I was travelling to Italy over Christmas and New Year and took my flight with Qatar Airways, in economy (no less!) as I was travelling with some friends.
I thought it would be a good chance to take a look at the revamped economy class catering that Qatar Airways has shouted about in 2019 to see how it actually measures up.
The PR Spin
Qatar Airways did quite a fair bit of hype over their new and improved economy catering back in April 2019. Styled as Quisine, the PR spin has this to say:
Food portions have increased by 25 per cent – 50 per cent, with a greater focus on the use of local, fresh and healthy ingredients that are in season. Meals will also feature individually-wrapped artisanal warm infused bread and an individual bottle of water. A wider selection of mid-flight movie snacks includes a tantalising array of cheese and crackers, chocolate bar, potato crisps and popcorn, with innovative flavours such as Himalayan Salted Caramel and French Butter and Pink Salt provided by gourmet popcorn brand 4700BC.Qatar Airways press release
This was almost reminiscent of what Qantas did back in 2015, although that squarely had the effect of reducing a tray full of food into just one single entree, which to many people took away the joy of flying (there’s hardly any joy left in economy class, honestly).
First, my flights
A bit more details about my flights. My first flight departed Singapore at 2am and scheduled to arrive at Doha at 5am Doha time. My connecting flight was three hours later, departing at 8am from Doha and arriving into Italy at about 12pm local time.
My return flight from Rome was at 10pm, arriving into Doha once again at 5am. The last leg to Singapore was scheduled to leave Doha at 8am, arriving into Singapore slightly after 9pm.
As you can see below, I became an expert in Qatar’s economy breakfast and obviously painfully sick of it after my trip.
|SIN-DOH||QR945||0200||0530||8h 30m||Snack, Breakfast|
|DOH-VCE||QR125||0810||1235||6h 25m||Breakfast, Snack|
|DOH-SIN||QR944||0830||2115||7h 45m||Breakfast, Snack|
Let’s talk about the menu first
In economy class, a menu card (as opposed to a booklet like how Singapore Airlines does it) is provided to every passenger.
On the left side of the menu is a graphical representation of the service order, which in this case goes by:
- Take off
- Menu card distribution
- Pre-meal beverage service
- Main meal service
- Coffee/tea service
- Water/beverage service
- Pre-arrival snack service
The full offering is then presented on the right hand side, first the food, followed by the beverages.
What was served on board
Departing Singapore at 2am, this means that a snack and breakfast was served on my first flight. I went on board and dozed off immediately, thereby missing my snack, so it’s straight to breakfast for me.
For the breakfast on my first flight, I was pleasantly surprised that Qatar Airways offered three options, rather than two. I went for the nasi lemak. For those unfamiliar with the dish, it’s a Southeast Asian breakfast commonly found in Singapore and Malaysia, featuring a fragrant rice cooked in coconut oil and comes with a side of curry chicken, egg and a good sambal chilli.
This was how my breakfast looked like:
I actually took the same flight exactly a year ago, and also had nasi lemak. This was how it looked like a year ago:
Now, not that different isn’t it? To be fair, I can’t really tell if the portion is indeed now bigger, but based on the photos nothing really have changed. I still have a yogurt, a fruit and a croissant to go with my meal. I’m not that hard up about the cupped orange juice, given that I can always ask for a glass if I really wanted juice.
Here’s another option on the same flight, a spanish omelette with ham:
On my next flight to Venice, I opted for a regular breakfast of scrambled eggs, potato wedges and sausage. This was not particularly memorable, but sufficient for a breakfast.
I’m not going to bore you with more of my critique, but i’ll let the photos do the talking:
Where are the movie snacks?
On my return flight from Rome, I stayed up through most of both flights and I only have this to say: Where are my snacks?
This was the marketing photo that was rather well publicised, and when I saw it, I was like, hey I want that popcorn, and cheese and crackers!
But nope, none of that was offered on any of my four flights, sadly. Sure enough, they did go around giving us chocolates and a packet of pretzels each time I asked for a drink, but the fancier snacks were nowhere to be seen.
One thing worthy of mention is the quality of beverages served on board.
The bad news first: Qatar Airways partners with Pepsi for their catering, so fans of Coca Cola will be sorely disappointed. I know that some people can tell the difference between the two and particularly prefer one over the other.
And now the good news for people who needs a good drink or two. For a start, Qatar Airways serves sparkling wine in economy class, something that only a handful of airlines do.
If you are in a mood for something stronger, the choice of spirits that Qatar goes for include Bombay Sapphire gin, Smirnoff vodka and Dewar’s White Label blended scotch whisky. I’m not a judge of the whisky, but I’ll take Bombay Sapphire over Gordon’s dry gin any day.
If you prefer something non-alcoholic, Qatar Airways always serve up a good range of at least five different juices, on top of the usual soft drinks.
Qatar Airways has one of the best economy class experiences if you ask me. The food is decent, they serve sparkling wine (and actually carry enough of it), and has a great variety of snacks. Come on, who else serves Godiva chocolates in economy class?
Having said that, my opinion is that the entire Quisine transformation in economy class is, after all, still a PR spin. The essence of the meal didn’t really change – I’m not certain if the entrees are indeed larger (they looked the same to me), and instead I’m missing a couple of items from the meal tray such as the chocolate bar.
I get that wastage for these items are usually rather high, so moving them from the tray where everyone gets one, to an on-request basis can be a more environmentally and cost friendly way of operating.
Having said that, by removing these little luxuries, the little changes do slowly chip away at the halo effect of flying the world’s best airline.