Seattle to Doha
Exploring Doha Day 1
Exploring Doha Day 2 & 3
Doha to Seattle
Tuesday 13th November 2013
Thanks to the later departure this morning it meant I could have a bit of extra sleep. The gym at the Fairmont was pretty packed this morning but I still managed to get a machine. It meant that after the workout I still had plenty of time to relax and explore the hotel a little if I wanted (I didn’t). What I was able to do was get some email work and last minute things done before flying out this afternoon so that was helpful.
I checked out of the hotel and headed the 2 blocks down to the Sheraton, dragging a heavy suitcase and camera bag (most of the weight was in the camera bag though). The short walk was good and as soon as I got to the Sheraton I had priorities. COFFEE! Within minutes of getting in the door, I was able to get the coffee in my hand and get those first few sips going. It was fantastic, exactly what I needed to get me perked up on this cold Seattle morning.
We waited as the group slowly began to arrive and at one point a mutiny may have occurred on the bus, however it was calmly put down. We left the hotel and headed back to Boeing Field. Our departure today was going to be my first time Airside at BFI so that was going to be just as much fun. On the way in there was several 787s on the ramp (the test aircraft ZA002 and ZA005) another test aircraft (I think it was a 777 or the test 767) as well was sitting there but I couldn’t see what it really was. This would be an eventful day it seemed.
We arrived back at the 3-390 Hangar and the aircraft had been towed out of the hangar ready for the flight that day so now it felt quite desolate with just a handful of people and a whole HEAP of food for our breakfast. A Good spread had been put on as well and I managed to have the weirdest porridge I have ever eaten. It was tasty, but quite a weird texture, and after speaking with one of the staff it seemed that with the obvious differences between the words “Porridge” & “Oatmeal” even this didn’t quite fit.
A trip to the Boeing Store was conducted, & although I didn’t buy anything it was good for a laugh. Got to see some awful merchandise but some of the people on the trip just lapped it up, with someone spending well over $450 at the store. As we returned from the Boeing store, it was time to head over to security for our pre departure inspection and then bussed down the ramp to the aircraft. The security was fantastic. No TSA, just Boeing Security. And although my liquids and laptop could stay in my bag, I had to remove my shoes, belt & jacket. Love the dignity dance.
Once I had redressed the billion layers and gotten my shoes and belt back on without my pants hitting my ankles it was out onto the ramp, snapping as many pictures as I can of all the 737s around us. Apparently one of the GOL 738s was going to be delivered today; there were a number of others with 2 Ryanairs taking pride of place right in front of me. We turned left in the Van heading back up the ramp to the Qatar 787 sitting there, waiting, beckoning me forward. As we approached the excitement was everywhere. You could see others were just as excited.
Qatar Airways QR3787
Boeing Field to Doha
Boeing 787-8 (A7-BCB)
Business Class – Seat 4K
Push Back: 1306
Take Off Roll: 1326 (Runway 13R
Top of Descent: 1324
Touch Down: 1356 (Runway 33)
Shut Down: 1401 (Bay A6)
At the base of the steps, many people were taking photos (which is pretty much what I did for most of the flight actually) with the aircraft, with their boarding pass, with the aircraft & the boarding pass. Anything and everything, it was getting photographed. We got ushered onto the aircraft (pretty much given the hurry up signal), as we walked up the steps, we were handled a little jewelry box, containing a key with the inscription “Qatar’s First 787”. I doubt it opened or did anything, but that was a symbolic item. I had just been handed the keys to the plane! I walked up the steps, got my name ticked off the security list to say I was onboard, and headed through the grand entryway to the far right side… to my seat… in Business!
I was totally excited to be on the plane anyway, to have a seat in Business was even more epic. I snapped photo after photo, barely even sitting down at all. The Cabin Crew probably hated it as everyone was doing the same, and they had trouble getting around to do their service. Speaking of which their service was great. The Qatar crew were all so friendly and accommodating. Showing us things in the seats if we needed to (they showed me a couple of hidden places even I didn’t know about from exploring the seats the night before).
Once I finally sat down at my seat (still snapping photos) I was offered a pre departure beverage. I went with some water (as expected) but the Champagne was already flowing (Billecart for those wondering). As we were about to close the door, we got a ramp buddy. The United 787 touched down and taxied through to the parking spot next to us. Nice for another 787 to come say goodbye.
Pretty soon we were buttoned up, safety briefing underway and pushing back to head to the north end of the field to the starting of Runway 13R. We were taking off to the South so this meant a nice big curve back to the north as this would be a Polar Route (not that far north unfortunately but close enough really.) As we were taking off I noticed the 757/F22 Test Bed was actually moving, I managed to get a really awful picture of it, because I was shocked it was moving. I had always thought it just sat there.
Once we got the double dings to say seatbelts were released (it didn’t take long), It was up and about taking more photos (my instructions had been, behave yourself, have fun, and take so many photos you think you have taken to many, then take some more) finding all new things in the seat (didn’t realize there was a hidden spot for my shoes until I had been shown. We were then told once we cleared American Airspace into Canada, they could switch on the Wi-Fi. Why we had to wait that long I don’t know but who cares. Internet on the delivery flight, where do I sign up!
I collected my free 50MB voucher (not realizing I could have as many as I wanted so I was going to keep it slowly and not use to much) and took a heap more photos, chatting to some of the others around me, heading up the back into Economy for a scout out of who was sitting back there (everyone in Economy got a row of 3 seats to themselves and also full Business Class service). Economy really didn’t look all that bad and the seats were pretty damn comfortable. Plus add on a row of 3 to yourself and I would be super happy. I didn’t spend too much time down the back or I know I would miss dinner, so I headed back to the front. I got a tweet from a mate saying that since I missed out on the first tweet overall (2nd by 37 seconds) that I should get the first laviator shot. So I did. Cause I mean why the hell not.
By the time I got back, dinner service was starting, so it was time to settle into my seat, put the laptop away for a little (tweeting with the phone was easier anyway) and then also watch a movie. The IFE system on the Qatar 787 was pretty awesome. Touch screen based but unlike most other systems, this one was Android Based so the remote was touch screen as well. You could easily manipulate the two devices separately so you could have the airshow running on the remote while watching a movie on the main screen. So that’s what I did. Chose the latest Batman movie, started it up and settled in for a 5 course dinner that by the time it was finished, took 2 hours to serve (but had that been a normal movie, would of finished then perfectly but the new batman goes FOREVER).
A relaxing dinner of fine dining by Celebrity Chefs, good wine (if I drank), amazing service, a good movie. Man I could go for a nap right about now. I settled in to finish the last of the movie off, and then once that finally finished it was now almost 4 hours into the flight. It had flown by and didn’t at all feel that way. Most of the front cabin was asleep, so the windows were all blacked out (something that would come to bite us later) and there was only 1 or 2 of us awake. I figured it was the perfect time to get the laptop out and do some work.
For the next 4 or 5 hours it was pretty much the following on the flight so I won’t bore you too much. Working on Vegas Trip Report, Working on Vegas Photos, Working on Airline reporter articles, working on photos from Delivery dinner, Blogging, tweeting, watching some TV shows and more tweeting. O intersperse that with eating more (not that I needed it) just because you the readers would demand it of me. So I had a bit of a midflight snack. Some Coffee & Biscuits (if I must), for the midflight snack (which you can have at any time, anything you want from the menu) I had the Chicken Wrap which was quite tasty and the Lemon Curd Tart which was just awesome!! Qatar really knows how to pull off their desserts.
The flight just flew by and before I knew it we were well over Europe. When the sun came up I headed down the back to say hi for a bit, chatting to the Social Media guys and seeing the crazy “Social Media Command Center” located way down the back in Economy (row 31 I think). Seeing the set up put me to shame, I should have done something like that! Then I got told after that if I wanted more data vouchers to just “help myself”. Dammit I could have been tweeting photos like crazy! Ah wells! Too late now (in the end Rupa from Aviation Week Magazine ended up using 450mb of data. In the vicinity of about $500 worth of data).
As we approached Turkey and changing our continent over to “Asia” well, that heralded everyone waking up, grabbing some breakfast and getting themselves ready for what was to be a crazy arrival. With press conferences scheduled for our time on the Ground, it was sure to be more crazy times. As we crossed over Iraq I was quite excited to be there for some reason. I don’t know why but I just want to get an Iraq or Afghanistan stamp in my passport.
As we started our descent over the Persian Gulf, the Wi-Fi was cut off (without warning) and we all got ourselves settled. Everyone was back dressed again after changing out of their PJs (not that I wore mine) and was all dressed ready to impress again.
No need for a jacket with a temp of 30C in the humid Qatar desert. I was looking forward to some warmth. After 40 and 50F days (8-15C) for the last month or so in Seattle, I was dying for some warmth. Something to get me going back into the real heat like home in Aus.
As we turned final over Doha I got my first glimpses of Qatar and to say I was shocked was just an understatement. It was Sand as far as the eye could see. Yellow all around with some Blue/Green of the Persian Gulf/Arabian Sea. Wow… just wow! As we came into Doha Airport I snapped away like crazy as I knew I probably wouldn’t get the chance again to see so many of these Qatar Airways aircraft or some of the middle east carriers.
They didn’t disappoint either but as soon as we turned onto the Taxiway I was distracted by the scenes awaiting us. Row after row of people. All awaiting the 787. It was surreal. So many people around! As we pulled into Bay A6 right in front of the Ministerial Lounge (where the press conference was to be held), the mass of people around was crazy. They were everywhere. Seat Belt sign is off and my flight on no sleep, well that didn’t matter. The adrenalin surged and I was good to go. First person off the plane had to be Akbar Al Baker the CEO of course and after that it was a crazy mad dash as we all wanted out into the real world (I wanted to take more photos really). The warmth greeted me and soon enough I was out of the aircraft and walking past the crowds and the throngs of media towards the lounge.
The ministerial lounge is where the Amir of Qatar hosts all the dignitaries and is pretty much his amazing part of the airport. It was like this true Arabian building, but inside so nice and air-conditioned. I had hoped to get into a good spot for the press conference, that didn’t happen. There was so many local media around (2-3 bus loads) that they just packed it on in. Pushing and fighting their way into any and every space they could find. I got pushed back out of the main area after managing to get 1 or 2 photos, but thankfully I could still hear what was going on. I let the real media do all the questioning and kept my trap shut. Which was the way it should be really?
Once the press conference was over and done with, anyone from the Delivery flight (who had been handed a yellow tag) was collected and bussed over to the Arrivals area for immigration which was pretty much just “Look at the Camera”, Stamp, Scribble, Welcome to Qatar. No real effort at all. Crazy++ Just like that it was all over. An epic day had happened and it was all over. I was really in Qatar now though, and it showed the second we walked out of the terminal into the Bedlam that was Doha Arrivals. There were people everywhere. I had never experienced anything like it.
We got into our shuttle and we were off to the hotel, the Oryx Rotana. This would be my home for the next 4 nights while I explored Qatar. We had plenty of time to do things this afternoon before dinner. But the first thing for me was to get my first experience of the real Qatar as I had to get some passport photos taken for my Airport pass which I would need over the weekend. This was an interesting experience in of itself and really showed just how naïve I was towards something’s outside of the USA/Australia.
I explored the hotel a bit before getting dressed and ready for dinner as we were being hosted at the Grand Hyatt Doha which was a good 30 minutes away but it allowed us to see some of Doha at night which the lights were extremely beautiful. Dinner at the Grand Hyatt was amazing we got to tour through the Royal Suite which was phenomenal. The meal was a traditional Arabic meal with a modern flair. It was served family style and it tasted fantastic. So many goodies to try and so much to taste. My normal way of living was now on hold till I got back. I was going to try anything!
By the time we got back to the hotel I was pretty beat. Wanting to just sleep it off! Almost 36-40 hours solid awake and it was 11pm at night by the time I got some rest. My first day in Qatar was approaching tomorrow.