I don’t know about you but when I board a plane for a long flight, I usually dress up in “combat mode”. This outfit includes comfortable shoes that won’t set off the security gates and are easy to take on and off on the plane, pants that are comfortable but don’t look like jogging pants (I refuse to travel in jogging pants!) and layers of tops to adjust to airplane “weathers” since most of the time it’s either too cold or too hot. In my hand luggage is a toothbrush, face and hand lotion, earplugs, snacks, a scarf, a book, my iPad or laptop and all other necessities to survive a long trip. And even after taking all the necessary precautions, I usually arrive at my destination disheveled, dirty and with a major headache due to lack of sleep. Now wouldn’t it be nice to be able to travel light without having to worry about any of these things? That’s exactly what I did when I boarded the 12-hour Qatar Airways flight from Montreal to Doha on my way to Beirut a couple of weeks ago.
Let’s first talk about those pyjamas. Yes, you read right, pyjamas. Once we were off the ground and well on our way, the business class flight attendant asked me if I wanted my bed to be made and if I liked a pair of pyjamas. Why, yes, please! There’s nothing I like more than lounging around in my pjs and that’s exactly how I spent the rest of the flight: comfortable and cozy in my “bed”, under my blanket. The entertainment system is, of course, top notch, with a great selection of movies, TV shows and documentaries, but I only had time to watch one movie before dozing off for 8 hours after having dinner. Speaking of dinner, can we talk about Qatar’s sublime food offering? I had a divine creamy pea soup followed by an herb-crusted lamb loin with vegetables. My dinner was accompanied by a glass of 2011 Saint-Emilion chosen from the excellent wine list created exclusively for Qatar by a master sommelier. Dessert was a cardamom panna cotta with rhubarb and apple compote. I don’t think I’ve slept as well as I did on that flight in a long, long time.
If you are flying business or first, you will have access to one of the arrivals lounges at Doha’s Hamad International Airport, which are the epitome of luxury. I made the most of the lounge by taking a quick, invigorating shower and then having a snack and a drink while waiting for my connecting flight to Beirut. I could’ve visited the state-of-the-art wellbeing and fitness centre for a swim in the 25′ meter indoor pool or for a beauty treatment but I chose instead to take the time to tour the airport, which was designed by travel experts (and architects, of course) for travellers. Contrary to other airports, I felt like trying every single restaurant since they all looked intriguing. The shopping includes some luxury brands but also shops like Marmalade Market where you can stock up on fine foods from every corner of the world, including delicacies from the Middle East. The airport also includes many children playing areas, which I don’t necessarily notice normally, unless they’re not available in other airports? These were beautifully designed, fun and well integrated into the airport’s overall architecture. I also noticed some quiet areas where one can sit and get some privacy while watching a movie or just relax. There’s free WiFi everywhere in the airport and it actually works well.
My 4-hour connecting flight to Beirut was just as pleasant. It started out with a cup of Arabic coffee served from a beautiful, traditional, copper coffee pot, a Qatari tradition of greeting guests. The menu included a Middle Eastern mezze spread and nothing makes me feel at home like a nice dish of hommos or tabboulé. I also had a great nap on that flight and arrived in Beirut refreshed, relaxed and ready to take on the world. This must be what it felt like to travel back in the day when travelling was a luxury and people dressed in their Sunday best to board a plane.
Many thanks to Qatar Airways and the entire crew for making my flight to Beirut such a pleasant one.
Qatar Airways has direct flights from Montreal to Doha 3 times a week, with connecting flights to over 150 destinations, including Asia and the Middle East.