Usually, I do not translate my FRs into English. But since I got here a long awaited exclusivity, I would like to share it with you guys. So, what is it all about ?
Well : this is would be the first lounge report on FR of the brand new QR Al-Safwa lounge in DOH.
Soft opening of the lounge happened 10 days ago. And without me flying to IFN the very first week-end after the opening, I would have reported earlier.
The challenge is to get access to this supposedly Unicorn-ladden wonderland at a minimum cost.
OW Emerald status is of no use to enter this lounge. You have to fly first, period. Thankfully, QR sells its regional premium product as First which greatly reduces the cost and the loss of time. I wouldn't be able to fork out several thousand euros just for a lounge report !
Flying F from Dubai onto Doha costs ca 1000 EUR for a return F ticket, or a quiet steep single trip of 650 EUR from DOH to Dubai. As a consequence, it makes more sense to rely on FFP award to get the magical boarding pass.
While tweaking with QF award search engine, I finally got my hand on a nice proposal. - usually a single F ticket goes at 26000 miles + taxes. - but by opting to depart from DWC, I found a return ticket for 26000 miles + taxes. - and that is a lot cheaper (miles and cash wise) than a Y award or revenue ticket on the outbound and a F on the inbound
So here is the routing allowing also to report the two regional first products : outbound with an A320 and inbound onboard the B788.
So here it is : nearly 20 hours straight in Al Safwa lounge. (yeah, yeah I am a lounge slut).
We have to start with a flight to get to DOH if we want to get to Al-Safwa lounge. I left the mogoymobile 2 (the number 1 remains in France) on the DWC parking lot which has the great advantage to (still) be free.
The other bright side is that no long walking is needed to reach the terminal.
On the right side, the departure lounge, at the back the arrival side. This (low cost) DWC terminal is very much similar to the Terminal 2 of DXB. Unglamorous, functional low rise building without any architectural pretense served by pax bus.
Departure lounge entrance.
Check-in counters in the back, very similar to those of the DXB T2.
The FIDS is a bit empty especially compared to 2014 when FZ and others had to relocate their flights during the maintenance of one of DXB runways. Recently FZ has developed its activity in DWC with a few frames rebased there.
QR has several rotations a day to DWC. Isolated in the desert, DWC has the edge when it comes to land near Jebel Ali port. GF is also one regular airline on top of W6 which offer some flights a week to BUD and OTP. When springs comes back, that would require some checking.
Self checking is limited to FZ.
Despite the few flights, DWC has invested into a large FIDS !
QR check-in counters are not yet manned, 4 hours before departure time. Understandable. Some pax are already queuing !
Priority check-in is taken very seriously by QR.
As well by FZ.
W6 flights checking-in.
Some useless gizmoh that gives you your gate number after scanning your BP. Pretty weird given the size of the terminal.
Let's tour the landside terminal while waiting for the check-in to open. Between the departure and arrival lounge are :
A mini food court.
Major rent-a-car companies, some hotel bookers, DU and Etisalat (UAE mobile operators), a bank and a bureau de change.
Starkbucks crowns the arrival lounge.
The taxi stand to finish the tour. Some RTA bus is calling at DWC but only once per hour.
The airport offers 60 minutes of free wifi.
It's efficient enough. Olivedel with an AF first flight is making the news.
Three hours sharp before departure, check-in opens. Quiet impressive as this flight as all others ex DWC are operated by A320.
No less than 5 counters are manned by dnata staff. No QR rep visible. Rechecking myself and getting my two next BP plus the lounge invitation to the Marhaba lounge.
Heading to BP and passport control.
The immigration is overcome quickly thanks to the automated egates saving me a lot of time as always. Just behind the security controls with nearly no queue at all.
Zoom on the egate machine.
Just after the security controls, dutyfree shop surround the pax.
From the right.
From the left.
But you are not channelled through them as in some of the new commercially savvy airports.
On the second floor, a McDonalds and some restaurants.
The only DWC lounge is also on the second floor. The signing gently prods you to take the stairs.
But I know the trick and my lazy myself prefers the escalator. Panoramic view of the airside DWC. Gates surround the duty free central area.
A mini smoking lounge on this floor. Another one near the gates.
The lounge entrance.
And the lounge invitation that will be kept by the dragon.
Undistinguished welcome by the dragon who requests to see my BP on top of the invitation. The press offering is rather dismal with no major publication. No surprise for me as I have already been to this very average lounge.
To be noted, a very small relaxation zone, but just besides the blaring TVs… Earplugs recommended !
Upon arrival, one of the lounge attendant proposes me to order a hot meal out of a 4 course menu.
My choice : vegetable byriani. Not so bad for such a small lounge in a rather low-costish terminal.
The news from Florida are not really appropriate for an airport lounge.
But more is needed to stop me from eating !
The 60 minutes airport free wifi come to an end. I switch to the lounge wifi service secured by a password that I will not reveal here…
The buffet zone.
The opposite view with the main lounge seating area. My seat in the back corner.
It's a rather small lounge and it is excruciantingly windowless.
The food offering is rather sparse at this hour.
Especially for the sweets. Just take one of the two remaining pastries. Some cans help to hide their lonelyness.
Some gold but that is not enough.
3 very basic beers. Bud, Amstel et Amstel light.
Perrier could be qualified as the top of the offering. But it's at ambient temperature and no ice in sight.
Cheap liquors and wines.
Very basic snacks as well. That would make the perfect counterpoint with Al-Safwa lounge !
BP, passport and FF card.
The marhaba lounge has its own restroom. Unfortunately busy with a father and his kids. I had to skip that one !
Time to board, the dragon does her duty and gently prods the pax out of the lounge as we are the last flight out of DWC. A costa coffe shop also on the second floor.
QR and GF the last one to leave DWC this evening.
The same dnata agents proceed with the check-in and the boarding. I would be greeted by my name.
Rather a full flight, it seems. There is an early morning departure bank in DOH.
Boarding is finally announced, in a paxbus obviously. I have the choice to board last certainly with an upgraded paxbus. But I'd better seat in the plane than to wait for the cattle to get in.
Now, I thought I had my fair deal of smallish firsts on this flight: - first departure ex DWC on FR - first report of DWC Marhaba lounge on FR - and now the first flight onboard the Al Maha A320 subfleet. Al Maha is supposed to be the Saudi branch of QR but is stuck in administrative issues with the Saudi authorities (if you know Saudi, you shouldn't be that surprised).
Only two pictures of this brand new bird. An agent is reminding me that pictures are not allowed. Still wondering why… this is not North Korea !
The upfront cabin with its generous pitch.
The leather seats are looking really great.
A pillow rests on the seat. A bit too fluffy to my taste.
The pitch is more than satisfactory, can't reach the wall.
Our GF friend is actively trying to be the first at push back. He is supposed to have a headstart on us.
Power plug for each seat. International standard. It seems so plain and obvious in the cabin. But why on earth it's such a rarity in the lounges (except EK in F) ?
Same green stitching as Al Maha corporate color.
The seat is equiped with a small table for additional glas space.
Modern upper control panel.
Welcome drink orders are taken by a FA, just after introducing herself. Jacquart Champange is a far cry compared to the Krug served not so long ago.
A hot oshibori comes shortly after being given the choice (cold/hot). Nicely presented.
Very light meal on this short haul sector.
Beverage list, I haven't tested the espresso offering.
In this cabin, no IFE, hence the manual safety instructions.
We push back before GF, great success !
Currently DWC is mainly for cargo operations.
While taxiing, a date, traditionnally offered on QR.
Followed by this other milestone of Arabian hospitality.
DWC pax terminal.
The first cabin is composed of 3 row of 4 seats. 6 pax onboard this evening.
The purser in action.
Just one fold for the linen, I have seen worse.
The seat is just a recliner with very limited angle. Al Maha is purely a regional concept. Hope they don't fly her to Eastern Europe !
After introducing herself and taking the order, the purser serves the guests.
Served on a plate in one-go.
Dessert la Durée, recently established in Qatar.
With some more champagne, to be honest the whole thing was a bit bland and disappointing.
The dessert is well balanced though, not too sweety and a nice savoury harmony.
Closing in to DOH from the north, overflying the Pearl.
Followed by DOH business center.
Together with the required shoot on the wingtip.
Landing and taxiing.
No jetbridge though, upgraded pax bus to bring us to the transfer area.
Peak hour, with a lot of connecting pax.
Security control are passed like a breeze. Pax and agents are doing their best, my carry-on did not get stop in the process. Thanks mainly to the short queue for the F/J track.
Direction Al Safwa.
Here we are.
There it goes! In this FR, my purpose is just to route you throughout the Al Safwa lounge to get a grasp of it . The next one will enter into the details of each zone.
Stairways to heaven. Well guarded by a lounge dragon. That was quiet a hurdle to overcome as I had only a regional F BP with a very long (20hours) layover.
But it went all good !
The other zoo-like transfer zone.
Finally getting to it, another BP control is done.
Downward view of the gate control.
A lounge attendant briefs me shortly on the lounge amenities.
Basically the lounge is articulated around this cross road.
But before that, the dedicated duty free zone is on the right.
And the business center on the left.
Once at the crossroad, 90 degrees to the left, and we got : - some seating area that continue on the left and from there onto a noisy mezzanine not isolated from the terminal. - a water rainfall through a tube. Completely pointless and beautiful. - in the back, the bar followeed by a T-shaped eating rooom.
The bar. On the left the kitchen view. On its right, the smooking room entrance.
Le T on the right.
Le T on the left.
The way to the mezzanine.
The smoking room facing the bar.
Back to the waterfall.
On the left the entrance to the media room.
Back to the crossroad, the help desk.
A few meters away the luggage room.
With code protected boxes.
Going on, a secondary food zone.
Back to the crossroad, the last leg.
Along the wall, a different kind of waterfall.
The spa and private room entrance guarded by a dedicated dragon.
The family room is likewise guarded.
At the end of this corridor, another lounge entrance, currently unmanned.
Which allow entrance to the lounge.
Thanks for the reading, the next FR will detail most of the subzone and the catering.
Al Maha Airways
Dubai - DWC
Doha - DOH
Comfort : nice seat, but with limited recline. okay for a regional flight, less so for Eastern Europe bound one. Crew: Attentive and professional but lacking the personal touch. Catering : just okay but more thanks to the service side than the quality of the food. Enter.: no IFE, no ZE... Ontime : 5 min de late on departure, 19 min on arrival.
Marhaba lounge : Comfort :few power plug, window and soul less. Pretty basic. Presse : down to the bottom but functionning wifi. Service : enough and dilligent, the only strong point of this lounge. Catering : dismal, thanks god the on seat service saves it all.
DWC : Nice controls operations. Access : without a taxi or own car, pretty lame. Service : not up to the DXB level, but quiet honourable. Cleanliness : without blame.
DOH : nice fast track efficiency.
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