Qatar Airways has temporarily pulled down the shutters on the iconic Al Safwa First Lounge at its Doha hub, along with the dedicated Business Class and First Class lounges for economy passengers with Oneworld status, due to reduced travel demand during the coronavirus pandemic.
Until further notice, all lounge-worthy travellers flying through Doha with Qatar Airways and partner airlines will be directed to the cavernous Al Mourjan Business Lounge, which is usually reserved solely for business class passengers.
It's a pleasing upgrade for anybody travelling in economy while holding Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald status, such as Qantas Gold or Platinum, or British Airways Executive Club Silver or Gold.
The impact on first class passengers is minimal as at the time of writing, none of Qatar Airways' flagship Airbus A380s – the only aircraft in the fleet boasting true first class seats – are flying.
Travellers booked in 'regional first class' to select destinations around the Middle East, who would normally be welcomed to the Al Safwa First Lounge, will have to settle for the Al Mourjan Business Lounge instead.
Speaking to Executive Traveller about the closures, a spokesperson for Qatar Airways was unable to provide a re-opening date for the lounges.
"We continue to assess the situation, however, all customers are being accommodated in our iconic Al Mourjan Business Class lounge for the interim."
The Al Mourjan is among the world's biggest business class lounges, measuring over 10,000m² and divided into multiple zones – perfect for some social distancing between flights.
"The management of social distancing and passenger comfort remains a priority and our reduced volumes necessitate how we manage our operations," the spokesperson continued.
"All customers will enjoy the world-class service we are known for and will enjoy an insight into the award-winning Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge during this period".
Qatar Airways' new business class lounge set to open in 2022 will occupy a still-staggering 9,000m² – that's 97,000ft², or around 2.2 acres – and include a gymnasium and spa facilities as well as several restaurants.
Qatar Airways continues to fly
At a time where many airlines are operating a 'skeleton schedule' due to onerous travel restrictions and dwindling demand, Qatar Airways has kept many routes open to help people around the world get home.
In the first two weeks of April, this even included temporarily adding Brisbane to its route map and boosting existing flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, up to three times daily.
While Brisbane flights and those additional frequencies are finished now, daily connections remain between Doha and Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. From Doha, multiple European cities are still being served, including London, Paris and Frankfurt.
Foreign nationals remain able to transit through Doha's Hamad International Airport to get back home, unlike the transit bans in place at other key hubs including Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.