Review: Qatar Airways First Class Al Safwa Lounge, Doha Airport

The Qatar Airways first class lounge Doha is one of the strangest, most stunning, and most exclusive lounges in the world. Someone on my Facebook feed said it ‘looked like a museum’. Indeed, it actually has hundreds of years old pieces on display from Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art (!). There are some real quirks to it, though.

Previous Installments:

When I first booked my tickets, I had a flight into Doha and I had a flight home from Abu Dhabi, but I had no connection between the two. There was no award space for Doha – Abu Dhabi, despite several flights a day on both Etihad and Qatar which can be redeemed for with American AAdvantage miles (and indeed combined in the same award, for no additional miles).

I decided I was fine with that. In a worst case I’d buy a ticket for the short flight. But I wouldn’t do so right away because as an Executive Platinum I receive free changes on award tickets. I’d just keep monitoring award space.

A few weeks after booking, and three months prior to travel, business class award space opened up on Etihad so I rang up American to add Etihad’s Doha – Abu Dhabi onto my Abu Dhabi – New York JFK Etihad Apartment first class award.

Then 6 weeks later, and 6 weeks prior to travel, Qatar Airways premium cabin award space opened. I decided to switch to Qatar. I didn’t actually care about the better inflight experience with lie flat seats on a Qatar Airways widebody for the 200 mile flight. I made the change because I’d get to experience Qatar’s new first class lounge prior to departure.

When you approach the terminal the first door is for first and business class check-in.

Porters are out front to assist with luggage, and take you through the dedicated doors.

You’re immediately struck by a gorgeous terminal, albeit a bit cold. It’s massive, and minimalist at the same time.

Business class to the left, first class to the right.

You walk down the corridor to a line of check-in desks, all of which were deserted of passengers.

In addition to the check-in desks there are lounging areas as well.

Check-in is seated where you’re presented with juice and a cold towel.

Once checked in you’ll clear premium immigration and then come upon an escalator up to the Al Safwa first class lounge.

The Al Sawfa first class lounge at the new Hamad International Airport in Doha opened in the fall, after many delays.

Qatar has very few long haul first class passengers. in their long haul fleet only the A380 has a first class cabin. Long haul first class passengers can use this lounge even on arrival in Doha when connecting to business class. Short haul first class passengers connecting to business class (or terminating their journey in Doha) cannot.

Many short haul flights have their premium cabins marketed as first class, like airlines do in the US, and so short haul first class passengers use the first class lounge.

The design of the lounge follows the overall modern feel of the terminal, although with higher end finishes and something of an “Asian Park Hyatt” feel.

Here’s the lounge check-in desk.

qatar airways first class lounge doha

The check-in desk was deserted of passengers, just like the check-in area for the airline. Granted it was mid-afternoon, which isn’t peak time for Hamad International Airport.

Entering the lounge there’s a long, imposing corridor.

qatar airways first class lounge doha

Most striking to me were the pieces on loan from the Museum of Islamic Art. The lounge is as much museum as waiting area for your flight.

The most focal spot in the lounge is probably the fountain in front of the sit down dining restaurant.

qatar airways first class lounge doha

al safwa lounge

qatar airways al safwa lounge

The lounge has various seating options, some in semi-private areas and others simply in the middle of the lounge itself.

I settled into the ‘outside’ or deck seating area, sort of akin to what British Airways offers at Heathrow. It’s outside the lounge but inside the terminal. This is where I had to begin to sort out my travel plans.

I had gotten an update on my Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi to New York indicating that instead of a 5 hour layover in Abu Dhabi we were facing a delay. Instead of a 3am departure we would be leaving at 8am (ultimately the delay was a bit longer than that).

That meant two things. I would need a place to sleep in Abu Dhabi (I booked myself into the Premier Inn attached to the airport using Orbitz Orbucks credits) and I would need to change my flight from New York home since I was going to misconnect otherwise.

My New York – Austin itinerary was on a separate ticket since the award space I wanted never opened. American waived the change fee to put me on the 5pm non-stop, since even though I wasn’t on two oneworld itineraries I was on two American-issued tickets.

After awhile I decided to try out the lounge restaurant.

Here’s the menu: (Click to enlarge)

The food was fine, although not outstanding the way you’d find in the Qantas first class lounge or even Lufthansa’s first class terminal.

It’s worth noting that the restaurant menu isn’t the only place to get food. There’s a room with quite a few buffet-style options.

There’s also a desert room.

The lounge has nap rooms with bed, TV, desk and private bathroom with shower however those were all full while i was there. those are complimentary, but i never got access

On the other hand the spa is paid, even the showers inside the spa. so if you want to shower for free you need a nap room.

There’s a place dedicated for TV viewing, and also a ‘nanny room’.

Far less spartan than the ‘nanny room’ is the ‘parents room’ which is really a kids rooms:

You can play video games or play race car in the game room:

Naturally there’s a business center.

Ultimately because the lounge is so architecturally impressive it’s a top 10 lounge in the world. It doesn’t have the best food. It doesn’t have the best spa. It doesn’t have the most attentive service. But it is good in most respects, except if you need a shower and cannot get a room for that. Mostly it is simply a stunning place to be, the most architecturally interesting lounge I’ve been in (it comes in ahead of the Virgin Clubhouse at Heathrow in this regard, I believe).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Comments

  1. You should’ve changed your flight to AUH to later, and slept in a room at the Doha lounge — assuming one opened up. You don’t have time to sleep on a widebody to AUH anyway

  2. Hi Gary!

    I’m flying from Dubai to Doha on Qatar First and connecting in Doha to fly Doha to New York on Qatar business a350

    Can I use the first lounge?

    Many thanks

  3. @Bill I was taking an 815pm QR flight arriving AUH at 1025pm. Anything later and if my original flight was on time I would have had a tough connection especially if I didn’t get checked in for that flight in DOH given the requirement to be checked in for US flights ex-AUH 2 hours in advance.

    And, as I say, the sleeping rooms were all in use while i was in the DOH lounge.

  4. How would you rank it compared to other FCL oneworld lounges? MH KUL, CX The Pier HKG, JL NRT/HND, BA LHR, or QF SYD?

  5. That’s really bad design that First Class passengers cannot use a shower if all the rooms are occupied! Ridiculous.

    Also ridiculous is that you don’t get entry into the lounge if you are connecting from a first class flight. That is simply stupid. CX and JL doesn’t indulge in such stupidity. This is really style over substance.

  6. @Observer – QR is definitely weird, where their premium cabin gets access Doha – Abu Dhabi but not Doha – New York. However it makes sense they do not offer access on arrival to passengers coming off of Abu Dhabi – Doha and connecting to business class.

    They DO offer access to passengers coming off of first class long haul connecting to business e.g. London – Doha – Melbourne would get access if first class London – Doha and business Doha – Melbourne.

  7. @Tony —

    This is superior to Malaysia’s first class lounge.

    I haven’t been back to the Pier’s F side since they completed the remodel, it’s definitely better than pre-remodel.

    This blows BA’s Concorde Room Heathrow out of the water.

    I’d take this over JAL’s first class lounge in Narita and even in Haneda.

    Qantas has a better spa arrangement (20 minute complimentary treatments) and better food (really, that Neil Perry menu is fantastic). But that lounge is also too busy. I’m not sure which one I like better.

    I’d take Thai first in Bangkok over Qatar first in Doha for the spa and the excellent ground service (escort to lounge, from lounge to gate). I’d take Lufthansa’s first class terminal for the car to the plane. Both of those are better.

    The Qatar lounge is better, in my opinion, than the Emirates first lounge (A concourse) in Dubai.

  8. Although we had more attentive service in the new Etihad First Lounge, the Al Safwa lounge blows Etihad out of the water based on aesthetics and sheer scale. The sleeping rooms also are amazing. We even had our own bus that took us directly from the lounge to our plane!

  9. Also, I THINK there’s a shower in the bathrooms by the TV lounge areas (on the other side of the dessert room)

  10. How was the Premier Inn? I arrive late in March and booked a room there to depart the next morning.

  11. @bxw11 – see my trip reports – hotels page, I’ve reviewed the hotel a few times. It is very basic but clean and it works for me, especially given the convenience. I wouldn’t want to stay there 18 hours. But for a night time arrival where I just want sleep, followed by a morning departure, it works great.

  12. I flew DOH-BKK in F and had a connecting flight to CDG in J. They escorted me from the jet bridge through immigration and then to Al Safwa.

  13. If your inbound F flight is over 5+ hour long and you are connecting in J you can access Al-safwa. Otherwise you are “stuck” with Al-mourjan.

  14. WOW this first class facility looks fantastic.
    However, traveling on an award ticket, and being pushed to the Al-Mourjan Business class, is not a bad option.
    Traveling quite heavy on the AA net-work, in AA Business / First, I was offered 2 coupons for drinks out of eight visits to the lounges,
    The only AA club serving decent drinks was the construction site at JFK last Monday, where two chaps from Burma had teamed up in the par, providing all travelers with good pours in plastic cups,

  15. Hi,

    I will be flying in on economy from Rome to Dohai then connecting from Dohai to Sydney on first class using an American Advantage award seat. Unfortunately my partner couldn’t get an award seat so is travelling economy for both legs.

    Can we both access the lounge for the 8h lay-over in Dohai?

    Thanks

  16. Quick question. I know u said if you fly the a380 in first into Doha you get access to the al safwa lounge upon arrival. Does this also apply those whos connecting flight is in economy? Does the connection class matter or does ot only matter that you flew first class onnthe a380. Im flting first class from CDG to DOH in a few weeksnsonI need to know. Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *