Bits: Exclusive first photos of Qatar’s First Class lounge, earning Jumeirah Sirius points via Amex

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News in brief:

Qatar Airways finally opens its Al Safwa First Class lounge in Doha!

When I was in Doha last October, the Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class lounge in the new airport was still under construction.  12 months later, it has finally opened.

HFP reader Chris was one of the first people through the doors and sent me these exclusive photos.  I hope to be there myself in six weeks to write a full review.  Take a look here (note the water streaming down):

Qatar Airways First Class lounge Doha


Qatar Airways First Class lounge Doha 1

It has its own shop:

Qatar Airways First Class lounge Doha 3


Qatar Airways First Class lounge Doha 5


Qatar Airways First Class lounge Doha 6

There is still no sign, of course, of the new Etihad First Class lounge in Abu Dhabi which was also ‘under construction’ when I passed through a year ago ….

Jumeirah Sirius returns as an American Express International Dollar Card partner

This is probably of interest to only around 10 HFP readers, but those 10 people will be very happy!

Jumeirah, the Dubai-based luxury hotel group, was a UK Amex Membership Rewards hotel partner for a short period.  When that deal ended, it remained a partner with the International Dollar Card (click here for why anyone with a very large pile of Amex points should have one of these).

When the Jumeirah loyalty scheme, Sirius, was relaunched this Summer, the conversion option went away.  It is now back, at 4 IDC Membership Rewards points to 1 Jumeirah Sirius point.  This is a little worse than the old ratio (20:1) adjusted for the 7-ish to 1 revaluation of the scheme.

If you have been to Dubai at peak holiday periods, you will know that beach-front hotel prices are eye watering.  Here is an example using Sirius points:

Cost of an Arabian Summer House room at Dar Al Masyaf at Madinat Jumeirah next week including tax:  £913 per night (welcome to super-luxury beach-front Dubai during UK school holidays ….)

Cost in Sirius points:  11,800 points per night

International Dollar Card Amex points required:  (11,800 x 4 =) 47,200 points per night

UK Amex points required, assuming you transfer them to the International Dollar Card on a day when the exchange rate is $1.53:  30,849 points per night

Value per UK Membership Rewards point:  2.95p

You can’t beat that.  You won’t always get such good value out of Jumeirah Sirius, but it is certainly worth a look if you heading for somewhere where they have a property.  The overall quality of their hotels is high – see my review of Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi – although the Burj Al Arab in Dubai is very much an acquired taste …..

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  1. Some daytime pics of the Qatar Airways First Class lounge on my blog

  2. Is it standard Oneworld access rules for the QR F Lounge? BA moving the goal posts somewhat with the recent Concorde trend, and hoping QR not following suit…

    • Rules not yet clear. I imagine it will be like the Concorde Room for F passengers only. They may not even allow BA F in. We will see.

      • Yes, QR’s F only.

        • Russell Evans says:

          OW Website is contrary to this. Says “Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge opened on 22nd October 2015. This lounge is only available to customers traveling in First Class on Qatar Airways or other oneworld member flights. Guests are not permitted.”

          • In that case, can I recommend you …

            British Airways, First Class, Doha to Bahrain, 15500 Avios (off-peak) + £27.50 one-way!

            Will be interesting to see if Qatar let regional passengers use it. They sell flights as First (18,000 Avios one-way) and Economy (4,500 Avios one-way) around the region. I am doing Abu Dhabi to Doha in December in F.

          • Russell Evans says:

            I have DOH to LHR (via BAH) in F with BA at the end of November. Will be making an effort to try this lounge out

  3. Is it just me or does it look a bit ho-hum? Call me jaded….or just expectations raised too high with the waiting.

  4. I wonder if the new lounge will allow access to regional First passengers?

  5. Don’t forget that you are only actually getting 2.95p per point IF you would be prepared to pay 913 GBP per night for the room. Surely only crazy people would be and surely there are no crazy people on HfP…

    • This is the irony of the hobby though! If you usually stay in five star hotels or fly First / Business then your miles are worth more, because using them for such things is a genuine cash saving.

      • True – but you’d still have to be somebody who stays at particular hotels and flies particular airlines, regardless of cost. Most of us on here tend to take advantage of special offers and deals that bring the cash price right down, like ex-EU flights. Anybody who would be happy to spend 913GBP per room per night at a hotel would be very unlikely to go to the hassle of flying to Copenhagen or Dublin to save 500-1000 pounds on a business class flight.

        • I’ve had this discussion on FlyerTalk before and I just don’t agree with you, as I fall into the exact category of who you’re talking about. My next trip is in 3 weeks time to Miami in paid F on BA, which I’m going via Dublin as it was nearly 50% cheaper than directly from LHR. I’m then staying in a £800/n room whilst in Miami. Just because I can afford £1000/n+ on a hotel room doesn’t mean I don’t want to get get the best deal available. Besides, I still have a holiday budget and the more I save in one area means the more I can spend in another, or the more nights away I can spend at better hotels.

          • Good for you, Tom, but I think you are very much in the minority on HfP – not that it matters one way or the other, really! :))

          • If you think there is a significant number of people in this category then quite frankly you’re deluded!

          • Not significant, but a substantially higher percentage compared to the general population, which was the point.

            You need to remember that, to someone on the average £25k salaey and about to lose £2,000 of tax credits, pretty much everything on HFP would be seen as irrelevant.

          • I never said there was a significant amount of people in this category. I’m saying that people whom Brian describe do exist, as I’m one of them. A lot of people seem to think that when you earn a high income that suddenly everything is affordable.

  6. whiskerxx says:

    You would have to be barking mad or have more money than sense to pay £913 per night for an Arabian Summer House room at Dar Al Masyaf at Madinat Jumeirah at any time of year!!

    • You would have to be barking mad and/or have more money than sense to pay £913 per night for any room anywhere in the world! But particularly in Dubai…

      • Get some kids, try finding a good October half term holiday and then come back to me.

        If you’re on £500k+ household income it is not a massive strain. I would say that about half of the HFP readers I meet fall into this category, although this is a self selecting group as I gravitate around the City or Mayfair ….

        • Erico1875 says:

          A lot of the Gold Crown timeshare apartments featured on Apartments4you on Costa del Sol or Canaries come in around 100 a night, many far less. Every bit as good as a 5 star hotel.You can get discount thru Tesco CC boost too.

          • Good point.
            I and my family have been using these certs to stay at some really nice apartments in The Caribbean, Florida, Mexico, Spain, Tenerife, including stays during school holiday weeks.

            Check availability here (Do not purchase the certs from this link ) Availability changes regularly, 2bed 2 bath apartments at Holliwood Mirage Los Cristianos which are great for kids appear every year for the summer schools hols.

          • Erico1875 says:

            Thanks. Very interesting.. are using the same search engine as Apartments4you so it will be interesting to find out the difference in cost between them both..
            Remember you can convert Tesco CCpoints @ £30 = £100 voucher

          • Just looked at the apartments4you site and noticed that the prices are way higher than using a resort cert, the certs cost £182 for a week I checked two hotels for the same room type and date, the cert costing £182 was £303 cheaper for one hotel and £163 for the other.

        • I agree that it may not be a ‘massive strain’ if you’re earning 500K or more. But if you’ve got two kids and so need two rooms at a total of 1826GBP per night, you’re looking at about 10,000 pounds for 5 nights. Add on the business class flights, food, taxis etc and you’re spending 20-25K for a 5 night holiday in Dubai. That’s a year’s school fees at a good private school. Somebody earning 500K is paying half of that back in taxes and probably has an expensive house and car. Would they really want to spend 25,000 pounds in cash for their 5-night holiday in Dubai? Somehow, I doubt it.

          Clearly, you are in a special position because you can use the points, so the ‘real’ cost for you is much lower. Most people would, I suspect, prefer to get a room costing a fraction of that, but still a very good one at a very good hotel. Obviously, if you are earning millions, then it is a different matter.

        • Jesus you can go off someone you know!…..

        • Bit of an exaggeration there, Raffles – though the point is sound.

          There are also some (like myself) who left the top echelons of the FTSE100 world for various reasons – lots of us happily – and understand the various luxuries etc of lounges, status, club/ first through experience.

          Nice to get it back for peanuts & a hobby.

    • Or have millions of airline miles, a rather large Amex balance and a conveyor belt of people looking for a referral for the Plat card.
      At 18,000 Amex per referral that’s less than 2 referrals a night for the £913 room makes it look a lot cheaper and better value than some other non airmile routes.
      I could see our esteemed leader consider this as an option and if so good on you Raffles you deserve it.

      • I would bet that this site has a higher percentage of Amex Centurion cardholders / £500k+ readers than almost any other UK site.

        • Are they the same ones collecting Tesco Club Card points?

          • Yep – on their way home from their 500K-a-year jobs, they would take a detour for the local Tesco and buy a load of okra for the bonus points, plus 3V cards in the good old days. Then sit at home activating said cards and using them to prepay their electricity bills.

            Or not, as the case may be – if you earn enough money, your time is far too valuable to waste on such a relatively low return.

      • That’s a good point and clearly Raffles is in an exalted position here – and bully for him. I do think that it needs to be stressed, however, that you are only getting a particular value per point if you are happy to spend the cash.

        • Erico1875 says:

          I think there is more value getting flights/hotels etc that I otherwise couldn’t afford

          • I would say that’s the case for most of us on here.

          • That’s the point – and that’s what the value of sites like this are for – not saving us money that we would have spent anyway, but getting us experiences that we wouldn’t otherwise have wanted to pay the going rate for.

          • Waribai says:

            That’s definitely the case for me. Our household income is way above the national average but doesn’t reach six figures. However, thanks to HFP we always fly business and can stay at 5* hotels. I thought that was the majority of people here. Maybe not?!

          • Majority, definitely – never suggested otherwise!

  7. OT: Is there anywhere to find out quickly which flights leave from which terminals at different airports. Our flights back from Houston next year don’t show the terminal on the ticket. Trying to work out if their lounge is covered under Lounge Club – probably not knowing our luck!

  8. Not convinced that there’s many £500k plus households here. When you’re earning £500 per hour for your day job, you’re not going to spend hours queueing at the Tesco tills with your till spit to get a few pounds worth of points and then spend more hours cashing the giftcards in!
    And never forget those of us who only earn a fifth of that are still in the top 1% in a country which is in the top 1%.

    • It is not compulsory to read every single article and follow all of the advice on it.

      • 15,000 people read HfP daily, either by visiting the site or getting the emails. Probably 50 people provide the bulk of the comments – it is not representative,

        I can search the 4,500+ name email list easily and I know how many Goldman Sachs etc names are on it. It is a lot. People working 15 hours per day in the City don’t have much free time to comment though! They are running up the air miles and come here for advice on how to use them.

        The other thing to remember is that City boys like a game, like a challenge, like to show how cunning they are. This game suits them.

        • We all love the game!

          • Janeyferr says:

            I earn under £16k and pointsing is now my main hobby; I’ve done no cross stitch since discovering this blog.

          • and my attendance at the gym has dropped off ever since getting into points collecting!

        • I agree with the “city boys like a challenge” piece, and fall into that camp myself…points collection is definitely a game to me.

          I don’t work at Goldman’s but you need to be pretty senior even there to be bringing in over £500k – MD level I think whose hallowed ranks they only admit to every other year, though it’s a while since I spoke to anyone I know there about comp.

          And even in the ranks of city people earning £500k I don’t know any who would drop £1000/night on a hotel for a half term break. Maybe it’s the ~40 year old demographic I know, but people often have houses, school fees to pay etc.

        • Indeed.

        • I’m struggling to understand where the challenge lies. Once you know about excellent sites like this with all the tips and deals they publish, it’s pretty easy – you just read them and follow whatever advice is valid for you. No challenge there! Fun and rewarding, though!

    • So much guessing going on here. Rob, maybe you should get a market research company involved. Their anonymous survey among us all would give you and soon after, all of us a fantastic picture of the HFP community, their financial situation, CC collection, travel preferences etc.
      I have not (yet) reached an annual income of 500k+ but thanks to HFP I sit in the same chairs like high-level earners on the plane, in the lounges and luxury hotels. Being a bit smart and of course well informed can get you some perks usually only a considerable amount of money can buy. I find this very satisfying.

    • My household income is above the top 1% but well below the 500k mark. Head for Points allows us to pay less than economy prices and mostly travel business class. There is not a chance we would have paid real money for business class tickets for the 4 of us to KL to get us to Vietnam this summer. In our house I tell my husband which credit card he needs to apply for / use this month, he sees this as a hobby for me which upgrades all our travel experiences.
      Slightly OT I have a daughter who will be doing a year abroad at an American college starting next August, its really painful not being able to book any travel as I don’t know exactly where she will be or when it will start. I’ve got used to booking stuff 355 days out so this feels all wrong.
      I have always been happy to ask Raffles for credit card referrals as needed, even before this site as he was really helpful on Paidtoshop.

  9. There has been a number of articles on airport lounges on HFP recently – I like reading them to be prepared. There hasn’t been one about the BA Galleries lounge in MUC yet, but nothing could have prepared me for that anyway (I was there three weeks ago). Apart from an appalling selection of food it was the dirtiness of the seats and carpets that really put me off. If you let some misbehaving teenagers have a party in your living room, the place would not look as disgusting as this particular lounge. I was really shocked.

    • I’ve been in a lot of airport lounges over the years, including first class ones (Concorde Lounge, Malaysian, Cathay Pacific) and in general i found all of them a bit of a let down and over hyped. I don’t know what it is i am expecting! the lounge i probably enjoyed most was the Virgin Clubhouse at Heathrow which was actually my first time in a lounge – so after that i have always felt somewhat let down.

      On a visit to the old Servisair lounge in EDI it was so chaotic (mobbed with rugby fans) that i left to go site in the bar, which had a far better atmosphere. I would have asked for my money back but it was on Amex Priority Pass card!

      • Don’t know if you were also addressing me, Harry, but I was expecting furniture which would not have made me worry about getting dirty clothes. That’s all.
        Galleries lounges at LHR T5 see thousands of passengers every day and still, compared to MUC, the place is in an acceptable condition.
        I would be happy to send you some photos I took in MUC, Raffles, if you are interested.

        • I’ve been in MUC twice and must say that I’ve never found it to be too bad. Both times it has been relatively full, but not dirty. I wonder if your experience is linked to the fact that the person who is supposed to be manning the reception desk generally isn’t there, which means that anybody could theoretically just walk in. (This is made more likely by the fact that the toilets are outside the lounge, which means that checking who is entering legitimately must be a nightmare anyway.)

          • I spent several hours there, reception was manned all the time. We all know that the selection of food varies considerably between lounges, and the staff on duty have good days and bad days. That’s not what really bothered me, nor am I talking about some crumbs on the floor or used dishes lying around – all that can be easily fixed. The state of the carpets and seats put me off, bad dirty stains some of which looked as if they could spoil your clothes. I would not be surprised to find that in an old carriage of the London tube, but it has got nothing to do with the “premium experience” British Airways wants to offer to its most valued customers.
            To be fair, I was invited to take part in a survey about my lounge experience, and I did get this reply: “The lounge facilities should be fully functioning and spotlessly clean. I realise this wasn’t the case when you travelled and I am sorry. I have passed your comments on to our Lounge Manager, so that this can be followed up with the team.”

  10. Jeremy I says:

    The exchanges in the comments here are brilliant – I’m laughing so hard at the thought of the banker earning 500k a year rushing around all the Tescos in the South East looking for the few remaining 3v cards!

    Keep up the good work Rob.

    • I find that people tend to see HFP as they want to see it. I didn’t write about / 3V for TEN MONTHS until the two pieces I did in the Summer. Ten months. The ‘manufactured spend’ content on here is very, very small. Even the Tesco content is small – perhaps 5% of articles are Clubcard related?

  11. whiskerxx says:

    TBH – anyone earning £500k+ per annum who scrats around for a few extra avios or looks to save a couple of hundred pounds on EU departures needs to get a life.

    • Agree. If somebody wants to save himself some money by going to Dublin to fly to Miami in BA F, that’s fine, but if he then blows the money on a hotel costing 800 pounds a night, you have to ask yourself why you wouldn’t just book yourself a 400 pound room (for example) and use the savings to pay the extra cost of the flights. Oh well, each to his own.

      • OK, but look at it this way: what if someone wants to stay in an £800/night hotel, but can only afford £400/night, then discovers he can free up the extra money by trading some of his time by going to Dublin.

        I think the most I’ve ever paid for a hotel night is £80 rather than £800! Considering that I usually check-in at 2200 and leave by 0630 (this will change after I achieve Hilton Gold), it’s roughly the same as my hourly salary… 🙁

      • Or: I can afford to do both, but would rather get the best deal possible, all for the inconvenience of getting up a few hours earlier to catch a flight? This is what keeps getting missed from this discussion; like somehow earning a 6 figure salary means I don’t care what anything costs anymore and will just waste money, cos I can. There is no guarantee of anything in life, so why would I live like I’ll forever earn a good salary, when I can do the same thing, but it costs less? It would be like finding out a Porsche cost 50% less if I bothered going up to Manchester to buy it, then getting criticised for it. As you say, to each their own. I personally don’t care how anyone chooses to spend their money.

        • Erico1875 says:

          Q: Why do U2 tour anymore as they are all multi millionaires ?
          A.: Because they want to, they enjoy the thrill of filling a stadium
          Thats why people earning 500K + may well run around Tesco picking uo 3V and Argos gift cards. Its all about the chase.
          Its (or was) the thrill of walking up and seeing those coloured balloons at 30 yards. How many I wondered. The excitement of getting a load of them.
          I really don’t think Points collecting is earnings related, other than the really poor can’t really get off the starting block.

          • Hmmm. It may well be the thrill – but they get paid millions to do it. Otherwise, they’d do it for free. If you offered U2 a few 3V cards and asked them to do a concert, I doubt they’d jump at it for the thrill… Otherwise they would be constantly doing charity concerts for no fee to raise money for good causes. Instead, Bono changes his residence to avoid paying taxes.

            Not a terribly good example to use in this case, I’m afraid.

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