Review: Qatar Airways A340 Business Class Night Flight (DOH-KUL)

a large white airplane parked in front of a building

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One of the reasons I booked my trip to Kuala Lumpur was because the routing gave me a chance to try out three different Qatar Airways Business Class products none of which have been reviewed on Traveling For Miles before. Before this trip I already had a very good idea what the 777-300ER experience would be like (on the Kuala Lumpur – Doha return part of my journey) as I had already reviewed the sister aircraft (777-200LR) on my Auckland trip earlier this year….but I had very little idea of what to expect of the airline’s A340 Business Class cabin.

My flight to Kuala Lumpur was scheduled to depart Doha at 02:50 and was departing from Hamad Airport’s E Gates……

a large illuminated letter from the ceiling

…..and they’re quite a walk from the Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge even if you’re departing from Gate E1 as I was.

a sign on a pillar in a building

I got to Gate E1 reasonably early and, thanks to the priority boarding lane, didn’t have any hold ups getting though to the holding area where you wait to board.

Boarding called at 02:13 and, as soon I reached the aircraft a flight attendant escorted me to my seat.

The Qatar Airways A340 on the Kuala Lumpur route doesn’t have a First Class cabin but it does have four rows of Business Class (I think the airline may still have a few of these aircraft with 2 rows of First Class on other routes).

This is one of Qatar’s older aircraft so the A340 doesn’t come equipped with the latest Business Class product as I’d had on the 787 Dreamliner – in this cabin the seats are set out in a 2-2-2 formation and so not all seats have direct access to the aisle.

a screenshot of a group of chairsQatar Airways A340 Business Class Seating Plan

I had chosen seat 2F to ensure that both I and the passenger next to me would have direct aisle access – this was a night flight so I didn’t want to have to clamber over a sleeping passenger if I needed to get out (that had ruled out the window seats) and I also didn’t want somebody clambering over me in the night should they wish to get out (that had ruled out rows B & J).

the inside of an airplaneQatar Airways A340 Business Class

Boarding + 5 mins –   After I stopped snapping bad quality pictures in the darkness of the A340 cabin a flight attendant offered me a drink of my choice and a choice of hot or cold towel. I chose the orange juice and hot towel which both then appeared in under a minute.

a glass of orange juice on a napkin on a tableQatar Airways A340 Business Class

The orange juice was very refreshing and I’m pretty sure it was genuinely fresh….i.e it didn’t taste like it was from concentrate.

Boarding + 12 mins –  The  cabin services director introduced himself, welcomed me onboard and let me know that the estimated flying time would be 6hrs 52 mins.

A blanket and pillow already in my seat when I boarded. There was a bottle of Evian on the ledge behind my seat next to a set of standard issue Qatar Business Class headphones.

a seat in a planeQatar Airways A340 Business Class

As you should be able to see from the picture above, the central divider between the two seats was already deployed when I got to the seat but, had I been traveling with Joanna this could have easily been slid back for a more sociable experience 🙂

At this point I noticed something I’d wished I’d known when I made my seat selection.

I had deliberately avoided booking seats in row 1 as, from my Auckland trip, I knew that there can be limited storage space in that row when the aircraft has an older cabin.

What I hadn’t banked on was the seats in row 1 of the A340 having more room than any of the other seats!

While the seats in row 1 of the A340 have quite a bit of space where your feet go …..

a tv on a tableQatar Airways A340 Business Class

…..the same really can’t be said for the other seats…..

a small room with a seatQatar Airways A340 Business Class

I should have booked a row 1!

In all other respects, as far as I could see, the seats were exactly the same throughout the cabin:

a seat in a planeQatar Airways A340 Business Class

Looking around the seat area I discovered that the universal power ports are located facing forwards, near floor level on the divider between the two seats.

a close up of a power stripQatar Airways A340 Business Class

The headphone socket, USB port, seat controls and remote control for the entertainment are all close to each other next to the central armrest….

a seat with a screen and buttonsQatar Airways A340 Business Class

a close up of a deviceQatar Airways A340 Business Class

….and the tray table comes out of the centre section between the seats:

a wooden surface with a white edgeQatar Airways A340 Business Class

a table in an airplaneQatar Airways A340 Business Class

There aren’t many storage options around the seat at all.

The ledge behind the seat and a small area under the central armrest were the only usable options:

a seat with buttons and a cloth on the sideQatar Airways A340 Business Class

The cabin in the A340 didn’t feel as spacious as the Business Class cabin on the Dreamliner….but then this cabin is a lot older and has overhead bins above the centre section (which the Dreamliner doesn’t have).

Boarding + 23 mins –  Food and drinks menus were handed out.

Food menu (click to enlarge):a white paper with black text

a white page with black text

Non-alcoholic drinks menu:a white paper with black text

Wine & port menu:

Cocktails & spirits menu:a menu with text on it

Immediately after the menus were handed out the cabin  crew came around with “sleep suits” (pajamas) and amenity kits.

I was pleasantly surprised to get the same Armani kit as I’d been given on my Qatar flight back in February – these kits have been discontinued in favor of the Brics kit I was given on my previous flight (and I prefer the Armani kits) so what was handed out on this flight must have been “leftovers”.

a black bag with a white tube and a white tube on itQatar Airways A340 Business Class

Boarding + 28 mins –  Captain introduced himself over the address system and confirmed the flight time of 6hrs 52 mins.

Boarding + 30 mins –  All passengers were onboard and the ground staff were invited to get off the plane as we’re ready to go.

Boarding + 38 mins – The safety video comes on…..

a man standing in a locker roomQatar Airways A340 Business Class

….only to be interrupted by the captain to tell us that we’ll be around 10 mins late as they’re still loading cargo. Not a big issue as he still expected to arrive ahead of schedule.

Once I’d noted where the exits were and checked that no one had removed the life vest (you’d be amazed what “souvenirs” pax will take off an aircraft!) I went back to looking around the seat and cabin.

The entertainment screen was a good size and offered a decent picture.

a screen with a picture of a man on itQatar Airways A340 Business Class

Fortunately the A340 comes with an older IFE system than the Dreamliner so the remote control (which I disliked intensely on the Qatar 787) was a lot less annoying.

a black handheld video game deviceQatar Airways A340 Business Class

The entertainment selection looked ok…most tv programs weren’t whole series but shows like Big Bang had 10 episodes which isn’t bad and the movie selection looked up to date.

a screenshot of a computerQatar Airways A340 Business Class

a screen shot of a computerQatar Airways A340 Business Class

a screen shot of a computerQatar Airways A340 Business Class

Because Qatar uses 2-pin headphones and because the A340s entertainment system is old you’ll need an adapter if you want to use your own single pin headphones to watch the entertainment in stereo (you’ll just get mono sound if you don’t use an adapter).

a close up of a usb portQatar Airways A340 Business Class

Boarding + 49 mins – The cabin crew came around to take food orders. I decided to skip the late meal as had eaten in the lounge and I wanted to get some sleep on this flight.

The flight attendant asked if I wanted a drink before I went to sleep and took my breakfast order.

Boarding + 51 minutes – Finally the announcement “cabin crew arm doors and cross check” came over the dress system so we were about to get underway….or so I thought.

Boarding + 55 mins –  Captain came back on the address system to say that we were still waiting on cargo but that we should still land ahead of schedule

Boarding + 1 hour 0 mins –  We finally pushed back and the cabin lights were dimmed.

Boarding + 1 hr 12 mins – After 12 minutes of taxiing around Doha’s Hamad airport we take off – it’s 03:25.

Take off  + 7 mins –  The seatbelt sign is extinguished and I went to change into the sleep suit

Take Off + 15 minutes – my choice of drink (orange juice) and nuts were served

Take off + 28 mins – The cabin crew began setting the tables for dinner….but not mine. I was going to try to get some sleep.

I managed to sleep on and off and got a few hours sleep but my concerns about the amount of space for my feet turned out to be well warranted.

It was very tight.

Travelers who sleep on their back will probably be best off but if you sleep on your side or front you’ll find that your feet are very restricted and it’s hard to get comfortable or, if you do, it’s hard to stay comfortable for too long.

The seat cushions themselves are comfortable enough and the seats offer enough width so, if you could get a seat in row 1 things would probably be fine.

Take of + 5 hrs 0 mins –  I woke up as the crew had just started to serve breakfast and I found that I’d been left a Godiva chocolate at some point in the night.

a box of chocolate on a napkinQatar Airways A340 Business Class

Take off + 5 hrs 5 mins – Five minutes after I wake up the cabin lights come on.

Take off + 5 hrs 7 mins –  One of the flight attendants spotted that I had woken up and immediately brought me a hot towel….shortly followed by a glass of orange juice.

Take off + 5 hrs 16 mins –  My breakfast was served.

I started out with a selection of a roll a croissant and a pain au chocolat and was given a choice of strawberry jam, marmalade or honey (I chose the marmalade).

a bowl of food on a trayQatar Airways A340 Business Class

I was also asked if I preferred still or sparkling water.

Take off + 5 hrs 21 mins – My starter of smoked salmon arrived.

a plate of food on a tableQatar Airways A340 Business Class

It was nicely chilled (but not too cold) and this time the potato/horseradish combination worked well (I didn’t really like it when I had it in a slightly different guise on the Dreamliner).

Take off + 5 hrs 30 mins – The main course of a “Traditional Arabic breakfast” was served.

a table with food on itQatar Airways A340 Business Class

That’s:

  • Feta cheese
  • Cucumber
  • Tomato
  • Green olives
  • Arabic bread
  • “Balila” – boiled chickpeas (a.k.a garbanzo beans) mixed with garlic, salt, cumin and olive oil

The chickpeas/garbanzo beans were the highlight and very nice….especially with a little lemon added to them.

a bowl of soup on a tableQatar Airways A340 Business Class

The salad was ok but didn’t taste quite as fresh as I’ve had on Qatar Airways before  – there was nothing particularly wrong with it…I’ve just had better.

Take off + 5 hrs 44 mins – The cabin crew cleared away what was left of my meal and asked f there was anything else I’d like – I ordered a latte.

While the flight attendant was off preparing my latte I took the opportunity to get changed out of the sleep suit and back into my own clothes.

Take off + 6 hrs 11 mins – A nice looking latte arrived – delayed by turbulence but well made.

a white cup of coffee on a napkinQatar Airways A340 Business Class

Definitely one of the better coffees I’ve had in the sky.

Take off + 6 hrs 12 mins – The Captain announced that we’re still set to arrive ahead of schedule, that we’ll be beginning our descent in around 15 mins and thanked the passengers for flying Qatar Airways.

Take off + 6 hrs 28 mins – There was a cabin announcement to say that we’ve started our descent into Kuala Lumpur. The seatbelt signs were illuminated and seats had to be placed into the upright position.

Take off + 6 hrs 29 mins – The cabin crew passed out some mints before being told to take their seats for landing.

Take off + 6 hrs 50 mins – We landed in Kuala Lumpur.

Thoughts

The positives:

  • The crew were friendly and efficient
  • The IFE was less irritating than on the 787 Dreamliner I had flown on the flight before
  • The seats were comfortable

The negatives:

  • There simply isn’t enough room for your feet at any of the seats outside of row 1

There was only one real negative but, because this was a night flight, it was a big one.

For a daytime flight where sleep is probably not a priority for most of the passengers the A340 Business Class cabin would probably be fine…but for a night flight it’s just not comfortable.

During a daytime flight the fantastic service, good food and decent drink selection would probably make up for the restricted space around your feet but, if sleep is all you need, the Qatar Airways A340 cabin falls quite a way short of where it should be.

I’m still a big fan of Qatar Airways as I’m not going to let one aircraft ruin my perception of the whole airline (especially as that aircraft is slowly being phased out)….but I’m not going to be in any kind of hurry to book an overnight flight on one of Qatar’s A340s anytime soon.

Up Next: Review of the JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur


 

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