Qatar Airways Backtracks On Oneworld Lounge Access

This is hardly breaking news, though an interesting development nonetheless. Doha’s new Hamad International Airport opened early last year, after literally years of delays.

Even though the airport only became fully operational early last year, some of the lounges in the airport still aren’t open.

Hamad-Airport-Teddy-Bear-2

Qatar Airways hasn’t yet opened their Al Safwa First Class Lounge. When the airport first opened they said the lounge should be open within a couple of months. What was the reason for the delay? Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker was quoted as saying “it is such a complicated and high-end [operation] that the contractor is having difficulty keeping up with the kind of finishes we want.”

And the Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge still isn’t open, despite repeated promises of it opening shortly. While Qatar Airways previously had a timeframe for the new lounge opening, now they’ve stopped giving a date. Which is probably smart in terms of managing expectations, since at this point it might be next year before the lounge opens.

The Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge is being used as the airline’s “premium” lounge. Initially it accommodated first class, business class, oneworld Sapphire, and oneworld Emerald passengers. It’s a large lounge, though certainly gets crowded during peak times.

Al-Mourjan-Lounge-Doha-34

When it opened, Qatar Airways announced that oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members would get access to the Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge, and that once the Al Safwa First Class Lounge opened, oneworld Emerald members would get access to it.

Al-Mourjan-Lounge-Doha-16

Well, Qatar Airways has backtracked on that approach. As of a couple of months ago, oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members no longer get access to the Al Mourjan Lounge. Under the current system, and as reflected on the oneworld website:

  • Qatar Airways/oneworld first & business class passengers get access to the Al Mourjan Lounge
  • Oneworld Emerald members get access to the “Qatar Airways First Class Lounge”
  • Oneworld Sapphire members get access to the “Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge”

Qatar-Airways-Lounge

Except what’s tricky is that the first & business class lounges referenced above aren’t actually the airline’s first & business class lounges, but rather just lounges they’ve named as such to accommodate oneworld flyers.

So Qatar Airways certainly isn’t acting within the spirit of oneworld, though that hardly makes them the only airline where that’s the case — British Airways excludes oneworld Emerald members from accessing The Concorde Room, even though that’s technically their “real” first class lounge.

British-Airways-Concorde-Room-London-09

Bottom line

So yeah, the Qatar Airways lounge situation in Doha continues to be a bit of a mess. The Al Mourjan Lounge is a perfectly nice business class lounge. The Al Safwa Lounge should be nice, if/when it opens. The fact that they still don’t have a date for that happening is ridiculous.

But if you’re accessing lounges at Doha Hamad Airport because of your status, you sort of get the short end of the stick, as you’ll be accessing lounges designed exclusively for status passengers, as opposed to first and business class passengers.

Now we should just start taking bets on if/when the Al Safwa Lounge will actually open!

Have you visited the Qatar Airways “First” and “Business” class lounges as a oneworld elite flyer?

Comments

  1. I heard that the First Lounge will be openend in the next months.

    Do you have any news about Etihad First Lounge opening?

  2. I am glad that I’ll be accessing the Al Mourjan Lounge because of the class of service that I’ll be flying! Otherwise, if I was hoping to visit it on status then that would really be disappointing. I would certainly NOT be looking forward to that part of my trip if I knew I would end up on one of those NEW ‘made up’ lounges. Thanks for the info Ben!

  3. I can’t get mad at airlines for looking out for their own elite flyers or passengers flying their premium cabins. They’re still providing other lounges for the Oneworld elites from other airlines.

    Frankly, I’m appreciative of the airlines that do this. I’ve come to love the peace and atmosphere of Lufthansa’s FCT and FCLs and there’s no way they’d be as pleasant if every *A Gold (plus guest) or FC passenger were allowed in.

  4. Actually that is a change we at Qatar like. I am a FA and have been to the latest Al Baker employee all hands and can tell you that the real first class lounge will be even better once the Sawfa is complete(his words)

  5. I can see the domino effect already. First BA, then UL, and now QR. Who’s next? CX. Let Emeralds have access to The Wing F and CX’s own First and DM members get The Pier? I don’t mind as I think airlines should take care of their own members first.

  6. So, in summary, Qatar is now using a segregated policy for OneWorld clients of separate, but equal. Hmm. Where was that argument last used?

    Am I missing something here? Only a few long-haul aircraft have F in the QR fleet. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to offer hotel rooms to those few pax?

  7. Any idea when the LAX – DOH route will be loaded and available for British Airways to see? Looking to make a booking and I can’t see any availability in 2016, even though flights are slated to begin Jan 1st.

  8. Backtrack? I thought it has always been QR intention that Al Mourjan and Al Safwa to be non-OW lounges and the only reason why Y passengers with status could access it previously was because the ‘first’ and ‘business’ class lounges at DOH were in construction. Now that they’re operational Al Mourjan is going back to its original purpose which is a Non-OW lounge. how is that a backtrack?

  9. I actually was just transiting through DOH this past week in Y as a OWE. I went to the designated First Class Lounge. It was disappointing – definitely the least nice First Class Lounge I’ve ever been in from oneworld airline. The food was more like a Delta SkyClub, and aside from some chairs and a smoking room (which then made the area around it reek of smoke), the lounge didn’t have much to offer. It’s definitely outside the spirit of what oneworld advertises, even if it technically complies.

  10. QR didn’t backtrack, if you look at Oneworld’s page since the day QR joined it has always been listed that Al-Mourjan and Al-Safwa lounges are exempt from Oneworld lounge access rules. QR provided status access to Al-Mourjan as a temporary measure as the ‘First’ and ‘Business’ Class lounges were used for other uses (e.g. VIPs) while some special purpose lounges were awaiting completion.

    There will be more lounges to accommodate status flyers, these two are just the start.

  11. Singapore Airlines does this as well in SIN, where they have a separate star alliance gold lounge for star gold members flying economy.

  12. Ben,

    When will you do a review of the downgraded Business and First Class lounges?

    That’s what I’ve been curious about all along.

    I hope the delay of the opening of the lounges is not some kind of publicity stunt to showcase the new terminal in the best possible light. Word will eventually get out that the two new lounges are not as nice as the Al Mourjan lounge and people will modify their travel decisions accordingly.

  13. @Joey,

    No SQ does not do it well with its Star Gold lounges! They do not even have shower facilities. As a hub airport, the lack of showers are a disgrace!

  14. Why make such a big deal out of Qatar Airways not yet opening their Al Safwa First Class Lounge.

    Etihad closed their first class lounges in Abu Dhabi for renovation and still haven’t reopened them. No-one seems to know when that will be.

  15. The new first class lounge is close. They have started testing of the train (mag Lev?). This is how the first class will get to their gates. Al Mourjan is my favourite business class lounge especially since the opening of the oneworld lounges, it is as good or better than most first class lounges if anything the service is a little too attentive. A pity the product in the air is sooo aircraft dependent. On the 787 or A380 the business class is as good or better than many (not the best though) airlines first. The other thing about flying Qatar is in some onewoirld lounges the have their own space for their passengers and good and beverage tends to be a better quality to that offered in the general lounge. Though to me it’s purely a transit airport and the less transit the better.

  16. QR and EY’s lounge renovations seem to be neverending.

    I assume the Al Safwa will be an extremely small lounge if its exclusively for QR and OW F pax given QR only have a few planes with F and I don’t think any other OW airlines operate F to DOH?

  17. @Ben,

    On the contrary. Hearsay suggests that the Al-Safwa lounge will be as big as the Al-Mourjan.

  18. @Ben QR operate their regional GCC services as two class cabins F/Y, so I imagine that’ll help to fill out Al Safwa if/once it opens.

  19. @ Ben — As noted above, the lounge will actually be massive, the same size as the Al Mourjan Lounge. In fairness it should have some amenities which take up space, though, like a spa.

  20. @ Duncan — Woah, guess I hadn’t heard that before. There’s a special train system for first class passengers?

  21. @ Miles Down Under — I’d say I’ve been pretty consistently critical of both Etihad and Qatar when it comes to the timeliness with which they’re opening their new lounges. 😉

  22. Having been in both the Al Mourjan lounge as a business class passenger and the “Business Class” lounge when transiting in Doha as a OW Sapphire Y passenger, I can say the Business Lounge is pretty bad.

    It’s very small, with every seat filled any time a bank of flights is about to leave. The food is essentially finger sandwiches. The shower stalls oddly had no sink or toilet, so it’s difficult to do things like use hair product after a shower.

    Still much better than a domestic US lounge, but not even close to the Al Mourjan or some other OW Business Class lounges I’ve been in.

  23. Does anybody have pictures of what those branded First and Business lounges look like? Are they similar to contract lounges.
    I guess they made the change because the Al Mourjan lounge was getting too crowded because QR is trying to make Doha into a transit hub like Dubai, so they are selling their economy airfares at rock bottom prices, often $300-$600 cheaper than competitors in Australia.
    Turkish Airlines mentioned that the basic cost of providing lounge access is around $US20 per passenger, but for the Al Mourjan lounge is far from basic, so that cost could be a lot higher than $US20 pp, since there are two ala carte restaurants and hundreds of lounge attendants to service the thousands of passengers.
    So they can save costs by creating branded lounges which are basically just like contract or pay for entry lounges, and there will be 1 staff member manning the desk and thats about it. Probaby cost $2.50 per per passenger.

  24. I was just at Al Mourjan lounge last weekend transiting through DOH to JFK as a business class passenger on QR. The lounge is huge. There’s a dining area on the second floor much much bigger than the dining area in CX’s The Wing. I’m OWE but didn’t know that I couldn’t use Al Mourjan if I was flying economy. Anyway, I thought the lounge was great albeit a bit crowded. The coffee was really good so was the breakfast. I was short on time so I didn’t get to explore the entire lounge. I’ll be exploring it a bit more when I transit again through DOH in August. The staff was great too.

    @Lucky, yeah I saw these trains going back and forth above the departure gates in terminal C. All the seats in the train were still wrapped in plastic. I don’t think it’s open yet for passenger use. I’m not sure what those trains will be used for.

  25. I jumped onto QR Privilege club about a year ago aside my *G status, and was really enjoying the Al-Mourjan lounge as a Gold Y flyer. The new “Business Class” lounge is horrible, too small, rubbish food options (worse than the *G in SIN) – they even have a basket of “Display Bread” that you can’t eat 🙂 The toilets and showers are insufficient. In fact, it’s almost identical to the Silver Lounge I used to access when working my way up status levels.

    I am curious whether, once they open the new Safwa Lounge, they might lighten up a little and at least let QR status flyers into Al-Mourjan? Else, it’s sort of killed DOH as preferred transit point for me. If they’d at least have some upgrade availability for Privilege Club members, it might be more reasonable!

  26. Transited in DOH, flying QR in J with OW sapphire status, i was directed to the First Class lounge, with my gfas guest. Lounge was not crowded art all, and quite pleasant, but nothing fancy or special..

  27. Just did a DFW-Doha return and spent lots of time in the Al Mourjan Lounge. Its very big, two levels and well staffed. It was Ramadan so no liquor was served. The food in my opinion was some of the best that I have had in a lounge. I inquired about the Al Safwa First Class Lounge and was told it would be at least three more months.

  28. @ Armand — Hmmm, flying in Qatar business class you were directed to the Qatar First Lounge over the Al Mourjan Lounge? That’s odd!

  29. @ Suhaib — Yeah, I’ll be curious to see what happens. I wouldn’t count on it, since Qatar tends to be pretty “by the book” and have policies on principle as opposed to practicality.

  30. @lucky

    The link you provided is regarding the temporary arrangement, from the entry of QR into Oneworld Al-Mourjan and Al-Safwa were excluded and were only opened as a temporary measure due to the ‘First’ and ‘Business’ class lounges being temporarily re-assigned for another use. You can refer to discussions on BT UK and FT prior to Al-Mourjan opening when the info was uploaded to Oneworld’s website.

    Regarding Al-Safwa capacity, it will have around 500 seats (half Al-Mourjan) but in terms of floor space will be close to the size of Al-Mourjan. As for the in-terminal trains, they will be open to all PAX and not just First Class pax.

  31. Transiting through Doha at the moment, at the OW ‘first class’ lounge… It’s quiet and comfortable enough I suppose, but in all other respects is really lacking. Doesn’t even have dedicated WiFi, so you’re left trying to get by on the free airport wifi which is pretty dodgy – drops out regularly… Food is very limited – better in most business lounges.

    I’d gone for a slightly longer transit through Doha so I could have a nap (there’s good napping spots in Al-Mourjan), didn’t realise I wouldn’t be allowed in there as I’m not flying business this time. In the first lounge they don’t even have seats that recline.

    Does seem a bit ridiculous that Qatar’s status passengers get access to the Qantas and Cathay first lounges, but we effectively can’t get access to theirs. Ruins the idea of an ‘alliance’ given lounges are one of the major perks. Can’t imagine I’ll be transiting through here again.

  32. “…Qatar’s status passengers get access to the Qantas and Cathay first lounges…”

    It appears that even Qatar elites not flying First or Business class are not allowed access the Al Mourjan Business Lounge (presumably same for the Al Safwa First Class Lounge when it opens too).

    Qatar just seems to be doing the exact same as BA with the Concorde Room, just extending it out to (both their and other oneworld airline) business class customers as well.

    The list of available lounges to elites is given here (though funnily not comprehensive of all oneworld lounges available):
    http://www.qatarairways.com/global/en/airports-and-lounges.page

  33. Overall the QA First Class lounge for OW emerald members is really horrible – truly a disgrace for the QA main hub airport. It is under a large flashy billboard and it feels like being in the Piccadilly Circus.

    The lounge itself (i.e interior) could be acceptable, but the selection of the refreshments/food/snacks that is provided is really poor – couple of sandwiches, coffee, cheap wine, orange juice from tetra pack and water. Overall the choice and quality of condiments equals to what is offered on BA economy short haul flight and actually is worth than on QA long haul flights.

    Al Mourjan Lounge was a good quality business class lounge and better than BA business class lounge in LHR T5.

  34. I couldn’t agree more with the comments about the ‘first class’ lounge for emerald and platinum QA customers, particularly from Janis above and the lounge sits right underneath the huge video screen in the atrium. The lounge is a disgrace and the main problem with Hamad, is they built all the lounges with no cooking facilities in the back areas? Incredible.

    I am a Qatar Airlines platinum holder with over 900 points and fly out of the airport at least twice a week, I tend to do GCC flights so fly economy unless I’m going to Asia and then I fly business. I too, have to use this lounge, even as one of their own frequent flyers, I’ve complained but their response reflects their poor standards in the lounges. The lounge I used to use as a silver card holder was actually better which seems laughable, you only need 150 points to get silver and platinum is 600, which is a huge difference in terms of flights.

    When I do an early flight I can’t use the lounge now and would rather pay for a decent breakfast as you only get offered cold pastries, some plastic cheese, dried up cheap meat slices and lukewarm soup, this is no exaggeration.

    Qatar airlines should be ashamed of their ‘5*’ facilities and I’m moving back to Emirates even if it means the stop in Dubai. One world should revoke their membership unless they can improve their facilities. I have about 8 guest passes for the lounge and last week I had a client with me, but was too embarrassed to take them to the lounge, so I took them to the seafood bar and paid instead.

  35. I’ll be flying into Doha on Qatar business, and transiting to etihad business to Abu Dhabi. Any idea if I’ll be able to have access to al mourjan since the inbound is on Qatar business?

  36. I’m actually really angry about the change in lounge policy – not least that this was not communicated to Privilege Club members. The ‘First Class’ lounge designated for platinum members is comparable to the Silver lounge – in fact I consider it to be worse, as there is a larger food serving area in the Silver lounge. The comparison to the Concorde Lounge is a false one. If I fly BA on my Qatar (Platinum) membership I would still be able to access the First Class lounge (or the Business if I chose) at LHR Terminal 5 as these are open to Emerald one world members. Either of these far exceed what is available in Qatar’s own airport. In fact, flying Qatar with Platinum status means you are likely to get a better class of lounge at any airport EXCEPT Doha. Qatar have, frankly, sold out their members with the provision, frankly, of little more than a dedicated waiting room.

  37. Possibly the absolute worst lounge in the history of lounges for Platinum or Gold QR members. If was ever to want to get in a bad mood, I would have to enter the “First Class Lounge” for Platinum members at Hamad Airport. Qatar Airways used to be my favorite airline and while I earn about 650 points per year to keep me a platinum member, never in my life did I think that the new airport would be far worse than the old airport.

    Everywhere I travel, my QR Platinum/Emerald status gets me access to the best lounges in the world yet at its home base in Qatar it is a disaster. I am only thankful that they now offer fresh orange juice after so many complaints.

    The food is horrendous and inedible. I am now eating at the seafood bar downstairs as a result. It’s embarrassing for an airport like this to offer a lounge like this to its most loyal customers!

    The alcohol is the cheapest in the world! Red Label and Smirnoff? Are you kidding me?

    Management is the only one to blame and an out of touch ownership that doesn’t care about the flies that fly with them most (Platinum members). I can’t wait to switch airlines in 2016….shame on this airline!

  38. I flew into Hamad last Monday after not being there since march. As I am QR Gold I have always used Al Mourjan but this time was turned away at the escalator and redirected without explanation. I even asked to double check they didn’t make a mistake (it wouldn’t be a the first time). All it would have taken was a simple explanation saying that the lounge for gold card members has been changed….

    As to the lounge, I managed to access the first class lounge and what a shock! It was dire in comparison to Al Mourjan and you get a head ache from the flashing bill board! I would put it on par with the old airport’s silver status lounge!!!!

    The customer service desk outside the lounges is small and couldn’t handle the number of flyers either.

    This will seriously make me think if to still use QR as my main long haul airline of choice.

  39. The first Class lounge in never going to open, every time I travel through all I get is from the staff is that its going to open next month next month, etc etc and this is now been going on since the airport opened. I have no issues not getting access to the Al Moujan lounge as you wouldn’t get access to the old Premium lounge unless traveling business or first class. Even though I am Platinum and travel business/first, I often use the facilities outside of the lounge as they are better. In saying that I am now starting to use Emirates more often as they offer pick up service as well hotel stays complimentary after a set period, QA wont buckle on their rules despite them being silly rules. Unfortunatley they will keep on losing customers due to the airport, which is shame as the service onboard is 2nd to none.

  40. I can confirm that the Al Safwa First Class Lounge is now definitely open as I’m sitting in it right now. Definite improvement on their business lounge. Had a good sleep in one of their twelve rooms which are allocated on a first come basis if your layover is more than 4 hours. As Lucky suggested, the sweet spot for this lounge is to fly long haul into DOH in business and then connect in the region as Qatar classify these regional flights as First which then means you get access. It is worth it!

  41. Yes – it’s pathetic in comparison to the Al Mourjan Lounge – a disgrace really – and a surprise for Qatar – I expected better.
    Also – the status credits you earn for other airlines when flying Qatar Airways is dismal as well.

  42. I am currently transiting through DOH en route to LHR from DAR. I have been an American Advantage EXP/OWE for the past 7 years, the ‘First Class’ lounge has to be the least attractive of all the FC lounges that I have passed through over the past six years. I agree with the many comments noted above e.g. @Cam and @Jim and agree many OW business lounges are far better. Unfortunately, as BA stopped flying to DAR some years back (2013), I have no choice on LHR – DAR as I believe Qatar is the only One World airline that currently offers flights from LHR into DAR, so I am stuck.

  43. The so called first class lounge for one world emerald is an insult to Oneworld elite members. If you are not flying business or first class, don’t fly Qatar and don’t connect through Doha. Qatar Airways has a segregated lounge for Oneworld Emerald members that is a bit shabby similar to the generic lower class airport lounges you find at mediocre airports. Not even a dedicated wifi hotspot. Have to use the airport wifi. What a shame!!!

  44. Used the first “First Class” lounge recently and concur with what everyone else has already said about the poor quality. Let me add:

    – only 2 showers. Don’t count on being able to take a shower there. I was not able to take a shower there on either through flight even though I had a 3 hour layover.

    – smoker’s room inside of the lounge. The smoke gets out.

  45. Im in doha now in the business class lounge beeing an emerald (AA) when I tried to acces the first class, i was told that there is a “special” lounge for emerlalds members, but they adviced me to go to the business lounge because it was better! Thats not fair, i know not every airline has the same luxury in their own lounges, but cathay for example gves you acceso to the pier, and American has the worst first class in Miami, a very importante hub for them, i have been before in the first class lounge Of qatar in november flying first to HkG and is really amazona!

  46. Flown twice through the Sapphire status lounge in Doha. HORRIBLE experience. As others have said, it’s like a bad builders cafe. Stinks of smoke, kids running around screaming and half comatose people coughing and shouting on their phones…
    Last time I went, they directed me to the “Business Lounge” which literally had NO SEATS left. It was absolutely packed with people. I walked out with a drink in my hand asking the desk where I could sit… they directed me straight to the “First” lounge, which is basically the same thing, just fewer people.

    I’d honestly say – go to the lounge, grab a bite and a drink or two, then go back downstairs to the food court, which is nicer, smells better and has better wifi.
    Complete swizz!
    BTW – anyone know if Qatar Status people also have to put up with this non-sense? Or is just one-world?

Leave a Reply

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