Qatar Airway’s Al Safwa First Class Lounge in Doha is perhaps the most incredible First class lounge I’ve been to. There I said it. I know it’s quite a statement since I’ve been to both Cathay First Class Lounges in Hong Kong, including the recently opened Pier, the Qantas First Class lounge in Sydney, the Japan Airlines First Class lounge in Narita, and many more. After a long awaited opening in October 2015, it is clear that the designers looked at every aspect of a lounge and made it as extravagant as possible. Dining is five star – you can have breakfast with a glass of Krug. Feeling tired? You can book a day suite, which is essentially a hotel room. Want private duty-free shopping? The lounge has its own store. Feeling in the mood for a gigantic floor-to-ceiling water fountain? Well, I did say extravagant didn’t I?
I had the unique opportunity to visit the lounge when it opened as my arriving flight landed at 5AM, so I had the whole place to myself. From the moment you approach it, you’re greeted by a stunning set escalators up to the lounge, the check-in area looks like a space ship, and the whole lounge in general looks like a modern museum. The lounge so huge that you may actually get lost. It has incredibly airy high-vaulted ceilings, marble everything, and a magnificent fountain that dominates the lounge. It’s like you’re transported to some serene fantasyland.
Throughout the lounge, there are various seating pods where you can enjoy your privacy amidst the incredibly open atrium. Each pod had its own tablet computer which you could check your flight schedules among other things.
The bathrooms were gorgeous as well. And of course, there was a staff member to ensure you got a towel to dry off your hands.
In case you want to have a private duty free shopping experience, there’s actually a duty free store in the lounge. As was the case with the rest of the lounge, it was empty except for the two staff members.
The dining experience is truly superb. It’s what you’d expect at a 5 star restaurant. The main seating area is airy and expansive. There are also other dining areas scattered throughout the lounge. Food is excellent quality and freshly prepared. I had two dedicated waiters since the dining area was so under occupied. The staff is mostly Filipino, South Asian, and African.
I had the pleasure of having both breakfast and lunch. I ordered pancakes, hash browns, chicken sausage, baked beans, and a fruit platter for breakfast. For lunch I had the lentil and seafood soups, the falafel, a mixed salad, the pan grilled hammour, and the beef tenderloin steak, as well as the mango cheesecake for dessert. Although it’s not listed on the drink menu, make sure you order the Krug too!
There is also a full service bar within the dining area. It was embarrassingly overstaffed without any customers, however I took full advantage of the Krug.
I wanted to take a shower after my flight from Manila, and was directed to the family area where there was a *single* shower. I felt a bit slighted that the staff did not tell me about the day suites until I specifically inquired. Apparently you can only book the day suite if you have a long enough connection time, of which I had plenty.
So after booking the suite, the staff led me into the “Quite Area” where there was a long corridor of day suites. These suites are more like hotel rooms, with entry by keycard. Each room comes with a proper bed, LCD TV, a desk, chair, and full bathroom with shower.
Next to the day suites is the spa. Now here’s where things get a bit weird. Despite there being free dining, free Krug, and free hotel rooms, the spa treatments are not free. In fact, these treatments are actually quite expensive. This is a departure from the typical 15 minute free massages offered at other First class lounges.
I spoke with the staff to clarify the entry requirements. You’re allowed entry only if you have an outbound Qatar First class ticket. That’s right. Although Qatar is a member of the oneworld alliance, oneworld Emerald just won’t cut it. Perhaps they should expand the requirements because the whole time I was there, there were more staff than guests.
The Qatar First Class Al Safwa lounge is one of the most extravagant and classiest lounges that I’ve had the pleasure to experience. Qatar really spared no expense in designing this lounge. You can easily spend a day, like I did, to get the full royal treatment and just relax. This is not to say that there were no shortcomings. The passenger to staff ratio was somewhat awkward and the lack of free spa treatments seemed incongruous compared to everything that is provided. But these are just minor nits of a really excellent lounge. In fact I would even consider going out of my way to route via DOH just to experience the magic again.