Athens to Atlanta via Doha, Our First Experience in QSuites

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Qatar Airways QSuites Athens to Atlanta via Doha in detail.  What can I possibly tell you about Qatar’s excellent business class product, including their flagship QSuites, that hasn’t already been covered by travel writers far and wide?  Probably nothing.  Instead I’ll focus here on why we chose to fly east to go west with an overnight layover and why you may want to do the same to experience this excellent product.

QSuites Double Bed Courtesy of Qatar Airways
Image Credit: Qatar Airways Media Kit

As I mentioned in the previous post – Tips For Maximizing Your Oceania Cruises Booking, we like to book our cruises well in advance and ideally while we’re on board a cruise to stack the best possible early booking and book-on-board savings available.  What this often means is that we’re booking cruises more than a year ahead, in some cases closer to two years.  This creates a couple challenges for those planners among us – airline and hotel bookings are simply not going to be available that far out. Let’s take Delta (I wonder why???) for example.  They only open their flight calendar 330 days ahead.

TIP #1 – Note when your preferred and any “back-up” airlines open up their flight calendars and set calendar reminders to search for flights as soon as they open.  If your airline releases award seats later than when their calendar first opens you should note that date and possibly wait to book if you’re looking to use miles or points.

Tip #2 – If you’re booking a round-trip or an “open jaw” flight where you’re booking your return flight either from the original destination airport or another at the end of your cruise, you’ll want to wait until 330 days before your desired flight home, again using the Delta example.

Booking Considerations

As my friends René and Chris have made abundantly clear in recent months (if not years), Delta has effectively destroyed their Transatlantic award redemption values in premium cabins.  As Delta loyalists who travel Delta frequently for work, this used to be our program of choice to position to Europe, even when redemptions started to creep up, because it helped maintain status (Delta has been crediting award flights towards elite qualifications the past couple years) and we had SkyMiles to burn.  No more!  Starting in 2022 once Delta announced the $20,000 spend requirement for Diamond status for 2024, I gave up on chasing Delta status and declared free agency.

Living in Atlanta you get a bit spoiled by having access to the world’s busiest airport with direct flights to most places we want to visit.  However, the Transatlantic flights are overwhelmingly on Delta and its SkyTeam partners – KLM, Air France, and Virgin Atlantic Airways.  Given the sheer number of Delta elites in Atlanta scoring reasonable redemptions on any of these SkyTeam airlines is challenging as they simply don’t have to price them attractively to fill them in cash or points.

What were our non-SkyTeam Options?

So what other airlines serve Atlanta across the Atlantic?  That list is fairly short – British Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, and Turkish.  We ruled out British Airways quickly as the taxes and fees flying through London can easily top $1,000 per ticket in business or first class.  That left Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, and Turkish.  Searching these both directly and through their alliance partners we found an excellent deal on Qatar Airways using American Airlines points.

What did it cost?

We were able to book one-way tickets from Athens to Doha to Atlanta in Business Class for 112,500 AA miles and $90.47 in taxes and fees.  The fare for these tickets in cash purchased directly from Qatar Airways would have been 6,873.12 EUR or $7,263.93 at today’s exchange rate.  This yielded an impressive 15.68 cents per point (cpp) in AA miles compared to Delta’s miserly 1-2 cpp.  By comparison my friends at Delta wanted 375,000 DL miles and $216 in taxes and fees for each ticket or 1.7 cpp.  My wife and I were both sitting on nearly 200,000 AA miles accumulated almost entirely through shopping portal activity so this was an excellent use of the miles.

Qatar Airways QSuites Booking Confirmation
Flying almost four hours in the wrong direction to experience QSuites

Why fly to Doha to get to Atlanta from Athens?

A few things that appealed to us:

  • We wanted to experience QSuites to see what we’ve been missing flying on Delta, KLM, and Air France all these years
  • We had never visited Qatar and even a 14-hour overnight lay-over would give us a bit of time to get a sense of the place to see if we might want to go back for a more in-depth visit
  • We were going to have to connect anyway if we flew any airline but Delta
  • We were going to be able to use one of our annual free night certificates from our Hilton Honors American Express Cards for an amazing hotel stay that would have cost us more than $1,900.  We hold both the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and make use of the annual free night certificates at properties where the nightly rate easily exceeds the annual fee.  The Surpass Card provides a number of benefits including $50 per quarter Hilton Statement Credits as well as the ability to earn a free night reward after spending $15,000 in a calendar year.  The Aspire Card provides an annual free night certificate each year after you pay the annual fee and also offers $200 bi-annual resort credits (previously this card offered an annual $250 resort credit).  Chris recently had a post covering the benefits of these two Hilton Honors American Express cards and more.
  • For those that love flying and enjoying being pampered in business class on a day flight, taking a 15 hour flight in QSuites was far more exciting than 11 hours and 40 minutes on a Delta flight (albeit on their excellent A350 with DeltaOne suites)
  • My wife agreed…

The Experience

I’ll start with a tip that took me some time to figure out regarding seat selection.

Tip: If, like us, you booked your tickets using two different accounts because you don’t have enough miles in a single account, then you’ll need to call Qatar Airways to combine your reservation and request two center seats, otherwise you’re limited to choosing the single seats along the windows.

The flight from Athens to Doha was a relatively short 4 hours and 25 minutes, but featured a pre-departure beverage including a choice between two Champagnes.

Qatar Airways Business Class Menu

We had pre-ordered Gluten Free meals and to be honest these were on par with what we are used to on DeltaOne Transatlantic.  They honestly didn’t warrant photos.  Here’s the menu for those that hadn’t ordered ahead.

Qatar Airways Business Class Menu

My lovely bride decided to try the Extra Dry Martini from the signature drink selection while I stuck to the bubbles.  Her advice – “don’t order the martini.”  Other than the poor martini making, the crew on this flight from Athens to Doha were amazing.  Attentive, friendly, helpful, and really seemed to love what they were doing.

Qatar Airways Business Class Extra Dry Martini with Nuts

The excellent Al Mourjan Business Lounge coupled with airport check-in and security set-up for Doha stop-over passengers made for a stress-free morning return to the airport.

Qatar Airways Doha Business Class and First Class Check-InThe crew on the flight from Doha to Atlanta were merely OK, but that didn’t spoil the fun.  The in-flight-entertainment was on a huge shiny screen; unfortunately this gets a glare with any ambient lighting and really requires near darkness for optimal viewing.  The selection was excellent and we never ran out of things to watch.     Qatar Airways QSuites OryxOne IFE

We received dinner as our first meal and breakfast as our second which was admittedly a bit odd given that we were landing in the late afternoon in Atlanta.  To be honest the food others received looked a good bit tastier than the gluten free food we were served.  It was all OK, but nothing really stood out.

Qatar Airways Beverage Selection
Starter of a quinoa salad
Qatar Airways QSuites Paella GF
Gluten Free Paella Main

Breakfast was only a bit above airplane average, the exception being the omelet which was the best I’ve ever been served on a plane.

Qatar Airways QSuites Fruit Plate GF
Fruit to start breakfast
Qatar Airways QSuites Breakfast GF
Omelet, sausages, and potatoes

I’ll end with another tip that caused us a bit of stress, but need not have.  We had purchased several bottles of wine and a bottle of Scotch whiskey during our cruise and only thought about our connection in Qatar as the cruise was coming to an end.  A quick online search indicated that it was illegal to enter Qatar with alcohol.  I probably spent an hour scouring the internet to figure out if I need to give away our purchases on board to avoid ending up in a Qatari prison, or if we would be able to transit without issue.

Tip: It is illegal to enter Qatar with alcohol.  HOWEVER, if you are connecting on and do NOT collect your luggage containing the alcohol, you may check it through to your final destination without issue.  This includes stop-overs of up to three days organized through the airline or in our case the one night organized on our own.  Just make sure when you check-in to your first flight with Qatar Airways you make sure that your bags are checked-through.  You will also want to make sure that you have everything you need for your stop-over in Doha with you in your carry-on luggage.

Conclusion

Overall the Qatar Airways QSuites experience was excellent.  Did it live up to all the hype? Honestly, it came up a bit short of expectations, but maybe we were simply expecting too much or our gluten free diet resulted in sub-par food.  Would we do it all over again?  After 15 hours on board we each agreed we would have done it all over again the next day.  Well, maybe give us a couple days to recover. – Michael

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2 COMMENTS

  1. As for the gluten free meals, unless you each have celiac disease, gluten free has no benefit. My experience with Qatar business class meals has been all positive.

    • Hi Max, I have a severe gluten/wheat intolerance and my wife has a wheat allergy. It’s a need not a choice for us. I wish we could eat it as it would make life much easier and tastier.

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