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While this is not of immediately obvious benefit to the UK flyer, the hugely discounted fares (at often little more than Economy return prices) means it is often very worthwhile taking a cheap connecting flight from the UK to Scandinavia, and then on to your bargain Business Class flight.
The in-flight experience with Qatar in Business Class is one thing, but the other obvious question is what can you do if you’re left with a few hours at the Scandinavian airport? And just how luxurious is your “Business Class treatment” there? With this in mind, I recently took a Business Class flight from Stockholm to Bangkok via Doha – here are my thoughts on Qatar’s Business Class services and facilities during the stopover at Stockholm Arlanda Airport.
Arlanda Airport is basically situated in the middle of nowhere, 25 miles outside Stockholm. If you have a significant amount of time between your incoming flight and the Qatar flight, it might make sense to buy a “6 hours return ticket” for the Arlanda Express and explore beautiful Stockholm. That said, do note that BA and EasyJet flights arrive at Terminal 2, which is at the other end of the complex and quite a hike from Terminal 5, where Qatar departs from.
The last thing you want to do, in a bid to get a glimpse of Stockholm, is miss your bargain Business Class flight, so be sure to plan your timings well, and stick to them strictly. If you do want to make the dash to Stockholm, the trip takes 20 minutes, and trains runs four to six times per hour.
The line at check-in for Economy was massive (so make sure you check-in online and use the “bag drop” counters if you do fly in the back and do not have OneWorld status). However, I was of course up-front, courtesy of my bargain £770 Business Class return flight to Bangkok . There was one person in front of me in Business Class check-in and so quickly enough it was my turn to step forward onto the prestigious burgundy carpet.
Check in staff already had my lounge invitations filled out and quickly checked me in. My bags were tagged with bright orange “Business Class” tags and my boarding passes were put in a “Premium Class” wallet. Even my hand luggage was tagged with burgundy “Premium Transfer” tags. I was informed that the Stockholm Arlanda Lounge was located after immigration and that I was eligible for security fast track.
Security and on to the lounge
The security check was friendly and efficient as always in Sweden, with the fast-track channel operating exactly as described. After no more than two minutes I arrived into a well-stocked Duty Free shopping area, that looked much like LHR T5 Duty Free’s smaller brother. As is increasingly the trend at airports, you HAVE to go through the checkout area of the massive store to enter the actual concourse and staff are very eager to distribute coupons for the various other dining and shopping establishments in Terminal 5. After a quick stop at Max (a Swedish fast food venue) I made my way to the F gates, where a surprisingly friendly Swedish immigration officer reminded me that I could use “the Qatar lounge” and even gave me directions to get there.
The lounge is located between the immigration checkpoint and the actual gates. It is operated by Swedavia Swedish Airports, and is the dedicated lounge for premium passengers departing from the Non-Schengen F gates and is used mostly by Qatar Airways and Emirates passengers. You will have access when flying Business or First Class on either one of those, or if you’re in Economy by being an OneWorld Emerald/Sapphire or Skywards Gold/Platinum member.
The friendly receptionist invited me to have a seat while she took care of the paperwork. There were maybe six guests in the whole lounge at 3pm and so it was incredibly quiet. The furniture is very much IKEA-like, with different chairs and sofas providing either a productive place to work or a comfortable place to relax (an arrangement much like Starbucks to be honest). The area felt very modern and open due to the massive windows, though unfortunately no tarmac views. In the back of the lounge, around the corner, is a nice play area for small children.
While the welcome was warm and the layout impressive, the food spread was pretty abysmal, I settled for some biscuits and a Diet Coke. While Stockholm Arlanda Aiport does have free Wi-Fi for all, it is capped at 3 hours or 100 MB, much like Gothenburg Landvetter Airport. The lounge offers unlimited Wi-Fi with its own log-in credentials, so if you ever happen to have maxed out the limit, you could of course use the credentials pictured below (they are valid in the whole airport)!
More than an hour before departure a boarding call for my flight was made and I had no reason to stay longer. The new F gates have a separate waiting area after BP scan. Qatar staff strictly enforced priority boarding, both at the entry to the area and the entry to the jetbridge.
Overall, Qatar’s ground experience at ARN is pretty good, considering it is such a small airport.
Due to the limited food and beverage selection the lounge was not very exciting, though it did provide a nice space to relax before the flight.
Perhaps most surprising to me was that they seemed to have a number of their own staff at the airport and barely used the dedicated ground handling services like Menzies or dnata. I saw plenty of Qatar Airways staff working at check-in and the gate, which was a real positive. All too often airlines seem happy to delegate the handling of their passengers at smaller airports to third parties, which often dilutes the customer service experience.
So, while not an airport with a dedicated Qatar lounge, or the range of somewhere like Heathrow, I would happily use the Stockholm route for Qatar Business Class long haul again. When it means you’re paying £770 return for a Business Class trip to the Far East, it is an option you would be ill-advised to overlook.