Shortly after our final breakfast at the magnificent Victoria & Alfred Hotel, it was down to the lobby for our 08:30 pick-up and transit to Cape Town International Airport, about a 1/2 hr drive on this Monday long weekend. We had hoped they could check our suitcases directly to Koh Samui, but alas, twas not possible. Bangkok Airways is not a member of the One World Alliance, so our round the world flights take a sabbatical in Bangkok and thereafter we are a domestic connection to/from Koh Samui. Oh well, just means lots of walking in Bangkok and fortunately, we have plenty of time for the connection.
This is the worst of the flight segments on the entire adventure, with 3 flights and a middle of the night layover, over a full 24hr period; however, the first two are on Qatar, the world’s best or 2nd best airline. They tend to switch annually with Cathay Pacific for the # 1 or # 2 spot.
Arriving at the airport, our driver found a parking spot right outside the door and a porter magically appeared from nowhere, so by the time I got the seat belt off and out of the vehicle, he had the cases already loaded on a trolley. He asked which airline and said, “Follow me”. Brilliant service and well worth the tip he earned.
Check-in went smoothly, other than having to collect bags in Bangkok, and within 20 mins of arriving at the airport we were sitting in the business lounge enjoying a cuppa of steaming hot Ceylon Tea.
Shortly before boarding time, we wandered down to the gate and after a short delay headed to the plane, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Yet again, another couple of firsts, our first flight on the new Boeing and Qatar Airways. Wow, first impression is stunning, puts British Airways to shame with their smallish, cramped pods. Compared to British Airways, the Qatar pods are:
- Much wider at the seat with lots of elbow room,
- Each is an isle seat, so no climbing over you neighbour,
- A large fixed TV,
- Lots of storage space readily at hand.
We had barely got the hand luggage stowed and sat down, when the ladies came over to introduce themselves and gave us a demo of how everything works. Oops, almost forgot the welcome aboard glasses of champagne. Another notable difference is that Qatar do not use drink or food carts in the aisles. The young ladies take food and/or drink orders, walk to the galley, submit the order and once ready they walk back to your seat with the plate(s) and/or drinks. Exceptional service, but they do lots of walking.
Click here for a link to the sample menu.
On reviewing the food and beverage menus, Judi noted a smile slowly developing on my face, and immediately figured I was impressed with the beer choices. Most definitely, as after suffering yellow beer since leaving UK, I noted Qatar stocks Guinness. As soon as the fasten seatbelts sign was turned off, I ordered the first of a few glasses of dark, smooth Guinness.
The B-787 may have had issues with their lithium/ion batteries, but it is an extremely comfortable aircraft. Even Judi mentioned the take-off was much smoother, which resulted in less crushing of my hand. They don’t require window shades, as they darken electronically, with a switch at the bottom of each window. We also departed the plane after almost 10 hours, feeling more refreshed than other planes.
Arriving in Doha shortly after 22:00, we had a 4 hour wait until the next flight, so we went looking for the Qatar Business Lounge. Wow, it is huge and takes up 2 levels, with seats on the lower level and a full service restaurant on the upper level. If so inclined, they even have showers. Very comfortable.
The Bangkok flight was the A-380, again a very comfortable new aircraft, with the 1st Class & Business seats on the upper deck. Being very early in the morning, as soon as the seat belt sign was extinguished, I put the seat flat and got 5 hours sleep. Didn’t even bother with the mattress pad or changing into the pajamas they supply. Woke up about an hour before Bangkok, had a quick breakfast and shortly thereafter we were on final approach. Brilliant flight.
Bangkok Airport is huge and I think we walked the entire length – completing immigration, collecting suitcases, heading up to departures for check-in and then once clearing security, walking the remainder of the airport to the departure gate. I am very impressed with Bangkok Airlines, which sell themselves as Asia’s boutique airline. Although only in the air for 30 minutes they served drinks and a meal, and got the cabin cleaned for arrival. Air Canada take note, this is how to serve your customers.