Not Really First Class: Qatar Airways First Class Lounge in Doha
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To The Point
The Qatar Airways First Class Lounge in Doha is solely for Oneworld Emerald elites flying on a Oneworld airline in economy. Pros: hot food, showers and sleeping couches. Cons: the lounge can become very crowded and the drinks, showers and amenities are basic for a first class lounge.
Qatar Airways’ first-class Al Safwa First Lounge is an amazing lounge to experience. It’s so amazing that my husband, JT Genter, once showed up to the airport seven hours before departure because he had access. But although Oneworld regulations state that Oneworld Emerald elites “can use First Class, Business Class or frequent flyer lounges,” they aren’t welcome into the Al Safwa Lounge unless they’ve booked a first-class flight. Qatar gets around the Oneworld lounge regulations by having a separate first class lounge for Oneworld Emerald elites: the Qatar Airways First Class Lounge. Here’s my take on this lounge.
All Oneworld Emerald elites and first-class passengers on a Oneworld flight have access, but if you’re flying in first class, you’ll definitely want to go to the Al Safwa First Lounge instead. You should only go to this lounge if you’re a Oneworld Emerald elite flying in economy on a Oneworld flight.
If you don’t have Oneworld status and aren’t flying in a premium cabin, you can access the Al Maha Lounge using Priority Pass. The main Al Maha Lounge is closed for renovations, but a temporary lounge has been set up near Gate A1. Priority Pass Select memberships are provided as a benefit of select credit cards including The Platinum Card® from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express.
From the main airside atrium in DOH — the one with the huge teddy bear — follow signs to the First Class Lounge. The lounge is up an escalator and then to the right at the top of the escalator when facing the check-in desk.
The two lounges for Oneworld elites that aren’t flying in business or first class share one check-in desk. However, there are usually agents at the bottom of the escalator that will check and scan your boarding pass before you ascend, so there’s no need to approach the desk unless you need assistance.
You’ll enter into an area with seating along a curved wall on the right.
To the left, near the entrance, is a sleeping area with six couches and reclined sleeping chairs. Although the sleeping area is kept dark and the couches are surprisingly comfortable, the area is loud and somewhat exposed due to being near the entrance.
You’ll see a variety of seating as you walk forward. The lounge curves leftward to make an L shape. At the L’s elbow is a square counter with coffee, teas, juices, sodas and light snacks.
A hallway on the left side of the lounge leads to an enclosed family room, an enclosed smoking room and restrooms.
After the L’s elbow, there’s more seating and then a dining area at the far end of the lounge.
There are five tables in the dining area, four more tables down a hallway near the dining area and three tables near the square snack counter.
Although miscellaneous power outlets can be found in the floor and along the walls, the most convenient power outlets are located between the seats in the middle part of the lounge before you get to the square snack counter. Although the outlets are universal, they won’t fit three-prong US-style plugs.
Crowds in the lounge vary greatly. I visited once at 12:30am and found the lounge to be extremely crowded — so much so that I couldn’t find two seats together. I visited another day at 7:30am and found the lounge almost empty. When the lounge was almost empty, I was greeted many times by staff who were working hard to clean and reset the lounge — I even saw one staff member wiping down each seat cushion.
Newspapers are available in the area between the first-class and business-class lounges.
The women’s restroom has three toilet stalls and two sinks.
Near the women’s restroom is the women’s shower area, which has two individual shower rooms.
Each shower room has an overhead shower as well as a hand-held showerhead.
The lounge doesn’t have its own Wi-Fi, so you’ll need to connect to the airport’s free Wi-Fi. I recommend connecting to the “HIAQatar Complimentary Wi-Fi” network, since this network doesn’t require you to enter your flight confirmation details or phone number. The connection was okay in the lounge and a speed test showed 5 ms ping, 3.55 Mbps download and 5.04 Mbps upload.
Food and Beverage
I visited the lounge once at 12:30am and another time at 7:30am. When I visited in the middle of the night, there was still a full buffet with daytime foods.
There were six salads, four hot dishes, two soups and two types of cake.
Despite it being late, there was a table near the buffet with red wine, white wine, beer, sodas, water and some spirits. Although Champagne wasn’t visible, you could request it from a lounge attendant.
When I visited at 7:30am, the buffet contained breakfast items. There were four hot dishes as well as congee and another type of porridge.
In addition to the hot options, meats and cheeses as well as sliced fruit and pastries were also available. Although breakfast foods were being served, wine and spirits were offered on a table near the buffet.
At the square snack counter, juices, milk and assorted cereals were available during breakfast hours.
The Qatar Airways First Class Lounge in DOH is certainly a step up from the neighboring business class lounge. The drink and food sections are better, and the lounge feels slightly more relaxing. There’s an enclosed family room as well as comfortable sleeping couches.
This being said, the lounge is disappointing when compared to the first-class lounges offered to Oneworld Emerald elites at other Oneworld hubs. For example, consider the lounges offered to Oneworld Emerald elites by JAL in Narita, Japan, Malaysia Airlines in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong. Qatar has an excellent first-class lounge as well, but Oneworld Emerald elites — the top Oneworld elite tier — don’t get access to this lounge and are instead relegated to this inferior lounge if they aren’t flying in business or first class.
All photos by the author.
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