Last year, after a rugged Summer, I treated myself a business class flight to Thailand. At the gate, ready to board, I was informed my seat had been changed.
I swear, at that moment, I heard angels singing. Suddenly I was bathed in a soft light emanating from heaven itself. The gate staff member turned into a unicorn.
I had achieved the impossible – I had been upgraded…to FIRST CLASS.
When I boarded and was rolling around in my vast seat, a fellow passenger, also upgraded, literally ran on board.
He looked around, surveying is kingdom for the next seven hours, and said…
Right then, that man was all of us.
Here’s the thing…I’m not one of those travelers who gets on a plane and declares that they are going straight to sleep, snaps on the eye mask and aggressively isolates themselves. If I am lucky enough to be flying at the pointy end of the plane, dammit I’m going to indulge in everything. ALL the things.
The pajamas. The massive bathrooms (on the a380 you can LIE DOWN on a bench in the bathroom – handy when you are violently ill as I was on a recent trip). The champagne.
Recently that luck has shined on me. Thanks to a combination of that aforementioned dumb luck (upgrades at the gate), shrewd use of points and a savvy decision to wait until a sale, I’ve managed to fly Qatar Airways First Class on several occasions in recent months.
So here’s my low down on a few foodie things you can experience in First Class on Qatar Airways:
Everything you have heard about this lounge is true. From the cavernous entry lined with millions of dollars worth of modern art to the round bar and the selection of sushi, it’s all understated glam. There are sleeping rooms and it’s own duty free area stuffed full of everything a first class passenger would want at the last minute….like a diamond studded Rolex.
2. Champagne. Lots of champagne. Oh and it’s Krug which is pretty special. You get this not only in the lounge but also in the air.
3. Even the snacks up upgraded, those crispy biscuits are sprinkled in fairy dust and crack. The olives are WARM.
4. Caviar. I thought this was a cliche, but yes, they serve caviar in First Class. It’s from Gourmet House and served with all the sides including chopped egg, finely diced onion, lemon and a cold shot of vodka. You are also given dainty blini (small pancakes) a mother of pearl spoon to serve it, which is chic and traditional touch. Yes, I pocketed the spoon. I can’t be taken anywhere.
5. The food is excellent. I am a fan of Qatar Airways food anyway, even some of their fare served in Economy is pretty good (NOT the hot pockets though, they are criminal). On my recent flights standouts have included a delicious Nobu-approved braised tofu (I know…TOFU), a seafood prawn noodle salad, a perfectly cooked and huuuuge mezze tray and a beef dish that would not have been out of place in a high end restaurant.
Meanwhile, this isn’t the exclusive remit of the a380, Qatar Airways operates First Class on its intra-gulf flights. They recently revamped their menus and now offer a fun and perfectly portioned “platter” of goodies. It’s like you get a taste of everything. A recent flight to Muscat has feta, a chicken roulade and savory pancake.
There are of course, a lot more things to look forward to when flying First Class (I may have forgotten some stuff…champagne haze), but for me, it’s all about the food and the service (which is, as you would expect, excellent).
So how can you get to experience first class? Here are my tips to try the First Class Experience without the hefty price:
- Join the club: Airlines, especially Qatar Airways, will, in my experience, upgrade frequent flyers when they can. And sometimes that can be to First Class.
- Use your points: There is a misconception that it’s hard to use your hard earned frequent flyer points. You just have to be savvy with your timings (off season is good) and routes. Use them or lose them I say, don’t hoard for a rainy holiday.
- Keep trying: One recent points upgrade request was rejected but I was advised to keep trying because airlines can overbook. Sure enough, the day before it was granted.
- Wait for the sales: My January ticket to Bangkok was bought during a Qatar Airways promotion. Sure you don’t have as much flexibility sometimes (changing flights can be hard and expensive sometimes), but it can be worth it.Be patient grasshopper.
- Pay a bit extra: Some less expensive ticket types are not eligible for upgrades. When booking online you are presented with several ticket options. Avoid the lower categories – usually called “value” – pay more you can opt for a more “flexible” ticket which gives you more options. Here is a handy guide to the appropriate fare categories. Worth rolling the dice I say.