 years in the points-and-miles game, this flight was far and away my most opulent redemption to date. I started counting down the days as soon as I booked the trip.
Australia had long been on my list, but I had more reason than ever to finally visit as 2 of my recently-married friends moved back to Melbourne from the U.K. — it seemed like booking this flight was meant to be!
I had very high expectations of Qatar Airways’ first class experience. In fact, they were so high that I expected my Qatar Airways first class adventure to be a solid 10/10 from start to finish.
Would this flight live up to my lofty expectations? Read on to find out!
Seeing the look of disbelief on people’s faces when I tell them how much I paid for this flight has been priceless.
As I mentioned, I redeemed Avios for my Qatar flight around the same time that Qatar adopted Avios as the currency of its Privilege Club program. As I was poking around on British Airways’ website as research for the article I wrote covering this change, I happened to come across 1 open seat — in first class — on December 28, 2022 — right in the middle of the holiday season.
British Airways is my go-to when I’m looking to redeem Avios for flights on Oneworld alliance carriers. In most cases, I find it to be the best website for finding partner airline availability, and it’s where all my Avios are banked. Even if you don’t have Avios, you can still search and book award availability through British Airways by creating a British Airways Executive Club account and transferring points from one of many credit cards into the account.
In exchange for 105,000 Avios and £107 (~$133) I could book myself on an almost-14-hour flight from Doha to Sydney — that’s a no-brainer!
To put that into perspective, the cash price of my ticket totaled almost $10,000 one-way. For a round-trip flight, you could expect to pay at least $13,000. And, according to our valuations, the amount of Avios I paid, plus the ~$133 in additional taxes and fees, is worth about $1,446. The math speaks for itself here.
Honestly, I’ve thought harder about what I’m having for dinner on a given night than whether or not to book this flight. I believe I got incredible value for my points here — especially considering that Qatar Airways is often viewed as among the best first class airlines in the world.
Whether you’re paying cash for your ticket or just covering the taxes and fees, we recommend using a travel rewards card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, The Platinum Card® from American Express, or the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card that awards bonus points for airfare purchases.
Hot Tip: At the time of publication, Qatar Airways first class is only available on the carrier’s A380-operated services between Doha and Bangkok (BKK), London (LHR), Paris (CDG), Perth (PER), and Sydney (SYD), in addition to the Boeing 777 that operates flights between Doha and Hong Kong (HKG).
As a rule of thumb, I try to take public transport to and from airports when it’s practical to do so.
I was mesmerized by the juxtaposition of the West Bay skyline and the traditional Qatari dhow boats docked along the Corniche.
I arrived at the airport around 6 hours before my flight to make the most of every second of my pre-flight ground experience.
The bold and over-the-top entrance to the check-in area certainly gives you a sense of what’s about to come.
I followed the agent to the right and was welcomed to this huge first class check-in area.
The check-in process took place in a private booth where I was offered some water and a hot towel.
This was by far the most exclusive check-in experience I’d ever had.
It’s no wonder the Al Safwa First Lounge features in our list of the best first class lounges in the world.
The sheer size of the place is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The centerpiece of the gigantic lounge is this elegant fountain.
As a lover of airport lounges, spending time in the Al Safwa First Lounge was one of the things I was most looking forward to about my Qatar first class journey.
In stark contrast to many other lounges I visit, there seemed to only be a handful of other passengers in the lounge at any one time. Despite having an extended stay in the lounge, I spent almost all of my time sitting in the dining area which provided spectacular views of the apron and runways.
The apron stayed fairly quiet until later in the afternoon when the stands started to fill up.
I wanted to save space (and calories) for the flight, so I kept my hunger at bay by grazing on 2 portions of grilled chicken breast with veggies.
I’ll admit, I dropped the ball by ordering this Yule Log — but I didn’t regret it one bit.
After finishing up some work, it was time to hang out at the bar with a fellow AvGeek who, coincidentally, was laying over in Doha at the same time.
We took a spot at the bar and got down to business immediately (i.e., exploring the bubbles that were on offer). Unsure of which I’d prefer, I took one for the team and tried both. As it happens, I preferred the Billecart-Salmon Brut over the Taittinger Rosé.
We then went on a tour of the lounge’s many other areas, including a sushi bar, prayer room, kids’ area, huge private rooms, quiet areas, working areas, and more.
Before I left the lounge, I spent half an hour relaxing in the private Jacuzzi. Access was free, I just had to let a member of the spa team know so it could be filled up for me.
That was my Al Safwa experience, in a nutshell.
I arrived at the gate a little flustered having lost track of time while relaxing in the Jacuzzi.
Despite the “Go to Gate” alert on the departure boards, I was surprised at the lack of passengers (and seating) at the gate, especially considering the size of the Airbus A380 that would take us to Sydney.
The few of us who were congregated near the screen were soon ushered to proceed through a set of security scanners where, frustratingly, we were asked to empty liquids from any open container before boarding.
What followed was the most non-premium boarding experience I’ve ever had. Rather than gathering all passengers in the seating area we had access to after clearing the gate security, a gate agent standing by the entrance to the jet bridge beckoned passengers to board immediately — no matter their class of travel or elite status.
This wasn’t the start of the Qatar first class experience I was expecting.
Boarding for first and business class passengers was completed through the foremost door on the upper deck of the behemoth aircraft.
I was the first passenger to arrive at the door that looked straight into the galley. The crew seemed to be frantically finishing setting this area up, much to the flustered-looking cabin manager’s dismay. It was almost as if they weren’t expecting us at all.
I waited for around a minute until the cabin crew manager asked me to proceed and gave my boarding pass a check. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t expecting this jumbled start to my Qatar Airways first class experience.
But after this, I turned left toward the first class cabin, excited to see it for the first time.
The small cabin had just 8 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. It didn’t feel cramped in the least.
The deep purples and wood finishes made for a feeling of understated luxury, which I liked.
Right at the front of the cabin was a set of stairs that led to the front of the economy section of the lower deck of the A380.
Walking up those stairs while boarding would certainly add to the “wow factor” for first class passengers, though I imagine Qatar decided it would rather not have its first class passengers walk through the economy cabin first.
After waiting for months, I finally arrived at my seat — the coveted 1A.
The first thing I noticed was just how much space I had.
In the fully flat position, the bed measures 81 inches (6 feet 9 inches) long and provides a very generous 23 inches of width. Here’s what it looks like after the “turn-down” service was provided by Ibrahim, the crewmember with whom I interacted most throughout the flight.
The seat could also be put into several fixed positions via a set of easy-to-reach buttons in the armrest.
With the calf rest raised perpendicular to the floor and the seatback brought as far forward as it would go, this “TV-watching position” (as I’ll call it) was my favorite.
Another comfy position was with the calf rest lowered and the huge tray table extended. This worked great for dining alone (or with a companion) thanks to the ottoman/footrest.
The seat had a small, wardrobe-like compartment where I could hang my clothes once I’d changed into my Qatar-branded pajamas. There was enough space for some additional items, including shoes, a small bag, and some smaller personal belongings.
Storage within reach of the seat included 2 small compartments. One of them was to my right, and it housed touchscreen controls for the seat position control and had enough space for a couple of small items like my AirPods and wallet.
The compartment to my left contained a small water bottle and the remote control for the IFE system.
There was also a smaller “literature material only” compartment below the windows. Next to that were buttons for controlling the blinds on the 3 (yes, 3) windows.
The button below the windows controlled the blinds for the whole set of them, but these could also be controlled via illuminated buttons under each window.
Some frequent flyers would likely find the privacy of this cabin lacking slightly and I can understand why — to an extent.
From my seat, I could see directly across into seat 1D. However, even if there had been a passenger in that seat, I wouldn’t have been able to see their face unless I made a concerted effort to.
If I’d lowered my privacy divider and craned my neck, I would have been able to look straight into the eyes of the would-be passenger in 2D, but, again, only if I really wanted to.
I waited until I’d eaten breakfast and woken up properly before I ventured through the business class cabin and into the huge onboard bar, which was available to business and first class passengers.
The bar was fully stocked, serving everything from a glass of wine to specialty cocktails to Woodford Reserve Whiskey.
As Krug was reserved for first class passengers and therefore not served at the bar, I made sure to maximize my first class experience by heading back to the first class cabin for bubbly refills and then walking back to the bar to drink it.
Bar snacks such as chips and yogurt parfaits were also available.
The views over the wing from the bar were arguably better than from my seat at the very front of the plane.
The word “dining” simply doesn’t cut it — my food-and-beverage experience in Qatar first class was nothing short of a banquet.
And at the end of 12 weeks of hard dieting and training before my trip, it was a very well-deserved treat.
I particularly loved having the flexibility to dine on demand.
As Australia is 8 hours ahead of Doha and we were due to land in Sydney around 6 p.m. the following day, I decided I’d try to ease the jetlag a bit by sleeping and eating to Australian time.
I was able to go to sleep immediately after takeoff and then begin adjusting to the new time zone by eating upon waking up a few hours later.
Ibrahim took my detailed dining preferences before we had even taken off (more on that later).
I told Ibrahim that I wanted to start with a double espresso. He said that would be no problem and asked when I wanted to be woken up.
As requested, my double espresso was brought to me in bed. It helped wake me up from the few hours of broken sleep that I’d managed.
Next up, and before any food was served, Ibrahim made up my tray table with a white tablecloth, a bread plate and knife, a tray with butter, marmalade, salt and pepper, and a small faux candle.
I hadn’t ordered the incredible-smelling pastries but I was happy with the surprise. The croissant and pain au chocolat were both delicious and the perfect first course to go with my espresso. Yes, this was a multi-course affair.
Next to arrive was a bowl of berries.
I explained to Ibrahim that I have light intolerances to a random bunch of fruits. He was happy to offer me this bowl of berries rather than the platter of seasonal cut fruits from the menu.
For my main course, I ordered from the “Create Your Own Breakfast” section of the menu.
I went for a chive omelet with a side of chicken sausage, tomato, portobello mushroom, and grilled asparagus.
Before I started eating, I had to take an obligatory “breakfast-in-bed” photo #forthegram.
Even the most well-versed flyers in premium cabins will actively avoid eating breakfast on a plane, as it can be a letdown — especially when it comes to eggs.
From past experiences with other airlines, I was expecting my omelet to be rubbery and dry. However, this one was perfectly cooked. Bravo!
Things took a slight turn for the worse when I cut into the sausage and found it was pink inside.
I expressed my concern to a member of the cabin crew who replied with a casual “Yes, sometimes it’s like that.” Aware of the risks of consuming undercooked chicken, I decided to leave the sausage to the side and not try my luck in fear of ruining my experience.
A few hours later, hunger struck once again. This time I ordered the Qatari chicken machboos with daqoos sauce. My table was set up just as beautifully as it was for breakfast.
I’d never heard of the dish before, but I’m a sucker for anything with chicken so I decided to try it. The machboos chicken was flavored with a delicious mix of spices such as garlic, dry lime, cinnamon, and cardamom and served with rice and topped with raisins. I know it’s not for everyone, but I love fruit with savory dishes.
The daqoos sauce is of Kuwaiti origin and consists of a simple, flavorful mixture of tomato paste, brown sugar, tomatoes, olive oil, and black pepper.
As I was tucking into the perfectly cooked chicken (they aced it this time), we reached the West Coast of Australia and I laid my eyes on the huge country for the first time.
At this point, I was far from hungry, but the Nutella-filled donut I’d spotted earlier on the breakfast menu was calling my name.
Donut is not the word I’d use to describe the cake-like treat that arrived in front of me. However, it was moist, flavorful, and had the perfect amount of Nutella running through it.
And, yes, that is a glass of Krug in the background. I heard it goes well with Nutella-filled donuts. And anything else served in Qatar’s first class for that matter …
At the start of the flight, I made some new pals, and we agreed to all sit together for 1 final meal before landing. We each made sure to reserve a portion of the caviar to have the full experience.
Since the cabin had 3 open seats, we were able to fashion our own make-shift Qsuite setup from 2 first class seats and then dine together in style, accompanied by even more Krug, of course.
We saved the most opulent course until last: caviar with smoked salmon.
This was my first time trying caviar. If I’m being brutally honest, I don’t completely understand why people obsess over these tiny balls of fishy water. Perhaps it’s the price tag that’s the real attraction?
To be fair, though, I used to think Champagne was overrated but now all I seem to drink is the bubbly stuff.
When we’d polished off our expensive fish eggs and probably another bottle of Krug, Ibrahim brought out a little box of chocolates as part of the pre-landing service.
We also asked him how long we’d have before we were officially cut off.
Qatar’s first class product is rare, and since the introduction of the Qsuite product, that’s tended to get all the fanfare.
With that said, I initially felt like there was nothing particularly “first class” about the amenities on my flight.
I loved the size of the huge IFE screen, but it needed to be reset twice before it worked for me.
Given the distance between the seat and the screen, the laggy handheld remote was all I had to navigate the thousands of films, TV shows, games, radio, and more that Qatar’s entertainment system is packed with.
The headset was presented in this plush-looking, Oryx One bag with a leathery feel.
I could tell they had noise-canceling capabilities, but they weren’t as good as some other sets I’ve had in business class from brands like Bose.
I only managed to get through 1 entire film on this almost-14-hour fight as I spent most of my time sleeping, eating, or enjoying my favorite function of the A380’s entertainment system: the camera views.
It’s great to be able to watch your aircraft live while it soars above the earth. What’s not so great is arriving in Sydney through rain clouds.
It was lucky I always have my 2-meter (~6.5-foot) charging cable with me as the closest charging port was located way in front of me, next to the IFE screen.
I was disappointed with the lackluster amenity kit.
Honestly, I’ve had better amenity kits in premium economy. For a first class product, socks, an eye mask, and a couple of creams just don’t cut it in my book. This was also the same amenity kit that business class passengers received on my flight.
The FIFA World Cup branding was also plastered over almost everything Qatar-related, which I found to be a little much.
The 3 Diptyque products were body lotion, face cream, and lip balm.
Before take-off, each first class passenger received a voucher with a code for free Wi-Fi for the duration of the flight.
With speeds of 0.29 Mbps (download) and 0.18 Mbps (upload), messaging on WhatsApp was about the best I could do.
I remember uttering “wow” when I stepped into one of the 2 huge bathrooms at the front of the cabin. Given there were only 5 passengers, this was very “extra.”
The first class feel of the bathrooms made up a bit for the lackluster amenity kit. For me, it was simple things like the toilet lid being disguised as a comfortable leather seat simply for the aesthetic.
I appreciated this wardrobe space when I was changing in and out of my pajamas.
I’d never seen aircraft taps operated via a sensor before!
The bathroom had larger versions of the Diptyque amenities I found in my amenity kit, which admittedly are very nice.
Once I discovered the bathroom drawer filled with shaving kits, mouthwash, grooming kits, combs, toothbrushes, and toothpaste (not pictured), it made quite a bit more sense why I found the amenity kit at my seat to be underwhelming.
And yes, the orchids in the corner were real.
“Brut or Brut” was the answer I got when I asked which Champagnes were on offer for the welcome drink.
I had to ask him to tell me exactly what the Champagnes were.
Whether that’s what Qatar crew are told to say or the crew member didn’t think I looked “first class enough” to know the difference between Champagnes, it was a very bizarre first impression. Why not just say Krug to start with?
I decided I’d save the Krug for later in the flight and opted for a glass of the Laurent-Perrier Alexandra Rosé 2006 as my welcome drink.
I included this in the service section of the review as this was the most theatrical serving of a welcome drink I’ve ever had.
From the napkin and the coaster to the fork and the little bowl of cheese and olives, Ibrahim took each element from his matte-black serving tray and placed them meticulously down in their assigned spots on my sideboard.
A little after he’d served my welcome drink, Ibrahim came to me saying: “I’ve picked out the perfect-sized pajamas for you, Mr. Ross.”
I thanked him and asked if he wouldn’t mind swapping the medium he brought me for a small instead. Of course, that was no problem at all.
The next step of the pre-departure service was noting my preferred eating schedule for the entire flight down to the exact time I’d like to be woken for breakfast, and which order I’d like to eat it. Ibrahim even reminded me to preorder my caviar so I wouldn’t miss out.
As is tradition when flying premium cabins on most Middle Eastern airlines, I was offered Arabic coffee and a date just before take off.
The attentiveness of the service before we had even got off the ground wowed me, and at this point, I’d forgotten about the “Brut or Brut” false start.
I’d explained to Ibrahim that I was going to try and sleep immediately to help combat the jetlag. So, when he saw me awake a couple of hours later he asked if I wanted a chamomile tea to help me get back to sleep. It was with me in an instant and it indeed helped me fall asleep again for at least an hour or so.
Ibrahim did a stellar job of keeping on top of his 5 passengers in the first class cabin. While I had interactions with other crew members throughout the flight, they were briefer, though they kept to the standard you’d expect when flying Qatar first class.
Somehow 13 hours and 47 minutes passed by in what felt like the blink of an eye, and before I knew it I was greeted by the gloomy grey skies of Sydney.
A few minutes later, at 6:42 p.m., we touched down, 3 minutes ahead of schedule.
Thanks for the ride, A7-APG!
Qatar’s first class on the A380 is an unforgettable extravagance that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.
The space, the food, and the overall feeling of flying in first class with such a prestigious airline made this experience one I’ll never forget.
For the untrained eye or infrequent flyer, the issues regarding amenities might not have even been noticed. But some areas can be improved upon to truly make this a 10/10 first class experience.
Given the top-notch Qsuite product Qatar has on most of its other long-haul jets, I doubt much time or money will be invested in updating this product — especially considering the uncertainty surrounding the continued viability of the A380.
Still, this will be remembered as the best flight I’ve taken in my life thus far. The only question is: how long will it hold the top spot?
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Yes, Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380 has a first class cabin containing just 8 seats.
Qatar Airways first class passengers have access to 2 huge bathrooms, but they’re not equipped with showers.
Qatar’s first class is currently only available on A380-operated services to Bangkok (BKK), London (LHR), Paris (CDG), Perth (PER), and Sydney (SYD), as well as on its Boeing 777 to Hong Kong (HKG).
Qatar Airways has 8 Airbus A380s.
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