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Review: the Al Safwa First Class lounge at Hamad Airport, Doha – a masterpiece

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This is my review of the new Al Safwa First Class Lounge at Hamad International Airport, Doha in Qatar.  I cannot think of a better way to end HfP for 2015.

This is a continuation of my recent Middle East trip report.  Regular readers will remember that I spent the night in The Airport Hotel inside Doha’s Hamad International Airport.

My Qatar Airways flight to Paris departed at 7.55am.  I was up early in order to head over to the new Al Safwa Qatar Airways First Class lounge.  This lounge gained almost mythical status over its long-delayed construction period – a local rumour is that the project was abandoned and restarted half way through because it wasn’t seen as impressive enough!

Despite opening in October, I very nearly missed out.  A rare Qatari thunder storm – just a few days before my visit – highlighted defects in the roof and the lounge was flooded!  Luckily it was open again on the day I arrived.

Writing about this lounge is relatively pointless.  It is far better to look at the photographs:

Review of Al Safwa First Class Lounge, Hamad Airport, Doha, Qatar

and (note the water flowing down from the ceiling):

Review of Al Safwa First Class Lounge, Hamad Airport, Doha, Qatar

and

Review of Al Safwa First Class Lounge, Hamad Airport, Doha, Qatar

and

Review of Al Safwa First Class Lounge, Hamad Airport, Doha, Qatar

and

Review of Al Safwa First Class Lounge, Hamad Airport, Doha, Qatar

and

Review of Al Safwa First Class Lounge, Hamad Airport, Doha, Qatar

This is the main restaurant and bar.  I had breakfast there, meeting up – by coincidence – with the guy who moderates the Qatar Airways forum on Flyertalk.

My eggs benedict and waffle were perfectly OK although, to be honest, it could have been better.  The general view of people who have eaten there at other times of the day is that Qatar has not yet got the restaurant running as well as it could.

Review of Al Safwa First Class Lounge, Hamad Airport, Doha, Qatar

Those with families are encouraged to use a separate family buffet in another part of the lounge which is, laughably, better catered than 90% of airline lounges I’ve visited:

Review of Al Safwa First Class Lounge, Hamad Airport, Doha, Qatar

Little kids will be kept busy:

Review of Al Safwa First Class Lounge, Hamad Airport, Doha, Qatar

and

Review of Al Safwa First Class Lounge, Hamad Airport, Doha, Qatar

With a video game arcade for bigger kids:

Review of Al Safwa First Class Lounge, Hamad Airport, Doha, Qatar

This made me laugh:

Review of Al Safwa First Class Lounge, Hamad Airport, Doha, Qatar

…. because the room inside is the only spartanly furnished place in the whole lounge.  It is like a hospital waiting room.

There is a lot more to it.  There is a luxury spa (not free).  There is an exclusive duty free shop.  There are a number of ‘quiet rooms’ which are effectively private hotel rooms with a shower – some people use these overnight if they are available (they cannot be reserved).  It goes on and on.

Listing the facilities is a bit beside the point though.  It isn’t about the facilities.  It is about being inside one of the most architecturally significant interiors of recent years.  It is about the feeling of being pretty much alone (very few people qualify to use the lounge) in a space which is purposely huge.  It is about showing you that the axis of influence in the world is tilting away from the US and Western Europe.

The achitects have clearly used the cathedral as their model.  Most cathedrals are designed, in some way, to cower you into feeling the power of the spirit.  This is a secular, 21st century interpretation.  Take a look at the top photograph again.  Look at how small the man is compared to the ceiling.

Go in, get a glass of Krug and walk around.  It is a feeling you won’t have had for a while.

How do you get in?

There are only two ways to gain access:

with a First Class boarding pass for a Qatar Airways or oneworld flight (this includes British Airways)

or

with a First Class boarding pass from your previous flight, as long as that flight was over five hours long – which essentially means incoming passengers from London, Paris or Bangkok only.  No other 5+ hour routes have an F cabin.

British Airways Gold card holders or equivalents may NOT access the lounge.

Oddly, you CAN get in if you are booked on a regional Qatar Airways flight in First Class (eg Doha to Abu Dhabi).  Booking one of these flights for 18,000 Avios one-way may be the cheapest way to gain access.

The lounge is, oddly, not yet featured on the Qatar website.  The page on the business class Al Mourjan lounge is here and I reviewed the Al Mourjan lounge here.

Conclusion

I did two things on this trip which are, indisputably, now on the ‘top 10 airline things in the world you need to do’.  The first was the Etihad A380 First Class Apartment which I reviewed here.  The second was visiting the Al Safwa lounge in Doha.  If you can find a way of working either of these into your upcoming trips, you won’t regret it.

In the next part of this report, I will look at the Qatar Airways A380 First Class service between Doha and Paris.


Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (June 2024)

Here are the four options to get FREE airport lounge access via a UK credit card.

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with two free Priority Pass cards, one for you and one for a supplementary cardholder. Each card admits two so a family of four gets in free. You get access to all 1,500 lounges in the Priority Pass network – search it here.

You also get access to Eurostar, Lufthansa and Delta Air Lines lounges.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for the first year. It comes with a Priority Pass card loaded with four free visits to any Priority Pass lounge – see the list here.

Additional lounge visits are charged at £24.  You get four more free visits for every year you keep the card.  

There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and you get a 20,000 points sign-up bonus.  Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points (TO 16TH JULY), FREE for a year & four airport ….. Read our full review

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free Priority Pass card, allowing you access to the Priority Pass network.  Guests are charged at £24 although it may be cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card for your partner.

The card has a fee of £195 and there are strict financial requirements to become a HSBC Premier customer.  Full details are in my HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review

PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.

Comments (48)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Nick says:

    I’m looking forward to your report on the First class cabin on the A380 Rob. I popped into the flat class cabin to take a look when I flew it in Business on Christmas Day DOH-BKK. It looked very nice. I was actually surprised the cabin crew let me in after asking them.

  • Stu R says:

    It all looks very nice, but QR need to work out how to better chill their Krug – we were served it a few weeks back on our flight and it was barely cooler than room temperature. IMHO, if you’re going to drink any champagne, the cooler the better – ours comes out of the fridge and into the freezer for 30 mins before ‘quaffing’ …. modern world problems!

    • Will says:

      I find that a bad red can be drinkable if chilled. That said I’m no wine guru.

      • guesswho2000 says:

        No wine guru either, but I find a chilled red wine is actually really nice! A recent trip in the wine region of South Australia really opened my eyes! Going very OT here, so to bring it back on track, the flight to Australia was in First, booked with AA miles 😉

    • Lady London says:

      + 1.
      If you drink your champagne too chilled you would miss the subtleties of the best ones.

      Having said that, as referred to by other posters there are many other wines that one would definitely want to drink chilled… for whatever reason.

      Don’t laugh but Coca Cola varies from country and I’ve found I miss some of the subtleties of my Coca Cola if it’s too chilled too…

  • Erico1875 says:

    From the pictures, the place looks completely soulless!

    • Rob says:

      It is a bit like saying you think St Pauls Cathedral is a bit soulless ….. when you are there it has an impact which the photos do not fully give off.

  • Ollie says:

    Also, it would appear that it is only for Qatar F passengers. Having left Doha last night being a BA F passenger did not qualify me for entry. This seems to be a pretty clear message across QR employees having also asked on my arrival in Doha a day earlier.

    • Russell Evans says:

      I would echo Ollie’s comments. In my desperation to get in on a BA F ticket I even took the escalator to the front desk where I was denied entry and had to do a walk of shame down to the “Qatar Airways First Class Lounge”. They don’t even allow you in Al Mourjan!

      • Rob says:

        BA F pax are meant to be allowed access but there does, according to reports, appear to be issues ….

        • littlefish says:

          The flyertalk thread on the QR sub-forum on this lounge is confused regarding access for non QR “guests”, though the bit in capitals in the Post#1 which says QR F only is a clear concern …. and the QR website (as Raffles mentions) doesn’t even cover this lounge! Without a trusty printout of the written and published access rules I’d be very wary of booking through here with any expectation of visiting this new Lounge

        • Russell Evans says:

          The statement which was on the OW website has been removed. It did used to say:
          Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge
          Location details: Main Terminal, 3rd floor.
          Opening hours: Daily: 24 hours
          Notes: 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.
          Despite quoting this upon arrival at the Lounge desk on 21st November my wife and I were not allowed in.

      • guesswho2000 says:

        Really, I used the Al Mourjan earlier this year flying in Y as a Oneworld Sapphire. They allowed my non-status OH in too. Rules must have changed!

  • Rocky says:

    These lounges are very impressive but wait till you see the next First Class and Business Class lounges designed for the airport expansion by F+P.

  • Tom H says:

    OT the Iberia Groupon avios have started to post. Only problem is only 36k out of the 60k posted any one else having a similar experience.

    • Stu R says:

      I only bought 2,000 – posted today!

    • IanT says:

      Mine have posted too.

      Full amount of 2000.

    • Karl says:

      8000 out of 40000 have posted for me

    • Andrew H says:

      They started to post yesterday, got my 2000 then. Suspect they are starting with the smaller purchases

    • Lady London says:

      As usual I lacked a sense of urgency on this one and missed out. By the time I got round to it all the 2000’s had been sold.

      • Lady London says:

        Cheers Javier. I’ll go look at it now, and will apply a bit more urgency !

    • Alex says:

      Did anyone else get DOUBLE the points they ordered from the groupon deal? I purchased two lots of 2000 and they have put it down as 4 lots of 2000!! WOOOHOO FREE AVIOS

  • Brian says:

    It’s not clear from the photos just what is supposed to be ‘architecturally significant’ about this lounge. It’s huge, yes, and sparsely occupied, but that doesn’t make it of any architectural importance. It looks to me like a quieter version of the Al Mourjan lounge, which was soulless in the extreme – and completely lacking in architectural significance.
    But maybe the real effect is only gained from being there in person. I think there are probably other must-do things on my list ahead of a visit there, however.

    • Daftboy says:

      Well indeed, a slight drift into hyperbole on this one I think. However, I guess it is fair to say that in terms of a statement of intent by an airline to the airline/frequent flyer communities it is certainly a significant place (perhaps not quite as much to the wider world who have better things to worry about…!)

      Nice review Raffles, thanks for the detailed pictures.

      • Rob says:

        The other thing you don’t see from the pics is the quality of the materials. This is real ‘no expense spared’ territory. Those cream walls are marble.

        • Brian says:

          This simply looks like an(other) example of people not realising that less is so often more.

  • Tim says:

    I have a F ticket on QR to Dubai from Cape Town. (Business for the first leg to Doha and F for second leg to Dubai). Arriving at midnight leaving at 2am. If I read your article correctly I will get access? Do you know if it is open at that time of night? Hopefully Looking forward to the visit.

    • James says:

      Yes you get access prior to your flight to Dubai but not the other way around. It is open 24 hours.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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