About this blog: A personal account of traveling from India to USA (Kolkata to New York City) with Qatar Airways Premium Economy. This trip was made during May 2022, when rules regarding international flights were relaxed a bit. We have moved to the US. More on the moving part will follow suit. And of course traveling in America, both the continents!
“Our flight is scheduled at 4 am. RTPCR samples are to be collected within 24 hours prior. Can you give us a result before the flight departure for sure?” I asked the RTPCR guy from Durga Nagar, Dumdum (contact: 9831577983 #nospon).
“I will come to your home and get a result done on urgent basis, like I did before. Why do you worry so much?” I could picture the man grinning behind the mobile screen. He is familiar with my panic calls induced by travel anxiety. I have done the same a month back when I was traveling to Bangkok with Tourism Authority of Thailand.
It is a prerequisite to get an RTPCR negative report before you can an international flight as of May 17 2022. In a fluid world post pandemic travel rules keep changing. The best way to be assured is to call up the airlines multiple times. Ask all queries. Hope the Customer care attendant picks up the call. Hope there is no long queue. Hope there is no last minute change in international airspace agreement. Hope no-one is planning to wage a war. The myriad times we are living in right now! Hope can be our best friend.
In an hour, our report came for which we paid INR 1200 per person. My husband and I were about to make this journey from Kolkata to New York City. Oh I forgot to announce in the blog, the partner and I are legally married now for about a couple of months. We are moving out of Bangalore and planning to settle in the US for a while. Kolkata remains the home that she always had been, for us. Alongside exploring NYC, now I am interested to explore Gorabazar, my in law’s place, as well!
I applied for US visa in February and got it approved in March. By the end of March, we had booked flight tickets from Kolkata to New York for mid May. CCU to JFK. We paid INR 40,000 ( roughly USD 512) per person. We used HDFC Smartbuy portal to book the tickets.
A few things we had to keep in mind before booking the flight. The Russian war at Ukraine could jeopardies our travel plan at any point of time. We did not want to fly AirIndia because S did that a couple of months back on his first journey to US and that did not turn out very comfortable. We ended up loosing a piece of baggage as well. We wanted to fly international directly from Kolkata (hence limited option) to maximize luggage option.
Qatar Airways ticked all the points we had in our mind.
My travel anxiety peaked an all time high on the night of departure as I was waiting with 100 kg luggage packed and S was trying to find a way to reach our New Town home through the metro work ridden pathways of Kolkata. The last time to get luggage checked in was around 2 am. We managed to get things done by 1:30 am.
The extra one hour we had was spent at the Travel Lounge of Kolkata International Airport. Biswa Bangla has now opened a new stall at the point of International departure with fairly good collection of artwork and home décor. Do not forget to check that before you fly out of Bengal.
Our flight with the Qatar Airways was scheduled to depart Kolkata at 3: 50 am IST. It was an Airbus carrier.
We were scheduled to reach John F Kennedy Airport in the USA at 2 PM. We had a short one hour stop at Doha. Please note, sometimes Qatar makes an extra stop at Heathrow airport, London.
With premium economy, Qatar did not allow us any access to the airport lounges.
Time taken to fly to Doha (HIA), Qatar: 5 hours
Time taken to fly from Doha to JFK (New York City): 15 hours
The connecting flight from Hamad International Airport, Doha was delayed by an hour and more.
By the time we reached JFK Airport in NYC, the flight was delayed by half an hour.
Transit at the Doha International Airport
We had about an hour window at the Doha airport (HIA). We walked past fast a long queue and walked for about 20 minutes before we reached the queue where people stood to board the flight to JFK.
Buggies are available for a nominal fee so that you do not have to walk to find you way to the terminal.
There were two points where security checks were done. Both time, they checked our hand luggage and the body. At the last security check I was asked to take out my laptop. The camera and other equipment were screened from the bag itself.
I flew with my Mavic mini drone. It comes under the category of a toy drone, less than 250 gram in weight. I flew with the remote in hand and the aircraft in checked in luggage. Besides, I had go pro, extra phone, chargers, camera battery, drone battery etc. It was not a challenge. However, I always suggest calling the airlines and clarifying with them about drone requirements.
Luggage reached JFK directly from CCU. Our luggage was not damaged/broken/stolen. We had not put any lock.
With Premium economy we could check in 2 checked in luggage with upto 23 kg weight per person. We could also carry one hand luggage upto 8 kg. Kolkata airport is very particular about the way you carry your hand-luggage. I suggest you adhere to the new DGCA rule.
Shopping at Airport Duty free
Multiple Security checks at the Doha Airport made it impossible to take a good look at the duty free shops at Hamad International Airport, Doha. However I could steal a few glances at the sparkling gold souks at the swank airport.
Kolkata airport had only a couple of options for duty free shopping at departure area. Good thing is they have now opened a Surprisingly I could not find a single shop while leaving JFK airport.
Seat at Qatar Airways Premium Economy
the seat at Qatar airways premium economy had extra leg space. It was seated right next to the space from where economy starts.
We brought down our hand luggage suitcases after the flight took off. We could put our feet on them. That helps in leg spread and allows extra comfort. The airlines provide blankets, ear sets and eye masks along with hand sanitizers and masks to all economy passengers.
On the hindsight of it, if anyone chooses to soil the washroom, passengers might have a hard time to deal with the stench, being close to the washroom.
Food on Qatar Airways
They served meal 4 times in the entire flight. One was on the way to Doha which I skipped because sleep is ore important than food. Other three, a breakfast, a snack and a lunch came on the way to JFK from HIA. In my experience meal options were limited. However meal served was tasty and warm. I opted for chicken cooked with soy sauce for lunch and omlette for breakfast. the latter was just meh. I would prefer to have a menu with items written in detail so that I can choose my meal prior. I do not know what came in the vegetarian option. Probably tofu.
All food served was halal items.
Comfort and cleanliness
Sleep is the most important part of these long haul flights. Since we opted for premium economy, we got the front seat with decent leg space at the front row. We could sleep easily after the flight took off. We brought down the hand luggage and put out feet n top of it as leg rest. I would opt for premium economy only for this option multiple times. A neck pillow came for head support.
I used the washroom twice. It was pretty clean. there were 4 washrooms for the economy passengers.
In flight entertainment options in Qatar Airways was sufficient. I could also watch Ekannoborti a Bengali movie. The movie was a lousy one but at least it induced good sleep for me. They had audiobooks too. Movies were available in regional Indian languages as well as from Arabic, African, Bollywood and Hollywood film industries.
Qatar airways had options for streaming an audio book section as well.
Should you book Qatar Premium Economy for your next flight?
Instead of shelling out extra money for business class, you should book a flight with Qatar Airways premium economy for a comfortable flight. However, I would not recommend an economy class journey for a pregnant woman or a family traveling with a child (new born or toddler).
Please choose a business class seat while traveling with medical condition or a child so that you can travel more freely. However if budget is a constraint, at least book the front seat with extra leg space.
Qatar premium economy for aged parents traveling from India to USA
My parents or in laws have not flown to international destinations multiple times. The one hour window of transit may not be sufficient for them to board another flight with peace of mind. Please remember, you have to follow the symbols and walk fast paced for about 20 minutes before you reach the terminal. In the process you have to pass through two security check points.
Otherwise, I would recommend them to fly Qatar. If budget permitting I would recommend them to fly business class for extra comfort.
Qatar Airways wins brownie points because plenty of ground stuff at the Doha airport spoke Hindi. They catered well to passengers traveling from South Asia. If you can ask around and follow others you will still be able to make it but the question what if persists nonetheless.
Will I fly again with Qatar Premium Economy?
The fact that I slept for the most part of the flight without having to pop a sleeping pill is the most likely reason I will fly Qatar again. the only pain point for me was the multiple security checks at transit. I was flying with many cameras (drone camera, go pro, DSLR, extra phone, batteries). This always raises a few extra eye brows and makes me face questions which I do not particularly enjoy replying to.
If you are not traveling with many electronic devices, you will probably clear those queue at a faster pace. There is no way evading the queue though.
Besides that everything else was just perfect. I have previously flown Emirates, Air Mauritius, Ethiopian, Air Tanzania. Compared to those aircrafts, Qatar did not disappoint at all. However, Emirates offers more sumptuous food on board which is something Qatar can work upon.
If I could choose a different flight, I would only opt for a longer haul for the flight connection so that the second flight is of a shorter time span. It helps reduce the wait time and gives you solace the end destination is about to be reached!
Upon reaching JFK, I was and remain enamored. It has been a week. However, I am awestruck with all the clear sky, azure river, towering skyscrapers, grungy NYC subway, lack of visible humans on the ground, speeding cars. I am enamored with the Manhattan view from our apartment,