Qatar Airways A320 OTP-SOF
Qatar Airways flies from Qatar to Bucharest (OTP) and then on to Sofia (SOF) with their A320. It is possible to just book the OTP-SOF flight; and as I was wanting to get between the two, I decided to book it for 107€ one way. The two capital cities are not very far apart, but in doing research I found flying is the recommend transportation between the two.
Flight QR 395 departs daily from Bucharest at 14:30 and arrives in Sofia at 15:35. It looks like on some days there is also a similar flight by Qatar but at 7:40.
Bucharest OTP is not a very large airport. I arrived two hours before my flight knowing I would need to go through immigration. Qatar had two small counters for check in where my passport was checked a photo of my COVID vaccination card was taken.
Since I was checking in during the time of the OTP-SOF flight, there were no other passengers checking in. I would assume there would be more passengers for the OTP-DOH flight.
As I am a oneworld Sapphire elite through Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, I was also given a voucher for entrance into one of the lounges.
After passing through security and then immigration, I made my way to Gate 3 where the Tarom Airlines Lounge is located on the upper floor. At least at this time (during COVID), it is the only lounge accessible. Surprisingly it is a SkyTeam lounge but Qatar still uses it.
It is an extremely disappointing lounge, so I would not plan on spending much time there. You can read my review of it here.
I headed to the boarding area around 1:35pm, unsure of what the process would be for a stopover flight. There were only a handful of passengers in the boarding area.
Boarding started around 2:00pm. The agent wanted to make sure everyone understood that there would be two groups for boarding – Section 1 & 2. Section 1 went first, but it was clear that not all of the section 1 passengers go on. So she went passenger to passenger in the area, searching for the last person from Section 1. After a while she found him, and then got on him board. Once he was on board, then they called for section 2 passengers. I was in section 2 despite having oneworld status, so I am not sure how the decide on the groups. Perhaps based on seating on the plane, I’m not sure.
I would guess around 20 passengers boarded the flight in Bucharest. Once on board, I would guess there were a total of 40 passengers on the flight.
The A320 is configured with 3 rows of 2-2 Business Class pods, followed by Economy starting in Row 8. I picked seat 8F so that I could have a bulkhead and be at the front of the plane. I was the only passenger in the entire row. Row 8 doesn’t have storage but the bulkhead is shaped to give some extra leg room. Definitely more leg space than other rows. The seats are slightly narrower than the rest of the seats due to tray tables/screens in the armrests.
You can see the flight was not very full.
There is one screen mounted on the bulkhead in addition to the screens that can be folded out from the armrest.
The seats have USB chargers in addition to the headphone jack.
The Business class seats are three rows of 2×2 and the cabin was not full. I don’t believe anyone that boarded at Bucharest was seated in Business class.
The only food or beverage service on the short flight was a small bottle of orange juice handed out to each passenger before take off.
Each passenger was also given a PPE kit with gloves, mask and hand sanitizer in addition to a wet napkin. The kit is the same that I was given on my long haul Qatar flights.
We taxied out to the runway and took off right on time at 2:30pm.
Pretty much as soon as we leveled off we began our descent, landing at 3:10pm for a total of about 40 minutes in the air.
Exiting the plane in Sofia was a strange experience. Sofia doesn’t have a “sterile” immigration area for inbound passengers. Instead, you are let out into the standard airport terminal but are boxed in by a movable fence. We just had to wait in a holding pen by the gate with no instructions.
One airport employee came to make sure we didn’t escape. After about 15 minutes and some argumentative passengers, another staff member came over and moved the walls, funneling us to a staircase down to immigration.
Flying Qatar Airways between Bucharest and Sofia is undoubtedly the best option out there. I will get 1,000 Mileage Plan miles (minimum 500 miles plus 100% bonus as MVP Gold). The price is roughly the same as other non-stop flights with the exception of the twice weekly Ryanair flight if you can time that correctly.