Qatar Airways operates one of the world’s best first class lounges at their home airport in Doha: the Al Safwa lounge.
I love Qatar’s long haul product, Doha is a great place to connect, but many people don’t spend any time there. I scheduled a stopover because I wanted to visit the Museum of Islamic Art, which is one of the last structures designed by I.M. Pei. He insisted that a new island be created to house the facility.
Friends who have seen my photos of the Al Safwa lounge have remarked that it looks like a museum and I point out – a ha! – there are pieces in the lounge on loan from the Museum of Islamic Art.
The lounge’s design reminds me of a new build Park Hyatt. It’s massive, with tall ceilings, and very few people. In fact there are usually more staff than passengers.
There’s good food in the restaurant. There’s self serve food… everywhere. And there are high end wines in the lounge. Oddly the spa is at a charge, and I don’t necessarily find the service there to be good. Nonetheless it’s a place worth seeing.
Access was initially limited to first class passengers.
- Qatar operates very few flights with a long haul first class cabin, something available only on their Airbus A380 aircraft.
- For shorter distance flights they call their premium cabin first class (the way we usually see in the U.S.) and that provides Al Safwa access.
As a result a premium passenger flying Doha to Amman, Jordan would have access… but a premium passenger flying Doha to New York JFK would not.
With the continued blockade of Qatar led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE there are far fewer Qatar Airways short haul flights. That means fewer passengers with Al Safwa lounge access.
At the beginning of the year they started monetizing access to the lounge, upselling business class passengers initially for as little as $69 but more recently for $165 (6000 Qatari reals) and you could easily out drink that in fine wines. So if you’re traveling through Doha on a paid business class ticket and have a reasonably long layover definitely give the Al Safwa lounge a (pay in) visit.
Now Qatar Airways has extended al Safwa lounge access to their Privilege Club Platinum members flying in business class.
This is a benefit for Qatar’s own top elites in premium cabins, and does not apply to oneworld emeralds. Effectively it’s a waived fee for access, which also extends to two guests (as long as they too are traveling in business class). Qatar is also improving benefits-earning for overachieving Platinums.