Notice the desert sand blowing in the background?
Last month I traveled to Dubai (not for leisure) and I booked the ticket less than a week out. As a result, one of the cheapest tickets left was a DCA-PHL-DOH-DWC flight which gave me an opportunity to review Qatar’s new A350 in business class. I was pretty excited but the trip did not start off well. Ultimately, Qatar Airlines was not responsible for stranding me in DOH.
I arrived at DCA before dawn because my international itinerary meant that I had to check in with an American Airlines agent instead of using the kiosks near the airport’s metro entrance. The agent printed off my boarding passes for all three legs of my trip (this will be important later).
I showed up to the gate in DCA and my American Airline’s aircraft was not there, despite the fact that our plane was scheduled to board in ten minutes. About thirty minutes after the plane was scheduled to take off, we see it being towed into the gate. The gate agent explained that the plane was sitting in the hanger the entire time but the ground crew failed to bring it out. That would make sense as it was the first flight of the day, but I was not able to verify that information.
My complimentary upgrade cleared so I boarded the plane first. After about ten minutes of boarding, a passenger boarded the plane, looked down the aisle, immediately turned to look toward the cockpit, and vomited all over the fight attendant’s kitchen area. It took another 35 minutes for a cleaning crew to arrive and clean up the mess. Thankfully it smelled like vodka, so it could have been much worse. Much worse. If you were wondering, yes she boarded the plane and continued on her trip to PHL. Judging by her attire, she and the gentlemen traveling with her were going somewhere very warm after Philly.
Picture of vomit omitted. Yes I took a picture.
We pushed back from the gate 45 minutes prior to boarding for my PHL-DOH flight, so I was certainly cutting it close. The captain explained that we were going to fly at a 9,000 foot ceiling and that beverage service was suspended because of predicted turbulence. No worries, just GET ME TO PHL ASAP. After flying “fast and furious” (the flight attendant’s own words), we landed 27 minutes after takeoff, shaving a solid 8 minutes off the flying time. The taxi to our gate was fairly quick.
My incoming American flight and outgoing Qatar flight were a few gates (with large gaps in between) so I arrived right when business class started boarding. The boarding crew member could not accept my boarding pass because it was issued by American Airlines. Even though this was a code share flight, I had to go to the Qatar desk (which had a fairly significant line) to print off a Qatar boarding pass. I made it to the front of the line when economy was almost finished boarding.
I handed my two American Airlines boarding passes (PHL-DOH, DOH-DWC) to the agent who seemed confused. They had no record of me on the DOH-DWC so they would have to take my boarding pass. I explained that I bought a ticket on that flight and just needed Qatar to reprint the boarding pass. By this point, Qatar issued a last call and I was the only passenger not on the plane. The manager walked over, apologized for the confusion, and promised to have everything sorted out by the time I landed in Qatar, about 12 hours later. An agent would be waiting for me at the gate.
The Qatar A350 flight was about an hour late pushing off, but it was an amazing flight. The food and drinks were delicious. The plane was spacious. The service was attentive. Top notch, no complaints here.
Forward half of the Qatar A350’s business class cabin.
I was served champagne during the take-off delay.
When you start your decent to Qatar, all you see is desert and the Persian Gulf. Doha definitely appeared to be a desolate place. After arriving about 30 minutes late, we deplaned on the tarmac and hopped on a bus. There was no agent waiting for me with an updated boarding pass. The DOH airport was one big line of folks waiting to get through security. Since I did not have a boarding pass, I headed to Qatar’s customer service desk.
The customer service desk was an interesting place. Qatar had a ton of agents but they all needed approval from a single manager to do anything. After waiting through a large line, I arrived at the desk 25 minutes prior to the departure of my DOH-DWC flight. After working with two agents, they finally had to call over the manager. Qatar had no record of me being on the DOH-DWC flight and, by the way, it was fully booked. The manager agent worked on my issue for about 30 minutes, during which a large line of agents (who presumably needed approval for everything) formed. The customer service desk ground to a halt.
My flight left with me stuck at the customer service desk. After apologizing again, they asked if it would be ok if they put me in the first class lounge while they figured out what happened. 🙂 Not a problem.
You have to walk for awhile to get to the lounge but its main area is amazing. There’s a two story waterfall thing that is completely silent. I showered and hooked up to the internet. Up until this point, I had no email or cell service in Qatar. My international data plan apparently does not include Qatar? I start to piece together what happened. A second reservation has appeared on my American Airlines account. At this point I thought that Qatar automatically canceled the third leg of the first flight, so I thought it was their fault.
The manager appeared in the lounge to discuss my flight situation. She said the third leg was canceled but that she could not confirm it if was Qatar’s fault. SERIOUSLY! Who are these people? Qatar could also not rebook me on the next flight because they still did not understand how my flight was canceled. She was nice enough to let me use her work phone to call a travel agent in the U.S. who, after three separate 20 minute phone calls, was able to book me on the next flight to Dubai. This flight went to a different airport (DXB) because the one other flight to my original airport (DWC) was booked full. The flight was scheduled to depart in 90 minutes, so I had some more time to explore the lounge (I’ll do a full write up on it).
Qatar flies a three-cabin plane with lie flat seats in business and first class for this hour-long flight! Score. I’ll also fully review this plane in a later post. I landed in Dubai around 2p–my original arrival time was scheduled for 9 a.m.
Qatar’s regional business class. I had an aisle seat on the right side of the aircraft.
Who done it?
I was ultimately 5 hours late to Dubai which was a bummer because I was going to nap near the pool to help me adjust to the time change. Not anymore.
The hotel’s pool in Dubai.
Now that I’ve arrived back in the US, I can figure out how I ended up stranded in Doha. I started by emailing American Airlines’s Customer Service and received this response:
We are sorry there was some confusion with your connecting flight on your recent trip to Dubai. Regrettably, your reservation was canceled as a result our agent rebooking you when your flight from DCA delayed. Fortunately, the new booking was not needed. However, because it wasn’t canceled, the cancellation of your subsequent reservations was automatic since it is our practice to cancel continuing or return reservations whenever any segment of a confirmed itinerary is not used and we are not contacted by the customer. This policy helps to reduce the economic consequences of unclaimed reservations.
[TTM], given the tremendous volume of reservations, the incidence of such situations is small; still, I know you were inconvenienced and again, I’m truly sorry. We’ll do our best to prevent this from happening again.
So their computer system is smart enough to figure out that I may miss a flight but not smart enough to figure out that I did not in fact miss that flight? The most frustrating part of being stranded in Doha was learning that the problem was COMPLETELY PREVENTABLE. How could I call American Airlines? I was on a plane to PHL and they rebooked my flights without notifying me of the change. American’s system should have held a seat on the second flight until they were able to confirm that I in fact missed the first flight.
Now the question becomes, how should American Airlines compensate me for this inconvenience? This incident may not violate the Conditions of Carriage but it certainly makes me less excited about the prospect of booking another international flight with American Airlines. American Airlines gave me 4,000 miles for stranding me until 3 .m. in Chicago on Christmas day. I have not followed up with American Airlines but I will let you all know what they say.
How many redeemable miles would you request?