Airlines and Aviation
The flight from Hong Kong to Stockholm, Sweden, goes by way of Doha, Qatar, where a change of planes is required. Business Class passengers have access to the Business Class Lounge at Hamad International Airport.
This was also my first flight on a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. I flew on a Boeing 777 on my last trip, and I would have to say that improvements have been made in the cabin and in-flight experience.
Qatar Airways operates a connecting flight on the route.
- Aircraft: 787-8 Boeing Dreamliner with two-class configuration;
- Total flight time: 17 hours and 35 minutes, including a 3 hour and 20 minute stopover in Doha;
- 22 seats in Business Class vs 232 seats in Cattle Class;
- 80-inch bed length vs 31 inch pitch in Cattle Class;
- 22 inch seat width vs 17.2 inch in economy.
Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) operates a non-stop flight on the route.
- Aircraft: Airbus 330-300 with three class configuration;
- Total flight time: 11 hours;
- 32 seats in business class vs 56 in SAS Plus and 174 in Cattle Class;
- 77 inch bed length in Business Class vs 38 inch pitch in SAS Plus and 31-32 inches in Cattle Class;
- 23 – 24 inch seat width in Business Class vs 18.3 inches in SAS Plus and 17.3 inches in Cattle Class.
Pre Flight Experience
No lines at check-in! Allowing passengers to check in on line really does speed up the process.
Qatar Airways does not have its own Business Class lounge in Hong Kong. Because this was a code share flight with Cathay Pacific Airways, I had access to either Cathay's Wings Lounge or complimentary access to the Plaza Premium paid-in lounge.
Since my credit card offers me complimentary access to the latter, I opted for the former.
While Cathay offers free wine and Plaza Premium charges for alcoholic beverages (except beer), Plaza Premium offers FAR more complimentary food options - from hot dishes to salads to noodles prepared to order.
Cathay's business class lounge has windows and Plaza Premium does not, and that DOES make a BIG difference in terms of ambience.
It is also quieter, less crowded, and more elegant, but it seems to have gone down market since the last time I had access to it, when far more food and beverage options were on offer.
Owing to technical problems, our departure was delayed by more than two hours. Since I was flying Business Class, a free flow of champagne eased the pain. We were served a light snack during our wait.
The cabin was spacious, and the coloured lighting had a calming effect. Each passenger had a private space, with lots of room to put things. There was ample leg room.
There was a drawer in which to stow your shoes. I only discovered that when I saw the passenger across the aisle putting his shoes in his. I suggest they put labels or instruct flight attendants to point them out to passengers as they are settling in.
The seats were easier to operate than on my last Business Class flight on Qatar, and they didn't make that loud whining noise when they were being adjusted the way they did before. I REALLY found that annoying.
We were served multi-course breakfasts on both segments of the flight. Dishes were served course by course on China. There were linen tablecloths and napkins.
On the Hong Kong - Doha segment, we were offered soup, appetizers, mains, a cheese plate, a fruit plate, and desserts.
The sweet potato and chive cream soup was superb! It would have done justice to a fine-dining restaurant at a five star hotel.
I also loved the classic Arab mezze - hummus, tabouleh, and feta cheese served with Arabic bread. Mouth-watering!
For my main I opted for the pan-seared chicken breast with herb jus. The chicken was nothing to write home about, but I loved the perfectly cooked sauteed potatoes with parsley. The green beans and carrots were also nicely prepared.
I finished with a cheese plate, skipping fruit or dessert.
On the Doha - Stockholm segment, we were offered morning beverages, appetizers, mains, and light options.
Again, the cured salmon with grain mustard cream cheese would have done justice to a fine dining restaurant. Would love to get the recipe!
The cream cheese omelette with chicken sausage was nothing special.
The grilled prawn, roasted butternut squash, and red onion salad was an interesting combination of flavours and textures.
In addition to the standard hot and cold beverages (the coffee was EXCELLENT) there were mocktails and a karak tea with saffron and cardamon.
We were also offered ...
- White and rose champagne;
- Four white wines;
- Three red wines;
- One tawny port;
- Eight cocktails;
- Seven liquors;
- Three beers;
- Four liquors.
One of the highlights of my trip was supposed to be having access to the Business Class lounge at Doha during my stopover. How things have changed!
At the old airport, there was a separate terminal for First Class and Business Class passengers, which meant avoiding the crowds. It offered a restful respite between flights.
Now First and Business class lounges are located within the main terminal, which has the feel of New York City's Grand Central Station at rush hour - except that it is much, much bigger than Grand Central Station.
And this distances are much, much longer.
The toilets were hard to find and much too small, and there weren't enough moving sidewalks.
Because of the delay, my 3 hour and 20 minute stopover was reduced to less than one hour. By the time I found the Business Class lounge, I only had enough time to take photos before rushing through the massive terminal to catch my connecting flight.
Then I spent close to 30 minutes in a shuttle bus waiting to be taken to the plane.
No jetways on either flight. We were transported to and from planes by shuttle.
OMG! Next to Hanoi, Vietnam, Stockholm Arlanda Airport has got to be the smallest international airport I have ever experienced! The lines at customs moved very, very slowly.
But not nearly as slowly as the lines at Osaka Kansai International Airport in Japan,
My luggage arrived before I did. No problem exchanging Hong Kong currency. Wasn't able to purchase a sim card (they sell them, but they were out of stock). Breezed through security without having my bags checked.
The agent at the information booth suggested a less expensive alternative to the Arlanda Express. It took longer, but I got to rub shoulders with the locals for the first time. It was also the first time I have ever been spoken to in Swedish.
This also meant only having to purchase one train ticket. If I had it to do over again, however, I would prefer to have gone by taxi.
What I Loved
The food proved that it IS possible to serve yummy meals in flight. Two of the dishes were outstanding.
I liked being served course by course - and having the option of dining when I wanted to eat rather than when the trolley arrived.
It's especially nice having your food brought to you directly from the kitchen rather than being served from a trolley.
The champagnes and wines were excellent.
What I Hated
I am NOT a fan of lie-flat seats. I prefer the old Business Class seats, which were like sitting in a cushy armchair. Lie-flat seats are not soft enough.
I was also VERY disappointed by the stopover in Doha. Rather than offering a restful haven between flights, it was both confusing and chaotic.
Whatever happened to the dedicated terminal for First and Business Class passengers?
Disclaimer: flight was entirely self-funded.