Back in February I scored a deal for a roundtrip Qatar Airways flight from Muscat to JFK with the Q Suites. I reviewed my first Q Suites flight from Doha to JFK already including the Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge. At the time I was ineligible to experience the airlines’ most exclusive lounge, the Al Safwa First Longe. However, on my return to Muscat in May, my outbound from Doha to Muscat was branded as First as Qatar does for their regional Middle East flights as such I was able to experience this incredible lounge.
In a nutshell, this is by far the most insane airport lounge I have been to. And it is probably to date, my favorite one. The Emirates First Class lounge which I visited later on my return on Emirates First, was disappointing in comparison to not only the Qatar first but even the Emirates Business Lounge. Aesthetically speaking, I think Etihad‘s lounges have a slightly nicer design, especially with their facets of Abu Dhabi bar design, granted I only experienced their JFK lounge and not their main one in Abu Dhabi. Nonetheless over all Qatar’s Al Safwa for me takes the cake.
Al Safwa Lounge
The Al Safwa Lounge is located on the second level of the departures hall, if facing the ridiculous $6Million Hamad International Airport Teddy Bear, it is on your right. There are two entrances. One for passengers checking in from Doha, they get direct access from Qatar’s premium check-in. Transit passengers can take the elevator (direct) or escalator (from departure level) from the transit security area.
The lounge is quite large. Extremely tall ceilings and large open space with scattered seating. As many have pointed out, it feel and looks like a museum, which is what I believe Qatar Airways was going for in the design. The centerpiece is a massive water sculpture that features a cylindrical waterfall (featured image on right).
There are multiple seating areas. One is living room style, another with “cubicle” style private seating, an “outdoor” balcony area has a mixture of these types of seats. Then there are two a-la-carte dining areas, one with sushi and sandwiches and one with more full-service dining including a bar that was unfortunately dry during Ramadan when I visited.
Then there are all the extra features. A business center, media room, full-service spa/jacuzzi/relaxation room (treatments are extra, jacuzzi and relaxation room are complimentary), quiet rooms with beds and private en-suite bathrooms for those with layovers of 4 hours or more. There is a gaming room, a family area with mini-living rooms, a parents room and nanny room for the youngest of travelers. There is even an in-lounge duty-free shop.
Certain gates have direct boarding from the lounge, I believe it is the bus-gates.
I think the only feature missing at Al-Safwa is a cigar room, which both Emirates (cigars extra charge) and Etihad (complimentary cigars, for now) have.
I had just about 2 hours at the lounge and did my best to make the most of it. I started off by walking around and soaking it all in. From the stunning design to the art works lining the walls. I got a peak of the quiet rooms as I was ineligible to use it due to my short layover. I was informed by the spa staff that I could use the jacuzzi, they just needed to know 10-15 minutes in advance to prepare it. I was not exactly sure if I would have time to enjoy it so I kept this information in the back of my head for later.
I eventually made my way to the main a-la-carte dining room after I learned that the smaller dining room only offered sushi and sandwiches. The lounge is extremely empty and never gets crowded. I chose a seat by the window and asked the waitress to open the curtain so I could view the plans and terminal, she happily did so with a click of a remote. I ordered an herb-crusted lamb chops with almond iced tea and finished with red velvet cake. I was also served bread, amuse bouche and butter/spices. I was also offered a choice of still or sparkling water. There are a ton of staff here catering to the minimal passengers. I walked by the open-kitchen as well to see my lamb get prepared and was sad to walk by the empty bar where I had hoped to sip some Krug. Next time. Despite the high staff-passenger ratio, they do not hover or helicopter to wait to serve you, but nor do they come right when you need them, nonetheless service was still attentive but I felt could have been more so and more personable given the high number of staff. The food was delicious. The lamb was perfectly cooked and deliciously seasoned. Given that I had some time, I told the waitress that I would like to enjoy the jacuzzi after my meal when I was served the red velvet cake. I handed them my boarding pass and a few minutes later a manager came by to inform me that he asked the spa staff to prepare. Just as I wrapped up my meal, he returned, “Mr. Huang, the jacuzzi is ready for you.” And escorted me back to the spa.
I would never have imagined myself enjoying a jacuzzi at an airport. But it was there, available and so why not. I had about 40 minutes before boarding time, so I took advantage it. There are lockers to store things and change into robes and slippers for the spa. The jacuzzi room has showers and the jacuzzi is fit for two people. I hopped in and was immediately relaxing in the bubbling warm water. I enjoyed and relaxed for about 15 minutes before showering and then relaxing a bit in the relaxation room. Rejuvenated after a long flight from the states, I changed and headed out. I spent my final 10 minutes soaking in the lounge as the manager informed me I still had a bit of time before boarding.
At last, it was sadly time to part ways with the most incredible lounge experience I have ever had in an airport. And much to my surprise I was departing from the same gate I arrived in and it was the same plane I took from JFK which mean there was an equipment swap as it was scheduled to be an A350 but I was delighted as it meant an extra hour on the Q-Suites.
If you get a chance to fly Qatar First, whether its the real first class on their A380s to Paris, London, Bangkok or Sydney, or a regional Middle East Flight, I would highly recommend you give yourself plenty of time in Doha to fully enjoy all that the Al Safwa lounge has to offer.