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Buying access to Qatar's incredible Al Safwa First Lounge in Doha

Nov. 23, 2019
5 min read
Buying access to Qatar's incredible Al Safwa First Lounge in Doha
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You've probably read all about Qatar Airways' outstanding Qsuite business class on TPG, but we rarely write about the carrier's first-class product — technically, a cabin above that enclosed biz suite.

There's a simple explanation: Qatar only offers first class on its Airbus A380, which doesn't fly to the U.S., along with some regional business cabins branded as first class for flights within the Middle East. As a result, it's historically been difficult to access the carrier's Al Safwa First Lounge in Doha (DOH), though there's a new first-class lounge for business-class flyers to buy a ticket to.

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I decided to take that process for a spin on a recent eight-hour layover in Doha, during my journey from Cape Town (CPT) to New York-JFK.

As of the time of this post, business-class passengers can spend up to six hours in the lounge for 600 Qatari rials (about $165) or 650 rials ($180) with a bundled 15-minute “express” massage. I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve card to pay for the massage bundle — yes, it did code as travel for 3x points — and was promptly welcomed in. Note that other purchases similar to this may not code as travel, so be sure to check your statement to see what you've earned on the transaction.

This was my second time inside the lounge, and it was almost entirely empty again, in stark contrast to the packed Al Mourjan Business Lounge just down the hall.

With a full crew and only one guest to attend to (me!), the staff almost seemed excited when I stopped by the dining area for a very late-night bite.

Though I wasn't blown away by the cuisine, the shrimp starter tasted fine, and the desserts were interesting — aish el saraya, a Lebanese bread pudding and umm ali, an Egyptian bread pudding.

After dinner — or breakfast, maybe, since it was 3 a.m. — I wandered around the lounge for a bit. Aside from a staffer here and there, I didn't see a soul!

I ended up spending most of my time in one of the fancy private rooms Qatar offers on a first come, first served basis.

The private room was the true highlight for me. On my last layover, I booked a room at the Oryx Airport Hotel in the transit area, which costs $260 if reserved online. Buying into Al Safwa, I saved $80, got a 15-minute massage, a nice meal, some good wine and had a far more interesting experience overall.

Each private room included a shower, too. They do sometimes fill up, but you can ask about availability before you pay for lounge access at the main check-in desk.

My massage was fantastic, too. It was so great, in fact, that I decided to add another 45 minutes for about $125 — steep, but easier to justify given the money I had just saved on a hotel room.

I ended up staying in the lounge just over my allotted six hours, from around 12:45 a.m. until 7 a.m., when it was time to head to my gate. Nobody mentioned the time limit again after I checked in, though, so it seems reasonable that they would have allowed me to stay a bit longer.

I really hope Qatar Airways continues to sell access to the Al Safwa First Lounge. While I might otherwise argue that paid access hurts the experience for first-class flyers, there didn't seem to be anyone in the lounge to disturb until just before I left in the morning.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • $95 annual fee
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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases