One Of The World’s Best Lounges Has Unbelievably Asinine Policies

Filed Under: Qatar, Travel

I’m writing this post live from the Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge in Doha at 4:25AM. I was hoping I’d be in one of their fantastic bedrooms right now, but I’m not. Not because one isn’t available, but because the lounge has asinine rules (or just employees who like to make up rules). I’m not sure which it is, based on how many different reasons I’ve been given for why they can’t help me.


Let me start by saying that the Al Safwa Lounge is gorgeous — I ranked it as one of the world’s best first class lounges. However, from the day it opened they’ve had some ridiculous policies.


For example, the lounge has showers in the spa area, and showers in the awesome individual bedrooms. The individual bedrooms with showers are free, but if those are full and you need to shower in the spa, then you have to pay for it. How ridiculous and illogical is that?

So the lounge having strange rules is nothing new, though today I got screwed by the rules firsthand for the first time.

My flight arrived in Doha shortly before 3AM, while my connecting flight in Qatar Airways first class is shortly after 7AM.

So my friends and I were exhausted when we arrived in Doha (keep in mind my usual bedtime is 8PM), and were looking forward to a nap room. We immediately went to the desk, where after a bit of typing my friends were given a “double” room, and I was told nothing was available. However, there was something odd about the way the guy explained it to me. He said “there are no single rooms available.” I didn’t think much of it at the time, so wandered around the lounge for a bit.

Qatar-Airways-Lounge-Doha - 51

An hour later I was really tired, so went back to the desk. This time someone else was working, and he informed me that a couple of nap rooms were available. Yay!

He made a few calls, and eventually he informed me that I couldn’t use a nap room.

“You can only use a nap room if you have a layover of at least six hours. Your flight is in three hours.”

“Is that a new rule? An hour ago my friends were given a nap room, and they’re on the same flight I am.”

He was confused, so got back on the phone and made another call. He then came back to me to explain.

“The supervisor made an exception then, but can’t make another exception.” He invited me to stay seated there for a bit, and a few minutes later a lady showed up and approached me.

“You can’t use the nap room because it’s a double room, and you’re only one person.”

“But the nap room is empty, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but it has two beds.”

“Right, so why can’t I use it if no one else has requested the room?”

“Because it is meant for couples traveling together. It’s our policy, and it’s also our policy that you need at least a four hour layover to use the nap room.”

“A moment ago I was told the policy was six hours. If the policy is in fact four hours, then my layover was four hours, I was just denied the room earlier.”

“Well you can’t have a double room.”

“So you’d rather let it sit empty because there aren’t two people to use it, rather than let one person use it for a couple of hours?”

“That’s our policy.”

I don’t think I’ve ever been in another lounge with such customer-unfriendly policies…

  1. …and I was kicked out vigorously after 6 hours in the nap room…

    So seems there’s a MINIMUM of 4 and a MAXIMUM of 6 hours. Sweet!

    When I was kicked out, there was no other passenger asking for a room (and others were vacant anyways) but the staff rather insisted and carried out their policies. Meaning they kicked me out after 6 hours by heavy knocking on the door until I gave in 🙂

    Nice lounge. Weirdest (and constantly changing) rules though

  2. @Lucky – Have you ever tried taking a slice of cake from the buffet near kids play area to eat in the general seating area? The first time I tried that they actually had a security guard come chase me down and he acted like I had stolen the crown jewels. Evidently, passengers are not allowed to carry food between areas themselves – you have to call for a staff member to assist you.

    They also don’t allow you to combine food from the snack area with food from the dining area. So if you wanted a sandwich paired with the appetiser from the a-la-carte menu, you have to move between dining rooms for each course.

    Such a beautiful lounge but run by robots guided by assinine and customer unfriendly policies,

  3. @Lucky Qatar Airways has a lot of work to do when it comes to customer service. I had a flight out of Cairo-JFK and they left my bag behind in Cairo. I was directed to the transfer desk and told they are the ones who deal with that. They confirmed my bag was still in Cairo, and said when I get to JFK I can fill out a claim form and they will contact Cairo station to have my bag forwarded. I asked if they could just call Cairo station now and have the bag put on the next flight out, since I was on the 2am flight the bag would get to Doha in time to be put on the 8am JFK flight. The attendant and his supervisor wouldn’t even consider my suggestion saying I have to file the claim at JFK. Ridiculous customer service for a first/business class passenger. Instead of receiving my bag a few hours after I landed, I got it 2 weeks later. I booked a few of those cheap CAI fares with them so I just gotta make sure I’m always carrying a backpack.

  4. To my knowledge, the policy is 4 hours until the flight.
    I was in Al Safwa back in December with a 4 and a half hours layover, while I didnt have any problems getting a room, my father was refused at first and then eventually was given a nap room.
    He told me that they informed him that you need to have more than 4 hourse until the flight.
    Surprisingly, I had no problems getting a room, I just asked abd were given a room.

  5. Not letting someone sleep when you have the facilities to do so is a bit cruel, no?
    Policy or no policy. I can say my policy is to swear at people, does this make it ok?
    I find this concept of companies saying anything is their policy and thinking their justified frankly ridiculous.

  6. Doesn’t surprise me as a solo traveler – I’ve experienced stupid rules in many aspects of travel over the years because I am just one person. A wine tour in Portland doesn’t accept solo travelers bc it makes other couples on tour feel bad (seriously the owner called me to explain this one!)

    I was kicked out of a (then) US Airways lounge for bringing in a sandwich bc I have food allergies and couldn’t buy what they had to sell. I tried to explain it but she was on a power trip in an empty lounge where my turkey sandwich was a nuisance to others. I used the ladies room before leaving and she followed me into the ladies room to make sure I wasn’t hiding out and was leaving.
    At the time I managed the US airways million+ contract/spend for our company as the Global Travel Mgr and reported this to my sales manager.

    If only customer service was more important than hard rules

  7. Well, since they insist on playing their muzak all over the lounge, including the nap rooms I usually don’t get much sleep there anyway. Earplugs vs wake-up call…

  8. @Lucky….

    You know the TV lounge rooms area past the all white dessert bar? I found one in the corner, I was alone and watching TV, a female employee approached me and said I couldn’t be in that area because it was dedicated for women and children. When I pushed back and asked her to show me where it indicates that, she avoided the question and told me she was going to arrange for a private room with a TV.

    I was given a nap room with a shower and TV.

  9. Enforcing the policies is not the offensive problem in this story. Not offering an alternative or solution is. The supervisor could have offered to escort you to the business class lounge to take a free shower and secured your return to the F lounge into a secluded area for rest.

  10. A very whiny sounding queenish post.

    I think it’s reasonable to keep a twin room for two people travelling together. If it is given to a single person and two minutes later a couple turns up that’s not an efficient use of it. That said, one would hope that there would be enough rooms of all types to go around in any case.

  11. Was in Al Safwa last week and had no problem getting a nap room, as an ORIGINATING PASSENGER to boot. I really don’t like that lounge as there’s so many robots standing around doing nothing. It feels like big brother is always watching, waiting to enforce the next asinine rule brought down on them by the QR masters that be…

  12. The thing with these ME3 carriers is that while their product is amazing, they couldn’t really be bothered whether or not you liked it or help you when you have an issue. They aren’t profit maximizing entities. I feel it is for this reason the customer service in Dubai is so inconsisent at places like hotels for example – they couldn’t be bothered… I mean, why would the hotel be bothered when the hotel is owned by some local prince who owns the hotel for fun or bought it on a dare over a game of cards.

  13. I realize that my datapoint is old, but I guess I was lucky. Back in June, I flew in at 7pm and got the nap room at that point and until 7am (my flight out was at 8:??). No issues.

    Same with food – I was able to get anything, anywhere and was achaliu pointed to the kids area when I asked about larger dessert selection. They did ask me to come out of the business center to have the tea I ordered, but that made sense.

    Glad I did it back then. Sounds like a giant PITA now.

  14. Lucky, it also happened to me before, but I said to the nap room dragon that I just wanted to use the shower, my flight was less than 3 hours at that time, so she called someone and got the okay and escorted me to the room with no problem.
    It was actually even my second time using the nap room, as I had a really long layover there and managed to make the most of this lounge ;P

  15. @JoeMart

    “Policy” can be that you can’t take a step forward until you have taken at least three steps back in the lounge. Or that you may only face the compass direction of your boarding gate whilst in the lounge.
    Are you really saying companies can say whatever they like under the guise of “policy”.
    Quoting “policy” probably the single most ridiculous thing in service today.

  16. A couple months ago, while waiting for our connecting flight to SIN in the Al Mourjan lounge, my wife was politely asked to remove her feet, clad in light weight leather slip-ons, from the ottoman as no shoes are permitted. Apparently bare feet would be okay though. This was after finding out that the scheduled A350 had been switched to an A330 and we were assigned window seats a few rows apart instead of any two seats together on the plane’s 2-2-2 seating layout. Their response to my entreaties was essentially to go pound sand, of which there is plenty in Qatar.

  17. Not surprised. I flew Qatar first from DOH-DXB last year, and experienced their “customer service” first-hand when I landed. Bag went missing, and they had zero ground crew there to assist- had to spend 3 hours at the airport being told to go from office to office, where no one had any idea on where to actually file a claim for a bag. I knew that this bag was gone, but when I checked into the Conrad I asked the concierge team to assist- they hunted it down for me and had it back within 24 hours. No way would that have happened with me trying this on my own. Pretty lounge, pretty lousy service.

  18. I just flew QR, EY and EK in F on the A380 in on the same trip. Qatar was (aside from the nicest on-board bar, aesthetically speaking) by far the worst of the 3. Not sure why anyone would bother unless it was the only option.

  19. We flew Doha to Philly last year and waited for 30-45 minutes for our bags to come out because the crew bags all came out first. And for some reason they had 30 suitcases for the crew.

  20. We missed by 3 hours…

    Regarding the nap room I’ve been told that I can’t use the room for more than 6 hours….

    Crazy rules…

  21. I consider a nap 20mins, maybe an hour. More than 6 hours is a transit hotel IMO. The lounge looks nice but I get bored of the hard product quickly, with customer service really making the experience for me.

  22. well, the beds aren’t all that comfortable and the rooms claustrophobic.

    pair that with the usual lack of ventilation in the en-suite bathroom and i’d rather be in the terminal

  23. “The individual bedrooms with showers are free, but if those are full and you need to shower in the spa, then you have to pay for it. How ridiculous and illogical is that?”

    Why? if spa is not free, you just have to wait for free showers in bedrooms. this is common.

    in general, I think people have expected convenience when traveling abroad. there will always be simple things that work against what we are used to here, no matter how ridiculous. It’s their rule, in many parts of the world, it can be made up on the fly. Even with official apology whatsoever, It will continue to happen.

  24. To be fair, QR has actually improved on their rigid adherence to ridiculous policies. I remember back in 2006 or so when my DOH-LHR flight was downgraded from 3-class A340 to a 2-class A330. They involuntarily bumped First Class passengers down to Business and then the oversold Business Class passengers down to Economy Class. However, they then paged the passengers who were involuntarily downgraded and escorted us out of the Premium Terminal into the main terminal because we were no longer in Business Class and hence no longer entitled to use the Premium Terminal. Can’t argue with that logic, but it was the last time I paid to fly QR for the next 10 years (I did use award tickets and plenty of non-rev flights though).

  25. This always makes me think about how paying customers must feel. Probably every international F flight I’ve been on something ridiculous happens where I say, “Eh, I’m sorta gaming the system here anyways.”

    But imagine paying $10k, $20k, $30k for the seat, and then told this kind of stuff? Empty bedroom not available to YOU because you are just one person. Just crazy.

  26. When we arrived at Al-Safwa back in July (2016) at 11pm and requested a nap room ahead of our 8:30am flight we were told none were available. Right on queue our then 4 month old started screaming. We were rushed to the family area where an employee left us for a few minutes to check on the nap rooms. Low and behold one was magically available and we used it until 8:00am without so much as a peep from the staff. Maybe the baby had something to do with it?

  27. Sometimes it helps to tell the person what you need, rather than telling them how you’d like to do it. You needed a place to sleep… maybe they could have found you a place other than those rooms? Empowering them, rather than dictating. You didn’t seem out of line, but there is more than one way to skin a cat, often times.

  28. I hear so many horrible stories like this about the ME. Fabulous facilities but mediocre to awful service, which is why I never want to ever go there. On the other hand, it is not surprising at all to hear this considering how the people there treat one another.
    The best places to get great service is to go where the people are known for their warmth and hospitality.

  29. Yikes! I’ll be passing through in the next week on a 16 hour layover, I hope I’m able to use the nap rooms for longer than 6 hours! At least I’ll be with someone, hopefully this increases my chances. Anyone had a layover that long here? Get in at 3:30pm and don’t leave til 7am the next day. Was considering going into Doha in the afternoon and coming back if they don’t let me use the map rooms from the get go and then trying again later. Any suggestions on what to do with such a long layover?

  30. It makes perfect sense to me actually. If there is a room specifically for a minimum of 2 people, then why should you be allowed it on your own?

  31. And you are aware that there are other showers in that lounge which aren’t in the bedrooms or the spa? They’re hidden but they are there.

  32. We had amazing QR First connection at Doha a few weeks ago.

    We arrived (in F) from Abu Dhabi, a lady was waiting for us by the plane and escorted us all the way through security and to the Al Safwa lounge. She said as our next flight isn’t until the next morning, she’d want to book a nap room for us — I told that we had booked a room at the airport hotel already (they do hours when you book directly). She escorted us for dinner and went to confirm our room.

    She was waiting until we finished the dinner, escorted us to the hotel and told that she would be meeting us at the lounge at 6:30am in the morning. She wasn’t there but another lady was who escorted us from the lounge to the gate and all the way to the fly bridge.

    I can understand that ME airlines tend to have a bit hit-and-miss service, our experience Emirates has been pretty bad.

  33. The most ridiculous part of this whole set up is that showers in one of the world’s most modern,opulent First Class lounges are not easily available and FREE (outside of using the nap rooms).Most Business class lounges have free showers.Being in transit after flying long haul, a shower is my most valued amenity , and after forking out for First class fare from Sydney to London I’m certainly not in the mood to haggle over whether I deserve or am entitled to a nap room in transit just to get a shower.Nor am I going to want to get the credit card out again when $12,000 has already been deducted from it.

  34. There is a bit of “we can’t give you a nap room, because then we won’t have an empty one anymore” that goes on in this lounge, so you generally have to preserve and keep asking, but agree the rooms are great once you finally get access to one.

    ME3 ground staff often pull the bullsh*t baffles dodge when they don’t want to do something, proactive customer service isn’t their forte (whereas cabin crew tend to be better as a whole, and the odd amazing service can be had).

    I was refused *check-in* at the First Class counters at DOH the other day (Business check-in counters were woefully understaffed, and First was just barely keeping up – because they only had two agents manning desks on each side) despite it being a stated OneWorld requirement to be extended to Emeralds, and the check in agent refused to acknowledge. Basically ME ground staff can be super pig headed, and logic and actual policy will not budge them (becomes a face thing for them).

  35. This sounds a lot like Frontier after our flight was canceled the day prior and our flight was already on a 10 hour delay. There was a flight leaving MCO at noon with 4 empty seats because the passengers never showed up.

    Me: Why can’t we hop on this flight to Denver since there are empty seats?
    Agent: Because those people paid for the seats, and they are entitled to them.
    Me: What happens if those people never show up?
    Agent: Then the plane will leave without them.
    Me: And it will leave with 4 empty seats?
    Agent: Yes.
    Me: But we’re here now, and my flight is delayed another 6 hours.
    Agent: There’s nothing I can do.

    We watched them close the gate and the plane left with 4 empty seats while we sat around for another 8+ hours since they delayed the flight further. Idiots.

  36. The 4-6 hour policy doesn’t make sense; when I was there, I ended up waiting an hour to get a room because they told me the maximum time one could use a nap room was 6 hours. I wanted to wake up closer to my flight, so I went and sat elsewhere until I’d be happier with what time the 6hr limit had me waking. If my layover is overnight, I’d sure rather get a full 8hrs sleep!

  37. So ridiculous, you have every right to be pissed. You imagine that after paying THOUSANDS of dollars on a ticket that you would be entitled to use whatever services available to you at their lounge, but NO, stupid robots that think theyre the sh*t throw “policies” on your face instead of helping you and taking care of you, which is their job BTW. Ridiculous. So sorry for you man. I hope someone that works there reads this.

  38. I was there a couple of times. I think it’s just empty and uncomfortable. Try Swiss Air’s F lounge in Zurich.

  39. @Ken – That’s really strange. I can understand them holding the seats until the original passengers missed the check-in deadline (45 min according to F9’s website), but then they should have been able to give them to you. If the original passengers were already checked in, they’d have to wait until the 10-minute boarding cutoff, but unless you had checked bags and they couldn’t get the bags moved in time to avoid delaying the flight, they should have been able to give you the seats.

    I had a similar experience on Delta once – was flying JFK-ATL-TPA in F on an award ticket two days before Christmas. There’d been weather problems the day before, my JFK-ATL flight was cancelled, and I was rebooked the night before on a double connection, JFK-RIC-ATL-TPA, with JFK-RIC on a one-class RJ. I get to JFK at oh-dark-thirty to find out the JFK-RIC flight was now cancelled. The agent told me the only flight they could confirm me on was JFK-ATL-MCO leaving twelve hours later, although I could stand by for the JFK-TPA nonstop an hour later, and that if I had to go to MCO I’d be on my own to get from MCO to TPA (apparently DL, or at least this agent, considers MCO and TPA the same market. When I pointed this out to her, she threatened to just move me to a flight on the 27th, and then SSSSed me.)

    But here’s the thing – they were still selling first class seats on the JFK-TPA nonstop at that point. I know this because when I got to the gate to try to get on as a standby, they were making announcements that upgrades to F were available for purchase. So I asked a gate agent why I hadn’t been protected on that flight from the start, or why I was standing by at that point, since I held a F ticket to go to Tampa already. She didn’t have an answer. Later, they upgraded some SkyMiles status-holding coach passengers to first, but I was told that policy prohibited her from giving me a F seat even though my ticket was for F. The gate agent looked very embarassed, and when my stand-by seat finally opened up and I was unceremoniously wedged into a middle seat way back in the back, she told me I should contact customer service to at least get the mileage differential between F and Y refunded.

    I e-mailed DL three times and called once. Never got so much as an apology, much less the mile differential back.

  40. your sense of self entitledment is disgraceful. Did you pay with points, if so then you shouldn’t be entitled to those of us who pay cash!

  41. To those who are commenting with regards of paying with points, you are just sick!

    I live in Qatar and a Platinum member of QR. I have thousands of Qmiles to burn before it expired.
    QNB and IBQ bank here are also doing points to convert to QR Qmiles.

    Does that means I cannot use my Qmiles if I want to travel and redeem my miles on QR First Class flight?

    Should i stick all those my miles in your ugly ass?! Huh!?

    FYI, I really hate the fact that their policy of the usage of the nap room cannot be exceed for more than 6 hours. Can’t do anything about it and keep giving them feedback by email.

    But it also left me thinking that they are becoming robotic because of how the management treated them.
    They are trying to protect their job by following policy like a cow.
    If not, they will get fired. As simple as that.

    In the end of the day, this is middle east. A new world of human slavery!

  42. Nothing checked, just a backpack for each of us. We stood there as they closed the door and left without us. Ridiculous.

  43. Lucky – it’s time to start using the other lounges at HAM, to which you are entitled.
    AL SWAFA and their ridiculous policies leave me cold.
    I’m sure your friend AKABAR (yes the one trolling you and FORD) wrote the
    policies himself, while he was screwing with the US carriers.

  44. @ken – that’s just bizarre, then. If they had offered the seats to someone else on your delayed flight first because they paid a higher fare or had Early Returns Elite status, then maybe they’d have a point, but to have the seats leave empty with a severely-delayed flight’s passengers sitting there makes no sense at all.

    @queen nef – I have to disagree. It shouldn’t make any difference whether you pay with cash or points, you’re paying. You earned the points by either giving the airline business in the past or through a credit card, and the card issuer gave the airline money for those points.

  45. Well, Frontier is a Denver company, and nothing anybody does here makes any sense at all. We’re moving to Texas this summer to escape the lunacy of living here.

  46. When I go there and if I have the energy I am going to try all the tricks like sitting in the wrong area, taking cake to a different area, getting a room and staying more than 6hrs, etc just for laughs and see what they do. A bit mean I guess as they poor lounge attendants are just trying to obey their masters. Oh well.

  47. I had a great experience in Al Safwa yesterday- *shrug*

    Got a nap room on a 8 hour layover, though it was down to 7 by the time I asked. Actually more comfortable than the Airport hotel, (though smaller), more convenient, and $200 cheaper for a third of a day.

  48. I had also even worst experience, last year had flight from Cairo to Bkk, first segment in first and second in Biz class with a layover of 18 hours arriving at 2325 and departing at 1920, i asked about 4 months in advance to Privilege contact center as gold member if i could use Al safwa lounge in order to get nap rooms for the night and they confirmed for sure my allowing to lounge with a note in my booking.
    On day of departure recontact Privilege center to assure everything was fine for my enter to Lounge on same evening and they confirmed again that further note in booking they will send also official email to Lounge to assure our access.
    Well at our arrival at midnight our access was denied, no way for our protest with receptionist staff, 2 supervisors and Gm at phone, as robots they didn’t care of our right protests since we have 2 authorizations from their Privilege center being gold members and loyal to qatar.
    After 2 hours of frustrating as unuseful fight we gave up and find alternative accomodomation in heart of night. but so angry that morning after come back to meet Gm in person and face him by phone with Privilege contact center just to proof our right requests.
    To add insult to injuries at my back i wrote several emails to their customer center and only after a month i get email of excuses and an indecent refund of 3000 miles as compensation that i strongly refused.
    After one year and several mails I’m still waiting right compensation due for all matters and unfriendly service had.
    Qatar airways truly 5 stars in sky but a really misere 1 star by ground.
    Last month used lounge on f class ticket arriving at midnight for connection at 0900, as per their policy i get nap room at midnight and wake up exactly at 0600 after 6 hours altough no people on line and several rooms empty.
    Asinine for some of staff behavior is really a compliment.

  49. @Nunzio,
    Someone had screwed up at Qatar Airways because on a short haul first class flight to Doha you should have NEVER been given authorization to use the AlSafwa Lounge with a following connection on business class. Though I must say, it would really sting if you had an email confirming you right to access the lounge and then to have been denied!

  50. When I went to this hotel I supposed that it provides best lounges and I also agreed with that but am not happy with its some ridiculous policies. Like they don’t allow you to combine food from the snack area with food from the dining area. So if you wanted a sandwich paired with the appetiser from the a-la-carte menu, you have to move between dining rooms for each course.

  51. When I went to this hotel I supposed that it provides best lounges and I also agreed with that but am not happy with its some ridiculous policies. They were not good at services like when we arrived here they told me they don’t have any single room available yet. There was something odd about the way the guy explained it to me.

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