Five Star Virgin: Qatar Airways Premium Terminal Doha

Introduction
Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse San Francisco
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class from San Francisco (SFO) to London (LHR)
Virgin Atlantic Arrivals Lounge London Heathrow
First Class on the Heathrow Express – is it worth it?
Hotel Indigo London Paddington
SkyTeam Lounge London Heathrow
Qatar Airways First Class from London (LHR) to Doha (DOH)
InterContinental Doha
Exploring Doha
Qatar Airways Premium Terminal Doha
Qatar Airways First Class from Doha (DOH) to London (LHR)
Crowne Plaza London Heathrow Airport
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Heathrow
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class from London (LHR) to New York (JFK)
Andaz New York Wall Street
Conclusion
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I was anticipating the Qatar Airways Premium Terminal more than anything else airline-wise on this trip, so when the morning to visit finally arrived I was up early and ready to go. I took the 7AM complimentary shuttle from the hotel to the airport, and made it there at around 7:30AM. While I was dropped off at the main terminal, the Premium Terminal was immediately to the right of the main one, and only a three-minute walk.


Main terminal

At the door were several guys with hotel-style carts to help with bags, though I only had a carry-on.


Premium Terminal

The entrance to the terminal itself doesn’t feel all that exclusive. After all, Qatar Airways has pretty big premium cabins, and all first and business class passengers use this terminal.


Entrance


Premium Terminal check-in

First class check-in was at the far end of the room, where I was immediately helped. I took a seat and within a couple of minutes the agent printed my boarding pass and sent me on my way. I then made my own way towards security, which was efficient (though I got the feeling not especially thorough).


Premium Terminal check-in


First class check-in


Security

On the first floor of the Premium Terminal are a couple of duty free shops and also the “gates.” Given that Doha doesn’t actually have “gates,” these are really bus gates for them to drive you to the plane.


First floor

The lounges are located on the second level. There’s a business class lounge, first class lounge, media center, and even cloak room (that’s a first for me).

Strangely, there didn’t seem to be any controls as to which lounge you enter, so as far as I could tell, a business class passenger could really have tried to use the first class lounge.


Premium Terminal


Cloak Room


Area between first and business class lounge


First class lounge

Once inside the first class lounge, the Premium Terminal isn’t much different than any other nice airport lounge. I’d say in terms of quality, the lounge itself can most closely be compared to maybe Cathay Pacific’s “The Wing” first class lounge in Hong Kong.

There were comfortable seating areas and there was a sit down restaurant area, which served meals all hours of the day.


First class lounge


First class lounge


Refreshment area


Champagne

I hadn’t had breakfast, so decided to go with that first. The table setup in the lounge is quite nice with excellent service. The spread was similar to what you would expect in a high-end hotel club lounge in Asia. There was even an omelet station. For breakfast I had an omelet, followed by a couple of pancakes and waffles with fruit. My glass of freshly squeezed orange juice stayed topped off throughout.


Dining area


Table setup


Breakfast spread


Breakfast spread


Breakfast spread


Breakfast spread


My breakfast


My breakfast

After breakfast I decided to see what else the lounge had to offer. There was a relaxation area featuring a massage chair, so I endured that for about 20 minutes (you know how those massage chairs are).


To the relaxation area…


The chair of doom

After that I went into the shower room and bathrooms, where I saw there was a hot tub. Now, except for a bathtub I’ve never actually been in water in an airport, so for the novelty factor I figured I better do it. It was a bit awkward nonetheless, because the hot tub is in the same area as the restroom, so you had a bunch of people fully covered in robes passing me, as I sat there in my Speedos (okay, maybe not quite). Anyway, I splashed around like a platypus for about 20 minutes, trying to isolate all the bubbles to one side of the hot tub with no success, and then went for a shower. Yes, as you can tell I’m a very sophisticated first class passenger. 😉


Bathroom


Hot tub


Shower room


Shower room

With about 90 minutes to go till the flight I decided to have lunch, given that I could postpone my dining once aboard the flight.

The lunch buffet was spectacular, with filet mignon, lox, tomato and mozzarella, etc.


Lunch spread


Lunch spread

Especially impressive was the dessert spread.


Dessert


Dessert spread


Lunch


Dessert

With about 45 minutes to go until departure the agent approached me (how she knows who I was is beyond me) and informed me that the flight to London was boarding business class now, and that first class would board in about 10 minutes. Sure enough, 10 minutes later she advised me to head downstairs to board.


Boarding area

Downstairs I was loaded into a BMW 7 series, though had to wait for a few minutes, as another first class passenger (who was referred to as “Sheikh” for the entirety of the flight) was going to ride with me. As he sat down he said “what’s up man?” which I thought was pretty funny. Good thing I didn’t respond with my usual “what’s shakin’?” Yeah, don’t worry, folks, I’ll be here all week.


Car transfer to the airplane


Car interior


Car interior


First class bus


Tarmac views

After a quick ride we were dropped off at the airstairs of our otherwise fully boarded A340-600 bound for London.


Our plane

All in all, the Premium Terminal was great, but not spectacular. I still prefer Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal in Frankfurt and the Thai first class lounge in Bangkok. It’s the little touches that make all the difference. If Qatar Airways really wanted to make the first class terminal a “WOW” experience, I think it would make a lot of sense if they had agents waiting at the door of the terminal when you arrive, greeting you and escorting you to their desk to check you in, much like Cathay Pacific does in Hong Kong. I think it would also be great if they escorted you through security and to the lounge, until you’re comfortably seated. Similarly, it would be great if they picked you up when your flight was ready to board and escorted you to your car. It’s the little things that make all the difference. The beauty of first class travel on the world’s best airlines is that it’s hassle free. In the Premium Terminal I felt like I still had to watch the clock about when my flight was leaving, to make sure I went to the right gate, etc. It’s all basic stuff, but it’s what makes the Lufthansa and Thai ground experiences the best in the world, in my opinion.

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Comments

  1. If the hot tub was your first in water experience at an airport, I think you need to hit the pool at SIN and get an in airport water workout in.

  2. You wrote that the agent found you and told you when it was time to board your flight, so don’t understand your watch the clock comment and complaint they didn’t make sure you got on the flight. It sounds like they were watching you and the flight wasn’t going to leave without you.

  3. I can’t believe they serve La Grande Dame champagne in the lounge. I think that may be the best champagne in any lounge. Period. Can anybody point to a lounge that serves better champagne?

  4. The Premium Terminal is nice, but heaven help you in the event of flight disruptions. I had a situation a few years ago where our 3-class aircraft was downgraded to a 2-class aircraft due to a tech problem (and 7-hour delay to boot). As a result, they had to downgrade First Class pax to Business and some Business Class pax to Economy. This was handled with no subtlety at all – an agent walked around with a security guard and advised of the downgrade, together with a polite reminder that as we were now in Economy Class we would need to leave the Premium Terminal in 15 minutes. The Security Guard would assist us if we had not lined up downstairs with our luggage by then.

    What is even more outrageous though is that every single one of the passengers who were downgraded were of either South Asian or Filipino ethnicity, including a Gold Elite and a Silver Elite (myself). Some non-status Caucasian passengers who had been op-upped however were left in the Business Class seats we had paid for!!! And the only compensation received was a measly 2000 miles (in addition to the fare difference between Biz-Full Fare Econ). I subsequently (on a later trip) was shown a portion of their standing instructions that clearly specify ethnicity as a factor to consider when performing upgrades or downgrades.

    So yes, Qatar Airways has a nice product and provides a pleasant experience, provided you’re White or Arab. If you are Indian or Filipino, its a whole other story when things go even slightly wrong.

    Note : I have other biases against Qatar as well. I once spent 2 hours in a cell at Doha airport with some of the most miserable and emaciated humans I’ve ever come across because somebody in immigration transliterated my name into Arabic badly and they couldn’t find my visa in the system (I was on a Government delegation so had an “Official Visa”). I’ve also been warned by a Qatari security guard at Doha airport, when traveling with a Ghanaian friend, that I should be careful of black people because they would traffic drugs and steal from me. Quite possibly the most racist and pompous state I’ve ever visited.

  5. “So yes, Qatar Airways has a nice product and provides a pleasant experience, provided you’re White or Arab. If you are Indian or Filipino, its a whole other story when things go even slightly wrong.”

    Unfortunately, in countries like Qatar, that doesn’t just apply to flying…

  6. RE: La Grande Dame – I flew through the Premium Terminal in March, however I was on the Business side. They served La Grande Dame there too – they had normal Veuve, but when I asked for champagne, the attendant cracked open La Grande Dame. I think I polished off an entire bottle, and the guy really enjoyed pouring more out (yay!). When I googled the price of a bottle (I didn’t know at the time), my jaw dropped.

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