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
British Airways Business Class Lounge PHL
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class PHL-DOH
Qatar Airways Arrivals Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways Complimentary Doha Stopover Package (Westin Doha)
Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge DOH
Vietnam Airlines Business Class Lounge HAN
Silk Air B737 Business Class HAN-SIN
My flight was departing at 1.30a.m and I got to the airport just before midnight. Doha airport never really sleeps, though, and there was a lot of activity at the driveway as passengers alighted to get on their respective long haul flights.
Qatar has a special drop off for premium cabin passengers. This is kind of like what SQ has at Changi, only that SQ has it for First Class only and Qatar does it for both Business and First Class. It probably speaks volumes to how cheap labour is in Qatar that the airline can afford to hire a round the clock team of porters to help every single premium cabin passenger (and I’m sure Qatar has a lot of them).
A massive wall greets you when you step into the terminal. To the left is the business class check-in, and the right the first class. Although I’ve experienced Qatar’s First Class lounge before, that was off a transit flight and I’ve not done their First Class check in experience in Doha yet.
The porter who had greeted me at the curb led me straight through to the first available check in counter. It’s remarkable that despite the number of business class passengers Qatar must have, the area was totally deserted. That either speaks to how efficient the ground staff are, or perhaps that most of Qatar’s premium cabin passengers are transit ones.
I already had my boarding pass from DOH-HAN which was issued to me back in Philly. All I had to do was recheck one of my bags and that was it. I was done in less than a minute.
The reception area has plenty of seating, but again given that the area is mainly a pass-through I didn’t think it was necessary.
There is a dedicated immigration channel for premium cabin passengers straight through from the check-in area. Again, no queues here. Past this was security, and I was done in the blink of an eye.
That then spits you out into Doha airport proper, which even at this late hour was in full swing.
FYI- Qatar duty free is letting you win a supercar now. I can’t think of a more Middle Eastern giveaway. One wonders how they’d handle shipping.
Qatar’s business class lounge is accessed via an escalator leading upstairs from the public concourse. This is also where your boarding pass is scanned to determine eligibility.
Up the escalator and you reach the reception area. Since your boarding pass has already been scanned there’s nothing further to do here, but the staff can help you out with miscellaneous tasks like rebookings or adding a frequent flyer number to your boarding pass.
Lurking behind the reception area is this monolithic art piece, the meaning of which I have yet to decipher. I think it’s meant to mean “metal”.
I’ve reviewed the lounge before so if you want an extra detailed review you can look at this. However, that visit was during Ramadan so I thought it’d be useful to take another look at how the lounge operations work during a normal period.
The big centrepiece of the lounge is the silent reflecting pool that stretches half the length of the atrium. Rising above the pool is a spiral staircase that takes you to the dining area, which was my first port of call.
Qatar’s dining area is large (as you might expect for a lounge that needs to handle a high volume of passengers) and overlooks the public area on one side, and the interior of the lounge on the other.
There is a full service bar for those of you who fancy a tipple. The last time I visited was during Ramadan, so all the liquor wasn’t available. No such restrictions this time.
Where the hot food is concerned, I’m not a fan of the direction that Qatar has taken with the catering in their business class lounge. Once upon a time they had a sit down menu, but with cutbacks that’s gone away and now you only have a buffet selection. The buffet selection doubles down on greasy carbs and fried stuff.
This unappetizing bowl of chilli con carne probably sums it up. Yeah, I didn’t fancy it.
There was also a selection of smaller plates of pasta salad and mezze.
Nonetheless I assembled a plate of whatever looked edible for the obligatory table shot.
One thing that Qatar has done right is not skimp on the booze, and I was pleased to note they were serving a vintage Pommery champagne on the day of my visit. This baby retails upwards of a $100, so at least you can’t accuse them of going cheap on the hooch.
There’s an extensive desserts section, but I found the selection to be unmemorable. Give me ice cream any day. But make sure it’s vanilla.
Back on the first floor, and you’ll find ample seating with numerous drinks stations scattered around. These have soft drinks and still or sparkling water, although there are waitstaff who will be happy to bring you any drink you like on demand.
Moving through the lounge to the opposite end- this is the reverse angle looking back towards the dining area. Look at the glass windows on the second floor. That’s the dining room.
The first floor is more for sitting and working. You’ll find some light bites here and a full array of beverages, but apart from the sandwich zone at the opposite end (more on that in a bit), the offerings here don’t match upstairs.
At about the mid-way point of the lounge is a small enclave separated from the rest of the lounge by a sliding glass door.
This leads to a rest area with almost flat chairs. There’s not much in the way of privacy, but you could catch a few winks here. Good luck if your neighbour snores.
This is also where you’ll find the business centre, chock full of computers, meeting rooms and printing facilities.
And next to the business centre? Of course the games room. Sadly, neither the PS4s nor the F1 simulator seemed to be working when I was there.
We’ve now made it to the other end of the lounge where you find the sandwich bar. Although I’m not entirely sold on the quality of the food here either, it is a nice change of pace from the dining room. High ceilings, artsy lighting and impeccable table service make the place.
This place does made to order sandwiches, and although they didn’t have avocado (what self respecting sandwich joint doesn’t have avocado!), at least you got something fresh here as opposed to the buffet upstairs.
My sandwich was passable, if unspectacular. I thought they could have scored an easy win by giving a side plate of freshly made french fries, which don’t cost a lot to make but always make people happy.
There’s also a self-serve coffee bar (although the waitstaff will happily make one for you) and a limited selection of desserts.
The last thing I checked out before heading to the gate was the showers. I mentioned this in my review of the arrival lounge, but Qatar has seriously underinvested in the number of showers in its lounges. There are two shower areas in the lounge, and the combined total can’t be more than 15 cubicles. No need to tell you that that’s nowhere near enough for a lounge with this sort of traffic. I got lucky, but when I was coming out the queue had built to an impressive 40 minutes.
The shower suites are pleasant enough with their own toilets. I’m still waiting for SQ to introduce individual shower suites in their lounge instead of the current locker room style shower-within-the-toilet…
Nothing remarkable to note about the showers, except you need to request for amenities like toothbrushes and razors.
Each bathroom has a storage space for your luggage as well as backlit mirrors to reveal you in all your unshaven glory.
On the whole, Qatar’s business class lounge experience in Doha is a good quality one. It’s a shame the food quality is somewhat lacking and the lounge has a chronic shower shortage, because visually the place is stunning and I find the service nothing short of excellent.