Somewhere over the Atlantic, it occurred to me — because Qatar brands their shorter flights in a two cabin way (i.e. economy and first class, rather than economy and business class, as they technically are), we were going to get to use the Al Safwa First Class Lounge
(I looked for a link or website dedicated to the lounge, but could not find one). Although Hubs didn’t believe me, after our arrival from Atlanta, when we went to the Al Marjan Business Class lounge, the hostess asked if we wouldn’t like to enjoy the first class lounge, so we walked back across the concourse and rode the escalator up to the (slightly) fancier area.
Now, a quick side bar. I lived in Doha for two years
and was frustrated by the experience, for a number of reasons I won’t go into. I flew out of the old Doha International airport with the buses (always, with the buses — personally dubbed the ‘suck wagon’ because after a 14-hour flight it was always a huge slap to have to get on those buses and queue in the old immigration lines). I only had access to the craptastic Oryx lounge (with a few visits to the Qatar business lounge), so anything at Hamad was going to be an improvement.
I digress. But seriously, Qatar Airways, not one upgrade in 5 years? Even for my Platinum level husband?
I’m not bitter, you’re bitter.
Back to arrival in Doha… Given our experience on the outbound flight with the bustling and well serviced Al Marjan, I was optimistic about what the Al Safwa experience would be. With our boarding passes scanned, we walked in the over large hallway (although there are additional entry points) and into the massive cavern that is the main area (?) of the lounge.
In the middle of this space is a striking piece of art — the installation of a unique fountain, which is very soothing. Unfortunately, in such a large space, there is, as you might imagine, a lot of what I would consider ‘sound pollution.’ That is, every sound in the space is amplified by a rather significant factor. Additionally, in the main hall above, while the seating is quite comfortable, I was rather shocked not to see a place to plug in or recharge any electronics (there are plenty of places for this in other parts of the ginormous lounge, but not in the immediate area). Further from here is the main dining area, some restrooms and a bar (which was not serving because it was Ramadan when we visited). I wasn’t particularly hungry, but wanted to see what the experience was like (and I felt bad for the service staff who had literally no one around).
Around the way, passing some sort of art/history exhibit (?) is a spa…which, offers no complimentary services. Now, I have no issue with a company trying to make money, but when I think of ‘first class’ I think of all the money I have already paid to the airline. An additional expense once I am already in a lounge just seems…incredibly tacky. It is worth noting, given this is mainly for regional business class (more travelers than international first class), who is going to arrive early to HIA and use the spa? Most of the routine commuters (I’ve known my share of them) tend to be with a client until the last minute and then check in with minutes to spare until their flight is scheduled to leave. These ticket holders would not have time to enjoy the spa.
I did not inquire if a shower would be available here (which was one of my favorite free features at the Qatar lounge in London).
We made our way to my favorite portion of the lounge, an area which overlooked the main terminal (thus providing normal sounds). There was a small refreshment stand in this space.
At the requisite time before our flight, we left the lounge, more confused than when we arrived. If my plans are correct, we should be back here in September (on return from Bali…given I think we have something of a layover). I would love to experience this lounge when premium spirits were available.
Overall, I much prefer the Qatar Lounge in London (my favorite lounge in the world) or even the smaller lounge in D Terminal of DXB — it was small, but made better use of space and I liked the design and amenities more. I don’t understand having space for the sake of having space. I would much rather see upgraded toiletries in the bathrooms, some free spa service (even a 15-minute shoulder massage) or some other special touch (KLM house?).
Have you visited the Al Safwa lounge? What was your favorite feature?