First Reviews Of Qatar Airways’ New First Class Lounge In Doha

Last Tuesday I posted about how Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa First Class Lounge would finally be opening shortly, after over a year of delays. I figured “shortly” meant maybe a month or perhaps a year, given the pace at which Qatar Airways completes projects. 😉

But this time they were actually quick, and the Al Safwa First Class Lounge opened this past Thursday. Given how long the lounge’s opening has taken, and given how good the Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge is, I had really high hopes for this lounge.

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Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge Doha

Well, several people have now visited the lounge and reported back, so we have some firsthand reports:

As I mentioned above, my friend Chris gave me the play-by-play of the new lounge, so I’d suggest checking out his report, especially as he’s a frequent flyer but also not a “traditional” miles/points/airline product blogger.

I’ll be visiting the lounge next month, though what are my thoughts based on the above reports and pictures?

First of all, I think for the most part the Al Safwa Lounge is gorgeous. The space is huge (roughly the same size as the Al Mourjan Lounge), though it looks like it’s much more sparsely furnished. I generally like the contemporary, minimalist design, though then there are some rooms which puzzle me.

Al-Safwa-Lounge-12
Picture courtesy Chris Guillebeau

But there is one really disappointing aspect of the lounge. For so long we’ve been hearing about how the lounge would have a spa. Qatar Airways is an airline which invests heavily in the soft product (after all, they serve Krug in their business class lounge), so that didn’t really surprise me, especially given that both Emirates and Etihad have spas in their first class lounges.

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Etihad Business Class Lounge Abu Dhabi Six Senses Spa

Well, as it turns out the Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge spa only offers paid treatments. That’s rather ridiculous, in my opinion. I’ve always enjoyed the 15 minute “teaser” treatments offered by Emirates, Etihad, and many other airlines. Typically I don’t arrive at the airport early enough for an hour-long massage, so even if it were free I generally wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it.

But to just offer longer paid treatments and no free treatments is disappointing.

Equally disappointing, and even more bizarre? The lounge has a hot tub, but you have to pay to use it. The charge is 60USD, which is sort of obscene.

Al-Safwa-Hot-Tub
Picture courtesy Chris Guillebeau

Even Qatar’s premium terminal at their old airport had a hot tub, which was free for all guests.

Qatar-Premium-Terminal-Hot-Tub
Hot tub at Qatar Airways’ old first class lounge

On the plus side, the lounge has nap rooms with real beds, which is awesome. And they’re free! It seems a bit backwards to charge to use a hot tub, but not to use a nap room for hours on end.

Al-Safwa-Lounge-13
Picture courtesy Chris Guillebeau

But perhaps most puzzling is that the showers in the spa area aren’t free to use, however the quiet rooms have showers, which you can use for free. As noted by Chris:

I was surprised that the hot tub was only available for paid visits, and really surprised to hear that showers weren’t free either. Fortunately, this last information proved to be incorrect.

After I’d had a nice meal (once they sorted out the issues of bringing the wrong food), I asked to visit the “Quiet Area” section and take a nap. This area consists of a group of individual little day rooms with a twin bed where you can crash for a couple of hours. A few other airlines have them, but they’re rarely equipped with an actual bed. I liked this feature a lot.

Lo and behold, the rooms in the Quiet Area have showers! And though I didn’t take advantage of it, they looked like good showers (sorry, no pics 
 I took a very jet-lagged nap and then went to my gate).

For more details, check out Chris’ entire report.

Bottom line

Physically the lounge looks gorgeous, though it seems like they’re still working out some kinks (or at least hopefully they are, since operationally it sounds quite disappointing). Charging for hot tub use is ridiculous. Hopefully they eventually come around on mini-spa treatments as well.

On the plus side, the nap rooms look quite nice.

I’m excited to check out the lounge for myself next month, though in the meantime I figured I’d link to the above reports.

What do you make of the Al Safwa Lounge? What would you most like to see change, based on the above?

Comments

  1. No free showers? Even U.S. domestic lounges have those. It’s almost inconceivable that the Qatar flagship first class lounge would want to put its guests in a position where they wished they were in a United Club instead.

  2. Ben..are there still those QR BMW 7er series or not? Until now i’ve only had A380 F flights only or connecting to regional F , but never Regional F to A380. Will a get a bus or a car to the Terminal? Don’t need a car, but still curious.

  3. Hi Lucky (and all)-

    “Flickr User” here 😉 … I posted some more of my updated thoughts on the lounge on FT, which I’ll copy below, but will say that Chris Guillebeau’s thoughts on his blog mimicked mine exactly, and worded much more eloquently. It seems we are in the same mind as I was very curious about the jacuzzi, alas was told the same thing.

    I would be willing to bet eventually they would make free 15-minute Spa appointments, especially since both their Middle East competitors do the same. That being said, I did see someone partaking in a paid treatment while there.

    – The “Quiet Rooms” (again poorly named), are in my opinion, the best by a long shot of any F class lounge I’ve been too. Essentially for 8 hours in the night it meant I had a mini-hotel room with en-suite shower, and a keycard to come and go as I pleased. Didn’t seem to be a time limit. Approximately 7-8 of these rooms. TV however didn’t seem to be linked to anything.

    – As mentioned briefly.The lack of a map, or a “guide to Al-Safwa”, I think will mean 95% of customers will miss most of the lounge. To get to the family rooms, you have to go through a area that says kid-zones (no-prior signage). As said before, they aren’t really family rooms at all, more of a semi-private lounges which are great. The sign for the “quiet rooms” had a image of a person on a semi-reclining chair. Heck, it was only in the last hour did I notice there was a large indoor balcony terrace. This meant, that in my time there I still saw some people sleeping on the couches in the foyer.

    – The food was decent. No Michellin-Star, but pretty good. Though not on the menu, I was served an amuse-bouche and a mini-sorbet in between courses. Krug on free-flow

    – Tons of staff, but some still seemed really confused about certain things. IE not knowing about certain services, or the locations of certain things. And nervous to the point of no personality. The one exception was a (I assume manager) that was extremely friendly and actually did offer me a tour of the lounge, and very proud of the lounge.

    – The Spa is the biggest disappointment for me with no-free treatments . The prices were very high, around 500-600AED per hour. You should definitely take a walk through it though, it looks fantastic on the inside. But if you don’t book a treatment, you have to shower in the bathroom behind the family room (nicer than I’m describing it), or in your quiet room. Did not see/hear any mention of a tailor.

    – Some flights board from the lounge, but I can’t tell you the procedure as my flight to Paris did not.

    – Sometimes the photos don’t do it justice, but the detail and quality of the hard materials is evident throughout.

    – I don’t know about others, but its weird being in such a big place that is eerily quiet.

    – The lounge has it’s own duty free.

    Feel free to ask any questions!

  4. @Sid “put its guests in a position where they wished they were in a United Club instead”

    Haha, yes so true. Charging for anything in your flagship First Class lounge is ridiculous. When you’ve already shelled out thousands for a first class ticket, you shouldn’t have to pay $60 to use a hot tub. You can get a hot tub for $89 at a Hampton Inn, in addition to a private room, shower, as well as a full-sized pool. Very odd.

    Hopefully they will get this all worked out!

  5. A question I know several will ask, and I know Ben can get an answer to: inbound F A380 from CDG connecting to J 787 to JNB with no F cabin (same ticket), will I get access to new F lounge?

  6. Lol, you can’t give us your own review yet so you nick your mates review instead. That’s pretty pitiful work right there

  7. One thing to note is that:

    Qatar is different from Emirates/Etihad that they call the short haul business class a “First Class” which is confusing and not apple-to-apple comparison. QR tries to copy the (bad) idea of domestic US. See most Americans who never leave the country think that first class is just the domestic F seat on 737/A320 and had no idea what international F/J is like.

    One different thing is that for US carriers, they may call it (domestic) first class, but it is just a name… no benefit of lounge access etc that comes along and in fact been treated like short haul Business class (as in Europe or Asia), down to the fare code and mileage earning percentages. However Qatar let a short haul first class pax (in fact the same fare code as Business class) have same benefits as long haul first class (ie A380 First to LHR/CDG/BKK). I think it is kinda weird and not making business sense that a person who flies Business class DOH-USA (more premium) gets access to the worse lounge than a person who flies First class (inferior to long haul Business class) to Dubai, Kuwait, or Cairo.

  8. They maybe trying to separate the wheat from the chaff? The posers may fly first class but will complain about every nickel and dime charge.

  9. Given “Flickr User” has provided their name in the lead photo in that album seems a bit of a backhand not to give them proper credit (the others get their name). They are great photos and deserve a tip of the hat.

  10. @kieran – don’t be silly, this is luckys review – it doesn’t matter that it has basically been stolen from someone else

  11. I was just there from 10pm to 12:45am this Sunday. Loved the quiet room. A massage would have cost $230. I declined. It is immense, quiet, and it was empty when we were there. Looking forward to returning on Thursday!

  12. The lounge in Doha is fantastic, food is good (specially the 1974 Porto), service is great (Hiramani made this experience very enjoyable) and comfort is great. Looking forward visiting Doha again.

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