Qatar Airways operates one of the world’s best first class lounges at their home airport in Doha: the Al Safwa lounge.
I love Qatar’s long haul product, Doha is a great place to connect, but many people don’t spend any time there. I scheduled a stopover because I wanted to visit the Museum of Islamic Art, which is one of the last structures designed by I.M. Pei. He insisted that a new island be created to house the facility.
Friends who have seen my photos of the Al Safwa lounge have remarked that it looks like a museum a point out – a ha! – there are pieces in the lounge on loan from the Museum of Islamic Art.
The lounge’s design reminds me of a new build Park Hyatt. It’s massive, with tall ceilings, and very few people. In fact there are usually more staff than passengers.
There’s good food in the restaurant. There’s self serve food… everywhere. And there are high end wines in the lounge. Oddly the spa is at a charge, and I don’t necessarily find the service there to be good. Nonetheless it’s a place worth seeing.
Access is for first class passengers. Qatar operates very few flights with a long haul first class cabin, something available only on their Airbus A380 aircraft. However for shorter distance flights they call their premium cabin first class and that provides Al Safwa access. As a result a premium passenger flying Doha to Amman, Jordan would have access… but a premium passenger flying Doha to New York JFK would not.
With the continued blockade of Qatar led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE there are far fewer Qatar Airways short haul flights. That means fewer passengers with Al Safwa lounge access. Now, it seems, they’re monetizing access to the lounge and it’s surprisingly affordable.
chgodrew reports that the first class Al Safwa lounge in Doha will now sell access to paid business class passengers (but not passengers traveling on award tickets).
- He inquired at the excellent Al Mourjan business class lounge if he could purchase Al Safwa access. They told him it would be 350 Qatari Real (US$96).
- When he arrived at the Al Safwa lounge he was actually charged 250 QAR (US$69).
I immediately left for the Al Sawfa lounge and the host at the escalator asked for boarding pass and I said I would like to pay, she let me up. When I got to desk they asked for ticket and then said it would be AED 250.00 (even better).
I had a 6 hour layover and it was great. I was able to try the fantastic Krug Clos Du Mesnil 2003 which was the best champagne I have ever had. They also had Krug and La Grande Dame. Had a great meal and time in the lounge.
So if you’re traveling through Doha on a paid business class ticket and have a reasonably long layover definitely give the Al Safwa lounge a (pay in) visit. You can undoubtedly drink well more than the cost of your entry fee in wine, champagne, and spirits.