by Oliver Smith from The Telegraph, June 23, 2017
Qatar Airways has supplanted Emirates to claim the title of best carrier at the annual World Airline Awards. The gong will offer solace to the Doha-based airline, which has suffered in recent weeks thanks to a diplomatic crisis between Qatar and four of its Middle Eastern neighbours (it is currently banned from flying to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia).
It is the fourth time Qatar Airways as claimed the top prize, having won in 2011, 2012 and 2015. British Airways, meanwhile, which took the title in 2006 but has endured a torrid few years amid claims it is trying to ape its low-cost rivals, is now ranked 40th, down from 26th last year and just one place ahead of easyJet.
So what's so great about Qatar Airways? Can BA learn a few lessons from the Middle Eastern carrier?
As well as picking up the Best Airline award, Qatar Airways won the gong for Best Business Class. This is what the business class seats on its fleet of A380s look like. They are described as a "high-tech oasis" where passengers can enjoy up to 3,000 in-flight entertainment options. Right now the airline's films include Manchester By the Sea, Jackie, and La La Land. But we'll wager this chap is watching reruns of Seinfeld.
Those business class seats turn into flat beds, of course. On the A380, they are 80 inches long and 22 wide. British Airways, conversely, only offers 72 inches and 20 inches, respectively, on its A380 business class (Club World) seats.
Qatar Airways promises to cater to your every whim. That may even involve tucking you in at night, while ensuring your hair is perfectly draped across the pillow so you resemble Botticelli's The Birth of Venus.
First class on Qatar Airways is even more extravagant. Just look how happy this gentleman is. That's because he's got 83 inches of legroom to play with. If he was flying with BA, it would only be 78...
You can even enjoy a romantic dinner for two on Qatar Airways. Other perks include a duvet and Frette linen (we assume it's expensive).
Both business- and first-class passengers can kick back in a pair of pyjamas ("sleeper suits", to be precise) supplied by The White Company. They also get a toiletry bag by Bric's (the bloomin' things cost £90 on Amazon!) and skincare products by Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio (we're sure they're lovely).
Plane loos are horrible, right? Not if you fly first class with Qatar Airways. Just look at this! It's bigger than my flat.
OK, so we've seen the premium cabins – but what does Qatar Airways offer ordinary people like us? This is economy class on its A380. It looks more like the plane cabins we're familiar with, but seats have 32 inches of legroom and are 18.5 inches wide. BA's A380s offer 31 and 17.5, respectively.
Seared scallop or king prawn, sir?
While British Airways has been scrapping free meals on all short-haul flights (and flogging M&S sandwiches instead), Qatar Airways has been pushing back the culinary boundaries and promises to usher in a "new age of airline dining".
"Satisfy your palate and excite your senses with our variety of delectable dishes," the Middle Eastern airline's website gushes. But that steak does look pretty tender.
Economy class passengers on Qatar Airways get an amenity bag with lip balm, dental kit, eye mask, socks and ear plugs, and can browse the same extensive range of in-flight entertainment as business- and first-class fliers. They also have laptop power outlets and USB plugs, and can connect to Wi-Fi (at a cost) on its A380, A350, B787 and A319 aircraft, and on selected A330s, A320s and A321s.
BA has been one of the slowest airlines to jump on the Wi-Fi bandwagon, only launching the service in April 2017 – and so far only in business class on flights from London City to New York JFK.
Qatar Airways is based at Doha's Hamad International Airport, the world's sixth best airline according to the Skytrax airport rankings. Here's the Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business Lounge. "From the moment you enter, your senses will be treated to a beautiful portrayal of Arabian heritage, a refreshing resort-like ambience, tantalizing a la carte and buffet dining and the signature hospitality that Qatar Airways takes pride in," croons the website.
BA's biggest base, Heathrow, is the ninth best in the world, according to Skytrax.
We're not quite done. Qatar Executive is the business jet subsidiary of Qatar Airways – for those who need a little more exclusivity than first-class travel provides. It has a fleet of 12 aircraft.
It even has a fleet of private jets
There's lots of gold inside, naturally.
How else does Qatar Airways shine? Punctuality, for one thing. It was the fourth most on-time airline in the world last year, according to aviation insights company FlightStats (86.34% of its flights left on schedule and only KLM, Iberia and JAL could beat it). BA didn't figure at the business end of the table.
So how can you sample the Middle Eastern carrier?
Its fleet of 196 aircraft serve 151 destinations. Its four UK routes link Heathrow, Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham with Doha. Confusingly, these four routes are operated by Qatar Airways on behalf of British Airways, as part of a codesharing deal. From Doha you could fly to Dhaka, Chengdu, Delhi, Shiraz, Tokyo, Kathmandu, Manila, Singapore or Krabi, to name a few.
And what of Qatar itself?
Its surprisingly cheap, ranked 12th for "price competitiveness" by the World Economic Forum. Our expert adds: "Qatar is a country which is in the process of rapid growth and Doha, the capital and main city, changes exponentially every month. But mild winters mean that visitors can enjoy outdoor activities whether it’s swimming in the turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf, experiencing a taste of Bedouin life in the sand dunes or getting out into the mangroves by kayak." Read our expert guide to Qatar