Review: Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha


Some links to products and travel providers on this website will earn Traveling For Miles a commission which helps contribute to the running of the site – I’m very grateful to anyone who uses these links but their use is entirely optional. The compensation does not impact how and where products appear on this site and does not impact reviews that are published.


UPDATE 9 January 2019: It now appears that flyers with a Business Class boarding pass (cash fare) can access the Al Safwa First Class lounge for a fee (more details here)

The Al Safwa First Class Lounge in Doha is one of those places you really have to see to believe because it’s unlike any other lounge airline lounge I’ve ever been in. The Al Mourjan Business Class lounge in the same terminal is probably one of the best Business Class lounges around….but, in its own way, the Al Safwa Lounge is on a whole other level.

I had flown in to Doha from Auckland on Qatar Airways and, for the penultimate leg of my journey, I had treated myself to a flight in Qatar Airways First Class on an A380 flying between Doha and Paris (paid for with AAdvantage Miles).

That bit of information is pretty important because the only way you can actually access the Al Safwa First Class lounge is with a First Class ticket from a oneworld airline – oneworld status will not get you in.

Al Safwa First Class Lounge Location

Directions to the Al Safwa First Class Lounge will depend on where you arrive into Hamad airport….this terminal plan should help explain (click to enlarge):

What you can see in the image above is a plan of the Hamad airport duty free area with a somewhat disturbing statue of a bear in the middle off it.

The red circle indicates where the escalators to/from the Al Safwa First Class Lounge are.

What you can’t see on the plan is that, on either side, there are 3 levels to the airport (the plan just shows the lower level – level 1).

There are two separate security areas at the airport – both on level 2 and both on either side of the duty free area.

If you happen to pass through security on the left side of the map (as I did) you head down the escalators to level 1 (where all the duty free shops are), you cross over to the other side of the duty free area, and you head up a second set of escalators to the Al Safwa First Class Lounge which is on Level 3.

If you happen to clear security on the other side of the airport you simply go down the escalators to level 1, look for the signs pointing to the Al Safwa lounge….

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

…and then proceed up the escalators that the signs lead to:

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Tip: If you can see the escalators for the Al Mourjan Business Class lounge you’re on the wrong side and need to cross over.

As you travel up the escalator the duty free area sprawls beneath you….

Doha Hamad Airport Duty Free

…and, as you reach the top, you’ll see the reception desk for the lounge.

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways has flights departing for various parts of the world at all times of the day so the Al Safwa lounge is open 24 hours.

The Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

The entrance to the lounge is to the right of the reception desk…..

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

…..and as soon as you walk in you start to get a feel for the enormity of the facility:

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

The walls are a beautiful off-white color (either limestone or a pale marble) and the ceilings are so high that it can feel like you’re walking into a cathedral (yes, I appreciate the irony).

Essentially the lounge is set around two long, wide corridors which intersect near the middle of the facility (you can see the intersection in the image above) and everything the lounge offers can be found in rooms/alcoves off these corridors or in the corridors themselves.

The primary seating offered by the lounge is to be found in these corridors….

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

….and, depending on what part of the lounge you find yourself in, the seating varies.

There are areas with regular-style armchairs that are relatively open to the rest of the lounge…

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

…there’s a limited number of high-backed armchairs set up in a way where a family can sit together close enough to hold a conversation….

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

….and then there are the more private high-backed chairs which occupy semi-enclosed booths and offer the iPad-style devices you’ll also find in the Al Mourjan Business Class lounge.

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

These high-backed chairs come with tables equipped with 2 USB ports and a universal power outlet so guests should have no trouble finding somewhere to charge their devices.

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Art plays a significant role in the lounge with ancient artefacts displayed in glass cases in the walls….

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

…and, almost in total contrast, art by the likes of Keith Haring hangs on the walls:

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha – Keith Haring Artwork

The largest piece of art is a fountain (of sorts) that sits close to the centre of the lounge near where the main corridors intersect:

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Because of its size the lounge is hugely impressive…but it also feels very impersonal.

One of the seating areas was closed for refurbishment during my visit so, unless that offers something I didn’t see elsewhere, there isn’t really anywhere in the main areas to sit as a group (with the exception of one set of chairs I showed earlier) and I didn’t see anywhere in the main area for a couple to sit opposite one another without being separated by a significant gap.

The stone walls are something I really like but the minimalist decor in an area as enormous as this gives the lounge a slightly cold feel.

As I mentioned earlier, the lounge offers various areas off the corridors and away from the main seating area and they are….

The Dining Area

If you walk through the main lounge doors and take a left at the central crossroads you’ll find yourself facing the bar and the dining area.

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

There’s typical bar-seating all the way around the oval bar, some bench/chair/table combinations to either side…..

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

….and some more traditional table and chair seating at the far end of the dining area.

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

I had been traveling for over 17 hours at this point and I had been well looked after in Qatar Airways Business Class so I had no need for any food….but I took a look at the menu anyway:

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

The menu looked perfectly ok but it didn’t seem in keeping with the surroundings – there was nothing about it that really stood out and I couldn’t help but think that I actually prefer the menu you get in the Qantas First Class lounge at LAX.

Qantas First Class Lounge LAXQantas First Class Lounge LAX Menu (Click To Enlarge)

It was approaching midnight at this point and all I really wanted was to get some rest before my 7am flight the next day.

I had a quick look at the drinks selection which looked good but not amazing (although I’m a fan of the Comtes De Champagne Tattinger that the lounge was serving)….

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

….and then I had a look around the other areas of the lounge.

For some of these other areas the pictures will do a better job of telling you what’s on offer than any words I can type so I’m going to let them do most of the talking for the next section of the review.

The Media Room

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

The Game Room/Parent’s Room

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Baggage Room

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

The Business Center

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Family Area

This was the best area I saw in the lounge where a family or group could potentially sit together and all interact without being spread out.

Most other sitting areas I saw are designed for two people side by side or for guests sitting on their own.

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Next came the area I was most interested it….primarily because I was exhausted!

The Quiet Area/Spa

If you walk through the main doors to the lounge, take a right at the big crossroads and then stop just short of the Keith Haring artwork you’ll see on the right-hand wall, you’ll see the spa/quiet area on your left:

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

I had very little interest in the spa but, in case any of you are interested, it offers a selection of treatments (at a price) and, for some reason, they even charge if you want to take a shower (an incredible $54!) – this would appear to be a remarkably bad idea for a First Class lounge but, in the case of this lounge, it’s also pretty stupid…I’ll explain why in a minute.

The quiet area in the Al Safwa lounge isn’t an area where guests just sit around in silence…it’s a series of bedrooms and it’s the best thing about this lounge by far.

The bedrooms/nap rooms/quiet rooms (call them what you will) are free to use and, as long as you have a layover of at least 4 hours you can request one.

I checked in at the desk that covers both the spa and the quiet room and, after a lot of typing on a computer, the lounge attendant handed me the key to Room 12.

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

The corridors in the quiet room area are reminiscent of a spa…

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

…and the room son offer either have one or two single beds.

Room 12 had just the one bed…

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

…with a desk and flat screen TV at the end of it:

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

The panel by the bed controlled the room’s lights and the temperature….

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

…there were a good number of power outlets around the room (of the UK variety)….

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

…and there was a hanging rail and a space to store some luggage too:

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

But the room doesn’t end there – it also offers its own ensuite bathroom complete with shower:

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Remember I mentioned that if you want a shower in the spa you have to pay $54? Why?!

The lounge is happy to give guests a bedroom with an en suite bathroom for free but for some reason charges if they just want a shower – there’s nothing logical about that.

Anyway…

The bed and the bedding was very comfortable and the shower was as good as in any other lounge I’ve visited. I managed to get a few good hours of sleep before I got up, showered and went looking for breakfast.

Breakfast In The Lounge

Up until this point I had seen just 2 other guests in the whole time I had spent in lounge…when I entered the dining area to see what was on offer for breakfast that number increased….to 3.

Seriously, staff appear to outnumber guests most of the time in this lounge.

Unsurprisingly there was no one sitting in the area I chose….

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

…..and a server offered me the lounge’s a la carte breakfast menu (click to enlarge):

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

I ordered poached eggs with sautéed mushrooms.

When the meal arrived the eggs were cooked very nicely….

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

…but it wasn’t exactly a big breakfast. You can’t really see the mushroom portion in the image above because it’s obscured by a poached egg…but you can’t really see it in the image below either as it’s so small!

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Basically the chef sliced 2 mushrooms in half, sautéed them and then offered that up as an accompaniment – I wasn’t impressed.

After the few minutes it took me to eat the poached eggs I was still hungry…so I ordered some muffins and a latte.

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Both were perfectly fine but nothing special.

Had I not wanted to order from the a la carte menu there were cold breakfast items available from a nearby buffet area.

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

There wasn’t anything particularly “First Class” about what was on offer…although I could have had some high-priced champagne from the bar had I felt like it.

The server that brought my food was a little stand-offish and unsmiling but the staff behind the bar were charming to a man – perhaps the server was just having a bad day (we all have them!)

Shortly after I finished breakfast I got my things together and headed out of the lounge to catch my A380 First Class flight to Paris.

Thoughts

Negatives

  • I found the seating areas to impersonal and spread out – space is good but acres of it makes the lounge feel cold.
  • The staff were hit and miss – the bar staff were very friendly while the man staffing the desk in the spa/quiet room area and the server at breakfast were noticeably less so.
  • The idea that a First Class passenger should have to pay for a shower is ridiculous. The fact that the price is $54 is criminal.
  • The breakfast selection was disappointing and, on the whole, I didn’t notice anything on either menu that I saw that stood out.
  • The portion size of the breakfast accompaniment was laughable.
  • The lounge is actually too big – there aren’t that many people flying First Class out of Doha at any one time so the lounge is mostly empty. While the architecture is unquestionably impressive I found the overall feel of the lounge to be cavernous and unwelcoming.

Positives

  • Having access to a real bedroom with an en suite bathroom is a fantastic luxury to have – I had a very nice few hours sleep and loved the privacy and comfort that the room offers.
  • The bar staff were very friendly as were the staff members at the desk at the entrance to the lounge.
  • The stonework of the lounge is beautiful and the overall architecture is definitely impressive.

Bottom Line

As much as I loved having access to the bedroom and as great as it was to be able to get some proper, undisturbed sleep, I ended up not really liking the Al Safwa First Class lounge all that much.

As I said at the very beginning of this review, this is a lounge that you simply have to see if you get a chance…but I’m in no big hurry to get back.

Unlike The Pier in Hong Kong or the Qantas First Class lounge in Sydney (both of which I love and can’t wait to try out again) the Al Safwa lounge is a lounge I’m glad I’ve visited (to see what all the fuss is about) but I don’t feel the need to visit again.

I’ve visited it once and that’s enough.

Overall the Al Mourjan Business Class lounge is much more to my liking and, were it not for the bedroom in the Al Safwa lounge, I would probably turn down the First Class lounge in favor of the Business Class lounge if I was passing through in First Class again.

The fact is that I arrived at the lounge with quite a bit of excitement and anticipation and I left it wondering if there was an element of “the Emperors New Clothes” to it – I think that probably says it all.

1 COMMENT

  1. I felt exactly the same sense of disillusionment in the Emirates First Class lounge at Dubai. Really it was like a large Hotel Lobby with multiple eating or seating areas, but extremely cold and impersonal. compaed to the gorgeous Cathay Pacific “The Pier” First Class lounge and even the Business lounge, Emirates and Qatar’s take on lounges leave me totally unsatisfied.

Comments are closed.