MIAMI — Below is a trip report submitted by contributor Gino Bertuccio. Bertuccio has traveled the world on major airline inaugurals for the Airbus A380, the Boeing 787 and the 747-8. This is his first-person account of his adventures on the inaugural flight on Qatar Airways’ first A380, from Doha to London Heathrow. Qatar Airways has 341 aircraft on order, including 12 A380s.
I was a little bit sad and disappointed when Qatar Airways’ original Airbus A380 inaugural, set for July 1 2014, was postponed indefinitely. On September 19, the first A380 landed at Doha’s Hamad International Airport. Then the date for the inaugural flight was set for October 10, when my reservation was made for seat 2K. On the magic day, I arrived at Hamad International Airport at 5:20 a.m. on October 10 in order not to miss any of the festivities.
It took less than three minutes to check in, from the comfortable first-class counters to the escort through immigration and security to Qatar Airways’ Business Class Lounge, since the First Class Lounge won’t open until spring 2015. The lounge was more spacious and elegant than any other. The inside restaurant on second floor is available. It had a very limited a-la-carte selection, but a generous selection from the buffet menu.
The gracious lady who escorted me told me to be ready to proceed to gate A3, a short walk from the lounge, at 7:00 a.m., but I preferred to leave the lounge at 6:45. Boarding time was set at 7: 05 a.m., with a scheduled departure time set for 7:55 a.m.
I was surprised and disappointed that nothing happened at the gate to commemorate Qatar’s first A380 flight. There was no celebration, no speech and no decoration, just Qatar Airways’ staff distributing red roses to business- and first-class passengers, along with a banner.
There were no giveaway, no formal certificates, no souvenir – nothing. At least for the inaugural Doha-Miami flight, I got a small souvenir. All we received was a simple letter informing and welcoming all passengers about the flight.
At first glance, it appeared that there was not enough space for a carry-on under the companion seat, so the flight attendant took mine away and stored it in a closet. The seat was very comfortable, and the seat and IFE controls were very easy to use. My only difficulty was in pulling out the magazines stored in a very tiny space. The IFR, Oryx, was equipped with a 26-inch screen with great resolution. It offers a large assortment of movies, TV shows, documentaries, inflight shopping and flight information.
A small personal closet for clothes is located just beside the screen. Opening the door gives you a great surprise: Missoni slippers and a Giorgio Armani amenity kit. Missoni pajamas were also given out, and a welcome drink was offered to the eight of us sitting in first class.
Boarding was completed at 7:45 a.m., the doors closed immediately after and the A380 pushed back at 7:54 a.m. We took off at 8:08 a.m. just passing over Doha and heading north west toward London Heathrow.
At 8:16 a.m, the flight attendants started our meal service. Breakfast was served starting with drinks including fresh-squeezed orange or pineapple juice, a banana smoothie and a spicy tomato and celery health drink. Appetizers included fresh fruit with honey crème, Bircher Muesli, greek yogurt with honey and chopped pistachios and hazelnuts and salmon gravlax with dill crème.
The main meal was a choice of traditional Arabic breakfast , south Indian-style baked eggs with potatoes, create your own breakfast with a variety of eggs any style with 10 sides to choose from and cinnamon brioche french toast. My selection was very tasty, with generous portions and a superb cappuccino.
After the meal, I went to enjoy the lounge with other first-class passengers I met on other inaugurals, along with my great friend Isabelle. We all enjoyed cocktails and delicious chocolate cake was offered.
We landed at London Heathrow at 1:04. I was disappointed that there was no water cannon salute from the airport firefighters. We deplaned normally, without even a banner indicating the end of the inaugural flight. Only the captain made a mention of when welcoming passengers after we landed.
Having flown almost 20 inaugurals, most of them with the A380, and with that aircraft being the new Jewel of Qatar Airways fleet, I was expecting a lot more from them in terms of a celebration. Although the crew was attentive, the food was good and the IFE and seat comfort were extraordinary, it was not one of the best inaugural flight experiences. My next inaugural flight will be on December 27, on Etihad’s A380 Resident apartment.