New Delhi to London via Doha. Qatar Airways. 08 June 2014
The day has been outstanding so far or as the German would have said: ‘Above the ordinary!’ It began with a ride in Uber Cabs to IGIA, then some great service in Qatar Airways, and then a few hours spent at a blazing speed of 7 Mbps. And lest I forget to tell you that we travelled from New Delhi to Doha in a Dreamliner with all it’s special features that one doesn’t get to see in any other aircraft.
Let me begin by mentioning that Uber Cabs doesn’t want you to call them and book in advance. We have had some really horrible experiences with almost every other cab service in Delhi and their offices must be overflowing with our complaints. But Uber wanted me to just download and install it’s app on my iPhone…. browse my screen just 15 minutes before I needed a cab, and thence subtle tap fetches me the location of their cab nearest to where I am and the message that the cab is on its way to take me to my destination. ‘Wow!’ I said to myself, ‘this is more than I expect.’ More surprises were to follow. The app did not ask me where I want to go to… and so there was. I way the cab service could have squirmed its way out if my distance was too short. The Uber cab driver, Johnson, called me up when he was a couple of hundred yards from my place and asked for directions. Only when we were inside the cab did he ask, ‘Where to?’
I said, ‘International airport.’ The next surprise came when we reached our destination. All the driver did was to fill in his log and their software calculated the distance travelled and simply charged my credit card. Yes, I did get their email and SMS informing me of the fare charged. The driver did not stand and give me dirty looks for not having given him any tip… by the way, I had already instructed Uber to add 10% of the fare as a tip.
The next Uber moment came at the airport and then during the flight to Doha. The baggage tags are sexier and we loved their cool look… not sure if this is a design coup by Qatar Airways or not. If it is, then QA deserves applause. The embarkation card is smaller and doesn’t bug you by asking unnecessary details.
My next Uber moment came as we were buying Glenlivet 12 YO and Ardbeg because while paying at the Delhi Duty Free, Specky enlisted that she had left her passport at the Security check in counter. Yes, her nervous rush made me mutter, ‘Even the best must always be careful.’ What I said to her though was, ‘You should learn to be more relaxed.’
The experience in the Doha leg of the flight was much better than the sort of funny ramshackle experiences one has when flying Air India. No, the hostess wasn’t snooty and did not walk by flinging water bottles in every lap… and no, the TV screen wasn’t getting unhinged every five seconds… the window panes weren’t full of scratches… and they served good food. I was quite happy with the pristine condition of the aircraft… however one Qatarian did loudly ask for the stewardess and complained, ‘Why is the back rest of my seat having this slight swing? Why haven’t you people got this corrected? I am from Qatar and this airways in my pride.’ This was fascinating stuff. How many times do we Indians call the stewardess and tell her to be polite or to serve with feelings or not to act snooty? It is time that we behaved like that Qatarian in all aspects of life in India and made sure that everyone else worked. Of course that means even we’d have to work… but then this is what pride is all about. I hope NaMo remembers to make sure that the brats in India have a tough time now.
Ah! I almost forgot to tell you that the window panes in the aircraft did not have shutters. There was a circular switch instead that made the panes get darker or became transparent. These were some of the Uber experiences and as we walked on the aero-bridge and into Hamad International Airport at Doha, I knew that my feeling of exuberance wouldn’t be lessened here despite the layover time of more than five hours.
This airport is spacious and has a lot of sitting areas spread all over. These designated areas have family zones and TV zones too. But the part that made me fall in love with this airport is that their Wi-Fi was functional and they gave us a 7 Mbps existence so long as we were here.
Now, everything isn’t so different about Hamad… the salesmen at their stores are just as disinterested in product knowledge as one sees in India. We asked one if he could tell us the difference between Baklawa and Esh AI Bulbul… and he stuttered and hee-hawed before calling the rest of the staff who did the same and finally brought a pack of dates with a sprinkling of ’til’ and said, ‘Sir, you will find this very tasty.’ I smiled and replied, ‘You remind me of store salesmen in India.’ No, this one wasn’t an Indian but from the Far East… though we did came across quite a few Indians working in the Airport stores here.
As we had more than five hours to spend at Hamad Airport, we decided to go around and look for something that is typically Qatarian. One store keeper thought for a while and then replied with a smile, ‘Qatar has a lot of dates but the dates that we are selling here are all from Dubai.’ No, Qatar doesn’t seem to have any tasty snacks that they can call their own… everything comes from all places spread all over the Middle East. All they had were camels, sheikhs, and women with their hijab in different formats… the fridge magnets, stuffed toys form, and those made from wood.
The flight from Doha to London was delayed by more than ninety minutes and this was rather irksome, but the smiling faces of the Qatar staff and their zeal to be helpful to everyone let this small flaw stray into a remote corner.
During the flight when I asked the stewardess if she had Chardonnay, she displayed one with a flourish and served us with a disarming smile. The meal of chicken in cream sauce, baked veggies, and friend potatoes with beans and shredded onion salad was sumptuous. The Godiva chocolate mint as an after meal was the final winner.
Let me now tell you how actively the Qatar staff pursues customer satisfaction. The seats we had opted for were the first ones after the business class ends… which means that there was a partition in front of us. In such a case, the TV screen has to be pulled out and I was not able to decipher how this was to be done. I was also confused about the whereabouts of the reading light switch. This was a newer Boing aircraft that we were traveling in from Doha to London. I sought help from the stewardess and even she wasn’t able to pull out the screen for me. She said, ‘Would you like to change your seat. There are a few vacant seats and we will be glad to offer you one.’ I said no to that because I was anyway reading a book. But in a few minutes another person came and asked if he could attempt to see what was wrong. He pressed the right button and the screen came out. What pleased me was the level of concern that the staff displayed for complete customer satisfaction.
As I peer out from the open window I see only darkness and the lighted reflection of my iPad on which I am tapping out this post. This journey of 3237 miles from Doha to London still has a few hours before it ends. When we had started from Doha, the view of the city that I saw was mesmerizing and seemed to me to be n excellent example of human creativity. I said to myself, ‘ Someday soon we’re going to visit this city too.’
It is 2:30 am IST and we’re… frankly I do not know where we are right now. But the cabin lights are no longer dimmed and the stewardess seems to be distributing something. Seeing me stir from my sleep she turned to me and asked, ‘Would you like something to drink, sir?’
I said, ‘Some water, please.’
So I had water and then a chicken sandwich and something sweet… and I murmured: ‘Midnight munch.’
Very soon most of the passengers were stirring from their sleep and as I looked out I could see a half moon peeping in and nearer than it ever was. Thousands of feet below was some city with all its bright lights. The people in that city must be getting ready to say good bye to yet another weekend and will soon be sleeping to wake up to a new work day.
For us, a holiday in London was just a little further ahead.
09 June 2014
Some more pictures from our travel day…