To kick-off my 9-day RTW Trip, I flew Qatar Airways from Sydney – Doha. I had initially planned on reviewing this flight but I was really tired and slept through most of this 14 hour trek. Anyhow, my onward flight to New York was equally long and featured the same aircraft, so I will be reviewing that flight, keep an eye out for that review over the coming week.
I landed in Doha at about 4 am and made my way to the Al Safwa lounge. For some reason, we had been assigned the furthest arrival gate which meant it was a good 8-10 minutes walk through a largely deserted part of the terminal. In terms of location, follow the signs until you get to the bottom of the escalator. Hop on it, ride it up and you are there.
The word exclusive is thrown around so casually these days that I often don’t know what to make of it. But in terms of Al Safwa, the word exclusive makes perfect sense. I say that because of the extremely limited set of circumstances that allow access into this lounge.
Basically, you gotta meet one of the following two conditions or you are out :
- Flying Qatar Airways First Class.
- Hold Privilege Club Platinum status and flying Qatar Airways Business Class.
For the longest of times, even Qatar’s own Platinum members flying Business Class were denied entry which was bonkers, thankfully the airline slightly tweaked the access requirements in October 2019 and put an end to this insanity. Note that although Qatar Airways are part of OneWorld alliance, Oneworld Emerald members cannot access the lounge even when flying First Class on other partner airlines such as British Airways or American Airlines.
What muddies the water further is that when COVID-19 brought travel to a standstill in 2020, Qatar retired it’s A-380’s and vowed never to bring them back which were the only planes in their fleet which actually featured a First Class cabin. Now, because of their ongoing dispute with Boeing they have been forced to reactivate a handful of A380’s, but don’t count on them sticking around permanently.
In my opinion, this puts the future of Al Safwa in balance and I will not be surprised if Qatar Airways decided to pull the shutter down on it. We shall see.
I presented my boarding pass which was scanned and I was in. As you come in, there is another large reception area few metres down the hallway.
A staff welcomed me into the lounge and pointed me straight to the dining area. I mean I love my food and all but this was a bit strange considering it was just after 4 am 😎.
Anyhow I walked past a beautiful water feature along the way.
There was some general seating as well as individual pods for those seeking privacy, on both sides of the hallway.
The lounge occupies a huge chunk of real estate and seating is spread throughout the facility. Still, given it’s gargantuan size, it still feels pretty sparsely furnished as you can tell by the picture above.
The dining area is located towards the back of the lounge. It features fine dining restaurant style seating and a very large oval-shaped bar. I wouldn’t have expected anything less 😉
A staff greeted me and escorted me to one of the tables. He advised me they were serving breakfast at the time. I was offered a choice of hot or cold towel and shown a drinks menu on an iPad.
I started proceedings with a glass of 2005 Charles Heidsieck Rose which was not exactly appropriate for the time of the day. But hey, I didn’t know when (if ever) I will be back at Al Safwa so why not.
To eat, I ordered the tomato and bell pepper Shakshuka which was served with a side of Arabic pita bread.
Sadly, the Shakshuka was bereft of any flavour and did not taste very good. So I ended up ordering Eggs Royale and a cappuccino which were both excellent.
That concluded breakfast. The staff was attentive right through the service and constantly offered to top up my champagne which was nice.
I was very full by this time and as there was still half an hour before my flight to New York started boarding, so I decided to go for a wander around the lounge.
There is a fully equipped Business Centre back near the entrance. It has private offices with iMac desktops and printing facilities. I wanted to print a spare copy of my International Vaccination Certificate which the staff assisted me do easily.
There is a Media Room which I am not sure is all that useful these days. It had 2 rows of chairs facing the solitary wall-mounted television running CNN.
The lounge also has in-house spa facilities and quiet zones. The quiet zones are basically small hotel-style rooms which guests can reserve if their layover in Doha was for more than 6 hours, at no extra cost.
I am not a spa person, but would have loved to check-out the rooms. Due to paucity of time however, and the fact that I had a short 3 hour layover, I was unable to do so on this occasion. Hopefully I will pass through Doha again at some point and look forward to taking a look at them.
The toilets and shower facilities are spread right across the breadth of the lounge. They looked immaculate and were serviced regularly from what I noticed.
Besides the said amenities, the lounge itself is quite unique and walking through the long corridors, it’s hard not to get museum like vibes.
The walls for the most part are quite barren, occasionally though they do showcase pieces of Islamic art and Qatar’s cultural heritage.
At this time, I had less than 5 minutes until boarding commenced for my flight to New York. So I picked up my bags and made my way to Gate C8, which was just a few minutes down from the lounge.
The Al Safwa Lounge at Doha is a very nice facility and quiet unique as lounges go. Due to stringent admission requirements, not to mention the sheer size of the lounge, it never really felt busy. I was glad I was able to visit and spend sometime in the lounge.
That said, there is a tendency amongst the bloggers to exaggerate things somewhat when talking about Al Safwa. For instance, its not uncommon to see them justifying paid access into the lounge which I have a hard time reconciling with. While you can pay and get in, I am not sure a US$ 165 (A$ 230) entry fee is justified. The simple reason I went to Al Safwa and not Al Mourjan Business Lounge, which is also a highly regarded facility was that as a Privilege Club Platinum member I had free access to it.
Having been to Al Mourjan a few times, I will admit that the Al Safwa takes things up a notch or two. So in that sense, I could perhaps understand if someone didn’t care about getting value for money and just wanted to make it a one-time splurge.
Have you visited Al Safwa Lounge in Doha? Leave a comment below.