Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge: First Thoughts

After a super long delay, Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa First Class Lounge at the Hamad International Airport in Doha finally opened last month. As a matter of fact, it opened a month ago to the day.

At the time I posted links to some of the first reviews, though can now finally share my own impressions, as I visited the lounge this past weekend.

Al-Safwa

The lounge is uninvitingly gorgeous

The new Al Safwa Lounge is massive and so sparsely furnished. I love minimalist design, so in theory am a big fan of the lounge’s decor.

That being said, it’s possibly the most sparsely furnished and least “welcoming-feeling” lounge I’ve ever visited. You almost feel like you’re visiting a museum. Take a look at the below entryway, for example, which lacks any sort of furnishing or art.

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Pricing in the lounge makes no sense

The pricing of amenities in the lounge is mind-boggling.

Krug and a five course meal? Complimentary.

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A massive room with two hotel-quality beds, a shower, and TV? Complimentary (and actually nicer than The Airport Hotel, which is located inside the terminal as well).

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A soak in a hot tub? 200QAR (~50USD). Heck, you even have to pay to use the showers in the spa area, while the showers in the sleeping rooms are free.

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A 30 minute foot massage? 340QAR (~90USD).

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I figured I’d take one for the team and get a spa treatment, especially since the spa treatment comes with complimentary access to the hot tub. And I must say the massage was fantastic, one of the best I’ve ever had, though it lasted closer to an hour than 30 minutes. I also got the sense I was just about the only person that day to use the spa.

Given the cost of labor, the pricing model just makes no sense to me. They charge to use the hot tub or for a 30 minute foot rub or to use any of the showers not in the day rooms, while you can basically have a complimentary day room for hours on end with free-pouring Krug.

The lounge is amusingly overstaffed

The lounge wasn’t that busy when I visited, though had amusing staffing levels. I had lunch in the restaurant, which had about a 7:1 server:guest ratio (I was the only guest).

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Perhaps the most awkward staffing situation was in the spa. As I said above, I’m fairly sure I was the only person that day to use the spa, as people don’t seem to be paying up.

Someone insisted on taking my bags from the reception to the locker room, and he checked on me roughly every 30 seconds as I got changed. He once walked in while I was taking off clothes and putting on the robe, and rather than leaving when he saw it, he came up to me and held the robe up so I could slip right into it. Alrighty then! He also paid me a visit every couple of minutes while I was in the hot tub to see if I might want anything.

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At the same time, the lounge was sort of overstaffed in a disorganized way. Service in the restaurant and spa was incredible, while I wasn’t once offered a drink when seated in the lounging area.

Bottom line

I’m really happy to see that the Al Safwa First Class Lounge is open. The Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge is gorgeous, though tends to be overcrowded, so hopefully this lounge opening alleviates that.

I have mixed feelings about the lounge, in a really strong way. On one hand I love the minimalist decor of the lounge, on the other hand I find it so sparsely furnished that it almost feels uncomfortable.

The sleeping rooms are the best of any lounge in the world, and it’s great that they’re free. But then I also don’t get how they charge you if you just want to use a shower in the spa, or even the hot tub, or get a massage. It’s puzzling, because the spa is clearly very well staffed, but no one seems to be using it.

Hopefully over time they come up with a more logical solution for using the facilities. In the meantime I’d say this ranks in the top 10 first class lounges in the world, though not the top five.

If you’ve visited the Al Safwa First Class Lounge, what was your experience like?

Comments

  1. I have three biz tickets next summer from CMB > BCN and a brief layover. Will I be able to access it as a lowly biz customer?

  2. @Lucky, what are the hours of the lounge? I’ll be there towards the end of Dec arriving from CDG late at night. Hoping it will be open!

    I guess first question should be can it be accessed on arrival?

  3. Hi, How do you compare this lounge to Emirates First lounge and Lufthansa’s first terminal? and when will you share your detailed review 🙂 ?

  4. Do you get authorization from people before you post their pictures online?
    Privacy rules differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, as I am sure you know.

  5. What’s the deal with the chair pods on the fourth photo down? It appears it’s a chair and ottoman are in a pod and just face a metal divider with nothing there? Am I missing something?

  6. Whats the latest on access rules? Are they letting OWE in flying any class? QR have hardly any F flights and I dont think any other oneworld carriers offer F out of DOH anyway? (Hardly any oneworld carriers even fly to DOH! CX, maybe BA and UL-is that it?!)

  7. What are the terms for accessing the lounge? Will be transiting this coming summer BKK–>DOH on QR in first but then DOH–>AMM on RJ in business; curious if I’ll be able to access it during my layover. Thanks.

  8. @Ben: I seem to recall an article about how a lot of the ME carriers will categorize their two class planes as first in the front kinda like US carriers. Maybe this allows for a different lounge for them?

    @Jake: given that it is called the First Class lounge, probably not :).

  9. I was in the Al Sawfa lounge on my recent trip through Doha on to Dubai. While I agree the decoration is fantastic and beautifully designed the staff attentiveness was appalling! We tried to get some breakfast (around 7-8am), there were staff everywhere like as it was in the pictures above, but no one seemed to be doing anything. We weren’t shown a seat, given menus or asked for what drinks we wanted, every time we had to wave around for ages trying to get someone to come over. The couple next to us waited so long for their food they ended up complaining to the manager, considering they were there before we sat down and were still sat without food and no one had come over to them in the 30 minutes before they complained I’m not surprised! The same happened with us, despite the lounge being nearly empty, food service was unbelievably slow and not of great quality, overall leading to a disappointing trip to the lounge.

    Comparing it to the Al Mourjan lounge on the way back, staff were so helpful, food quality was great, and with plenty of comfy seating. It was such a stark contrast, especially for a lounge that was meant to be essentially a flagship lounge in Doha.

  10. I had the opportunity to visit the Al Safwa lounge on my trip through Doha to Dubai, something I was really looking forward to. Unfortunately I couldn’t have been more disappointed. While the decorations are indeed amazing, and I personally love the more minimalist approach they have taken with it the rest was such a let down. There were so many members of staff, they spent most of their time milling around talking to each other. We tried to get breakfast, we had to wave around trying to get the attention from waiters just to get a menu and drinks order in. The couple next to us who were there when we sat down and didn’t have anyone serve them for 30 minutes afterwards ended up complaining to the manager that their food hadn’t arrived – it shouldn’t be too hard to make eggs on toast in a near empty lounge! A similar situation happened with us, food service was painfully slow and not of great quality.

    Comparing this to the Al Mourjan lounge on the way back couldn’t have been a greater contrast. Staff were exceptionally helpful, food service was quick and great quality and overall a really nice comfy place to relax before the flight home.

  11. Was there shortly after opening. Loved it, especially our quiet room. Nothing like sleeping under duvets in complete silence and having your own bathroom with shower in between middle of the night flights. And transportation to the connecting flight was quite nice too.

  12. Hi Ben, you wrote that you actually prefer the Quiet Rooms to the Airport Hotel. I’ll arrive around 23.30 from CDG in F and I’ll leave the next morning at 10AM to DXB in F. Do you think it’s worth taking a gamble hoping that a Quiet Room will be available or would you play it safe and reserve a room at the Airport Hotel? (we are traveling as a couple and therefore need a Quiet Room with two beds). Thanks a lot for your reply!

  13. Very much like a museum indeed. Almost makes you want to not touch anything and be quiet. Which can be a good thing.

  14. I wonder similar thing as Rob – I arrive around 10pm to Doha and then taking a flight to Abu Dhabi. I was thinking about taking the 8am flight and just sleeping in the Quiet Room but wondering if 1) they would let me stay overnight and 2) what kind of availability they would have. How many quiet rooms are there in the lounge?

  15. It sounds like the spa might be sublet, and operated as a separate business, not an airline amenity That could explain the charges for the use of spa facilities. Also did you consider that the gentleman who escorted you to the locker room might have been trying to say “So how you doin”?

  16. Since this is open and Etihad lounge in Abu Dhabi isn’t. Is this good enough to skew your preference of airline?

  17. I also got escort from plane to lounge and lounge to plane. Even if the latter is not necessary it’s a nice touch as i didn’t used to get it before Al Safwa opened

  18. Hello,

    they told me that you are only allowed in Al Safwa with a QR First Class Ticket. Oneworld Status and other Oneworld First Ticket holders are not permitted.
    You will have access to the lounge when coming from a QR F Flight that lasted more than 5 hours and then continuing in Business Class.

  19. @ Drew — It’s open 24 hours, and you can only use it if you have an eligible connecting flight; you can’t use it as an arrivals lounge.

  20. @ Nassir — That’s a toughie. Stay tuned for a new “top 10” lounge list. I think I slightly prefer this to the Emirates First Class Lounge, though I prefer the Lufthansa First Class Terminal for sure. Detailed review should be out in the next couple of weeks.

  21. @ Ben — Only those ticketed in first class on Qatar Airways are entitled to use the lounge. They don’t let oneworld Emerald members in, unfortunately.

  22. @ Daniel — Indeed, a bit odd. I think they’re intended to be more private, which is something the lounge otherwise lacks.

  23. @ Rob — That’s a toughie. If it were me, I’d probably gamble it and go for a quiet room, as I’m sure one would be available or would open up without too much of a wait.

  24. @ Hans — Technically they are, but I guess who’s going to stop them. Presumably they’ll add themselves to the “exceptions” list at some point.

  25. A female view: Recently used the lounge during my flight CAI->AUH (Etihad F)->DOH(Qatar F)->BKK (Qatar F), and stayed for 8 hour from midnight till 8am. I feel almost 1/3 of lounge space is devoted to family (a number of living room style large rooms with TV, excellent children playground rooms, petite bakery & cake room for children snack, “nanny room” etc. So I think this lounge is designed with huge focus on Arab families who fly in Qatar F. Btw there is a shower room inside male/female toilet within this family space, so if you don’t’ want to pay Spa entrance fee just for a shower & jacuzzi & relaxation, and all Quiet bedrooms are occupied, you can have a quick shower here.

    As for Spa, (a staff gave me a tour to both female & male sections) all facilities are identical except female one has manicure & pedicure room. Male jacuzzi is slightly larger and nicer than female one. The nicest spa treatment room that I found is Oriental medication room (using warm sand bed and Tibetan singing bowls). Spa products that they exclusively (spa staffs emphasize this.. lol) use in the lounge is Italian one, which I surprisingly found, not very impressive (I tested all products – scrubs, facial cream, body lotion, massage oil etc.) When I was there (about two weeks after opening?), spa staffs told me they have not had any female client yet except 6-8 male clients (mostly Arabs). I just tried all three appetizers (sushi, falafel, scallop), all are pretty disappointing except scallop. Sushi was the biggest disappointment and falafel was not good either.

    As for Quiet bedroom, when I arrived around midnight, a lot of availability (I was told there are 8-10 rooms in total) so I didn’t reserve one. When I came back around 4am after a bit of boozing in the bar, all are occupied. lol. They told I should have reserved one at my arrival then I could have kept till morning. Anyway in the end they gave me one for the handicapped as I am told two guests were supposed to leave around 6am soon.

  26. I recently arrived in F (QCredits upgrade) from BKK, onward in J 8 hours later to Oslo.
    Al mourjan rep followed me from airbridge to lounge, where it took quite a while to get access. Mourjan rep followed me to the sleeping rooms, which I really looked forward to, since the Biz lounge strangely doesn’t even have lounge chairs in quiet rooms.
    As the staff at quiet rooms were about to give me my room key, the one who let me in at the reception cam running, asked if my ticket was a redemption one, and when I confirmed this, she told me I was not allowed in the lounge after all. Many excuses followed.
    They don’t make the rules, there is no point in getting worked up, and I would stil benefit from the Al Mourjan lounge, so my quide just kept showing me around the Spa and Family areas, which looked stunning. As we were done the little tour, the receptionist came running back again, claimed she had made a mistake, and that I was indeed allowed in the lounge.
    I don’t know what to make of this really. I suspect that redemptions may not be eligible, but that they took pity because of my very long stay.
    Loved the lounge, got all attention I needed, and none I did not. Room was excellent, and I slept just until it was time for a quick breakfast and boarding.

  27. Ben,

    I wrote to info@dohahamadairport.com some days ago and I was like: “If I’m arriving Doha on Qatar First class, can I get access to Alsafwa?”

    The reply was “Yes if you are travelling with Qatar Airways first class.”

    So..? Alsafwa COULD be used as an arrivals lounge? or it just turns to be that I misunderstood it?

  28. Lucky, I will be arriving in first but departing in business class. Can I get access?
    Thanks
    Garrett

  29. @Garret I think that if you are flying in from Paris, Bangkok, London in First Class (A380 routes) for more than 5 hours you can get access to the al safwa lounge even if transiting to a business flight, you can call Qatar airways to make sure that thats the case 🙂

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