Flying back and forth four times a year, from Kuala Lumpur to the East Coast of the United States is more than just circumnavigating the globe. As one of the longest and most challenging flights, cutting it short and spending lesser time at an altitude of 33,000 feet is always a good option.
On a recent trip to the Land of Milk and Honey, I again chose to use my favorite Qatar Connection via Doha. Presently it is the fastest way to get from Malaysia to America. The airline used is Qatar Airways, and their transit times are kept to bare minimums if one departs Kuala Lumpur on the early morning flight (3 am) and connects to the early morning departures out of Doha to either Washington DC, New York JFK, or Chicago O’Hare. Transit times are generally two hours or less in Doha.
Exploring the Qatari capital, I decided to enjoy myself this time and have a night in Doha. Prior to my trip, I set up a business meeting with the Food and Beverage Director for Qatar Airways. I was welcomed on arrival by the meet and greet team from Qatar Airways escorting me through immigration as well as organizing my visa on arrival. Most nationalities need to buy the visa on arrival which costs US$27 and is valid for a month’s stay. My stay unfortunately was only 24 hours.
The Four Seasons Hotel was my base for the night in Doha. It was a short drive along Doha’s waterfront, known by that wonderfully-evocative French word, the Corniche. Checking in was as seamless as the airport experience, and I had ample time to freshen up before my first meeting with the hotel’s Public Relations Director, Stephane Carre de Malberg. She gave me an excellent feel for the Doha scene as well as updating me on what the hotel was doing to promote itself.
On the former, her knowledge of the pearl-shaped island and its capital Doha was invaluable. The picture was of a dynamic city thrusting itself out onto the international arena. The old and the new are present, side by side, as I found out when I paid a lightening visit to the Souq Waqif, which gave me a feel for a traditional Middle Eastern market, albeit enhanced through a recent restoration. I only wished I had a little more time to visit the I.M. Pei Museum of Islamic Arts.
As the impact of social media is getting viral, Four Seasons is also leading the bandwagon concentrating into Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, inviting enterprisingly creative bloggers to tweet their experiences poolside or from the comforts of a plush room. In this digital age, it’s a race between the old and today’s generation of computer literati. And where was I in all this? I was penning my thoughts on actual paper from the vantage point of a well-appointed and extremely comfortable room overlooking the Doha skyline. Service standards at the hotel were impeccable and the lobby had an international feel of power which exuded confidence and warmth.
My next meeting was with the Director of Food and Beverage for Qatar Airways who explained the new push for gastronomy and wines at 33,000 feet. I was told that Qatar Airways changes its wine lists every 3 months and is the only airline to offer different selections east and west bound out of their Doha hub. In addition, 4 Master Chefs have been chosen to create a unique and diverse menu.
According to the knowledgeable and experienced Frenchman, “When Qatar Airways first set out to develop menus for their Boeing 787 Dreamliner, they decided to hire 4 leading chefs from different corners of the world, each a master of their local cuisine. Together, Nobu Matsuhisa, Tom Aikens, Ramzi Choueiri, and Vineet Bhatia spent months adapting and testing their specialties for Qatar Airways’ passengers, taking into account not only flavors and spices, but how the taste buds are altered at 30,000 feet, and what types of food are most suited to long-haul flights.”
After hearing his mouthwatering story, I was ready already to get back on my next flight westbound to New York and taste the wines and food on board. I knew it would be part of the overall seamless experience of the Qatar Connection. I will leave you with that until my next transit.