Eloping To Japan With A Little HEL On The Side Part 2: Flying the “World’s Best Business Class” to Japan

We checked in on time and certainly got some looks whilst we held up the queue. The agent processing Business Class check in got caught up with his passenger so the lady running the Economy queue called us over. When her colleague had finished she then got him to print our boarding passes on the proper paper and ensure we had all the correct bits of info before anyone else was processed.

We were told we could use the Finnair Lounge or Plaza Premium Lounge. We trundled off through a very fast, friendly and ever so chilled out premium security line before swimming upstream through the terminal to what we thought would be our lounge for the night… However, we forgot that Finnair had a second lounge on the Non-Schengen side. We were nicely asked to try the other lounge and so we did! The Non-Schengen Lounge was just across the way from our bus gate. And as you’ll read, it was so nice we never bothered trying to find the Plaza Premium.

The day I don’t smile at the Welcome to HEL board is a sad day indeed.

Finnair Lounge Terminal 2 – Non-Schengen Area (As of May 2018)
Access: oneworld First, Business Class or Emerald and Sapphire Members or €48 per person off-peak

I really enjoyed the Finnair lounge. The service, food, design and ambience made for a great late lunch, even more so once the crowds died down around 5pm. I particularly loved the Marimekko tableware and napkins. The food was also decent, maybe not the burger but that was Anne-So’s choice not mine! Before we knew it we were heading for the gate and our first ever flight on QR Business Class. Since our time here the lounge has undergone refurbishment.

Flight: QR302 Helsinki to Doha
Depart HEL T2: 18:10
Arrive DOH: 23:59
Seats: 1K and 2K (after some switching)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8 (A7-BCM First Flight 2014)

We sailed through the priority lane only to find ourselves on the bus with everyone else… Nevermind! Whilst everything had exceeded expectations so far other than some slightly misleading lounge directions this bus ride certainly kept as grounded! At least there was one advantage of the bus gate, I got some great snaps of what would be my first flight on a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.

Once on board things quickly improved. The excellent Dennis looked after me the whole flight. I never had an empty glass (in this case mostly water – having learned my lesson once when overdoing the champagne!)

Seeing as we were sat in 2K and 3K and Row 1 was open, Dennis encouraged us forward so we could sit together at the front. Not passing up a chance at Row 1 I duly took him up on his offer. Once settled in we got some refreshing cold towels and a glass of champagne each, one white, one rose to match our rings! We settled into our spacious seats and I knew right away this would be a great flight.

Menus were handed out and we were asked when we wanted to eat and our meal choices. Not being hugely hungry I chose a main and asked to eat towards the end of the flight with the plan of making it a late dinner to help adjust to the upcoming time zone change between Finland and Japan. Anne-So confirmed her gluten free meal had been loaded.

We were soon up in the air and Dennis sprung into action. I was pretty easy mostly filling up with nuts and water whilst watching movies. I enjoyed The Square but found Downsizing to be much better. We had wanted to watch both films at the cinema but had somehow not managed to see them already.

After being done with movies it was now time for my second favourite pastime, eating. I had chosen the beef which I had with a glass of Bordeaux. Whilst the vegetables were beautifully cooked and seasoned the meat was what many would call a shoe leather special. That was one tough plate of meat! With the chocolate dessert being out I ended up with the berries for pudding. Shockingly enough they were delicious with a glass of sweet sherry. On the other hand Anne-So’s gluten free meal was quite frankly embarrassing…

I enjoyed my pre-dinner nuts.
These were followed by a smoked salmon amuse bouche.
Anne-So had a very sad salad as part of her gluten free meal.
I went with the beef which was a little overdone.
Anne-So’s dreaded gluten free main!
My unexpectedly delicious berries.
For better or worse this lovely, sticky sweet Pedro Ximenez Sherry was the highlight of my meal.
I just made time for a coffee before seeing the bright lights and tall towers of Doha as we approached Hamad International.
We arrived early and got a lovely farewell from Dennis before we left.

He apparently even held back economy so I could use the bathroom before disembarking. Loving that First in Business service!

Overall there were some really great moments on our first QR flight and I can definitely see what the hype is about and their whole idea of First in Business. However, for those that say it matches or beats British Airways First, you must have been very unlucky with your BA flights and super lucky on QR, as clearly from my limited sample BA First was on a higher level. That said, no separate bus for premium passengers, running out of my first choice dessert and Anne-So’s appalling gluten free meal made for a forgivable but less than perfect experience.

Arriving early and being amongst the first off the aircraft meant for an easy run through transit security. Unfortunately this is where I made a small error. We arrived at one of the D gates and looking around for signs to the lounges we continued onward. Unknowingly the Al Mourjan Lounge was a good 15 minute walk away and at just after midnight it felt a lot longer than that.

Al Mourjan Lounge
Access: Qatar Airways and Oneworld First and Business Class passengers only

Eventually we arrived at the Al Mourjan Lounge and despite what some reviews have stated it really is a spectacular space.

Although busy we were able to find a table upstairs in the dining room for a quick snack.

There was waiter service for drinks and whilst Anne-So stuck to the soft stuff I couldn’t resist an ice cold midnight mojito.
We both attacked the cakes and petits fours with abandon, it did not end well as I piled my plate high like a man possessed.
It was not my fault they all looked so good. It did at least garner some attention on my Snap Story from my friend J (Another J…)

After a few more cups of coffee, fruit juice and water to keep hydrated and ready for our flight to Narita it was time to leave the lounge and head for the gate. In all the Al Mourjan lounge would have been a great place to stop off for another hour if we had been less tired and less full. I was already looking forward to our return in a few weeks.

Before we arrived at the gate I managed to sneak in the obligatory photo with the bear!

Flight: QR806 Doha to Tokyo
Depart: DOH: 02:20
Arrive: NRT: 18:40
Seats: 2A and 2B Business Class
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (A7-BAK First Flight March 2010)

I have to say my first impressions of the 777-300 did not match those of the Dreamliner.

Our mostly female and Japanese crew welcomed us warmly aboard but the ambience of the cabin was not the same.

The cabin felt dark and small and the seats significantly less private than on the previous flight.
At the same time, despite being sat next to each other there were still quite a few obstacles between our seats so they were not exactly honeymoon seats either.

The other issue was a lack of storage space compared to the 787. The bedding, headphones and amenity kit (Armani vs Brics, we both preferred the design of the Brics kits) took up pretty much all the space leaving very little room for important things like my iPad and camera for trip reporting. There was also nowhere good to store our clothes.

The Armani male kit.
The Armani female kit
On the plus side, we had three windows to look out of.

Menus were distributed and our plan was to sleep straight after takeoff, have breakfast half way through the flight and finish up with dinner. This was the opposite of what the intended service routine was and we could seem the crew looked a little puzzled. But seriously why would we want breakfast at 16:00 Tokyo time and dinner in the middle of the night Qatar time or breakfast time in Japan?

Welcome drinks came round and I’m pretty sure we both stuck to Pineapple Punch again… Some honeymoon flight!

But we really weren’t in the mood for anything stronger. It was at this point the flight started going downhill much in the same way we knew the previous flight was going to be awesome. It started with a twenty minute delay on the ground waiting for a takeoff slot and continued up in the air. I went straight to the bathroom to change once the seat belt signs went off in anticipation of quickly going to sleep. I’d pajamaed up, slippered away and brushed my teeth in anticipation.

Anne-So had a similar idea in mind but to make up for her gluten free meal she decided to order a tasty looking sushi plate as a midnight snack.

No sooner had the crew sprang into action then we hit turbulence and continued to hit it for the bulk of the flight. I tried to sleep but with the continually bumpy ride I quickly gave up and made a start on Black Panther. An hour into the flight, turbulence or otherwise I was determined to sleep. At least I was no longer in danger of being given a wake up shower from my glass of water.

I managed a couple of hours shut eye before waking up for breakfast.

I’d chosen the continental option.
Anne-So decided on the omelette, both were good.

I finished up Black Panther and then tried to sleep for a few more hours. Again the regular bouts of turbulence didn’t help.

Not feeling like another movie with two hours to go I changed out of my pajamas and got ready for dinner.
Our meal started with yet another seafood based amuse bouche.
Anne-So had the smoked salmon rilettes to start.
I went with QR’s famous Arabic Mezze.
We both had the chicken for our main course.
Anne-So enjoyed her cheese plate.
I finished off with a hazelnut tarte that was both delicious and sweet and incredibly hard to slice.
I washed my meal down with a pineapple punch and a glass of champagne and finished it with a coffee.

In all the food was excellent, with one major failing, the chicken was way over cooked and dried out. Everything else, particularly the dessert and vegetables were excellent and certainly felt a step up from your typically high end microwave meal.

We landed around 20 mins late into Narita and were glad to be on solid ground. The Japanese adventure of our dreams was about to begin.
Eloping To Japan With A Little HEL On The Side

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