The Upgrade

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere! Peep the Scene in an Airplane’s Insane On-Board Bar

PART 26: One Mile at a Time blogger Ben Schlappig takes us inside this comfy, convivial perk of upper-class flying.

Hi! It's Ben Schlappig here again, the full-time traveler behind One Mile at a Timeand the guy who introduced you to my uber-luxury travel lifestyle all made possible by using miles and points. In our series with Jet Set, we're going around the world in 21 days... all in five-star luxury, and booked at the very last minute.

In my last post, I was telling you about a spectacular first-class lounge... that I was too tired to enjoy.

But back to the perks of flying in the style that I'm accustomed!

The “big three” Gulf carriers — Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar — are known for their great first- and business-class products. We flew Etihad from London to Abu Dhabi, and in this case were flying Qatar Airways from Doha to Paris.

Qatar Airways’ A380 first-class cabin is elegant, though not quite as blinged out as Etihad’s. The cabin consists of a total of eight seats, spread across two rows. The cabin is extremely comfortable, though not as private as what you’ll find on Etihad, for example, which has fully enclosed suites.

Exceptionally comfortable, if not as private as others airlines' first-class cabins

While I’d say Qatar Airways’ A380 first class isn’t quite as good as the ones offered by Emirates and Etihad, their business class product is exceptional. They have fully flat beds with direct aisle access from every seat in business class, dine-on-demand catering, and great amenities. To me, business class on Qatar Airways’ A380 is the sweet spot.

My single favorite amenity of Qatar Airways’ A380 is their onboard bar. There are a few airlines with on-board lounges or bars, including Emirates, Etihad, Korean Air, Qatar, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, and others.

However, I’d say that Qatar’s is by far the nicest. It’s located behind the business-class cabin, so it’s shared between first- and business-class passengers. It’s probably the largest on-board bar offered by an airline, and it’s also the most beautiful, in my opinion.

Qatar's bar: luxurious and lovely

As much as I’m typically not a social person, I could easily spend half the flight at the bar. They have great drinks back there, and lots of snacks. You could even have a meal back there if you wanted.

However, back at my seat, I started the flight with a great breakfast. This started with a smoothie, and was followed by a salmon starter, and a main course consisting of paneer tikki. It was a great meal, though in general I find that breakfast is the most underwhelming meal that airlines can serve in first class. There just aren’t as many opportunities to get creative and go above and beyond.

Qatar first-class food service

The best part of the breakfast was the liquid aspect of it — I had a couple of glasses of Krug champagne, which is among my favorites.

Qatar Airways also has great amenities in first class, like a fabulous amenity kit, excellent bedding and pillows, and even complimentary Wi-Fi.

Service on Qatar Airways is generally pretty good. Like most airlines in the Middle East, none of the flight attendants are actually “locals.” Instead they’re from other parts of the world, especially from Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe.

Given the crazy routing we were on, I decided to sleep after breakfast. I managed to get about four hours of sleep, but still woke up with plenty of time before landing.

Amenities

While Qatar Airways doesn’t have on-board showers like Emirates or Etihad — first-world problems, I know! — they do have two very nice bathrooms at the front of the plane, which are among the biggest offered by any airline. One of the benefits of the A380 is that there’s a big of “wasted space” at the front of the upper deck where they can’t put seats, so airlines can put some cool things up there.

I take a lot of crazy routings, though this one wasn’t that crazy in the grand scheme of things. A lot of the flights I take are for review purposes, so for me the flights are often the “destination.” For example, just recently I flew from San Francisco to Hong Kong and back the same day, in order to review two new business class products. I spent just four hours at Hong Kong Airport, having left early Tuesday morning, and arriving back in San Francisco Wednesday night. Even that is fairly mild by my standards.

Often I’ll take “review trips,” where I fly about 30,000 miles in a week to try new airlines. For example, a few weeks prior to the above trip, I flew from Tampa to Toronto to Cairo to Amman to Kuala Lumpur to Bandar Seri Begawan to Dubai to Los Angeles, with just a day or so in each city.

Overall Qatar Airways has a good first class product, though I don’t think it’s quite as exceptional as what’s offered by Emirates and Etihad.

Stick around for dispatches from Paris!

FOLLOW MY JOURNEY:

That feeling when your far-flung luxury trip looked great on paper... but now you're just tired and cranky abroad!

Confession: Even first-class travel can be utterly exhausting.

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Gasp at the beauty and luxury of my Maldives hotel.

Getting to the Maldives is one of the best parts of the whole experience!

Why the Middle East is an ideal place for a sensational stopover.

Dubai is over-the-top glitzy — but here's why it makes travelers like me feel right at home, too.

Here's why hotels club-level lounges are no-brainers for travelers (especially if you work on the road).

This is one of the best hotel suite upgrades I ever got... and that's saying a lot!

Here's what makes a Middle East vacation so unique.

Is this the most incredible all-inclusive hotel in the Middle East?

Tour one of the world's best first-class airport lounges.

This is what it's like to fly inside one of the fanciest cabins in commercial air travel: an apartment in the sky.

Come with me on my flight filled with caviar, designer pajamas, and luxury gifts.

I support my boyfriend's first-class travel life (and in return he lets me pull stunts like this).

See how I booked a $12,000 flight for nearly free.

See Bali's littler-known party side — including a hangover brunch (with a DJ) to end them all!

Glimpse the five-star life I love (and buy with miles!) in Bali.

Here's why I call Bali the ultimate place to recharge.

Check out my epic layover in the world's best airport on the way to Bali.

Read up on my Hello Kitty-themed flight to get this far...

And the Hello Kitty airport experience to match!

And here's where it all began at LAX.

When buying miles from an airline makes sense:

How to leverage airline partners to score great award tickets:

Ben Schlappig, the blogger behind One Mile at a Time, experiences about $1 million worth of travel every year using miles and points — and covers about 400,000 miles annually this way. Ben has teamed up with Bravo’s Jet Set for a series called The Upgrade, in which he shows you how you — yes, you! — can score real-world-ready strategies for upping your travel game. Come along for the adventure!

Jet Set is Bravo's launch pad for the most extravagant, luxurious, and unforgettable travel experiences. Ready for takeoff? Then Like us on Facebook to stay connected to our daily updates.

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