After spending a few hours in the Al Mourjan Business Lounge, it was time to move on the highlight of our long layover at Hamad International Airport in Doha – The Al Safwa First Class Lounge.
First Class is only offered by Qatar Airways on their Airbus A380 and selected routes in the Middle East. In other words, free admission to Al Safwa First Class Lounge is for the privileged few. The lounge can however accommodate far more guests than there are First Class seats available with Qatar Airways. Therefore, the airline started selling lounge access for their business class passengers last year. Recently, Qatar Airways also started offering their top tier Privilege Club members access when traveling in business class.
- Review: Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business Lounge
- Guide: The Ultimate Guide to Qatar Airways Privilege Club
Buying access to Al Safwa First Class Lounge as a business class passenger will cost you 600 Qatari rials, or around $165 USD. That’s actually a reasonable price and in my opinion, well worth it for a long layover.
The Al Safwa First Class Lounge is located between A and B gates above the shops in the departure area. To get to the lounge, take the escalator to level 3 above the security check in the transfer area. My last visit here was just after they opened for paying customers and I had to wait at the front desk for several minutes before the staff could find someone who knew how to charge the lounge access. This time however, everything went smooth.
Al Safwa is impressive and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The lounge is huge! It’s almost the same size as Al Mourjan, but the minimalist interior and open areas makes it seem even bigger. I feel like I’m in a crossover between a luxury hotel and a museum. The design is inspired by Doha’s iconic Museum of Islamic Art, with sandstone and marble details. The main hall and hallways have several art installations on loan from the museum.
Seating for 500 guests
The centerpiece of the lounge is a huge water installation that looks like a fountain. However, it’s not really a fountain, but rather a pond with a transparent tube with water flowing down from the ceiling. The light is reflected from the water onto the walls across the room. The main hall has different types of seating, open and fully private, for groups or solo travelers. It might not look that way as the seats are scattered over such a huge area, but the lounge has a total seating capacity for more than 500 guests. And we seem to be the only guests.
Most seats have a power outlet and a small monitor that displays airport and flight information.
There’s also a separate cigar and smoking lounge.
Catching up on some work during your stay? The business center offers private offices with iMacs for everyone.
The restrooms are first-class too, of course.
Restaurant and sushi bar
At the heart of the lounge is the huge bar and main restaurant. The restaurant offers a la carte dining only, but the extensive menu has something for everyone. There’s no buffet as you will usually find in any airport lounge. The kitchen is partially open towards the restaurant. You can watch your food being prepared while enjoying a drink.
We were only in the lounge during breakfast service, but long enough to try both the middle eastern and western offerings of the menu.
The bar has a far more extensive selection than what you will find in Al Mourjan and the champagne is upgraded as well. The Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Brut 2006 turned out to be a great pairing with our breakfast.
There’s also a snack and sushi bar, but it was closed during our stay.
Spa and private duty-free shopping
The Al Safwa First Class Lounge also has its own duty-free shop. If you’re traveling in First Class you may appreciate being able to do your shopping in peace and quiet. Here you will find a selection of items from shops in the departure hall, from jewelry to fragrances and cigarettes.
The Qspa features nine treatment rooms with jacuzzi, relaxation room and a rich selection of treatments to choose from. The spa treatments are, however, not included with the entrance fee.
Family section and playrooms
If you’re traveling with your family, the family section of Al Safwa First Class Lounge offers private living rooms, media room and playrooms for children of all ages. The family section has three separate playrooms for children aged 0 – 5 years, 5 – 10 years and 10 – 15 years (and above).
The Al Safwa First Class Lounge has 12 sleeping rooms, four of which are double rooms. The rooms are like basic hotel rooms with comfortable beds and a bathroom.
Why $165 for lounge access is a bargain
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge is arguably among the best first class lounges in the world. The hard product is second to none, the service is both professional and personal, and the food and beverage is first-class. In my opinion, free admission to Al Safwa is one of the main reasons for chasing Platinum tier in Qatar Airways Privilege Club.
Paying $165 for lounge access when you’re in business class may not seem like a great deal. Considering what you get, however, it’s definitely worth it for a long layover in my opinion. For instance, a room at the Oryx Airport Hotel will set you back at least $250. What’s more, they will charge you extra for champagne and food. For a shorter stay Al Mourjan is a great business lounge. For my next eight-hour layover, however, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase access to Al Safwa again.