Qatar Airways: What Is It Like to Fly Economy on the World's Best Airline?

Qatar Airways routinely wins awards as one of the best airlines in the world, if not the best. Travelers on long flights between the airline’s 150-plus destinations often have plenty of time to get familiar with the airline’s service and aircraft. The experience is notably luxurious in first and business class. Passengers who fly in economy class miss out on the best amenities offered in the more expensive cabins.

But even if you fly economy, you still spend long hours with your airline. We’d argue that those hours feel even longer when you’re in the economy cabin. So what is a flight with Qatar Airways like when you don’t want to break the bank for a lay-flat bed and gourmet food?

Ahead, check out a review of what it’s like to fly economy on Qatar Airways, which I experienced on a round trip between Atlanta and Doha.

What is Qatar Airways Economy class like?

The Qatar Airways economy cabin offers pillows, blankets, and entertainment for everyone. | Qatar Airways via Facebook

Qatar Airways was founded in 1993 and operates one of the world’s youngest airline fleets. The upshot? You probably won’t encounter any of the outdated or worn-out jets that travelers are often disappointed to board when flying with domestic carriers. Each time I walked onto the Airbus A350-900, I noticed that the cabin looked surprisingly sleek and new. The cabin was bright, but not blindingly so. And later on in the flight, after the main lights went off, pink lighting provided a compromise between darkness and the maximum level of illumination.

One of the first things you’ll notice when you walk into the economy cabin? The crew has equipped each seat with a pillow and blanket. That means you don’t have to fight for the limited supply you’ll find on flights operated by some domestic carriers. Headphones also wait for you at every seat, and will do the job. But we’d still recommend packing your own if you plan to enjoy the in-flight entertainment.

The overhead bins feel generously sized. On both flights of my recent trip between Doha and Atlanta, I had no problem finding room for my carryon, even well into the boarding process. The seats feature large seatback pockets with multiple compartments to keep you organized. In the economy cabin, seat pitch — the distance between a given point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it — varies between 31 inches in a B787 and 33 inches in some configurations of the B777. The airline has also won accolades as the best value airline for legroom in economy.

What kind of service does Qatar Airways offer?

The Qatar Airways cabin crew offers exceptional service. | tihanastocker/ iStock Editorial/ Getty Images Plus

The cabin crew on both of my flights provided excellent and attentive service. Questions and requests alike both received considerate responses. Plus, the cabin crew stayed busy throughout the flight. The flight attendants seemed constantly occupied with either serving passengers or preparing for the next round of service. And the service starts early. Crew members on both of my flights with Qatar Airways distributed menus and “refreshing towel” wipes before the plane even took off.

Plus, passengers in economy class receive an amenity kit. (It includes lip balm, a toothbrush, toothpaste, an eye mask, socks, and ear plugs.) You’ll also find laptop power outlets and USB plugs at your seat. Qatar Airways offers WiFi on A380, A350, B787, and A319 aircraft. You can also find it on select A330, A320, and A321 aircraft, as well. Access is reasonably priced. (Free for the first hour, $5 for an hour, or $20 for the duration of the flight.) However, it’s still satellite internet, and the network came online and offline sporadically during my flights between Atlanta and Doha.

The monitors at each seat are bright and modern, featuring the airline’s Oryx entertainment center with a wide selection of movies, TV shows, and even music to pass the time. Qatar Airways says that Oryx offers more than 4,000 entertainment options. And the carrier hasn’t forgotten its youngest passengers. The entertainment system has a channel especially for young travelers. But before you settle in with a movie, the airline’s safety demonstration will play on every screen in the cabin.

How is the food in economy class?

Qatar Airways offers a surprising number of choices for meals. | Ayakochun/ iStock Editorial/ Getty Images Plus

On long-haul flights, Qatar Airways serves multiple meals. You’ll have at least two choices of main dishes. And the menu seems designed to appeal to a variety of travelers, including those who eat a vegetarian diet. Each meal comes on a tray loaded with the main entree, at least one side, a dessert, and often additional items such as cheese or fresh fruit. Plus, you get metal cutlery to eat your food. The meals are still airplane food, though. Options like scrambled eggs look about as appetizing as you’d expect. But the food is definitely edible.

The carrier recently made headlines for introducing larger meals for economy class passengers. And periodically during the flight, the crew also distributes snacks, drinks, and even desserts. The flight attendants even hand out bottled water, an essential on long-haul flights. On both of my flights, at a point when most passengers seemed to be sleeping, flight attendants even came through the cabin with a tray of juice and water to see if anyone was awake and needed refreshment.

I made a point of staying well-hydrated on both of my flights, which meant periodic trips to the restroom. On my flight from Atlanta to Doha, the bathroom stayed spotless. (Presumably thanks to the watchful eye of the cabin crew.) On the return trip from Doha to Atlanta, not so much, the only oversight I experienced on the flight. It also wasn’t anything that a little — alright, a lot — of hand sanitizer couldn’t fix — and a small price to pay for getting to and from my destination.

Editor’s note: All trip accommodations were provided by Qatar Tourism Authority. Opinions and recommendations are our own.

Read more: The Longest Flights You Can Take Around the World (and How to Survive Them)

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