Qatar Airways is an airline that puts a lot of effort into building it’s premium class experience, from the ground to the on board service. At the old Doha airport the airline had a separate premium terminal for it’s premium (business and first class) passengers. At the airline’s new hub, the Hamad International Airport at Doha, the airline has the Al Mourjan business class lounge. This review is based on the lounge experience during two separate visits.
The lounge is just off the main central section of the terminal where all the concourses converge. There is adequate signage leading you to the lounge escalator where an agent scans your boarding pass before allowing you onwards. The lounge is open to only first and business class passengers on Qatar airways flights, there is also a separate Al Safwa first class lounge exclusively for first class passengers. The lounges are NOT accessible to OneWorld status holders, for whom there are separate lounges.
The rather long escalator takes you right up to the reception desk of the lounge. The reception has flight information displays (FIDs) on the side, so you can lookup your next flight before going into the lounge. No departure announcements are made.
The first impression one is impressed by is the sheer size of the lounge. It is big and feels like it. The lounge is on two floors, the main level which has seating area, bars, toilets, showers, quiet rest areas and a deli cafe which serves sandwiches and other mini-meals. The mezzanine houses the sit-down restaurant and bar.
The lounge has plenty of seating on the main level, the entire lounge from the layout to the furniture show the attention to detail and quality that Qatar Airways’ boss, Akbar Al Baker is known for. The seating is a good combination of feeling private yet open at the same time. There are a variety of seats available from proper single sofas to more relaxed lounge type seats.
By the side of each seat is a touch screen which shows some handy information like the lounge layout, Flight information and some very basic (and slow) web browsing).
Around and interspersed within, the seating areas there are refreshment counters with various non alcoholic options. The one odd set-up with the refreshment counters is the lack of trash bins, which forces you to leave your empty cans, etc on the counter (which I later noticed is promptly picked up as soon as you walk away) or hand the trash to one of the lounge staff who come by when they see you looking for something, both of which, while prompt and attentive, are just a little awkward, especially to passengers from countries where servants or attendants are not the norm.
Another awkward point is the service set-up, the lounge has waiter service, but you have to ask for it. Sometimes, but not always, a member of the lounge staff came up and asked me if I would like anything, but in most cases you have to ask a passing staff.
It would help if the reception staff explain this to passengers as they enter the lounge.
A spiral staircase with a chandelier over a pool of water leads up to the restaurant. The restaurant and bar are located on the mezzanine overlooking the lounge.
The restaurant has a proper sit down setup. Food is available in a buffet style with two large counters on two sides of the restaurant. Dishes can also be ordered al-la-carte from the menu and a chef keeps rotating and helping passengers with their selection.
The buffet had a combination of a few continental dishes, a selection of Indian and Chinese food. There was also a selection of salads, soup and breads which were good.
Unfortunately, and shockingly, this lounge does not conform to international culinary standards and uses MSG (mono sodium glutamate) in its oriental food. Passengers with allergies are advised to please check with the staff and keep away from the oriental offerings.
I had two very different experiences here on my two separate visits.
During my first visit, which was during the early morning rush of flights, the restaurant was absolutely full, getting a table to sit was next to impossible and the service staff where overwhelmed. With my short layover running short, after waiting a little while, I gave up on trying to order and just ate from the buffet. The food on the buffet should definitely be improved. It lacked creativity and flavour, and felt like re-heated pre-packaged food.
On my second visit, the restaurant was less busy and service was far superior to my previous experience. I was shown to a table as soon as I entered and offered water and a drink. A chef came over to my table and discussed an al-a-carte order. I chose the lamb chops with mushroom sauce. Excellent.
The food from the buffet was still as ‘bleh’ as before. The dessert counter look lavish with a good spread, unfortunately I did not try anything.
This level also houses the main bar. The bar is well staffed with qualified mixologists. The alcohol on display is surprisingly below par, with items like Johnnie Walker Red Label and Jack Daniels. However, ask the bartenders and out will come the better stuff which is not on display.
Aside from the restaurant, there is also a deli on the main level which has made to order sandwiches. I did not order anything here but I was given to understand that there is no menu for ordering and that they will literally make whatever you order. The editor of Bangalore Aviation, Devesh Agarwal, has visited the deli, found the offerings from good to excellent.
The lounge also has a variety of other facilities including prayer rooms, a game room and a business center.
As a business class lounge, the Al Mourjan lounge is fantastic. The attention put into design and detail has produced tangible results.
The two things that could use some improvement is the quality of the buffet food and a better defined service concept – maybe through the seat side screens an explanation as to what and where in the lounge can you expect service.
In my opinion this is one of the best business class lounges available today.