Welcome to a new trip report by Travel Radar Media. I had the privilege to fly Qatar Airways to Baku, Azerbaijan for the summer and I’m excited to share the details and the pros and cons of my experience. I flew Qatar Airways from Islamabad, Pakistan to Baku, Azerbaijan via Qatar’s hub, Hammad International Airport in Doha, flying the flight number QR633 on board a Boeing 777-300ER from Islamabad to Doha and QR351 on board an Airbus A320-200 from Doha onwards to Baku.
Our first flight, QR633 left Islamabad at 0300 local time and arrived in Doha at 0010. The New Islamabad Airport is truly a fantastic place and an amazing airport compared to the old airport and compared to the other Pakistani airports. Arrival to the airport was smooth despite 2 security checks on vehicles before entering. As I entered the international departure area and cleared the first check, the baggage wrapper staff was hurling every passenger towards his counter to get their bags wrapped claiming it was now made mandatory by the Civil Aviation Authority, eventually, I avoided paying 800 rupees (around 5 USD) to get 2 bags wrapped. I noticed another peculiar thing, only Qatar Airways had a separate customs counter set up before the check-in desks, with officers questioning travelers. Apparently I was stopped by them because I did not have a return ticket, a so-said requirement for E-Visa Travellers to Azerbaijan, so when an hour of showing official diplomatic documents and letters that proved my visa would be prolonged once I reached, turned into dust, I had to purchase a return ticket on spot which I booked with Gulf Air( trip report to be out soon).
Although I had checked-in online, I still had to go to the normal desks for drop-off and luckily I managed to request the staff to change my seat on the first flight to a window seat. Apart from the hour-long debate with the customs officer, check-in was smooth and quick and took less than 5 minutes. Immigration and security were also quick and took no less than a combined 15 minutes of my time. I reached my gate- A4, sat in my zone’s seating and waited for boarding.
This was the first time I had experienced zone-wise boarding in Islamabad and generally in Pakistan. Since I was seated in seat 47K (2nd last row, window), my zone was the first economy zone announced and I made my way to my seat with ease. The aircraft was A7-BAM, a Boeing 777-300ER that I had previously flown from Doha to Chicago and back to Doha in 2016. The aircraft had been updated, with the new Q-suite Business Class installed and Wifi was now available. Due to some delay in baggage loading, we were delayed by 15 minutes and took off around 0330 local time. Overall experience up to this moment was excellent. During the take-off, however, the lavatory door swung open with a loud bang, which scared the passengers, it turned out that someone used it DURING THE TAXI and did not bother to securely close the door.
The Economy Class on this Boeing 777 was still one of the older ones in Qatar’s fleet even though newer 777’s in the Qatari fleet have an upgraded economy class, but this seat was still very comfortable. Menus were distributed after take-off and our main meal was breakfast. A vegetarian option and a normal option of breakfast were available. Around 1.5 hours into the flight, the meal was served. I opted to go with the Omelet and Chicken option which had Omelet, potato cubes and one piece of chicken Kofta (meatball). The meal tasted good and compared to previous experience on-board QR, the quantity had improved. Qatar has now switched from little water boxes to small water bottles. A croissant, some yogurt, and fresh fruits were also included in the meal tray. Around fifteen minutes before the descent, drink service was carried out, I ordered another orange juice, my first one being the one with my meal. The meal service gets an overall 8/10.
During the rest of the flight, I enjoyed Qatar’s Oryx entertainment system and in-flight wifi. I have to say Qatar’s in-flight wifi is one of the best I have used. You are entitled to 1-hour free use with no date limit or you could purchase wifi for the whole flight for just a mere 10 USD, again keeping in mind, no data limits. I enjoyed the thrill of tracking my flight and even managed to voice call a few friends Via Whatsapp. I did not use much of the entertainment system apart from watching some Super Bowl 53 highlights and re-watching some episodes from the 2nd Riverdale Season. The entertainment system can surely use a good upgrade software and content-wise, but the Wifi was amazing.
We landed smoothly in Doha after 3 hours and 20 minutes block time. Since there was construction taking place on the C gates, we were parked on one of the remote stands and I had the chance to exit from the back of the aircraft via the air-stairs. We were taken to the terminal via a short bus ride and that concluded the first part of our trip. So far I would rate the trip a solid 8/10, with weaknesses in In-flight entertainment and delay handling.
I started my 3 hours long stay in Doha with a surprise meetup with a school-fellow who was on my flight but I didn’t manage to see them. First stop at Hammad International after the check was the Starbucks at the start of the B gates. I’m not sure if there is any other Starbucks on the airport but this small cozy brach is one of my favorite spots at HIA. A nice cup of coffee with an approach view of Runway 34L and 34R. Although Hammad Airport’s windows are dotted, making them a problem for spotters, it still gives a nice view if you stay at a distance from the windows. A trip to the duty-free and a walk around the airport with our friend was a good time killer. I headed to my gate 15 minutes after boarding was announced and found the gate empty! Almost, all the passengers had boarded and I was one of the last 10. I got onto a nearly empty bus that took me to my aircraft. Almost everyone was seated and I made my way to my seat. Boarding was completed shortly and we were off 10 minutes before schedule. Managed to spot some planes departing and pushing back from my gate and then we took off from Runway 34R (we also landed on this runway earlier) after a very long taxi from the remote stands on the other side of the airport.
I slept most of my second flight and even skipped the meal since they had the same menu on the second flight as well. Our A320 A7-LAB took us to Baku in 2 hours and 10 minutes. I woke up in time for descent with a beautiful view of the Baku Bay and the Caspian sea, with Baku’s famous Baku T.V. Tower and the Flame Towers visible from the aircraft. There was no IFE in our A320 and the Oryx entertainment system was available on devices via wifi. We landed safely in Baku, taxied past Silkway cargo’s 747’s and IL-76’s and parked in the main terminal next to a Fly Dubai 737. Immigration was smooth and swift and I was out if the airport in no time.
Overall my total experience throughout the trip was 8/10, two points lost to all the problems caused at Islamabad Airport and its lack of good duty-free area’s and facilities even in the new International terminal. Qatar Airways and Hammad Airport were amazing as always and there was a good improvement from my previous trip with them back in the winter. The Cabin Crew on both flights were kind and professional and were simply amazing. The trip was truly amazing and a memorable one.
Stay Tuned for a Gulf Air Trip report and another Qatar Airways trip report later in August, but we won’t be flying Qatar in economy again 😉
QR 633 QR 351
Boeing 777-300ER A7-BAM Airbus A320-200 A7-LAB
Seat 47K (Window) Seat 18A (Window)
Flight Time: 3 Hours 25 Minutes Flight Time: 2 Hours and 10 Minutes.