Qatar’s Al Safwa Lounge Sets a New Standard for Airline Lounges

How I booked everything
American Airlines Flagship Dining Room DFW
Etihad First & Business Class Lounge LHR
Etihad A380 First Class Apartments LHR-AUH (Video)
St. Regis Abu Dhabi
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH (Video)
Qatar A380 First Class DOH-BKK
Cathay Pacific’s The Pier First Class Lounge (Video)
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER First Class HKG-LAX

After a completely nondescript lounge and flight from AUH-DOH on a Qatar Airways affiliate, I was greeted at the jetway by a Qatar Airways staff member who had a sign with my name on it.  She escorted me past the teddy bear at DOH and directly up a massive escalator to the brand new Al Safwa First Class Lounge.

qatar al safwa lounge review

DOH Teddy Bear

qatar al safwa lounge review

Escalator to Al Safwa Lounge

I was granted entry, on account of me flying Qatar Airways in First Class later that day, and was immediately in awe of the size of the lounge, it is MASSIVE.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

The Lounge

Every ceiling you seemed to look at was like 30-40 feet tall, every wall was sheer and vast.  There are seating areas interspersed throughout the lounge, and it’s so big that I cannot imagine it ever being crowded.  The seating areas all seemed to be different from each other, sometimes the seats would be similar to a typical airline lounge, another area would feature semi-enclosed office chairs, yet another area iPads and power outlets for use by guests.  I tried to walk around and take it all in and was continually blown away at the architecture and yet another vast space.

qatar al safwa lounge review

Semi-enclosed office seats

qatar al safwa lounge review

Yet another different kind of seating

qatar al safwa lounge review

Waterfall Wall

qatar al safwa lounge review

Vast hallway

Pretty much any hallway or door you came to had signs directing you to and around the various features of the lounge, which was helpful because it was hard to find my way around initially.  What I found useful was figuring out where everything was in relation to the Big Copper Desks, which made everything a bit easier.

qatar al safwa lounge review

Big Copper Desks at Qatar Al Safwa Lounge

Heck, even the bathrooms were amazing!

qatar al safwa lounge review

Bathrooms

Then of course there was some exclusive duty-free shopping.

qatar al safwa lounge review

Duty-free area

I settled on some chairs near the restaurant area and the giant “water bowl” installation.

qatar al safwa lounge review

Water Bowl installation

I found the giant water bowl ironic a few weeks later when sudden torrential rains closed the lounge due to flooding but I understand it’s been re-opened.

qatar al safwa lounge review

Water Bowl installation

The Peculiarities

I got out my video camera (post coming soon!) and walked further around the lounge.  What I found were random sushi areas, a dessert bar seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and an arcade with nothing plugged in.  Qatar has an amazing space but I thought to myself how easy it would be to miss out on everything the lounge has to offer!

Sushi/Food Area

qatar al safwa lounge review

Carved Watermelon Display

There was an artfully displayed carved watermelon next to a refrigerator full of sushi and another food counter with a chef waiting to take people’s orders.  A nearby table was set up for what seemed to be quite a nice dinner, should you and a bunch of your business associates happen to be traveling in First with Qatar.

qatar al safwa lounge review

Nice dinner setup

The space was really nice, but it was off to the side of the lounge and I nearly missed it!

Dessert Bar

There was a sign pointing to a Kid’s Area and I wanted to see what Qatar’s version of a kid’s area would look like, but randomly the first room I walked through (attempting to go to the kid’s area) was a pretty amazing dessert bar!

qatar al safwa lounge review

Dessert Bar

qatar al safwa lounge review

Dessert bar

qatar al safwa lounge review

Dessert Bar

I never really saw any staff walk through here, nor any other guests, so I can’t imagine how many people had no idea this dessert area wasn’t here!

Arcade and Book Room

The kid’s area was down a hallway after the Dessert Bar.  On the left was a room full of children’s books and a really ornate foosball set.

qatar al safwa lounge review

Books in kid’s room

qatar al safwa lounge review

Foosball

Then there was the arcade/video game room next to the book room.  It had all manner of video game systems and most of them were unplugged or didn’t work, including the amazing looking F1 racing game where you got to sit in a replica of Qatar’s F1 car.

qatar al safwa lounge review

Racing game

The two Wii systems were on but there were no controllers of any sort.  I’m sure they’ve since been turned on, it just seemed almost creepy, such a nice room where nothing worked.

Family Area

There is a huge room full of what can best be described as living rooms or cabanas for families with kids if they need their own area at the lounge.  To get there you have to walk through the dessert bar, don’t turn down the kid’s area hallway, and walk into the room in front of you.  There are quite a few of these cabanas, which are really nice!

qatar al safwa lounge review

Family room cabana

Despite how nice they are and how big the room is that contains them, they’re pretty easy to miss.

The Day Bed Rooms

I didn’t get any pictures of these rooms but they have quite a few rooms that come complete with shower and double beds for you and your traveling companion.  Oddly enough there are no charges for these rooms, which end up containing the only free showers in the lounge.  The Spa, next to these rooms, has quite a few services available for purchase but even showers have a cost, which I found peculiar compared to the competition.

The Food

I came back to the main dining area for a bit of food, but not too much since I had a nice flight departing in a few hours.  The bar area was fantastic and nicely furnished.

qatar al safwa lounge review

One side of the bar

One of the great parts of the Al Safwa lounge, yes, the same lounge that charges for a shower if you’re not in a day bed room, is serving Krug at the bar!

qatar al safwa lounge review

KRUG, YASSSSS

I grabbed my champagne and was seated at a table close to the only other people eating in the lounge at that moment, which I thought was weird.  Regardless, the table settings were very nice.

qatar al safwa lounge review

Table settings

I ordered a steak, which was lovely although I only ate about half of it.

qatar al safwa lounge review

Al Safwa Steak

After steak I asked for a dessert.  You know, just so I could take a picture of it.

qatar al safwa lounge review

AMAZING dessert

So, what did I think?

This lounge is equal parts Game-Changer and Huh?  It’s really the only way of explaining it.  The physical space is unmatched by any other lounge in the world, period.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  But then all the peculiar bits have to be factored in.  Obviously improving the soft product is easier than improving the hard product, so my hope is that the service levels will be retooled to better inform guests about the lounge and the services available (although it needs to be said that anyone I asked for help was very kind and quick to point me in the right direction).

Once the services are tweaked and some navigational things are better displayed, this will truly be the best airport lounge in the world.  I had a great visit and definitely want to go back.

5 Comments

  1. First, thank you for putting the Etihad Apartment review up. As always your pictures were terrfic. Do you carry lighting with you or are you using editing tools to get that nice brightness in all the shots? BTW, I put this here so as not to clutter up the contest going on in the actual report comments.

    Second, did this lounge feel comfortable? It looks gorgeous from a design and architecture standpoint, but I like my lounges to have a little more warmth. This gives me museum vibes, especially with all the open space and super high ceilings.

    Reply
    • Hi Desi! I don’t carry lighting with me on my trips, some of the brightness comes from editing software like Lightroom and Photoshop but I’ve also been known to use my iPhone’s flashlight to add light to certain scenes. The good part about most of these First Class cabins and lounges is that they’re generally well lit and have great reading lights which do a good job of lighting my food (on the flights).

      You had to find your comfort in this lounge. That said, there were plenty of different areas to sit and find your own personal space. It didn’t feel sterile or anything like that, it was definitely a cavernous space but it felt approachable.

      Reply
  2. Hi, I Love your reviews and the videos you take ! and thank you for sharing your experiences ! I will be flying From Amman to London this summer and really wanted to know should I try Qatar’s A380 first class or Emirates A380 first Class, I dont want to travel on Etihad. But between Qatar and Emirates can u Please help me with deciding because I cant decide because they both look awesome !

    Reply
  3. Hi, I really Love your reviews and the videos you take ! and thank you for sharing your experiences ! I will be flying From Amman to London this summer and really wanted to know should I try Qatar’s A380 first class or Emirates A380 first Class , I dont want to travel on Etihad. But between Qatar and Emirates can u Please help me with deciding because I cant decide !!!!!!!!!!!!! they both look awesome
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Nassir, have you flown on either product before?

      Reply

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