TRIP REPORT: Qatar Airways, Belgrade - Hanoi via Doha

TRIP REPORT


Submitted by: Željko Cvetković

On October 19 we traveled from Belgrade to Hanoi. I’ve been reading these trip reports on Ex-Yu for a long, long time with great passion and a lot of enjoyment and I’ve always wanted to write one so brace yourself, it’s going to be a long (and hopefully interesting) report.

Before I go into the details of the flights themselves, I would like to give a bit more info on options for people flying out to Hanoi. We are from Niš, so in the deciding process we considered flying from Belgrade, Sofia, Skopje, Thessaloniki and even Zagreb at some point. Companies that have direct flights from their hubs to Hanoi are Qatar Airways, Aeroflot, Turkish Airlines and of course, Emirates.

I used Aeroflot before on Asian flights (BEG-PVG, PVG-BEG) and I was absolutely delighted with their service so I had nothing against flying with them to Hanoi as well. In the end, we chose Qatar Airways for two reasons: price and their world renowned service. Price was obviously a decisive factor, with Qatar being significantly cheaper than it’s competitors (from all airports). Here is a small breakdown of the average prices to Hanoi from our region.

Qatar Airways – 400e
Aeroflot – 500e
Emirates – 550e
Turkish Airlines – 600e

Once we chose the company, it was time to decide which airport to fly from – Belgrade, Sofia or Skopje. Prices and flight times were all pretty much the same, but in the end we went with Belgrade to show some patriotism and also avoid any potential mishaps at the border.

Route: Belgrade - Doha
Flight number: QR 232
Airplane: Airbus A320-200
Flight time: 5 hours



Our flight was scheduled at 12:00 p.m, so we arrived little before 10:00 a.m to check our bags. As I said, we are from Niš, where people (myself included) have a lot of bitter feelings and a negative attitude towards Belgrade Airport due to recent developments, but nevertheless I was impressed by how much entire airport has improved overall since the last time I used it (in early 2015). It looks really nice, compact and cozy and as a citizen and a taxpayer of Serbia I was proud to see such progress.

We breezed through passport control and security in no time (less than 20 minutes) and went straight to gate A1 to wait for our airplane. While waiting, we were lucky enough to spot Hainan Airline’s A330 from Beijing – red and yellow monster that caught almost every eye, such an interesting livery!

Plane landed 10 minutes after the scheduled time and both of us were astonished by number of Asian travelers coming to Belgrade, especially given the fact that aforementioned Hainan Airline’s flight came and went just an hour before our flight.

Boarding was quick and efficient and before we knew it we were in our seats. On the way there, we passed through business class section where passengers were already being served champagne while relaxing in super comfortable seats. Both of us agreed it is an absolute shame that we are poor and we cannot afford it (1700e for business class). Oh, well. Now, this is the important part. I am a big guy (204cm and 120kg) so I always feel cramped and confined on most of the airplanes. To my surprise and delight, there was plenty of room and at no point in time did I feel even the slightest inconvenience. I mentioned that the second reason we chose Qatar Airways is its reputable service so we were very curious about it. And boy, oh boy, what a service it is!

One can really tell how hard Qatar crew is trying and how well trained they are. There were 4 of them (one Serbian girl) and they made sure everything worked like a charm from boarding to serving meals. Speaking of the food, it was delicious (especially when I compare it to what I had on Lufthansa or Delta in the past). There were a lot of options and you can even pre-book from a range of meals on their website. My girlfriend had chicken, I had lamb - everything was juicy, moist and fresh including dessert. Hats off to Qatar, really! After the meal, crew was making multiple rounds with drinks and refreshment.

Menu on Belgrade – Doha sector

Grilled chicken breast with paprika sauce

Lamb machboos

IFE system was working just fine, although I find it weirdly organized and thr movie selection a bit outdated. I haven’t spotted latest blockbusters (from 2018), so I would say they last updated it at the end of 2017. Also, when you choose some TV shows there is only a single random episode from a single random season, so this area is definitely something they could improve and work on. This is just an observation, and in no way did it affect our flight experience.

IFE system on Qatar’s A320

Real time flight info

Once I got bored with IFE I snooped around the cabin, talked to the crew and passengers and came with a following conclusion about passenger’s structure:

- 50% of passengers were transferring to China
- 30% of passengers were transferring to Australia
- 10% of passengers were transferring to rest of the Asia
- 10% of passengers were transferring to USA, Africa, South America etc.

Anyway, after a little bit less than 5 hours, we started our descent. I was looking forward to seeing Doha from air and was pretty bummed when I realized we will be arriving at local night time. Night view of Doha was nice, but nothing spectacular or different from other big cities – lots of lights, some tall buildings etc.

Sunset over the magnificent Arabian desert

Transferring through the airport was painless and hassle free although airport is huge. So, in less than 25 minutes after leaving A320 we found ourselves in front of our departure gate to Hanoi.


Route: Doha - Hanoi

Flight number: QR 968
Airplane: Boeing 787-8
Flight time: 6 hours



Seeing how this was our first time to be on board a Boeing 787, we were super excited to start our journey. Plane itself is a state-of-the-art masterpiece and for sure my new favorite wide-body aircraft! Although one of the smaller models in wide-body family, one does not get such feeling – it is much more spacious, comfortable and usage of space is so much better than on some of the older (767) and bigger models (747). Not to mention, interior is ultra-modern with no signs of wear and tear.

787’s impressive GEnx engine

787’s beautiful interior

A lot of little add-ons are really a nice touch

A lot of little add-ons are really a nice touch

Food on this flight was every bit as good as on the first one. I apologize for the absence of pictures, but given the fact that this was a night time flight and that we were already a bit tired from our first flight, we completely forgot about it. I managed to snap a picture of the menu though, for those people who are interested in it. Both of us had chicken and it was delicious. Just like on the first flight, cabin crew made rounds around the airplane with refreshments.

Menu on Doha-Hanoi sector

Speaking of the cabin crew, halfway into the flight, I decided to stretch out a bit and use the lavatory. Since it was occupied, I spent some 5-10 minutes chatting with couple of flight attendants and they were really nice and patient, to me it seemed that they really like their job. Most of them were from Asia (India, Nepal, China) and there was a girl from France. Alas, no Serbian flight attendants on this flight.

The only negative aspect of this flight came from a fact that I was sitting behind a 1,5m Chinese lady who obviously had this idea that even though she is in economy class, there is absolutely no reason she shouldn’t be comfortable as if she payed for business or first-class product. After she tried to recline her seat like 5 times without any success (remember that I am 204cm tall) she started complaining loudly, although to no one in particular, that it is a disgrace that she cannot recline her seat and get a proper rest. This caught the attention of the Chinese flight attendant, who, after checking out the situation, explained to her that it is not possible to recline her seat without chopping my feet off. To everyone’s surprise, this made the lady even more upset, so she threw a mini tantrum and decided to switch seats with her husband, sitting couple of rows in front of us. Man seemed profoundly ashamed of his wife’s behavior, mumbled some kind of apology and took her seat for the rest of the flight. This is not the first time I’ve witnessed such behavior, but this is the first time it happened to me personally and I’ll never understand how some people expect to have absolutely same level on comfort like on a train or bus while flying 10,000m above the ground in the cheapest class?

As per passengers, it was split half and half between European and Vietnamese passengers. Among Europeans, I was a bit surprised to see that French made up for more than 70% of total number, but it probably makes sense when you think about it, with all the history and connections between France and Vietnam.

Anyway, landing time came soon enough. Landing was smooth and after saying goodbye to cabin crew we proceeded to Immigration and Visas department on Noi Bai Airport. Airport looks nice, but very… standard, if you know what I mean. Glass and steel, topped with more glass and more steel. We were a bit worried, as we heard some rumors that getting a visa is a long and tedious process that takes couple of hours of waiting in the area with no shops, cafes and (even) toilets. Quite the contrary, it took about 45 minutes from turning in our documents until we saw our names on the big screen above the immigration and visa counter. Process was painless and with no questions asked, it lasted only 5 minutes and we were on our way to the conveyor belt to wait for our bags. Luckily, our bags arrived in no time, so we went outside the airport, picked up a taxi (about 20$) and in about half an hour arrived to our accommodation.

I hope you enjoyed this trip report, there are much more to come, as I will be flying frequently out of Hanoi to other Asian destinations in the near future.

In the end, here is my short top 5 list of best companies and airplanes that I’ve been on so far (maybe you’ve noticed that I really like making lists). Of course, all of the trips were in economy class and this is based on personal experience, so obviously the list is subjective.

Companies:

1. Qatar Airways (Belgrade - Hanoi) – easily the best service ever
2. Aeroflot (Belgrade - Shanghai) – close second place
3. Lufthansa (Frankfurt – Washington D.C) – dull and boring, like butter
4. United Airlines (Chicago - Munich) – subpar experience
5. Delta Airlines (JFK – Frankfurt) – it was difficult to decide which one was worse, United or Delta, but at least cabin crew on United flight seemed friendly, on Delta they made no such efforts

Airplanes:

1. Boeing 787-8 – a masterpiece!
2. Boeing 747-4 – cramped and confined, but sound of those engines and the feeling during take off make up for all of it
3. Airbus A340-600 – Lufthansa comes in third again, such a boring airline with boring airplanes and boring livery and boring cabin crew, everything is so…. Average
4. Airbus A330 – maybe even more cramped and confined than 747, but with nothing to make up for it
5.Boeing 767-300ER – living hell, it’s like a flying (rusty) can of tuna, I wish someone could erase my memory so I can never remember being on this airplane.

Hopefully, sometime in the future, I will have a chance to be on an A380, I am really looking forward to this opportunity.

Comments

  1. How Was the load on your BEG flight?

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    Replies
    1. There was only one empty seat in business class and my estimate is that in economy class load was 80-85%

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  2. Very nice and extensive report. Qatar Airways is definitely one of the best airlines in the world.

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  3. That sunset photo is beautiful. Nice report :)

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  4. Thanks for the great report, man. Please keep 'em coming.

    I would only disagree about BEG being so great. Toilets are way below standard and food offering is an overpriced disaster, and these are some of the main factors for airport comfort.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I absolutely agree about the toilets, I used the one in A1 waiting area and it was dreadful, leaky pipes and you could smell the mold... They should really do something about this.

      About the food, I really don't know, but coffee was (surprisingly) quite good and not so expensive in my opinion :)

      Delete
    2. Trust me Sarajevo departure lounge toilets must be the filthiest in the developed world, they are filthy and only 2 male and 2 female cubicles!

      Delete
  5. You sort of stole my thunder with this one - im gonna be taking almost the same route (flying out of SKP via DOH) in 3 weeks and i was thinkin on doing a trip report.
    Perhaps i will get an upgrade offer, so I'd the report for C. Fingers crossed to me ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That would be an incredible experience. In fact, I liked their business class so much that I was thinking about treating myself to it once it is time to come back to Serbia :) Probably just a dream, but oh well...

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    2. I did receive an upgrade offer, but only on the DOH-HAN leg: eur 605.
      I accepted it, since a: its an evening flight and b: I definitely want to try the C product on a QR B787.

      Delete
  6. Great report! Many thanks.

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  7. I landed in HAN end of 2003 (travelling with TG) and fell ashamed of all ex-yu airports at that time

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  8. I flew on Qatar A380 Doha-Sidney and it was the best flight experience of my life.

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  9. Back in March I was flying with Qatar from Zagreb to Hanoi and my impression was the same. Usually I am not so delighted to travel back, because it means that the vacation is almost over, but I was so excited and just enjoyed the flights.

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  10. Why don't they deploy the 787 to Belgrade? Flying on a A320 for 5 hours is quite long! At least was there IFE?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think they prefer frequency over capacity, 787 is not a small plane...

      Delete
  11. Regarding the reclining issue, I had the same problem, but by the aviation rules every passenger is allowed to recline their seats, as much as uncomfortable that will look to the passenger behind. I had the same issue and I was forced to pull back and allow the passenger in front of me to fully recline their seat..

    ReplyDelete

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