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qatar al safwa lounge access

The Easiest (& Cheapest) Way to Get Into the World’s Coolest Airport Lounge

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Who doesn't love an airport lounge? At a minimum, it's a spot to charge your phone, eat a snack, or drink for free before your flight. At their best, you can take a shower, sit down for a fancy meal, or get whisked to your plane on the tarmac in the backseat of a Porsche.

But you won't find another airport lounge on the globe that looks like this.


qatar al safwa lounge


Welcome to the Al Safwa Lounge, Qatar Airways' first class lounge in Doha (DOH). It's an almost otherworldly space inside the airport – more like a museum than an airline lounge, really – complete with an in-house restaurant, private sleeping rooms, showers, and even a spa with a jacuzzi. So go figure it's also among the hardest lounges in the world to get into, at least on paper.

This is a first class lounge, so you need a first class ticket (or top-tier status with Qatar and a business class ticket) … and that's easier said than done: Qatar Airways barely flies jets equipped with bonafide first class seats anymore. But thanks to a ticketing quirk, a flight in Qatar Qsuites business class to or from the right destination can also get you in – even if you booked with miles from Qatar or partner programs like British Airways or American AAdvantage miles.

Here's how.

Read our full review of the excellent Al Safwa Lounge!


Book a Flight to or From the Middle East (Not Doha)

It might be the world's best business class, but flying Qsuites nonstop from Doha (DOH) back to the States – or anywhere – won't get you into this first class lounge. The best you can do is the Al Mourjan business class lounge.

A one-stop flight elsewhere within the Middle East through Doha, however? Still flying Qatar business class seats all the way? In that case, you can head on into the Al Safwa Lounge during your layover!


Al safwa first class lounge


It sounds too good to be true, but really that's how it works. And it's all thanks to how those Qatar tickets function behind the scenes.

You see, while you might be flying in a business class seat, Qatar actually considers those short connections between Doha and Dubai (DXB), Abu Dhabi (AUH), Muscat (MCT), Amman (AMM), and many other cities throughout the Middle East (and parts of Northern Africa) first class. That short first class flight is your ticket into the Al Safwa Lounge.

Here's a quick breakdown of all the tickets that'll get you in:

  • Of course, any Qatar First Class ticket gets you into the Al Safwa first class lounge, whether you're flying from Doha up to Europe or all the way down to Australia
  • Premium cabin tickets departing Doha for destinations throughout the Middle East are almost always considered first class
  • That applies whether you booked a nonstop flight from Qatar or simply make a connection in Doha after a longer flight from the U.S., Canada, or elsewhere
  • And you can even get into the Al Safwa Lounge the opposite way, flying from the Middle East back home with a pitstop in Doha!
  • Award tickets booked with miles follow these rules too – no matter which airline's miles you're using

Here's my ticket from Dubai (DXB) to Doha (DOH) from a year or so ago, which I used to get into Qatar's first class lounge after landing in Doha – and before connecting on the long flight home to the States. The proof is right there in the upper left: First Class.


qatar first class ticket


In Qatar's eyes, business class simply doesn't exist on those short hops within the Middle East. You can see that when you're booking a flight with one of those connections with Qatar itself.


chicago to muscat


And this holds true whether you're paying (a small fortune) in cash or redeeming miles – and not just using Qatar's own Avios, but even when booking with American AAdvantage miles. Among all the best ways to book Qsuites business class using miles, that Middle Eastern connection gets you into the Al Safwa Lounge in Doha (DOH).

It's much harder to book Qatar Qsuites using American miles these days as finding the award availability to actually book those business class suites with miles is tough. But it's a great deal when you can, as it won't cost you a mile more: Whether you fly nonstop to or from Doha or fly one-stop elsewhere in the Middle East with a connection in Doha, it's still just 70,000 AAdvantage miles each way.


aa booking montreal to dubai


Take a closer look at this one-stop flight from Montreal (YUL) to Dubai (DXB) with a connection in Doha. While you're booking business class, that final flight from Doha to Dubai is considered a first class fare. And that's your ticket for eight glorious hours in the Al Safwa Lounge.


dubai to doha example


Best of all, it doesn't matter which way you're flying. If you're flying from Doha to Oman, Jordan, or the United Arab Emirates, your business class booking gets you into Al Safwa. But after a pandemic policy change, the same is true if you fly from elsewhere in the Middle East through Doha and onward: You can use the ticket from the flight you just arrived on to get into Qatar's best and biggest lounge.

That said, a few destinations aren't eligible for Al Safwa access because they, strangely, technically book as a business class ticket instead:

  • While flights between Qatar and Muscat (MCT) are always in first class, flights to and from Salalah (SLL) in southern Oman are not.
  • Same goes for Egypt, where flights to and from Cairo (CAI) book into first class while those to and from Alexandria (HBE) do not.
  • Flights to and from nearly every other airport throughout the Middle East are always considered first class, aside from most airports in Iran and Iraq. 


salalah to doha ticket
Flights between Doha and Salalah (SLL) in southern Oman are a rare exception to this amazing workaround


Otherwise, practically any flight within the Middle East gets you into Al Safwa. And that's a much easier (and cheaper!) way to get in than booking Qatar First Class to London-Heathrow (LHR) or Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) on the airline's Airbus A380s – let alone all the way to Perth (PER) or Sydney (SYD) in Australia.


Buy Your Way In … For a High Price

Not spending time in Oman, Jordan, or the U.A.E. before or after your business class flight? There's one more way to get into the Al Safwa lounge with a nonstop business class ticket to or from Doha…

Qatar Airways also sells paid access to the Al Safwa Lounge to eligible business class passengers. But it's not cheap: At last check, the airline was charging 600 Qatari riyal per person – just shy of $165 USD. 

But not just any business class passenger can buy their way into this lounge – it hinges on how you booked your ticket: Whether you booked with miles or cash, you must have booked directly with Qatar. That means upgrading your way into the Al Safwa lounge remains off-limits if you redeemed miles from American, Alaska, JetBlue, or even British Airways. The same is true if you upgraded a cheap economy ticket to Qatar business class – or if you purchased a cheaper “basic business class” ticket at the outset.


al safwa chairs


Is this lounge worth $165 a pop? Heck, is any lounge?

Well, it depends on how long your layover is. If you've got just an hour or two to kill before your next flight, I'd have a hard time justifying shelling out close to $200 per passenger when you can walk into the excellent Al Mourjan business class lounge or the new “The Garden” offshoot for free.

But if you have a much longer connection? Maybe even overnight? Then the math might change – especially if you're looking to get a solid nap in one of the Al Safwa Lounge's 15 private sleeping rooms. Having spent many hours here in the past, I'd certainly consider it myself

One extra detail to be aware of before you pay up: Qatar reportedly limits guests who purchase Al Safwa access to six hours in the lounge, though I have a hard time seeing how that's enforced.


Highlights of the Al Safwa Lounge

It's not just an airport lounge, nor is it a museum. It's both.

The Al Safwa Lounge is a spectacle: A surreal, jaw-dropping lounge where you can enjoy free meals, bottomless champagne, sleeping rooms, and its own spa. You could spend hours exploring and gawking at every square foot of soaring ceilings and hallways that stretch on forever, marveling at the fact that such a space exists within an airport. Take it from me: I've done it myself.

The signature water feature in the center, with a constant trickle of flowing water audible seemingly no matter where you go, sets the tone. There's no other airport lounge like this.


al safwa lounge


It seems to stretch on forever, a piece of art in and of itself. And then there's actual artwork, too.


artwork in the Al Sawfa first class lounge


There's no shortage of places to sit, relax, or even work – including dedicated workstations with both PCs and Mac computers available. But the most impressive amenities of all are the sleeping rooms … and that's a bit of a misnomer. It's like a miniature hotel tucked away inside the lounge, with 15 private rooms available on a first-come, first-served basis.

These rooms are available to passengers with a layover of four hours or more – and you can use them for up to six hours. There are rooms with single beds as well as a few with two beds, all with their own ensuite bathroom (including a shower) inside. Few airline lounges in the world offer private sleeping spaces this nice.


qatar airways al safwa sleeping room



There's even a spa inside the lounge, too! And while treatments will cost you, you can dip into a jacuzzi for free.


qatar al safwa jacuzzi


There's a (surprise!) massive bar as well as a full dining room, where you can order a la carte meals and sip away to your heart's content for free as well. The breakfast, dinner, and lunch menus are always expansive, with plenty to pick from.

While I certainly wouldn't call the meals five-star restaurant quality, everything I've eaten inside Al Safwa has been good, if not excellent. That includes this rack of herb-crusted lamb chops.


al safwa food


For years, wine lovers could enjoy bottomless (and vintage) Veuve Clicquot La Grand Dame – among the most expensive champagne you'll find served by any airline, on the ground or in the air. Sadly, the lounge's menu shows it has made some pretty substantial cuts in the beverage department recently.


al safwa champagne


After a few visits to Al Safwa over the years, I think it's fair to say that the food and drinks are the lounge's weakest point overall. But that says more about just how unbelievable the rest of the lounge is – it's hard to compete.


Bottom Line

Is Qatar Airway's Al Safwa the best airport lounge in the world? Maybe, maybe not. But there's no doubt in my mind it's the coolest.

Lounges this nice are typically among the hardest to get into, requiring you to blow a ton of extra miles or a mountain of money for first class flights to get inside. But thanks to a few quirks with how Qatar handles those tickets, there are a few surprising ways to get access and soak it all in.


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

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

5 Responses

  • My wife and I spent a couple of hours in the lounge a couple of days ago. She was feeling unwell so we pretty much planted ourselves near the water feature as the bathrooms were nearby. When I asked the staff about non-sit down dining options I was told that crisps and nuts at the bar were the only options. Circumstances permitting I’d love to try the buffet and nap rooms (wherever those are) although for their home station I would have thought that at least a couple dozen nap rooms would have been the minimum.

  • We spent 3 hours in Al Safwa a couple of days ago. Flying DOH-CAI in First got us access to the lounge 😊. Amazing lounge. Second everything you say about this lounge. On our way back we have 16 hr layover in Doha. Hopefully we can get one of those private rooms to relax 😌 before heading out to Doha city tour in the morning.

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