Well, it is actually.
Qatar Airways put Cardiff Airport on the international map in May 2018 when it became the first long haul airline to launch flights between the Welsh capital and Doha. Daily flights from May to October, and five flights a week from the end of October brings the people of Wales and the South West a big step closer to more than 160 destinations around the world. Here’s why the gulf carrier’s decision to choose Cardiff was a good one.
Close, convenient, and calm
I love the buzz of a hub airport like Heathrow more than most – watching life in transit amidst the constant comings and goings of planes from all corners of the globe gives me an adrenaline boost every time. So, I was surprised at how good it felt to be at Cardiff Airport. It’s everything Heathrow isn’t, but in a good way. Relaxed, calm and collected, but exciting to see a Qatar Airways 787 dwarfing the smaller planes. I was struck by how easy it would be to take a long haul flight from the airport, whether you have four children like us, or travelling alone.
For those living near to Cardiff, there’s no 150 mile slog up the M4 (tick), a more relaxed airport experience with less queuing (tick), and a much shorter journey back home once you’ve landed (tick).
Visitors from Doha and beyond (anywhere from Perth to Phuket) can land closer to their trip destination. The route is attracting tourists ranging from Qataris to those further afield, as well as business travellers, and international students studying in Cardiff.
The runway had already been graced by an A380 in 2013, and as home to British Airways Maintenance Cardiff (BAMC), where all heavy maintenance takes place on British Airway’s Boeing long haul fleet, Qatar Airways knew their 787s would fit in just fine.
Back in March 2013, the then struggling Cardiff Airport was nationalised by the Welsh government, and things have been on the up ever since. Cardiff Airport invested in a new air bridge (the walkway used to enter and leave the aircraft), and extended the airport lounge to include a business class area for the exclusive use of Qatar Airways and KLM customers. Their efforts are making an impact: passenger numbers were 1.581 million in 2018 and are increasing year-on-year.
The luxurious touch of a five star airline
Putting the practical stuff aside, there are some big reasons why Qatar Airways’ presence at Cardiff Airport can only be a great thing.
Product: the aircraft cabins are beautiful, both in business and economy, and with the airline’s Qsuite (the closest you’ll get to first class in business) being introduced across all its 787s, the only way is up.
Service: Perhaps most importantly of all, the beautifully turned out crew bring the whole experience to life with a level of customer focus that is tough to rival.
It’s no surprise that Qatar Airways is one of only ten five star rated airlines in the world. Skytrax is an international air transport rating organisation. It’s worth noting that there are currently no five star British airlines.
Qatar Airways also topped the charts at this year’s 2019 Skytrax World Airline Awards where the airlines won five prizes, including the highest accolade of ‘World’s Best Airline’, becoming the only airline in the competition’s history to win it five times (2011, 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2019).
With a new economy class product customers flying in and out of Cardiff can experience a next generation economy seat, while those with rumbling tummies will be happy to hear that main courses are 25 per cent larger. The personal deal breaker for me is the fact that desserts are a whopping 50% larger – yum! The new food options are also more environmentally sustainable, with a significant increase in recyclable and biodegradable products and reduction in single-use plastic.
Who says you need to fly from a major airport to have a top notch experience?
There’s more to the UK than London
London will always pull in the punters, but how fantastic is it for Cardiff, the rest of Wales and the South West to be singled out as a ‘go to’ destination by a global brand like Qatar Airways? If you’re reading this from outside the UK, London has to be seen, but there are some stunning areas of the UK (like Cardiff – and the not so far away West Wales coastline) that let you see another side of this beautiful isle.
There’s a lot to be said for flying regional
With more focus on environmental sustainability than ever before, why drive hundreds of miles when you can travel from your local airport with a five star airline to destinations including Australia, New Zealand, India and Thailand?
Our regional airport (just 20 minutes away) happens to be London Gatwick. However, if we ever move to Cardiff – which might well happen one day – I will be very appreciative for Qatar Airways having faith in regional airports, bringing Cardiff to the world and back again.