On a recent overnight layover in Doha, I remembered reading that if you’re flying Qatar Airways paid Business Class (IE not upgraded using miles etc) you’re able to pay to access their Al Safwa First Lounge. I had heard the sum of 300QAR (around £65) thrown around, which if it meant being able to secure one of their day rooms, seemed like excellent value as the airport hotel was charging around £250 for the evening just for the room.
Entry to this lounge, much like the Al Mourjan Business Lounge, is via a long escalator. There was a podium at the bottom to check eligibility, however when I arrived at just past midnight it wasn’t manned.
I made my way up the escalator and enquired whether what I’d read online was true or not – there’s no official mention of this perk from Qatar Airways. I was told it was possible but the agent was reluctant to give a price until he had scanned my boarding pass.
Which makes me wonder if the pricing is a little flexible regarding the time you’ll spend in the lounge or even airline status. A few moments later, the price of 250QAR (£56) was quoted, which was less than I was expecting, so I agreed to pay. A second agent was radioed, and I paid with my card. This second agent asked pretty much straight away if I wanted a room, and I was escorted to one.
Upon arriving at the relaxation area, I was given a waiver to sign, basically saying I wouldn’t be eating, drinking or smoking in the room and that my time in there was limited to six hours. I was then shown through to my room, which consisted of a single bed, TV and an en suite.
The one negative point of this was that the doorway light seemed to be in an always on state – or it could have been a case of me unable to figure out how to switch it off.
After a few hours sleep, I headed out to see what the rest of the lounge had to offer. The first thing that struck me when leaving the quiet area/spa area was a large water feature set in a huge area with high ceilings.
The layout of the lounge is somewhat of a plus sign, with various areas in the voids of the cross. Towards the end of one of the open spaces is the restaurant area. I was the only person in this large area, therefore I was seated straight away. In the middle of this is a large bar area although as I was travelling during Ramadan, no alcohol was displayed.
The menu featured the standard breakfast options – full cooked, continental, American, fruit, eggs etc.
Once I had eaten, I went for a wander. Dotted around the lounge are various pieces of Qatari artwork.
There’s a further eating area around the corner from the main restaurant which was much smaller and featured a buffet. Although not too much was set out at this time, which was just past 5:30am
There are also a few small seating areas around which are completely dwarfed by the sheer scale of the open spaces of this lounge.
To one side, there was a duty free shop, which sold some ridiculously priced goods as well as the usual gadgets, perfumes etc. Opposite this was a business centre, which consisted of around half a dozen rooms evenly split with iMac computers and all in one PC’s.
Also available is an “outside” seating area with a coffee machine and soft drinks available. Although this area isn’t anywhere near as peaceful as the rest of the lounge due to the fact it’s not within the lounge complex itself – more a balcony area outside – therefore lets a lot of the terminal noise in. Think the outdoor terrace areas of the BA lounges at Heathrow T5 if you’re familiar with those.
In the central area is a large customer service desk,, not that its really needed as when I visited there more than enough staff around to help out with any queries.
This lounge also features prayer rooms, a smoking room and a child’s play area, although I didn’t look at any of these areas. Another area I didn’t pay any attention to was the spa, which shares an entrance hall with the relaxation rooms. I’m led to believe all spa treatments are paid options however, and not particularly cheap at that.
In conclusion I’m a little torn on my thoughts on this lounge. While I was there, I was thinking that it was easily up there with one of the best lounges I’ve visited. However as I write this five days later, I cant help but think that it was all a little sterile. There wasn’t much colour in there or an awful lot to break up the huge open spaces other than a couple of water features. The food I ate was somewhat average. It wasn’t awful by any stretch, but again, it really lacked the wow factor. Maybe I’m being a little harsh though. It was a far better bet than the Al Mourjan lounge, which would have no doubt been packed and I wouldn’t have got my own bedroom in there for the night either. As it happened, I more or less had the whole lounge to myself as I’m led to believe that access has recently been restricted further to only those that are travelling in First Class on flights of over five hours. So that essentially means Qatar Airways A380 flight’s. Unless you know the trick to pay for entry like I did.