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My day to forget as Qatar Airways service standards hit a new low (a 3-part saga!)


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I’ve recently enjoyed a short but very useful trip to Bangkok, and it was Qatar Airways that flew me there from Europe. Reviews of the Business Class cabins that I flew in are on their way (all four were different), but before I move on to those, I’d like to share the experiences that I had with the airline’s ground services in Oslo, in the air, and in Doha – they weren’t good!

The Oslo experience

When I flew in to Oslo to catch the first of my four Qatar Airways flights, the weather was bad and my flight was one of the last to land before the airport was shut to all traffic for a couple of hours.

This closure meant that the incoming Qatar Airways aircraft that was due to fly me to Doha, arrived in the vicinity of Oslo to find that it wasn’t allowed to land, and it was forced to circle above the storm before eventually landing when the airport reopened.

a map of a sea

It ended up arriving a little over two hours late (15:37), but only part of that delay was down to the weather – it had departed Doha over 40 minutes late.

a screenshot of a computer screen

My flight was due to depart at 15:00, and at around 13:15, with the incoming aircraft still nowhere near Oslo, I got a Qatar Airways alert on my phone which suggested that my flight was boarding.

Flight QR 176 departing on XX from OSL to DOH is Open for Boarding from gate XX

Clearly, it wasn’t. But I asked the lounge agent to check with the airline just in case and, sure enough, of course the aircraft wasn’t boarding. It wasn’t even on the ground.

In the OSL lounge (the only lounge open to oneworld flyers at Oslo airport), the screens showing the status of various outbound flights were frequently being refreshed, and most of the flights that were displayed had some kind of update posted.

Not the Qatar Airways flight. In fact, the screen continued to show my flight as departing at 15:00 well after 15:00 had passed.

While Oslo airport was great at keeping passengers updated on the latest weather situation, there wasn’t a single communication from Qatar Airways.

There were no announcements and no email updates, and this was starting to stress out a lot of the less experienced travelers in the lounge.

At 15:14, an alert appeared on my phone and when I tapped it, it led to this page in the Qatar Airways app:

screens screenshot of a phone

Apparently, my flight was boarding and, better yet, it was now going to get into Doha earlier than expected.

That would have been great news had the aircraft that was due to fly me to Doha not still been 23 minutes away from landing.

Once again, I asked the lounge agent to call the gate (which she kindly did right away and in front of me), and once again she got confirmation that, unsurprisingly, the flight was definitely not boarding.

I wasn’t the only passenger getting these messages and they were causing no end of confusion in the lounge. The fact that there were still no legitimate updates from the airline wasn’t helping.

Eventually, at around 16:00, the lounge staff told us that the airline had called them to get us all down to the gate because the aircraft was ready to board.

But it wasn’t.

When I got to the gate there wasn’t any indication that the agents were getting ready to board the aircraft, and after 15 minutes of standing around waiting for something to happen, I asked one of the agents when they hoped to get things moving.

5 to 10 minutes‘ was the answer.

I had a connection to catch in Doha and by this point, my 2.5 hour layover was down to under an hour so the lack of messaging (still no announcements) was getting more than a little frustrating.

20 minutes later, there was still no sign that we were going to board and I overheard a member of the Oslo airport ground crew mention the words ‘jet bridge’ to a passenger who, I presume, had asked him what was going on.

It then transpired that the jet bridge wasn’t working properly, and that all the passengers on the incoming aircraft were still onboard because there was no way for them to disembark!

Needless to say this news was not passed on to the passengers at the gate by anyone associated with the airline, and it was only word of mouth that gradually got the news out to all the other waiting passengers .

When I asked the gate agents what procedures were being put in place for those of us with connections, I was told that ‘nothing will be done before the aircraft departs‘ and that I should ‘check [my] emails for updates’ while I’m in the air.

Eventually we boarded, and because the aircraft had to go through two deicing procedures, we didn’t depart until 20:20 and long after most of the passengers connecting in Doha were assured of missing their onward flights (we were 5 hours and 20 minutes late).

During all of the time we were on the ground, the only announcement that I heard anyone from the airline make was when it was genuinely time to board. Not once did anyone from the airline address the weather, the jet bridge issue, or the ongoing delay.

In the air

As we were waiting to be de-iced, I used ExpertFlyer to check on my potential options once I got to Doha, and I saw that the Qatar Airways still had 5 Business Class seats that it was willing to sell on the next connection that I had a chance of making.

During the flight, I paid for internet access so I was able to check my emails for any updates that the airline may send through.

I assumed that once it was physically impossible for me to make my connection, there would be some kind of email update with my new itinerary.

That was wishful thinking, and in hindsight and after the updates debacle at Oslo, I really should have known better.

No email ever arrived, and the Qatar Airways website wasn’t much help either because it kept crashing when I tried to access my bookings, so it was only when I checked the app (approximately 2 hours before I arrived in Doha) that I noticed that I had been rebooked … on a flight departing 18 hours after the one I should have been on and approximately 12 hours after the one on which I was hoping to be rebooked.

I have to admit that I thought that my oneworld Emerald status would give me a good chance of being one of the 5 that was put on the earlier flight, but now that I think about it, my ‘Business Lite’ fare probably meant that I had no chance.

The Doha experience

The one bit of Qatar Airways efficiency that I encountered during this day occurred as I disembarked in Doha.

On the terminal side of the jet bridge were a number of agents waiting to meet passengers who had missed their connections, and within about 10 minutes of disembarking, those of us who had been rebooked on the late Bangkok flight were being walked to the transfer desks where we were each given a voucher for a hotel at which we could stay until our flight in the evening.

a yellow card with a picture of a woman

I had never heard of the hotel that I had been assigned (Steigenberger Hotel), but the Google reviews seemed good and few of my fellow passengers seemed to think it was a good property too.

I was instructed to clear immigration (which was painless) and to report to the information desk in the arrivals hall.

At the desk, my voucher was checked and I was asked to take a seat while the hotel bus was summoned to pick me up.

A quick look around the area I was in revealed that most of the passengers that had shared the Business cabin with me had missed their connections, and over the course of the next 15 minutes, most of them were called to catch their respective buses.

When it became obvious that the handful of us that were left in the area around the information desk were all booked into the same hotel, I asked one of the airline agents when the hotel bus was turning up.

By this point, we had been waiting for almost 30 minutes, and as I had already noticed that the Steigenberger Hotel was only 15 minutes away, and as there was unlikely to be any kind of traffic issue in the early hours of the morning, I was starting to wonder what was going on.

“It’s coming” was what I was told.

15 minutes later, a further question regarding the arrival time of the hotel bus was met with the same reply.

Another 15 minutes later (by now I had been in the arrivals hall for an hour and I had been awake for almost 23 hours) when I asked for yet another update, the agent I had been talking to all along, asked to see my voucher and then took it away ‘to check’ something.

When he came back, he bypassed the waiting passengers, he sat down at the information desk and started watching something on his phone.

I approached the desk to get my voucher back and to see if there was any chance the hotel bus was going to arrive before the end of time.

Inexplicably, he then told me that we were all going to have to wait because new vouchers had to be generated.

“When?” was my next question.

‘When we find you another hotel” was the reply.

Apparently, the Steigenberger Hotel no longer had any rooms for those of us still stuck in the arrivals hall (interestingly, however, it was still selling rooms of all sizes online).

There was no apology. There was no empathy. There wasn’t even a sign that this airline agent cared that passengers were being messed around.

The only thing that he very obviously cared about was whatever he was watching on his phone because he went straight back to watching it as the passengers around him were left wondering what had just happened.

At this point I did what I should have done when I first arrived.

I told the agent that I had no interest in dealing with him or the airline any more, I walked outside, and I caught a taxi to the Hyatt Regency Oryx where I booked myself a room and made a note to reclaim the costs though my credit card insurance.

Fortunately, the staff at the Hyatt were excellent (I’ll write a mini review when I get a chance) and my day got better from then.

After some much needed sleep, I felt a lot better and ready to get on with my trip, but looking back on the service that Qatar Airways offered that day, I’m starting to understand why so many people keep telling me that while the service in the air can range from good to great, the customer service agents and the service on the ground can often be terrible.

I’ve flown a lot of segments with Qatar Airways and this was my first truly bad set of experiences, so I’m now left wondering if I’ve just been lucky all these years or, as this was my first Qatar Airways flight since the pandemic, if the non-flying side of the airline has gone rapidly downhill since January 2020.

If anyone has any thoughts on this or if any readers have had any recent experiences with Qatar Airways (good or bad), please let me know in the comments.

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32 COMMENTS

  1. When QR and other airlines from the general region mess up and you need to deal with the employees working ground services at their hubs and dealing with IRROPS passengers, it’s too often a disappointing experience. The positive thing I do have to say about transiting DOH is that transit security for me is typically very fast as long as I meet their requirements for things out in the bins and eligible to be cleared as cabin baggage. But even the lounge guardians and attendants seem to be anything but warm and welcoming. Quite a different experience than what I get on the QR planes where the QR employees amusingly still seem to think I am some kind of VIP/CIP even in QR economy class.

      • As a plebe, I used the regular transit security lines as a QR economy class passenger from BKK earlier this month, and it was staffed enough that it was fast. No massive back-ups like I encounter at security at major US and European hub airports when doing transfers from abroad.

  2. If this is how they treated a One World Emerald status holder in business class (regardless of fare) I shudder to think how they treated everyone else. I feel like they’ve adopted or refined their customer service to reflect their partner AA’s lack of customer service. I’ve had a similar thing happen on paid business class, when I was Plat Pro, on AA. It’s a shame because I really like the Q-suite hard product and the food on Qatar but I can’t chance these kinds of shenanigans on business trips.
    I hope the rest of your trip goes smoothly.

  3. My QR check-ins at BKK this month were so slow. It seemed like they had some issues with some of my travel party members who are US-European dual-citizens but were booked to travel under their US passports. Even my own check-in took bizarrely long. They seemed to want to enter more info than I’ve seen ever be the case when these same folks are traveling in much the same way from various other parts to the EU via DOH.

    In general in comparison to US, European and Indian airlines historically, it seems like the GCC airlines are much slower to process US and/or EU visiting citizens transiting the GCC countries to destinations beyond the carriers’ home country.

    • I almost never use my US passport when traveling abroad. My EU passport is a door-opener while my US passport seems to get a lot of doors slammed shut.

  4. I have our first trip with QR at the end of March. My typical trip is EK with 1-2 stopovers. When I tried to duplicate this with QR, only option was to pay them for a hotel package or buy a multi segment ticket. No free stopovers. I have one long layover so booked the hotel myself. EK would have provided the hotel and transport at no charge. Trying to charge me over 1K USD additional airfare to stopover for three days doesn’t work compared to EK.

    So far QR is a lot more work for me. Talk to an agent and online fare disappears.

    I’ll see if the Qsuite is up to the hype. They also charged $100 to pick the seats.

  5. @GUWonder
    Would you care to share why you got suspended from Flyertalk? I noticed a lot of posters with tens of thousands of posts got suspended BHRubin) and others post very infrequently now.

    • James,

      Word is that I have been permanently banned. A lot of moderators and at least one guy at IB and the new Community Director had been wanting me banned for quite some time and then some for a variety of petty reasons — many going back over 20 years ago in the case of one collection of moderators. But since my most recent 80,000+ consecutive posts + 20 consecutive years since were done without a suspension, they were having trouble finding an excuse to suspend and ban me. Having a team of compliance experts who work for me and being a compliance expert in my own right, I made sure to follow the terms and conditions to the letter and punctuation marks. [And then there is that British guy who says “what about the spirit of the rules” or some other such nonsense when no objective plain reading or historical practice supports their novel “interpretation”
      to get their way despite it not being in line with the rules of the game.] So they have and still had no basis to ban me for at least the last 18+ years to-date. But facts don’t matter to them, and so then they seem to have fabricated an excuse based on specious reasoning and baseless character assassination amounting to defamation over much of last year and run their kangaroo courts.

      Word is that they accused me of illegal hacking into moderator accounts or something like that, but they have no real basis for such accusations and thus cannot verify any non-existent illegal activity. What they probably are trying to do is extract info from me so as to identify which moderators, IB figures and/or their family/friends/colleagues keep me informed about FT and IB machinations and how they operate, the monitoring capabilities, and their snide comments about other FT members and each other. They are unhappy that I am told about the DOs moderators attend, about what the moderators are up to and other such stuff, including their technical capabilities and how they find and can be made to fail to find duplicate accounts. Even before the summer and fall of 2023, they have long engaged in post-stalking me on FT but fell flat on their face in their effort to stalk me beyond that way and other ways. Even after their opening up and reading all the “Private Messages” I had sent and been sent on FT. Even going through the several thousand IP addressees they have associated with my FT account didn’t amount to much. Word is that they even considered some FT Moderators as being duplicate accounts for me or being physically “intimate” with me on the basis of IP addresses. Can’t even make this ridiculous stuff up. So instead they tried to rely upon stuff people posted outside of FT. One bully moderator from the West Coast — they tend to be the worst power-trippers of the bunch — who happens to be a dual-citizen even imagines me to be a dual-citizen and has fantasies of me being arrested on arrival to ORD and extradited to California, all while some of their European buddies entertained a fanciful private prosecution in the UK or Germany as no government prosecutor is going to prosecute me for their wishful/fantasy nonsense about me and their imaginary claims about criminal hacking. Can’t even make this stuff up, as it’s truly ridiculous. Too many of the IB and FT privileged actors come across as looking all the worse for it even as they are thrilled to see me banned by the new FT Community Director.

      IB and FT had people who thought enabling two-factor authentication on their FT accounts would stop the flow of info to me and others. It doesn’t, for obvious reasons.

      • GUW,

        NWIFlyer says you are in fantasy land. Do you have anything to say about FT Community Director Rob’s comment about you being in fantasy land and his assertion that it comes as no surprise to him or any mod that he hasn’t heard from you since he suspended you after consulting with the senior moderators and listening to all the gripes moderators and some IB admin have with you and also with what you say on other sites too?

      • The AC forum moderators are AC shills, will gather their goons, and will power trip and try to ban/suspend anyone saying anything negative about AC.

        Most people just quit posting.

        • Too many of the forums have that problem. And since too many people have a thing for unleashing their inner petty Napoleon upon others — no less so against those who are able and willing to stand their ground against such types of petty bullies — and/or are control freaks of the sort seduced by proximity to displayed power, wealth, fame or their personal associations with a company/industry and/or its employees/retirees, the biases of such privileged actors show up with bullying ways and double standards against those not part of the “in group”/favored clique members. And those double standards show up even more so when accountability measures are poor and oversight of “rules” enforcers is shoddy. But what can we expect? The company likes the cheap/free labor provided by its administratively-privileged actors and gives those privileged actors lots of room to do their own thing in order to keep them on the cheap/free labor hamster wheel. They can throw them some Amazon gift cards and the like during holidays, perhaps otherwise send amounts of money over in ways to try to limit reporting of the payments to tax authorities, and sometimes pull off things like favors from some travel service providers for the cheap/free labor force in positions of administrative privilege to get them and keep them on the cheap/free labor hamster wheel, but it’s the ego, in-gang mentality and self-interest that is also very much a part of the picture about who can be too attracted to staff these roles and why a site turns out to be managed as it is with such types.

          One former moderator on FT said this about moderators getting together:

          …. if your wife/partner/live in lover were to observe, they would say when you got home, that you really were a loser and had no life.”

          Not an entirely fair assessment and said in jest, but perhaps there is something to that to some extent. Let’s just hope they aren’t as intolerant and abusive over their supposedly near and dear ones closer to home. Perhaps they may be subject to such control freak behavior closer to home and thus doing to others elsewhere what they have internalized as having been done to them. Pitiful either way.

          • I too have experienced the wrath and bullying of the AC forum moderators. There seems to be 3 or 4 shills who are not even shy in disclosing that they have powerful connections at AC (cow/gary,etc) who constantly defend AC and berate anyone who posts anything negative (new and old members alike) or the posts are simply removed by the moderators.

            It’s interesting to see that basically power tripping moderators can do as they please on FT.

      • It seems hard, if you post a lot, not to make enemies of the moderators. And obviously they are biased, and the rules are that you cannot question a moderator.
        But at some point, do you still get a kick out of post counts going up? Or, who cares?
        How is life after FT?

  6. Any irrops with qr will create you a headache. I had too many bad experiences with them I actively avoid them these days. It is just not incompetent agents, but actively hostile corporate policy. I had to sue them once to get my money back. They just kept saying no, with really nasty attitude, well until I took them to a court, at which point they just changed the position immediately and paid immediately. What if someone doesn’t have the court protection we have in the Europe? Well most of their customers are like that so they treat them badly…

    • So they do what they do because they know that most people either don’t have protections or won’t bother using the protections – that’s a very poor look for the airline if true.

      • It’s not only that. They are so hierarchical and susceptible to micromanagement and even pettiness by higher-ups that they tend to be or act as if disempowered to do right by the customer. They literally fear their employer more than they respect their customers, and that is bad for customer service when things go wrong.

  7. It’s because you are a cheapskate and purchased a cheap fare and expected the world. You are a nobody and by the sounds of it think that you are some form of god, your emerald status means nothing, I can assure you that you are just number. Grow up and pay up in future.

    • Weak or inconsistent customer service is weak customer service. Regardless of elite status and fare, this is the weak point with QR and I would like to see QR improve where QR are weak.

  8. I saw a QR cancelation once at DFW. I’m guessing 75% plus of their passengers were connecting from American. The QR Supervisor (actual employee, not from the ground handler) basically just kept repeating “Go back to American to rebook.” The AA agents at adjacent gates got fed up pretty quickly and some plain clothes-with-an-ID AA person had some words with QR employee before they stepped into the jetway/customs vestibule.

  9. Qatar is rapidly on the decline, especially when something goes wrong. They do not take any responsibility if something goes wrong. Customer service on the ground are outright rude, and aircraft types keep on changing, so there are many downgrades from Qsuite to inferior seating configuration. No compensation, even if paid a premium. Catering ex Doha (unfortunately, man flights up to 6h now cater from Doha for the return flight) is getting from bad to worse, especially in economy. Almost all my arrivals and departures in Doha were a remote stand with long bus rides to and from the aircraft. I hope that the new CEO clears the mess the old one left behind.

  10. the “famous” QR Ground experience. Everything you read about that part of their “service” on flyertalk, is basically somehow exactly the same as you described here. You are lucky that immigration was painless for you, because sometimes you wait 45+ minutes and can’t use the special immigration, because you booked the P fare. Btw, I would not have waited for the hotel bus and never ever take any answer from the ground staff in that region seriously.

  11. GUwonder,
    I am amazed you travel so much in economy.
    I thought with all your experience, you would be a demigod.
    We miss your informative and substantive posts on FT

    • The travel gods relegated me to various classes of service as an example so I would know that demigod status was the highest status potentially available to me and even then such status would be subject to the whims of the head gods of the pantheon and the whims of my value-hunting nature to run circles around the gods when the Odins of the world desired to sentence me to the nether regions — aka in a seat in economy class near enough the toilets that I hear every flush of the toilet and can wish that my olfactory cell receptors could be put to temporary sleep on demand.

  12. I am fighting the same battle as you, being knocked from pillar to post between Qatar and Malaysian airlines because of code share flight, both don’t take responsibility for a missed connection, also an Emerald member and had the same hotel issues,

  13. What ridiculous drivel. Bad weather causing delays. De-icing of planes. Lack of update in the lounge. Missing jet bridge. What does any of that have to do with QR?
    Being on a Lite ticket and expecting to be a priority is narcissistic, delusional and borders on fantasyland.
    Bad customer service on the ground is the only complaint I can see in this; shit happens. Show me an airline that hasn’t had bad customer service on 1 flight.
    And seriously; “I’ve had loads of good Qr flights before but now this one mediocre experience has completely change my opinion of QR so I’m going to go whine about it”? What is that?

    • Ah yes… the “grow up” person (usually the person that needs to do the growing up).

      I realise that you’ve had your fun with your keyboard and you probably feel all empowered venting at someone who has dared to complain on the internet (heaven forbid!), but if you bothered to take a look around at the majority of other comments here, and a very large number of comments on Flyertalk, you find that bad ground service is far from unusual with Qatar Airways.

      I admitted that this was my first bad ground experience, but others seem to think that it’s par for the course and I asked a legitimate question: Have I been lucky up to now, or is this common?

      Do you have an issue with that?

      So, moving on, where do I suggest that by buying a ‘lite’ ticket I deserved priority? I’ve checked, and I don’t say that anywhere so that’s the first nonsense you’ve made up.

      Secondly, where do I say that this has “completely changed my opinion of QR”?

      I appreciate that for your point to appear valid I would have had to type that somewhere, but as I didn’t and as you made that up to suit your narrative, that makes you the one writing drivel on here, doesn’t it?

      Here’s a tip: If you’re going to have a go at me, come at me without making things up. Doing otherwise makes you look less than intelligent … and that’s me doing you the courtesy of being polite. A courtesy you almost certainly don’t deserve.

    • It’s part of a trip that could have gone better. Or should we only hear about trips that are perfect and marginalize concerns and criticisms by claiming concerns and criticisms are fantasy or need “fair and balanced” “coverage”? This talk about critics needing to “grow up” or disappear into the wood works for delivering due criticism is what is really out of place and does no good for consumers. Unfortunately, there tends to be a never-ending corporate apologist push to silence critics exposing the failures of the prevailing status quo players, and that attempt to marginalize or disappear informed criticisms does a disservice to the general public and consumers in the aggregate.

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