Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa First Lounge Doha is one of the world’s best airport lounges. There’s often some confusion about who gets access to the lounge, so in this post I wanted to talk about Qatar Airways’ first class lounge access policies, including how you can buy access to this lounge (which could potentially be worth it).
In this post:
Why Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa First Lounge is great
The Al Safwa Lounge is Qatar Airways’ most premium lounge, and it’s a pretty special place. To me the space almost feels more like a museum than a lounge, given its architecture and design.
Like any airport lounge, there are a variety of seating options.
The lounge also has a restaurant area, with a solid food selection, and an even better wine selection. You can find the current food & drink list here.
Arguably the most useful feature of the lounge is the private bedrooms, which are available on a first come, first served basis. Guests can use these at no extra cost for a period of up to six hours, though you need at least four hours until departure to be able to use one.
The lounge also has a spa, which even has a whirlpool. While treatments are the spa are chargeable, use of the jacuzzi is complimentary.
Who can access the Al Safwa First Lounge?
First and foremost, the Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Lounge is available to those traveling in Qatar Airways first class. That’s not as straightforward as it sounds, though, since Qatar Airways takes an unconventional approach to how it markets the forward cabins on its flights.
Qatar Airways’ “real” first class is available on the Airbus A380, which is flown to destinations like Bangkok, London, Perth, and Sydney.
Now this is where it gets complicated. Qatar Airways also markets the forward cabin on some flights within the Gulf region as first class rather than business class, even when there isn’t a “true” first class cabin. Why is that? Well, presumably because those flights are largely filled with Qataris, and Qatar Airways is a government owned airline, so I assume the airline wants to offer an elevated experience for local passengers.
So you’ll notice that the business class cabin on flights within the Gulf is often marketed as first class rather than business class (and there’s simply no business class). This includes flights to Abu Dhabi, Amman, Cairo, Dubai, Jeddah, Muscat, Riyadh, etc. This isn’t always the case, though, as some destinations within the region have the forward cabin marketed as business class.
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Lounge access isn’t just granted before the first class segment, but also prior to any connecting business class segment. In other words:
- If you fly Qatar Airways first class from London to Doha and then Qatar Airways business class from Doha to Bangkok, you could use the Al Safwa First Lounge during your layover
- If you fly Qatar Airways first class from Dubai to Doha and then Qatar Airways business class from Doha to Los Angeles, you could use the Al Safwa First Lounge during your layover
Beyond first class passengers, Qatar Airways Privilege Club Platinum members also get Al Safwa First Lounge access when traveling in business class on a fare eligible for Al Mourjan Business Lounge access (in other words, Platinum members on Qatar Airways’ “basic” business class fares, as well as those who upgraded to business class, don’t get access).
Other oneworld Emerald members through partner frequent flyer programs don’t get Al Safwa First Lounge access. Unfortunately Qatar Airways isn’t great when it comes to admitting oneworld elites to its most premium lounges.
How much does it cost to buy access to the Al Safwa First Lounge?
Here’s a potentially good opportunity — Qatar Airways also sells access to its Al Safwa First Lounge for 600 QAR (~$165). There are some restrictions associated with this, though:
- Buying access to the Al Safwa First Lounge is only available to Qatar Airways business class passengers who would otherwise be eligible for Al Mourjan Business Lounge access, including those who paid cash or redeemed points for their tickets (but not those who upgraded)
- The other major restriction is that in order to buy access to the Al Safwa First Lounge, your ticket must be issued by Qatar Airways; unfortunately this means that award tickets issued through partner frequent flyer programs wouldn’t be eligible for this
- Technically you can spend at most six hours in the lounge when you purchase access, though anecdotally that restriction doesn’t seem to be enforced all that much, beyond limiting people to six hours in a bedroom
- There are capacity controls and this option isn’t guaranteed, so in some cases you may not be allowed to purchase access depending on crowding, the agent on duty, etc.
To purchase access to the Al Safwa First Lounge, just proceed directly to the lounge. At the bottom of the escalator, inform the agent of your intentions. If they’re selling access at that time, you should be directed to the front desk at the entrance to the lounge, where your payment will be processed.
Is it worth buying access to the Al Safwa First Lounge?
Is it worth paying $165 to access the Al Safwa First Lounge if you’re flying in Qatar Airways business class and are eligible to buy access? The first thing to keep in mind is that you should look at the value here on an incremental basis, since the alternative is accessing the Al Mourjan Business Lounge. The question is really if you should pay $165 to access the Al Safwa Lounge over the Al Mourjan Lounge.
Here’s my take:
- This probably isn’t worth it if you just have a quick layover of one to two hours, which is how much time most Qatar Airways passengers have, given that the Doha hub is heavily banked
- That being said, if you have a significantly longer layover, and particularly if you want to sleep, then I think paying to access the Al Safwa Lounge makes sense; being able to sleep in a real bed for a few hours between flights is awesome, the alcohol selection is potentially pretty great, and the food is also much better than in the business class lounge
Just keep in mind that the bedrooms are available on a first come, first served basis, so if you show up after a rush of other passengers, these might not be available for some amount of time.
If you have a long layover in Doha but plan to stay airside, as an alternative you could stay airside at the airport hotel, which is a great place to get some rest.
The Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge is a pretty awesome first class lounge with some complicated entry requirements. The lounge is open to first class passengers, including those traveling on short haul flights. On top of that, it’s possible for select business class passengers to buy access to the lounge for ~$165, which could represent a decent value.
The Al Safwa Lounge has good dining and drinks, private bedrooms, and a spa with paid treatments.
If you’ve accessed the Al Safwa Lounge (including buying access), what was your experience like?