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the firSt ClaSS fantaSy
a wise man once said to me: “the difference between truth and fiction is that the latter has to make sense.” a fictional scenario might seem so unrealistic that it’s passed off as a nonsense, yet the truth has no such limitations – it can break all barriers of reason. Qatar airways is using this philosophy to bring its new 787 dreamliner first class experience to new levels.
By ro ry C oe n 106 Qatar today
atar Airways (QA) has recently deployed its initial batch of shiny new Boeing 787 Dreamliners, and its marketing team allowed the media to experience its First Class service last month – which was literally a flying return trip to Dubai. Flying first-class doesn’t come with a manual – you have to learn things as you go along through observation and with embarrassing questions. No amount of economy travel can prepare you. I had travelled first-class only once before, and I was hoping to take the lessons I learned from that experience into this one. I got to the premium terminal well ahead of schedule – I wanted to get a proper feel for the lounge – and I checked in and went through emigration and security within a couple of moments. From here I was brought to the premium lounge, which is just a couple of minutes’ walk from the First Class departure gate. The first thing I noticed was the sense of quiet and lonesomeness about the place compared to the regular terminals. It’s a rather vast space with little or no significant activity. Such is the cost of first-class travel, many customers are corporates who are travelling alone. The seating configuration in the premium lounge restaurant was customised for this: I don’t think I noticed one table that was set for more than two. The only couple I did notice hardly said a word to each other, preferring to interact with their smart devices instead. I reflected that I was no different, as I put my device into my pocket and shook some salt onto my bowl of fresh pea soup – the first time I had ever tasted that blend, and I hoped it wouldn’t be the last. I followed this down with a concoction of slightly
heavier Arab and Indian offerings. As full as a bingo bus, I decided I would retire to an armchair overlooking the apron, where I was able to enjoy a drink as I read the morning newspaper. The quick-witted marketing staff at Qatar Airways decided to fly us out to Dubai in economy and back to Doha in luxury. On-the-record they said it was to give me a sense of both environments, but I’m pretty sure it was a deliberate tactic to slingshot my senses from the insipid arena of economy into the fantasy of First Class. Very private What has changed with the new 787? The seating configuration is now 1-2-1, with each stable having a higher degree of privacy and immediate access to an aisle. It’s a little more difficult to engage in conversation with a fellow traveller, however, as the stables are designed more to maximise your comfort and privacy than to promote general chit-chat. This is all well and good for those who want to relax, but when I noticed a middle-aged man playing Tetris on his entertainment system I wondered what it was all about. He was like somebody who was itching for more intellectual stimulation, and I feared if the flight was any longer than an hour he might have started talking to himself. Meanwhile, I had only an hour to figure my stable out so either side of my meal I opened mini-compartments and pressed buttons and tested features. I was like a kid with a brand new toy. I found out I was able to stay fully connected through Wi-Fi and GSM telephony, so sending both SMS and MMS messages wasn’t a problem.
Each stable is equipped with USB, MP3 and other charger ports, including laptop power outlets. The seating configuration in economy is 3-3-3, and this architecture is designed so passengers can actually move freely. It has welcoming entryways, larger windows and vaulted ceilings. The stowage bins have been made larger, which minimises the need to store bags under the seat. The new 787 is powered by General Electric and Rolls-Royce engines – the GEnx and the Trent 1000. It is the first composite airliner with the fuselage assembled in one-piece composite barrel sections instead of the multiple aluminium sheets and some 50,000 fasteners on existing aircraft. The higher aspect ratio that this allows, combined with efficiency-enhanced raked wing tips, allows it to be one of the fastest commercial aircraft out there, whilst also consuming less fuel than its competitors. Each one of the 232 seats throughout the aircraft – first class and economy – has a touch screen Android system, where passengers are able to navigate through an interactive service offering more than 1,000 movies, television programmes, and music and gaming entertainment options. The dynamic mood lighting and the composite design of the Dreamliner with lighter materials ensures that passengers are less fatigued and more refreshed, as the cabin pressure is 2,000 feet closer to ground level, with an air purification system that is cleaner and healthier than many other aircraft. Qatar Airways has also employed four award-winning chefs – Ramzi Chwayri, Vineet Bhatia, Tom Aitkens and Nobu Matsushisa - to create a new range of signature dishes for its first class passengers
Qatar today 107