Edited by: Michael Y. Park
& Keri Stooksbury
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Often receiving the title of one of the world’s most luxurious and prestigious lounge experiences, Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa First Lounge is on the must-go list of many a frequent flyer and AvGeek.
However, those hoping to visit the airline’s flagship lounge between October 13 and November 30, 2023, were disappointed, as the space was closed for what was apparently some structural maintenance.
As luck would have it, I had a layover in Doha, Qatar, just days after the lounge reopened on December 3. I jumped at the opportunity to spend some time in the lounge again, even though it meant I’d have to pay for entry.
Here are my thoughts on Al Safwa First Lounge and whether it’s worth paying for entry on your next layover when flying Qatar Airways through Doha.
As you might imagine, getting access to such a prestigious lounge is about as exclusive as it gets. Passengers holding Qatar Airways first class tickets or Privilege Club Platinum elite members with business class tickets are the only ones eligible for complimentary access.
What makes access even more exclusive is that Qatar only offers first class on a handful of routes compared to other major carriers:
Unfortunately for hopeful Oneworld loyalists, Qatar doesn’t extend access to its most exclusive lounge to top-tier elites of other Oneworld airlines, even if they hold the equivalent of Emerald — the highest possible level of Oneworld status.Hot Tip:
Are you a Qatar Airways loyalist? You’ll want to know how to redeem Qatar Airways Avios for maximum value.
Al Safwa First Lounge extends its hospitality, for a fee, to Qatar Airways passengers with a business class ticket.
You can only purchase entry at either of the 2 entrances to the lounge in Doha. Note that there’s a small chance you’ll be turned away, depending on capacity.
I paid 585 QR (~$161) for 6 hours in the lounge. This included a small discount of around 10% to 15% for having a Privilege Club membership number. I wasn’t aware of this before arriving at the lounge, but a helpful reception desk staffer informed me.
While purchasing my lounge entry, staffers mentioned several times that I would have to check out after 6 hours in the lounge. It was even written on the back of my boarding pass!
First things first: If you have a short layover, I wouldn’t recommend upgrading, as you simply won’t get value for your money.
That would have been the case if I’d stuck with my original itinerary, which had me arriving at 10 p.m. from Malé (MLE) in Maldives and leaving at 1:30 a.m. for London Gatwick (LGW).
Having loved my last experience at Al Safwa First Lounge before I flew first class to Sydney on Qatar’s A380, I extended my layover. Thanks to Qatar’s helpful online chat, it took no time at all to change my flight for $42. My new departure time of 12:50 p.m. afforded me a whopping 14-plus hours at Hamad International Airport (DOH) so that I could definitely get to spend quality time in the lounge once again.
The main benefit of spending a long layover at Al Safwa First Lounge is that the lounge features a limited number of exclusive quiet rooms, which are pretty much hotel rooms complete with a single bed or 2 twin beds and a private bathroom.
This means that rather than wasting time and money traveling to a city hotel for the night, you could wander straight from your flight into Al Safwa First Lounge and sleep here instead.
A drawback is that the so-called quiet rooms are on a first-come, first-served basis, so even if you pay to upgrade to Al Safwa First Lounge, you’re not guaranteed access.
The maximum time you’re allowed to stay in quiet rooms is 6 hours — the same amount of time you’re allowed in the lounge when you pay for entry.
To maximize my sleep chances, I napped on a sofa in Qatar’s Al Mourjan Business Lounge until around 3 a.m. — when I’d been told that a quiet room would become available.Hot Tip:
If you’re paying to upgrade to Al Safwa First Lounge and have an overnight layover, it’s worth delaying the start of your 6-hour slot in Al Safwa First Lounge until a quiet room is available so you can maximize quality sleep time.
When I returned to Al Safwa First Lounge at around 3:30 a.m., there was still no quiet room available. This is likely because once guests have reached their 6-hour limit in the quiet room, they can pay to extend their time.
I was told that the next slot would be around 6 a.m. Determined not to miss my slot again, I paid my fee and then slept on the couch you see below for around an hour — until I was told I wasn’t allowed to sleep there.
I was escorted to my third and final couch of the night, which was the comfiest of all. Located in Al Safwa First Lounge’s family area (which was all but empty during my visit), these couches were long enough to stretch out properly and had moveable cushions that could double up as pillows.
Finally, at around 7 a.m., a quiet room became available. I was finally able to get some proper sleep in a bed.
The bed was divinely comfortable and left me feeling surprisingly refreshed even after just 90 minutes of shut-eye snuggled down into it.
Even though my luck wasn’t in, and I didn’t get to spend my entire stay in a quiet room, I’m still glad I did this rather than spending a similar amount or more on a hotel or city airport.
I could have spent a couple more hours of my 6-hour allotted lounge time sleeping in the quiet room, but that would have meant less time to enjoy my second favorite aspect of this lounge: the dining.
The à la carte dining experience at Al Safwa is enough in itself to make paying for entrance worth it. I’ve had breakfast here twice and absolutely loved it both times.
I’m pretty sure that eating in this wonderful first class setting would be far more relaxed than rushing a mediocre hotel breakfast buffet in the city.
My made-to-order egg-white omelet came quickly after I ordered. The addition of melted cheese atop the roasted tomato was a novel quirk that I actually enjoyed.
As for the coffee, I can confirm that the espresso passed my very high standards.
The views from the lounge were great for planespotting. The image below doesn’t do it justice, but at peak hours, this apron gets filled up with Qatar’s varied fleet of long-haul jets.
Rumor has it that a brand-new Al Safwa First Lounge equivalent might be planned for the terminal extension that you can see being built in the distance.
It wasn’t just the ability to sleep in a bed and dine like a king or queen that made this lounge worth visiting.
For starters, you could enjoy a complimentary Jacuzzi bath. You must reserve a time slot, so a relaxing dip isn’t guaranteed for everyone.
Even the bathrooms in the lounge were exquisite and smelled amazing!
An added touch of exclusivity came in the way of the possibility of boarding your flight directly from the lounge.
Unluckily, this wasn’t possible on either of my visits to the lounge.
In addition to the main first class à la carte dining area where I ate breakfast, there was a second dining area in the form of a sushi bar.
This was still closed on my visit, as it appeared to be undergoing some maintenance.
One final note: Nobody kicked me out after my 6 hours were up! I ended up staying a total of around 7.5 hours.Hot Tip:
Want to continue the luxury in the air? Read our guide to booking Qatar Airways’ famed Qsuites!
Of all the airport lounges I’ve visited worldwide, Al Safwa First Lounge is undoubtedly my favorite.
It’s definitely worth paying to access the lounge if you’re passing through Doha airport with a long layover.
I’d even go as far as to say I would recommend doing what I did and extending your layover to ensure you experience the lounge properly, as everyone should at least once.
Only passengers flying Qatar Airways first class or Privilege Club Platinum members get complimentary access to Al Safwa First Lounge. Paying for access is possible for those flying business class with Qatar Airways.
If you have complimentary access, you have unlimited time in the lounge during your layover or before your flight. For those paying for access, there is a time limit of 6 hours, which may or may not be enforced.
Al Safwa First Lounge boasts sleep rooms, an à la carte dining room, Jacuzzis, family rooms, a spa, duty-free shopping, and more.
I paid 585 QR (~$161) for 6 hours in the lounge. This included a small discount of around 10% to 15% for having a Privilege Club membership number.
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