Review: Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge Doha (Purchased Access)

Filed Under: Airport Lounge Reviews, Qatar

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We had a roughly eight hour layover in Doha, as we were arriving from Cape Town around midnight, and departing for Dallas shortly before 8AM. So that left us with a few choices for spending our layover.

Options For Our Layover

The way I viewed it, we had a few options for how we could spend our layover in Doha:

  • We could just stay up all night in the Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge; if traveling alone that’s probably what I would have done, and I would have just worked all night, but with my dad and Ford I wanted a better option
  • We could book a room at the airside transit hotel; we would have needed two rooms, and the rate per room was over $250 (not surprisingly, they can really command a premium for the airside transit hotel)
  • We could have booked a hotel outside the airport, though realistically that would have taken an extra 90 minutes, between getting through immigration both ways, and also taking a taxi both ways
  • We could purchase access to the Al Safwa First Class Lounge; not only would this get us access to better food and drinks, but it also meant we could get proper bedrooms

We ended up deciding on that last option.

Buying Access To The Al Safwa Lounge

At the beginning of 2019 Qatar Airways started selling access to their Al Safwa First Class Lounge. The lounge is consistently empty given the Gulf blockade, so it made sense that they wanted to generate more revenue with it.

Purchased access to the lounge is available exclusively to those traveling in Qatar Airways business class (it doesn’t matter if you’re on a cash ticket or on an award). When the offering first launched, the cost was 250QAR per person, or about 67USD. That was a spectacular value.

Back when we first booked the tickets that’s what I was hoping to do for all of us. Unfortunately in June they raised the cost of access to 600QAR per person, or about 165USD per person. Ouch — talk about a huge price increase!

So while it stung to pay that much and wan’t ideal, it still seemed like the best option given the circumstances:

  • I wanted to make sure my dad had a bed, rather than just asking him to sit in the airport for eight hours overnight
  • Even buying access for three people cost less than two rooms at the airside transit hotel

Al Safwa First Class Lounge Review

After getting off our flight from Cape Town we first had to clear security. That was a quick process, as there was a dedicated premium security line. It was nice to already have security behind us, so that our transfer in the morning would be relatively easy.

Back in the center part of the terminal we found the escalator leading to the Al Safwa Lounge. I explained to the agent at the bottom of the escalator that we wanted to purchase access, and she invited us up the escalator, and at the same time radioed up to let them know we were buying access.

Escalator to Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge

At reception the process was surprisingly quick. I had heard from some others that it was a bit of a process, as they needed to call the manager, etc. In this case they took my credit card right away, and charged it within a minute.


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge reception

All of our boarding passes were stamped to indicate that we had access to the lounge. However, we were also informed that we could only access the lounge for six hours. I’d note that we weren’t specifically told when we had to leave, and it didn’t seem like that was directly enforced.


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge stamp

I won’t be reviewing the lounge in-depth this time, as I’ve done that before. So check out my previous full review of the lounge for all of the details. The lounge definitely gives off museum vibes, and it is very impressive.


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge Doha


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge Doha


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge Doha


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge Doha


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge Doha


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge Doha

Ford and I had some work we had to get done before going to sleep, while my dad wanted a glass of wine before bed, so we headed to the restaurant area.


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge dining area


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge dining area

We were presented with the menus. In addition to the standard menu, there was an “Onam Special.” The menus read as follows:

Unfortunately we really weren’t that hungry, or else we would have ordered the Onam Special. We did order a couple of appetizers, though. First we were brought some butter and dip, and some rather mediocre bread.

Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge dining


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge dining

My dad ordered the harira soup with lamb.


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge dining

Ford and I ordered the salmon falafel and spinach fatayer to share. Both were reasonably good, though based on the temperature definitely tasted like they were microwaved.


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge dining

We worked for about an hour, and at around 1:30AM we headed to the bedrooms to get some sleep. We just had to fill out a form, and were then given two bedrooms — one for Ford and me, and one for my dad. They’re all located along one quiet corridor.


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge bedrooms


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge bedrooms

The bedroom Ford and I were given had two very comfortable twin size beds. These aren’t just “nap” rooms, but the rooms really are as comfortable as you’d find in a hotel.


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge bedroom


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge bedroom

The lounge also had a desk with a chair, a TV, and another chair next to that.


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge bedroom

There were a couple of bottles of water on the table.


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge bedroom

Back towards the entrance was a bathroom with a sink, shower, and toilet.


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge bedroom


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge bedroom


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge bedroom

Ford and I went to sleep at around 2AM, and woke up at 5:30AM. While that’s not a huge amount of sleep, getting 3.5 hours of sleep in a bed makes a world of difference. My dad was also grateful to have a proper bed, and felt great.

We met my dad back in the restaurant at around 6AM, where we were presented with the breakfast menu, which read as follows:

I ordered a cappuccino, which was excellent.


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge cappuccino

Ford and I both ordered the baked shakshuka. It was reasonably tasty, though it was so obvious that it was microwaved due to the temperature. While still pretty good for an airport lounge, I do feel like the food quality has deteriorated a bit.


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge breakfast

If you really want to get value out of your entrance fee, the lounge has an excellent wine selection. However, after being on vacation for over two hours drinking every day, we were in no mood to drink just to “maximize” value.

Boarding was scheduled to start at 7:05AM, so we headed to our departure gate, C11, at around 6:30AM. This had us walking past the famous teddy bear, which my dad had never seen before (this was his first time passing through Doha).


Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge teddy bear

As luck would have it, all three of us had “SSSS” on our boarding passes, so we were subjected to additional security. On the plus side, it really isn’t that bad in Doha, since everyone on US-bound flights has to go through an extra security check anyway.

At that point our boarding passes were scanned, and we found ourselves in the sterile departures area. While our boarding passes indicated boarding would start at 7:05AM, in reality it only started at 7:30AM, with business class being invited to board first.

Qatar Airways departure gate

I couldn’t wait for my A350-1000 Qsuites flight, and in particular to see what my dad and Ford thought, as it was their first time in Qsuites.

Al Safwa Lounge Doha Bottom Line

The Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge is one of my favorite first class lounges in the world. The lounge has impressive architecture and proper bedrooms, which makes all the difference for an overnight layover.

Being able to get a few hours of sleep during this otherwise rough overnight layover made a huge difference in making this journey more enjoyable.

That being said, Qatar Airways sure went from one extreme to the other with their Al Safwa pricing for business class passengers. At the old buy-up price it was a steal, while now the pricing is very steep.

Ultimately this was still the best option for our journey, given that two rooms at the transit hotel would have been more expensive than three of us accessing the Al Safwa Lounge, which has bedrooms that are just about as nice as at the hotel.

My only real criticism of the lounge otherwise is that I feel like the food quality has deteriorated a bit based on my small sample, as I think just about everything I had was microwaved.

If you’ve visited the Al Safwa Lounge lately, what was your experience like?

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!
Comments
  1. Hi Ben, long time reader. Will be traveling thru Doha in march with a 10 hour overnight layover in business. How many bedrooms do they have there? I don’t want to buy access and then find out there are no more rooms

  2. I doubt it was microwaved. The higher likelihood is it was kept under heat lamps, or kept heated in a side oven. If it was truly reheated with a microwave, the likelihood is that the food would have been decidedly rubbery and the sauces in particular split.

  3. Are those special meals vegan? They look like it unless there is some meat broth. I’m heading there in a few days.

  4. Just posted this in your other article, but I think this lounge is better than Cathay’s The Pier.

    For anyone is fence sitting like I was, it was absolutely worth every penny of the $160 pp for an overnight stay.

    Al Mourjan is an absolute mad house overnight as it seems when this is most of there US connections. We experienced this when we were ex-US on the departure segments. It was almost as bad as a centurion lounge.

    Did Al Safwa on the way home and there was maybe 10 people total the entire time. That coupled with the Veuve Grand La Dame, private rooms, and 4 staff per person made it probably the best F lounge out there. Also, there was no enforcing leaving after 6 hrs. Now if you were in a private room for that long, they may ask you to leave it but I doubt theyd actually boot you out of the lounge.

  5. @ATX
    They are vegetarian ( this is a harvest festival celebration) and mostly but not entirely vegan ( some dishes include dairy). Consider yourself lucky to coincide with this special menu, as animal products tend to dominate the lounge food at most times ( with the usual ‘mezze’ exceptions and a few salads)
    While there was good justification for using the lounge as a hotel on this occasion, it would not be good value under normal circumstances…it’s overrated IMO.

  6. Overnighted in the lounge in 2018 on a connecting A380 to A380 itinerary BKK to CDG. All in QR F. Lounge is stunning, airy, austere, empty – looks like an art museum. Bedrooms are very nice too, comfy twin beds. Asked for a wakeup call – told me “not guaranteed”. In the end someone did knock on my door at the requested time. Asked if I could use the jacuzzi in the spa – they set it up just for me (no charge). All in all, very impressive looking lounge. Food was definitely a let down, very average quality and menu.

  7. @Chuck Lesker

    Nobody ever said it was a festival in Qatar.

    Lucky, did your dad’s room also have 2 bedrooms as well? Is that the standard?

  8. @ Aaron — Dad’s room only had one smaller bed. They either have one or two beds, though there aren’t any single rooms with king or queen beds, as far as I know (which is why I get two beds with Ford as well).

  9. @ Arcady — Not guaranteed, but you can always ask when you enter the lounge if they have any available.

  10. @ James — I’m not sure how many there are, I think probably around a dozen. It doesn’t seem like they ever “book out,” though you can always ask when you enter the lounge before paying for access.

  11. A couple of years ago, they put me up free at a hotel because the layover was over 8 hours.
    I had to request that at time of purchase.
    Maybe they dropped that perk

  12. With new status access, I’m glad they raised buy in 😉

    Hope it’s still nice for my back to back 1st PER-DOH-FRA for Birthday RTW20 next July 🙂

  13. We used the lounge in April and were very happy..

    To answer the question on bedroom availability.. You will know before you pay… they advised us was we checked in and before we paid..

    As a married couple they apologised that only single rooms were available (not a problem for us as I had slept on the inbound and wanted to eat while hubbie had eaten and not slept well so 2 rooms was perfect as we could come & go without disturbing each other)

    On other occassions I had used the quiet lounges and also tried the onsite hotel… even with the increased price I would still go to the Al Safwa …

  14. Ron erday.. Yes they did provide me with a room at a nearby hotel as well with transport to and from. I was flying mia doh cpt. So have things changed? That was an 8+hr layover.

  15. Lisfranc… “Al Mourjan is an absolute mad house overnight…” Totally agree. I dislike this lounge very much.

  16. I paid the lower amount to access the lounge earlier this year. I was the only person in the lounge so was a little surprised after my six hours were up to be told I had to leave and was escorted to the exit. I felt this was a little unnecessary given I was their only guest.

  17. I love this lounge. Could someone please answer these questions?
    1) I upgraded to business. Can I pay to access Al Safwa?
    2) I upgraded to business. Will I have free access to Al Safwa as a QR Emerald?

  18. On a flight CPT-DOH-LAX a few years ago we visited the ‘real’ Business lounge (not the extremely busy everyone and their dog lounge) for an extended layover. They have a limited number of individual private lounge chairs that are comfortable for a five hour snooze. They overlook the public area so are a bit noisy but the price is right (free). I sleep well in most environments so this would always be my first choice. I have much better things to do with $330 US

  19. Six hours seems a little short if you want refreshments, a passable sleep, and a bathroom routine before departing. Eight hours would seem more reasonable.
    I notice from your Lounge photos the place is really empty. I wonder if passengers are turned off by the short time limit plus the high entry fee. Seems to me they need to strike a balance if they want better utilization of a very expensive facility. From my personal view the short time limit is the main dealbreaker.

  20. agree with @gleen t

    For those prices, 8 hours would be more appropriate/reasonable. 10 hours would be generous.

    Given how empty most people say the FC lounge is, most people agree that 6 hours is not long enough for the $$$. (They are voting with their wallets.)

  21. Lucky,

    What do they ask you/what entails the “extra” security when you get SSSS in Doha? And what happens for US bound flights from there regarding another security check? Is it an interrogation or just passport check or what?

  22. Had a similar itinerary and layover (SEZ-DOH-LAX). When I went, I was also advised of the 6 hour time limit. That was, in practice, only applied to the bedrooms and the clock started ticking the instant you checked into the lounge. Six hours on the dot, they were banging on the door to wake me up and make me leave.

    Overall, I wasn’t impressed with the bedrooms. The strict time limit doesn’t make sense; the lounge was empty when I was there. I basically had to beg to take a shower. Also, there is an annoying emergency exit light that can’t be turned off, and the bed is arranged to face it. It was hard to get to sleep because of that.

    Was it an OK deal for $69? Yes, and I’d do it again, bringing eyeshades next time and maybe earplugs to ignore the banging on the door (what are they going to do, call the cops?). The current pricing, though, is nuts.

  23. Seriously, for anyone fence sitting, just think of the extra $160 as an added fuel surcharge/fee… The $5-10 AA charges for an award ticket is whatever… the added $160 is “noise around the edges.” I cannot stress enough how crappy Al Mourjan is overnight. Just think that every terrible stereotypical US J passenger (or expat) is in there (fat, white, obnoxious, liberal). As a US passport holder, its somewhat horrifying (albeit, conceited of me) that these people hold the same blue passport as me…

    If you have to be in Al Mourjan >2 hrs…. run far away…

  24. I don’t think the new pricing is egregious, the initial price was as you correctly stated a steal, thus not surprised they raised it. I’d consider the current pricing also a solid deal for longer layovers – and it’s less than AF charges as well (I think?). End of the day, it’s cheaper than airside hotel, during the day you get much better booze and food plus a really empty space vs crowded J lounge. I’d pay $167 for that any day

  25. I would go for their insane cheap stopover Programme. I stayed for 100 QR in the Grand Hyatt near the pearl for two people. Thanks to the blockade the hotels are empty and you get such bargains which were unthinkable before.

  26. @ben/Lucky. I have been commenting for more than three years about the poor state of the food in Al Safwa. NOTHING is cooked on site. Allegedly, it is because they have not received the final safety sign off to allow the state of the art kitchen in the lounge to use the stoves. Thus, qualified cooks can not even pan fry a steak to order. A real shame.
    The bedrooms are great, just a shame there is a light that permanently stays on in the room.

  27. Well, this lounge is about to get considerably busier as they have just granted access for QR Plats travelling in J. Not sure if this applies also to Oneworld Emerald. But this could hep a little bit with the overcrowding of the Al Mourjan lounge.

  28. At a cost of $165 per person, the cost of using Al Safwa adds up to $495.
    It appears that the cost of 2 rooms at the Hotel at the iairport, would have been $500.
    That amounts to a saving of $5.
    IMHO, the hotel would have provided a better sleeping/living option.
    Just saying!

  29. @ mahjong — To each their own. Having tried both, I think lounge access is a better value. The bedrooms are just as comfortable, and you also have access to the rest of the lounge, food and drinks, etc.

  30. @ Chris Parker — I’m not 100% sure, but I believe you still have to pay for kids. I would guess only infants would be excluded from paying. Could be mistaken, though.

  31. I also got SSSS in Doha returning to IAH flying J in August from DPS. When I checked in for both flights in DPS the SSSS showed up on my DOH – IAH portion. All of my larger electronics were individually x-rayed and swabbed. I even had to take my IPad out of it’s hard case. I don’t think they cared much about my phone or my GoPro because of the size, but I’m not sure because the whole ordeal was a frenzy. There were two or three guys taking my electronics, and going through my carry on and back pack, I was surprised I didn’t loose anything. I was swabbed from head to toe, skin, clothes and shoes while my carry on and backpack were also swabbed inside and out in addition to being x-rayed. Next time I will be prepared and have everything separated and ready.

  32. Thinking of doing this in a couple of weeks on a long ORD-DOH-BKK layover.
    I won’t be there overnight and don’t need a sleep room.
    Do you have access to a shower without getting a sleep room?
    A reader above commented ” I basically had to beg to take a shower.” I feel like I’ve read this elsewhere as well 

  33. ^ also, everybody seems to (mostly) agree that the food in Al Safwa isn’t great. But how does it compare to the food in Al Mourjan? Worse?

  34. U could take advantage of Qatar Airways stay hotel In Doha, Rotana Orix is really good just 5 minutes from airport, passport control through Al Maha or arrival business class will take no more than 5/10 minutes and same at morning time for really bargain price of Usd. 23 (before hand was completely free).
    Best option in transit with a wide range of 5 stars hotels available, with Rotana and Westin by best ones

  35. @Andy, the food in Al Mourjan is fine. it is cooked offsite (just like the food in Al Safwa). Only difference is the beverage menu is obviously better and they serve off a menu in Al Safwa.

  36. Hi Lucky, I read your blog religiously and LOVE your reviews. I have to disagree though with the assessment of the lounge. I used it earlier in the year and was underwhelmed by the food and other services. If I compare it to Emirates first which gives you truly stunning food cooked to order, boarding from the lounges and free massages (yes only 15 but I enjoy every second of it) and has tons of newspapers and magazines (nothing like that in QR) AND let’s me use it as QF plat even in economy….there just simply is not a comparison. I hate how QR treats OW and even their own elites and for such an underwhelming offering? No, thank you.

  37. I sincerely hope that complementary Al Safwa access to AA Emeralds is on its way as Al Mourjan has a distinctive Fourth World flair to it . Considering the number of AA Emeralds who ONLY fly QR to speed up or maintain their Emerald status, it should be a given and and also a nice way for Mr AAB to stick his tongue out at the AA Management which spurned his investment offer. Even if DP is, as is happily rumoured, on his way out, the move would be justified. Besides, why only offer the enhancement to a captive market ? The ratio of QR flights vs otHer airlines must be 95%.

  38. Lucky,

    I am in Doha right now, connecting from ATH to JFK, and you MAY (just may…) have missed the airport’s best kept secret. Before I write anything about it, I need to PM you. How do I do this?
    Best,
    Pierre

  39. @ Lucky and schar: How does one PM on this board?
    There’s a much nicer way than Al Mourjan to transit Doha, and I don’t mean the high Pay-up to Al Safwa which was reasonable until some time ago but has become ridiculous.

  40. @Ben: I have more than 14 hours layover in Doha and am planning to take one of their in-city hotel stay for the night for $23. I have been to Al Safwa lounge once, it’s amazing! But trying one of their in-city 5-star hotels could be a great experience.

    I know that may not come with drinks and meals (maybe breakfast included), otherwise, is that a good deal instead of spending $167 at Al Safwa?

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