My initial reaction was completely understandable. In an age when air travel has become little more than riding in a dirty bus with wings, to hear that this airline that was sponsoring our trip to Doha required business casual dress took me completely by surprise.
No jeans? No t-shirts? No bare shoulders for the ladies? Were they mad?
Being an easy going guy, I covered my shock with a simple, “Not a problem,” knowing that it was indeed a huge problem, because nearly all my dress slacks were terminally trapped in the broad-pleated 90s. But I was up for playing this one through. So undeterred by my blue-dominated wardrobe, I pulled the one pair of decent flat-front khakis from my closet, dressed them up with a jacket and set off for the Middle East.
Arriving at JFK, the place was a madhouse. The longer international flights all seem to like to depart at the same time, so naturally the lines were outrageous. But it was at this moment that I began to realize what this dress code implied.
Shuffling forward to the counter, I had in the course of one minute, three (that’s right, three ) employees greet me. And I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying. “Robert, get a grip! You must have counted that one employee three times by accident due to the effects of those all-natural anti-jet-lag pills you had started popping. But I assure you, they were all dressed differently and one was clearly a guy. I could not have been that mistaken. And trust me, being so cared for as a customer is unmistakable. Especially when that care is coming from an airline. I mean, seriously!
Okay, so I’m ticketed. I’m checked in. I’m feeling the love. Then something really extraordinary happens.
Now I know this next part is not standard-issue service. They told me it wasn’t, so I’m pretty sure you won’t be treated this way if you fly Qatar. But me, I was a VIP on a press tour. So I got my very own “Ashley.”
Ashley’s sole job was to prioritize and escort me through the security line. She carried bags for me, she managed my tickets, she got me pushed to the front of lines and all the while chattered pleasantly about how much she loved her job.
I know. I was skeptical too. But the woman was entirely sincere and I must admit that it was the best TSA experience I’ve ever had. So take that, steerage fliers. This dress-code flying thing was beginning to show its merits.
That’s when it hit me. I was in a time warp. Somehow I had been transported back to the glory days of flight. It was like PanAm in the 60s. The women all had pill-box hats on tight hair buns and wore below-the-knee pencil skirts. The men were…well, they looked like the men at every other airline. But they sure were friendlier. And all in all, I had uncovered the reason behind the dress slacks imperative: if I wanted to be part of this level of flying, I better darned well dress the part.
Now as if all this weren’t enough, even in economy (yes, my business class upgrade failed to come through, but I did get exit-row seating) I was treated at a level equal to most business class cabins at other airlines. There was no nickel and diming the passengers for reusable headsets and tiny little bottles of liquor. All of the service was included and delivered with bright smiles at no additional charge.
Look, I don’t make it habit to shill for hosts of sponsored trips. We have a symbiotic relationship. They want promotion and we want genuine content, creating a fine line when it comes to writing directly about said host. But clearly this was an amazing experience delivered by an exceptional airline. If you’re looking to fly to and throughout the middle east and want a touch of unmatched style doing it, consider dressing up for the occasion and give Qatar a try. It’s the way flying used to be and well worth your effort to experience what you’re missing on nearly every other carrier out there.
We Blog The World featured writer, Bob Knorpp, is traveling in Doha, Qatar on behalf of the site this week. These are his dispatches from the tour and dining event sponsored by Qatar Airways.