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HFP in Doha: Is the Al Maha VIP arrival and departure service worth booking?

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This is my review of the Al Maha VIP arrival and departure service at Hamad International Airport in Doha.

It is part of our current Qatar Airways series. Our previous article reviewing the Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 4, is here.  Our two articles reviewing the Qsuite business class seat start here.  Our article on Qatar Airways business class food and drink is here.  Our review of the Al Mourjan business class lounge in Doha is here.

As a reminder, Qatar Airways gave me a return Business Class flight from London Heathrow to Doha.  Head for Points paid for all of its other expenses including hotel, transfers and meals.

What is Al Maha Service?

I obviously didn’t ask for a VIP escort around Hamad International Airport, which is one I know fairly well by now.  It had already been booked by the time I found out about it, and I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how it works.

This is how Qatar Airways describes it:

“Welcome to carefree travel, with Al Maha Services. Designed with your time and comfort in mind, our personalised meet-and-greet service aims to ensure a comfortable and speedy experience when arriving, departing or transferring through Hamad International Airport.

We take care of the formalities of travel, while you relax in one of our exclusive lounges, which have dedicated immigration clearance facilities. Our services are available to all customers.”

This page of the Qatar Airways website covers the service in detail.

Al Maha Services on arrival

I had been booked on the Platinum service:

  • Al Maha Services hostess meets you at the aircraft/aerobridge with a personalised name board
  • Expedited immigration clearance at the Al Maha Arrival Lounge
  • Assistance through customs clearance
  • Porter assistance for your luggage
  • Assistance until the arrival hall

A cheaper Gold service is also available, with the only difference being that you need to make your own way to the Al Maha Arrival Lounge.

I was met at the door of the aircraft as promised, and we walked together through the airport to the Al Maha Arrival lounge.  It is important to note that this is not a standard arrivals loungeIt is a combined arrivals lounge and private immigration channel.

It looks like an arrivals lounge:

Al Maha Services Hamad Airport Doha

and

Al Maha Services Hamad Airport Doha

…. with a light buffet and some local newspapers and magazines:

Al Maha Services Hamad Airport Doha

…. but the key part is this:

Al Maha Services Hamad Airport Doha

Whilst the counter above doesn’t look like an immigration desk, it is.  You can sit in the lounge and have a coffee whilst you answer a couple of emails, as I did, and then show your passport to the person at that desk.

Your host then walks you through the gates opposite:

Al Maha Services Hamad Airport Doha

….. and you are in the baggage hall.  I only had hand baggage so I didn’t need the porter who was offered.  I did need some local currency however, and I was walked over to Travelex before being escorted out to the taxi rank.

It is also very friendly and very efficient.  It was a little unnecessary for me of course – although I don’t know if there would have been a queue at immigration had I gone through the normal channel.  However, for anyone who is a little nervous about travelling, or who is not as good on their feet as they once were, this is an excellent service and worth considering.

(Al Maha also works with transit passengers – they will meet you at your first aircraft, escort you to their lounge and then escort you to your ongoing aircraft with priority boarding.  This could be of real value if you had elderly or frail friends or relatives heading off to Australia to visit family, for example.)

Al Maha Services on departure

I was also booked into the Al Maha service on my departure.  The Platinum service covers:

  • Al Maha Services hostess meets you at the departure hall
  • Porter assistance for your luggage
  • Check-in at Al Maha Services Counter
  • Expedited immigration clearance at Al Maha Services Departure Lounge
  • Access to Al Maha Services Transit Lounge (six hours)
  • Priority boarding and assistance to the aircraft/aerobridge upon departure

The Gold service is identical except that you do not get access to the transit lounge – but if you are in Business Class, you won’t need it anyway.

Not only did I have access to the Business Class lounge, but I had to visit it in order to review it so I did not see the transit lounge.

I was told to call Al Maha up to 30 minutes before arrival with my ETA at the airport, which I did.  When I arrived at the designated gate (you are dropped off at the main terminal, not a VIP area) I was immediately welcomed by a hostess with a name board.

She took me on the – very short – walk through the terminal to the Al Maha Departure Lounge.  This was almost totally empty, as it was early Friday (weekend) morning.  See:

Al Maha Services Hamad Airport Doha

and

Al Maha Services Hamad Airport Doha

and

Al Maha Services Hamad Airport Doha

Whilst it looks there is a buffet in the photo above, in reality it is more of a coffee bar.  You won’t find any substantial food there.

It is all very relaxed and could not be less stressful.  When you are ready to move on – in my case, to the Al Mourjan business class lounge, which I am reviewing next – you walk to the counter and quickly complete the passport formalities.  I was then escorted to the Al Mourjan lounge.

Again, whilst this wasn’t a service I personally needed, it was good to experience it.  It is good to know it exists, especially for anyone who is nervous about transiting or taking a short stopover through Doha on their way elsewhere.

Pricing varies based on how many people are in your party, whether you want ‘Meet & Assist’ or also Al Maha lounge access and whether you want the Gold or Platinum packages.  As an example, the ‘Platinum’ arrivals package I had costs 375 QAR per person which is around £80.

You can get a quote for your particular itinerary via the Qatar Airways website here.

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Comments

  1. If you are in business class, are able to read signs in English and can walk with your own bags, the arrival service doesn’t add anything.

    Getting currency at Travelex? Did you lose your Curve?

    You missed the QR F/J arrivals lounge which is pretty good.

    • As soon as I read that, I knew there would be sarcastic comments about Travelex. Was not disappointed 🙂

  2. We were contemplating getting this for our return trip to Sydney. We have a stopover just over 4 hours outbound and just over 2 hours return and are flying business. Having never transitted through Doha and flying with an infant and toddler in tow was wondering if it would be worth it!

    • The first sentence of my above comment applies. The hardest bit with the transit is going through security, which is fairly painless compared to anywhere in Europe. You may or may not need to do it as it seems to be up to the whim of the airport, just remember that in business class you can go to the front of the queue (there may be a long line and you might not even see where the front is – do not join this, just go to the front and shout BUSINESS CLASS at anyone who challenges you)

      • TGLoyalty says:

        There is a business class queue/line.

        No OW status based perks here from what I remember from my trips.

        This service could be good depending on the circumstances but in all honesty Hamad is a breeze to navigate.

        • Yes, what I mean is that the signs indicating business/first are only right in front of the transit security area. If you don’t know it’s there and there is a long queue you might join it unnecessarily. Every time I have been through DOH there hasn’t been any organised queue but just a mass of people, I just go up to the front and flash my F/J BP, whereupon they let me push in and go through next.

      • EvilGazebo says:

        Having read HFP for many years, this is now my standard tactic for a queue of any kind including Greggs.

    • Deborah says:

      We are in the exact same position ( Business / Sydney) in March next year. If you can you please would you post what happened, even if you didn’t book the Meet & Greet. Thanks

    • Harry T says:

      I’ve connected in Doha multiple times whilst flying long haul economy, and I’ve always found it easy to navigate. I think you will be fine getting around.

    • Laineyling says:

      There is dedicated transit for business and first but given the way flights from the east and west are designed to arrive across a relatively short window it was very busy. With two young kids I would perhaps think about using the service.

  3. That arrivals/immigration lounge is identical to the one provided for Qatar Airways Business class passengers. No need to pay for this service.

  4. David S says:

    Seems a bit of a waste of money unless you are in economy. Apart from the hostess meeting you, the same could be done if you go through the QR business class arrivals lounge via the expedited passport control which looks like an arrivals lounge but it is not. (Left side as you walk towards the baggage hall). There were 2 people in the queue for passport check and we were through within 5 mins and into the arrivals lounge. We were transiting for 10 hours, so went saw a bit of Doha.

  5. You bought currency at Travelex !! – bonkers. As we all know, the rates at the airport are shockingly poor.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      I might be wrong but I remember the ATM being situated next to travelex. Don’t imagine Rob would get suckered like that.

      • I found £25 of Swedish Kroner at home and needed to use them! A one way taxi fare was all the cash I needed.

        • Oh, oh. Oh. says:

          +1 on changing old cash. Did that on a trip back from Oz a few years back transiting via Hong Kong. The Starbucks card machine was not working so swapped the small amount of remaining $AU into $HK at Travelex and used that.

          The only thing I regretted was buying a Starbucks. Awful coffee!

  6. Whilst I haven’t used the full meet and greet, I have paid at the desk close to the immigration queue to pass through the lounge for fast-track immigration. The queues can get stupidly long in the main immigration area and there can be relatively few deals open on occasions. The fast track immigration was worth it – although with only one person working the immigration counter in the lounge and a lot of people choosing fast track, it still took 10 minutes or so on my last trip. But nowhere near the hour or so the regular line would’ve taken.

  7. fivebobbill says:

    I am looking at Qatar Business, Stockholm – Doha – Singapore for me and the missus on New Years Day, we already have Avios Club seats on BA SIN-LHR booked for the return leg later in January so just need an outward flight.
    From what I can see prices are fairly steep for a one-way business with anyone, but at circa £1200 Stockholm looks to be about the cheapest and I’ll get to enjoy the New Year in Stockholm, and sample the Qatar business product for the first time.
    Anyway, turnaround in Doha is 2½ hrs, is that long enough to transit security and properly sample whatever the Qatar lounge has to offer?

    • One way business class will always be full-fare which is why it’s so expensive. So I would ditch the BA seats and just do return with QR. 2.5hrs will be time for a quick pass through the lounge, for less than an hour – but the lounge is pretty poor in Doha so you won’t be missing much.

    • Don’t worry, that’s more than enough for a business class transit. We just did it with about 1hour 40 minutes transit each way, and it was an absolute breeze. As others have said there are dedicated business class queues for immigration and security when transiting (or just go the front if you end up in the wrong queue). They also have lots of staff milling around in the terminal asking which flight you are heading to, so they can help expedite anyone who is running short of time. But it’s all completely unnecessary, we genuinely got through everything to the lounge in max 10 minutes, both times. You’ll be fine.

    • fivebobbill says:

      Thank you both very much for the feedback guys, much appreciated as always.

  8. Genghis says:

    “Al Maha Services hostess meets you at the aircraft/aerobridge with a personalised name board”

    Are they always hostesses or also hosts?

  9. I think the service is rather pointless. To be honest. Immigration never takes that long. The lounge is hardly worth spending any time in. DOH as an airport is pretty well sign posted, for me anyway.

    • I wouldn’t pay for this personally but it’s perfect for my ageing parents and their friends. I hope the staff are multi-lingual

    • TGLoyalty says:

      You’re probably right but then £80 is peanuts for some people and they wouldn’t think twice about using it.

      Also If you are in economy and land at the wrong time (flights from Pakistan/India etc) then leaving the airport can take an age. So again could be good value if you don’t value business class travel itself or there was no sale on.

      However, because of this article I have learnt something new I didn’t know you could pay for fast track Immigration as per comment above so would deffo do that in the future if it’s was bad again.

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