After disembarking from a spectacular Qatar Airways Qsuites flight from Tokyo to Doha, I was ecstatic to discover that the Qatar Airways premium experience did not end there.
In this installment, we’ll cover the arrival experience at Hamad International Airport for passengers whose journeys terminate in Doha, which is a clear step above what’s offered by other airlines around the world.
If any of you have taken advantage of the recent Qatar Airways rebooking policies to book a Qsuites flight with an overnight stay in Doha, then you can expect to sample this experience before you head into the city.
The bells and whistles for arriving customers begins at the immigration checkpoints. Instead of queuing up with the economy class passengers in the regular immigration hall, business class and First Class passengers are invited to an entirely separate immigration “lounge”.
A representative at the front desk will check your business class or First Class inbound boarding pass before welcoming you inside. Just like the rest of Qatar Airways’s lounge facilities, the space is large and luxurious, even though there aren’t too many seating spots available.
The immigration lounge allows guests to sip on a coffee or tea, flip through a few pamphlets about attractions and activities in Qatar, and enjoy some light food items – bread, cereal, fruits, and yogurt – before heading to the dedicated in-lounge immigration checkpoints and entering Qatar.
I must say it’s quite an innovative concept that caught me by surprise. Many airlines offer their premium customers an exclusive immigration lane that links directly to the airport lounge at the start of their journeys, but this was the first time I’ve come across such a seamless immigration checkpoint at the end of a journey.
Nevertheless, the immigration lounge is only a small taster of the full arrival experience. If you still have a few hours to spare before heading into Doha, you’ll head to the Qatar Airways Arrivals Lounge, which is located to your left after exiting into the arrivals hall.
Since I had arrived in Doha at 7:30am, which is well before my hotel’s published check-in time, I was absolutely in no rush and casually strolled over to the Arrivals Lounge.
The front desk representative verified my inbound business class boarding pass and informed me that I’d be able to remain in the Arrivals Lounge for up to six hours. That’s probably much more time than I’d need, although I also didn’t get the sense that the staff would kick you out if you happened to overstay your welcome.
The lounge is located one level above, so you’d take either the stairs or the elevator up.
That brings you to the main seating area, which consists of about 25 individual upholstered chairs each equipped with charging capabilities and an information tablet.
As I wandered inside, I couldn’t help but marvel at the lounge’s crisp and bright decor, which offered a contrast against Qatar Airways’s darker and more vibrant onboard look while upholding the same sense of luxury.
Then there was a smaller seating section with some communal chairs, couches, and tables. I left my belongings sitting in this area while I explored the rest of the lounge, and I never felt uncomfortable about it since I only ever saw two or three other passengers during my hour-long stay.
Around the back of the lounge is a set of two private seating nooks equipped with televisions. These spaces struck me as ideal for a family to hang out in the comfort of their own private nook, or perhaps for a fatigued traveller to close their eyes for a quick nap, as there is no separate napping facilities in the Arrivals Lounge. This private nook design would later become a familiar sight as I visited Qatar Airways’s other lounge facilities later on this journey.
A more open-air television room is found in the corner of the lounge, should you prefer to catch up on the news in a more communal setting.
Heading in the opposite direction, we arrive at the dining area, which consists of several individual dining tables for sit-down dining along with a light buffet spread.
Like the immigration lounge earlier, the buffet items were relatively basic, but you could also order hot breakfast items from a small à la carte menu, which would be prepared in the kitchen and brought to your table.
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On my part, I was already feeling pretty stuffed from over-eating onboard Qsuites earlier, so I restricted myself to a light breakfast of cereal and cold cuts. I had also caffeinated plentifully in the immigration lounge earlier, so I ordered a pot of black tea to go with my breakfast instead.
After my quick breakfast, I continued to explore the rest of the Arrivals Lounge. From the dining space, an open-air catwalk leads to the business centre, while providing a few cool views of the arrival concourse.
It seemed to me that the Business Centre might be staffed by lounge personnel during times of higher traffic, but it was mostly empty at this early hour. There was an abundance of iMacs, printers, large desks, and even a conference room that one could use to take care of their business needs.
Returning to the main part of the lounge via the catwalk, we find a smoking room adjacent to the dining section, which is a relatively common sight in airport lounges for smokers to indulge in their habit.
Past that, a hallway leads to the Arrival Lounge’s restroom and shower facilities. The restrooms are well-appointed and elegant, albeit in a much older style compared to the rest of the lounge, and it seemed like they had forgotten about the restroom when doing renovations for the lounge.
Meanwhile, the shower rooms are just as aesthetically pleasing as the rest of the lounge. It comes with all the essentials: a sink, full-sized mirror, toilet, and a spacious shower stall, as well as a few extra features like a chair and a clothes rack.
Since I was in no rush to leave the lounge, I ended up taking a shower almost just for the hell of it, and left the Arrivals Lounge afterwards feeling clean and refreshed.
Stepping outside from the arrivals hall and onto Qatari soil for the first time, I boarded my Uber ride that would bring me to the first of three stops along my hotel-hopping journey here in the national capital: The Ritz-Carlton, Doha.
The concept of an arrivals lounge to offer premium passengers a seamless experience when terminating their journeys is adopted by relatively few airlines around the world, and even then, it seems like an afterthought more often than not.
However, Qatar Airways goes far above and beyond their peers, upholding their “First in Business” brand identity even at the end of your flight through a combination of the unique “immigration lounge” and the full-service Arrivals Lounge, where guests can eat, work, shower, and relax in a tranquil and elegant setting.
If you have the opportunity to fly Qatar Airways on a Doha-bound flight, it’s definitely worth at least dropping by the Arrivals Lounge to check it out for yourself before heading into the city.