The Philly Pho Fare: Trip Planning
Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge Terminal 4 SIN
Vietnam Airlines A321 Economy SIN-HAN
Qatar Airways B77W Business Class HAN-DOH
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class DOH-PHL
Aloft Philadelphia Downtown
The City of Brotherly Love
British Airways Business Class Lounge PHL
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class PHL-DOH
Qatar Airways Arrivals Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways Complimentary Doha Stopover Package
Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways B77W Business Class DOH-HAN
Vietnam Airlines Business Class Lounge HAN
Silk Air B737 Business Class HAN-SIN
As I got off the aircraft and walked towards immigration, I realised this would be my first time flying Qatar business class into Doha. I’ve flown Qatar’s business class out and through Doha quite a few times, but this would be the first time I’d get to experience their arrivals process.
For all the talk that Qatar makes about having a world class airport, I find the Doha immigration queues to be a nightmare for economy class travelers. The queues are often long and snaking, and move at a snail’s pace. Therefore, if you’re flying into Doha, it may well be worth upgrading yourself just to avoid that pain. There is a dedicated queue at immigration for non-Qatar Airways premium cabin passengers, but if you’re flying premium on Qatar you have a special immigration facility all to yourself.
The facility is pretty easy to find with plenty of signage. The size, however, puzzles me. For 99% of people it’s simply a passthrough. The receptionist checks your boarding pass to make sure you’re eligible, you’re waived through and make a beeline for the nearest immigration counter.
And yet Qatar has chosen to provide a ton of seating and a facility that can easily hold maybe 80, 90 people. Perhaps it can be useful for those who arrive on separate flights and want to wait for their friends (but isn’t that what the Arrivals Lounge proper is for?) before going through immigration (because it’s such a valuable shared experience).
Anyway, I’m not complaining because it’s a nice experience, just that from a business point of view it’s puzzling.
Qatar even provides a small buffet spread here. Remember that this isn’t the Arrivals Lounge yet, it’s just an immigration facility. You can get a proper meal and a shower in the Arrivals Lounge literally a few minutes away from here. But if for whatever reason you can’t wait, you’ll find coffee, bread, cereals, fruits and cold cuts at the immigration facility.
I wandered around the facility for about five minutes taking photos, then decided to move on to the Arrivals Lounge. Qatari Nationals and selected GCC countries can use the e-gates, and for everyone else there’s a surly immigration official who spent more time watching a movie on his phone than examining my travel history.
Past immigration was luggage claim, then the usual customs walk of shame, then out into the arrivals area of Doha airport. Now here’s where the real Arrivals Lounge is, barely a 1 minute walk from where you exit.
At reception my boarding pass was scanned and I was directed to a lift to take me to the upper floor. Do note that this facility is only for Qatar Airways passengers, oneworld First and Business class members do not have access.
The elevator button will cheat your feelings. It says “First Class Lounge” but really, it’s a combined facility for both business and first class customers.
The elevator opens into a large seating area with Qatar’s familiar blue chairs and tablet newspaper/airport departures app.
There’s an area which you think is for watching TV, until you realise the only program on is the departures schedule. I think this was meant to be a snooze area.
In fact, there are several other quiet areas in the lounge that have chairs with ottomans (note the lack of any head rest cover though, so in time I imagine the headrests will get discolored from hair oil. Ew). This would be useful for leisure passengers who arrive too early to check into their hotels and want to take a nap.
The items in the buffet spread here are very similar to what was on offer in the immigration facility.
However, this Arrivals Lounge had the added benefit of an ala carte menu. By accident or design, every item on the menu was vegetarian.
I ordered some scrambled eggs and hashbrowns. The food wasn’t spectacular by any means, but I think it’s a great option for travelers who need to grab a bite before heading for morning meetings. What was also interesting was I didn’t see any alcohol in this lounge (it might have been the earliness of arrival), when AA’s and BA’s arrivals facility offer you the change to grab a drink too.
At the end of the dining area there’s an open walkway that connects the Arrivals Lounge to its business centre.
The walkway is open to the rest of the terminal so you get a lot of natural light and some of the sounds of the airport. The lounge is recessed from the departures area so fortunately the sound doesn’t leak inside.
The business centre was deserted when I got there (funny that Qatar was a British protectorate but they use American spelling)
I wonder how useful business centres are in today’s world where everyone has their own laptop and wouldn’t dream of leaving home without it. I guess they’re helpful if you need printing facilities or if your laptop has crashed and you absolutely need to send something out, but surely you wouldn’t ever need more than a handful.
The business centre also has two conference rooms.
What every arrivals lounge needs is showers, and lots of them, because this is by far the most requested feature of business and leisure travelers alike. I remember the American Airlines arrivals lounge in LHR had 29 showers, and the BA one 94!
Qatar, unfortunately, only has four shower suites in the lounge. That’s just not good enough for a facility in their main hub. I had about a ten minute wait before one became available.
The shower suites themselves are large and nicely appointed, with toilets attached.
The shower had nice strong water pressure and Rituals bath amenities. You do have to request things like a toothbrush set and razor separately though.
Good arrivals lounges provide a place for people to get refreshed for the day ahead, and from that point of view Qatar does well. It goes beyond other arrivals lounges by offering places to catch a bit of sleep (most other arrivals lounges don’t do that because they want to encourage throughput, not lingering), but falls behind because of insufficient showers.
The final point I’d like to highlight is that the Qatar arrivals lounge seems to operate 24 hours a day, versus other arrivals lounges around the world which generally close by early afternoon. The reason being that they’re looking mostly at business travelers who need to get in early and prepare for meetings on the same day, and if you arrive after a certain time they assume you’re going to your hotel anyway. In that respect Qatar’s lounge offers something different too.
Onwards to the Westin Doha for my PlusQatar stopover package!