I recently requalified as Executive Platinum with American Airlines. That’s nice even though it means spending a lot of time on American Airlines. Sometimes that’s not so nice. The not so nice aspects are bearable because Executive Platinum (which is equivalent to oneworld Emerald status) comes with some really good benefits.
The benefits I get the most value from are systemwide upgrades and access to oneworld first class lounges and American Airlines Flagship Lounges when travelling internationally in any class of service. Oneworld airlines have several outstanding first class lounges including Cathay Pacific Pier and Wing lounges at Hong Kong, Qantas First lounges at Sydney and LAX, and Japan Airlines First Class Lounges at Tokyo Narita in the Main and Satellite buildings, among others.
Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa First Class lounge at Doha is the exception. It denies access to oneworld Emeralds. Only passengers purchasing Qatar Airways first class tickets and passengers passing through DOH in first class on other oneworld airlines are entitled to enter.
That changed earlier this year when Qatar began selling access to this amazing lounge.
Al Safwa Access Rules, Location, and Hours
Passengers on a paid Qatar Airways business class ticket could purchase access to the Al Safwa First Lounge for 250 QAR or about $69. (That’s quite a deal considering that American Airlines sells Admirals Club day passes for $59.) In June 2019 when I connected in Doha after a great Qsuite flight from New York, I happily paid $69 to get a chance to experience this spectacular lounge.
The price has gone up since then. Reports are that some passengers on business class award tickets have also been able to pay to get in. Purchased access is limited to six hours.
A private escalator takes guests to the Al Safwa Lounge. Usually a Qatar rep is stationed at the bottom of the escalator to check credentials for entering the lounge. Tell the rep you want to purchase access.
The lounge is located on level three near passport control and the famous Hamad International Airport giant teddy bear. The lounge never closes.
The reception desk is at the top of the escalator.
The Al Safwa First Lounge is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful and exclusive airport lounges in the world. The design is inspired by Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art.
Guests can choose from several seating options including semi-private cubicles.
The size of the lounge and high ceiling dwarfs guests and seating.
A rep said the lounge accommodates 500 guests. It likely never has more than 30 or 40 guests at any time. Qatar has first class only on its A380s. There are 10 of them. Each has eight seats in first. And there aren’t many flights to Doha with first class on other oneworld airlines. Even when it is relatively busy, this lounge is empty.
A la carte dining in such a posh lounge is a must. Qatar allocates plenty of space for it.
This is the breakfast menu.
I was short on time so ordered juice and a simple omelet, downed them quickly, and resumed exploring. Food is great, but reportedly not as over-the-top as the Air France first class lounge in Paris (CDG).
The bar is a great place to stop for a drink or a cup of coffee.
The Al Safwa First Lounge alcohol is even better than the food. This is a small sample of what is available.
- Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006
- Chateau Ducru-Beacaillou 2008
- Zucardi Zeta Red Blend 2012
- Remy Martin XO Cognac
- Chateau Lynch-Moussas Paulliac 2011
Guest can use one of several bedrooms.
Showers are simple but functional.
The spa is also highly rated. It provides a full range of treatments and services.
Here is the menu.
The least costly treatment is $69. Charging for spa services in a first-class lounge is slightly irritating. On the other hand, these aren’t just 15-minute, basic massages. I guess Qatar believes that those who can afford well over $10,000 for a first-class ticket won’t be concerned about paying $100 or more for a spa treatment..
There are quite a few displays of artifacts on loan from the Museum of Islamic Art.
The lounge has a business center, theater and duty free shop.
Even the public bathrooms look stylish.
Guests can board directly from the lounge if their gate is on the adjacent concourse.
Sometime after I visited in June, Qatar raised the advertised price of admission to 600QAR or about 165USD. While it is easy to eat and drink the equivalent of that amount in a stay of three or four hours, I’d have to think hard about paying that much especially when a business class ticket on Qatar or oneworld Emerald or Sapphire status provides free entry to the Al Mourjan Lounge, Qatar’s outstanding business-class lounge at Doha. Anyone can purchase access to Al Mourjan for $125 on Qatar’s website.
Al Mourjan Lounge
Selling access to Al Safwa makes sense as a way to relieve crowding at Al Mourjan and earn additional revenue from a grossly underutilized resource. While Qatar might have been losing money charging 69USD, I don’t think many will pay 165USD, The “Goldilocks” price may be somewhere around 100USD.
The Al Safwa First Lounge lived up to its billing as one of the world’s best lounges. It surpassed my expectations. The architecture is stunning. Staff outnumber customers. Merely spending time in such a distinctive place was refreshing. On an evening layover of four or more hours with a leisurely diner and several glasses of champagne or other beverage, it could be worth it to pay the increased admission price. But the Al Mourjan lounge is an outstanding no-cost alternative if it is not crowded.
What do you think of the Al Safwa lounge. Would you pay an entrance fee?