After a super long delay, Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa First Class Lounge at the Hamad International Airport in Doha finally opened last month. As a matter of fact, it opened a month ago to the day.
At the time I posted links to some of the first reviews, though can now finally share my own impressions, as I visited the lounge this past weekend.
The lounge is uninvitingly gorgeous
The new Al Safwa Lounge is massive and so sparsely furnished. I love minimalist design, so in theory am a big fan of the lounge’s decor.
That being said, it’s possibly the most sparsely furnished and least “welcoming-feeling” lounge I’ve ever visited. You almost feel like you’re visiting a museum. Take a look at the below entryway, for example, which lacks any sort of furnishing or art.
Pricing in the lounge makes no sense
The pricing of amenities in the lounge is mind-boggling.
Krug and a five course meal? Complimentary.
A massive room with two hotel-quality beds, a shower, and TV? Complimentary (and actually nicer than The Airport Hotel, which is located inside the terminal as well).
A soak in a hot tub? 200QAR (~50USD). Heck, you even have to pay to use the showers in the spa area, while the showers in the sleeping rooms are free.
A 30 minute foot massage? 340QAR (~90USD).
I figured I’d take one for the team and get a spa treatment, especially since the spa treatment comes with complimentary access to the hot tub. And I must say the massage was fantastic, one of the best I’ve ever had, though it lasted closer to an hour than 30 minutes. I also got the sense I was just about the only person that day to use the spa.
Given the cost of labor, the pricing model just makes no sense to me. They charge to use the hot tub or for a 30 minute foot rub or to use any of the showers not in the day rooms, while you can basically have a complimentary day room for hours on end with free-pouring Krug.
The lounge is amusingly overstaffed
The lounge wasn’t that busy when I visited, though had amusing staffing levels. I had lunch in the restaurant, which had about a 7:1 server:guest ratio (I was the only guest).
Perhaps the most awkward staffing situation was in the spa. As I said above, I’m fairly sure I was the only person that day to use the spa, as people don’t seem to be paying up.
Someone insisted on taking my bags from the reception to the locker room, and he checked on me roughly every 30 seconds as I got changed. He once walked in while I was taking off clothes and putting on the robe, and rather than leaving when he saw it, he came up to me and held the robe up so I could slip right into it. Alrighty then! He also paid me a visit every couple of minutes while I was in the hot tub to see if I might want anything.
At the same time, the lounge was sort of overstaffed in a disorganized way. Service in the restaurant and spa was incredible, while I wasn’t once offered a drink when seated in the lounging area.
I’m really happy to see that the Al Safwa First Class Lounge is open. The Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge is gorgeous, though tends to be overcrowded, so hopefully this lounge opening alleviates that.
I have mixed feelings about the lounge, in a really strong way. On one hand I love the minimalist decor of the lounge, on the other hand I find it so sparsely furnished that it almost feels uncomfortable.
The sleeping rooms are the best of any lounge in the world, and it’s great that they’re free. But then I also don’t get how they charge you if you just want to use a shower in the spa, or even the hot tub, or get a massage. It’s puzzling, because the spa is clearly very well staffed, but no one seems to be using it.
Hopefully over time they come up with a more logical solution for using the facilities. In the meantime I’d say this ranks in the top 10 first class lounges in the world, though not the top five best airline lounges in the world.
If you’ve visited the Al Safwa First Class Lounge, what was your experience like?