Conclusion To My (Almost Private) Qatar Airways A350 Flight Saga

For those of you not up to date on the saga, see the previous posts:

First of all, let me apologize for the title of the post from yesterday, because the way it sounded in my head was different than how it came across. I didn’t mean it in the sense of “oh yeah, you’re going to deny me boarding, well we’ll see about that.” The way it sounded in my head was more in the voice of a curious six year old kid that was puzzled. But I realize that’s not how it came across to many.

The last post ended with me waking up yesterday morning and discovering that I had been rebooked on the Qatar Airways A380 flight, scheduled to depart 15 minutes later.

Qatar-11

I wasn’t intending to go to battle

Let me start by saying that with this whole situation my goal wasn’t actually to get in any sort of a fight or to demand that I get what I’m “entitled” to. I realize the fact that the flight was bookable using miles was an error.

For me, it was a fun experience to book, and who knows, there was always that small chance it would work out. So I figured I’d play along, but at no step along the way would I put up a fight and demand to be placed on that flight, etc.

I wasn’t going to take the flight if they rebooked on the A380

My final destination on this journey was Cairo. For 40,000 American AAdvantage miles without fuel surcharges I could have booked first class London to Doha to Cairo or London to Abu Dhabi to Cairo. That was a heck of a deal.

Meanwhile I could only book the London to Doha A350 flight in business class for 40,000 Avios, plus about $200 in fuel surcharges. Then a separate ticket from Doha to Cairo would have cost me 30,000 Avios plus about $150 in fuel surcharges.

This was only worth it to me if I could fly the A350. Otherwise I’d be paying 70,000 Avios plus $250 in fuel surcharges for business class, rather than 40,000 AAdvantage miles and no fuel surcharges for first class. So it was as simple as cancelling if the A350 didn’t work out.

Strategy before going to the airport

As stated above, while I had a boarding pass for the A350 flight, overnight I noticed that they rebooked me on the flight scheduled to depart 15 minutes later. Now, it’s worth noting that they made no attempt to actually inform me of that change.

So before going to the airport I decided to book a backup, because presumably the A350 flight wouldn’t work out. So I booked myself on an Etihad first class award to Cairo via Abu Dhabi, departing at exactly the same time I was scheduled to depart on Qatar Airways. That was booked using American AAdvantage miles, so I could always cancel until the last minute if need be.

Visiting the Qatar Airways Lounge Heathrow

I headed to the Qatar Airways Lounge at London Heathrow and presented my boarding pass.

Qatar-10

The agent at reception looked at it weird.

“Are you on… the QR4?”
“No, it’s flight QR3352.”

She looked up at the departures monitor.

She looked down at my boarding pass.

She looked up at the departures monitor.

She looked down at my boarding pass.

She looked up at the departures monitor.

“Are you sure you’re not on the QR4?”
“This is the A350 flight back to Doha. The plane was here for noise testing, and apparently they’re flying it back to Doha this afternoon.”
“Well, welcome.”

Qatar-Lounge-Heathrow

I had a seat in the corner of the lounge, and about 10 minutes later the duty manager approached me.

“It seems there has been a problem, as you were booked on a flight that doesn’t exist.”
“What do you mean it doesn’t exist?”
“It’s not a flight.”
“It’s not operating back to Doha tonight?”
“Well, not with passengers. We’ve rebooked you on the QR4, though, which is the A380.”

As I said above, I wasn’t about to put up a fight, I was just curious to see how the interaction was going to happen, since up until this point I hadn’t been informed of the change.

“Well that’s okay then, can you just go ahead and offload me? I really wanted to fly the A350, but if that’s not possible I’ll just fly with Etihad instead.”
“But… you… wait… the A380 has the same business class seat, though.”
“I know, but I really just wanted to fly the A350. It’s not about the seat.”
“So… you… you… just want me to take you off the flight? You’re sure?”

He couldn’t seem to wrap his head around the concept, which was pretty hilarious.

Funny enough, the departures monitor did indeed show the departure of QR3352, and it even left early.

QR3352

So I headed over to the Etihad Lounge to check-in for my flight there. They just reopened their lounge, which is quite nice.

Etihad-Lounge-Heathrow

And I really can’t complain about Etihad first class. As luck would have it, I had the best Etihad crew I’ve ever had, so that made the flight all the better. And unlike on their US-bound flights, Etihad has SO MUCH FOOD CATERED ON THEIR EUROPE TO MIDDLE EAST FLIGHTS OMG!

Etihad-First

Bottom line

When I booked this I wasn’t expecting it would work out. But if nothing else, I knew it would be a fun “experiment.” And it was.

In this case I think Qatar’s solution of rebooking me in business class on a flight with the same product 15 minutes later was fair. After talking to some lawyer friends, by the letter of the law I would be entitled to EC261/2004 compensation, since I was bumped from a flight that did end up operating. But I like to look at the spirit of the rule, and in this case rebooking me on a flight 15 minutes later was fair, especially since I knew this was unlikely to work out all along.

It didn’t mean it wasn’t fun, though!

You know the real kicker in this whole story, though? Guess who was on the London to Doha A380 flight that I would have been rebooked on? Oh well, I guess I’ll see him on the real inaugural Qatar Airways A350 flight on Thursday

Fun times!

Comments

  1. What a fascinating read, thanks Lucky! Quick question, AA redemption chart sounds so much more generous compared to BA Avios (on some routes)… I generally collect Avios and fly BA, but i am seriously considering buying bulk of AA miles in case i need them in the future! Recommend it?

  2. @ Jake — All depends what you’re looking to redeem for. For example, Avios are invaluable for shorthaul awards, be they within Europe or the US, while American miles for great for longhaul premium cabin awards. So don’t think there’s a “best” currency necessarily, though I do value AAdvantage miles more than Avios.

  3. I’m sure you’re aware by now about the drama that took place at QR HQ on Sunday over the accidental listing of QR 3352 for pax bookings. From what I hear, at least one person has been summoned to HE’s office to “show cause” today and I would expect that poor soul to be either fired or disciplined. And HE will probably be looking for you for a chat on Thursday’s flight (time permitting) – good stuff judging by what my source tells me.

  4. Good to know you enjoyed the EY flight. When you say it had a lot more food, was that in terms of courses and meal choices, or they just didn’t run out no matter how much you ordered?

  5. @ Richard — All of the above. Hugely expansive menu with literally dozens of options to choose from, and they had more than enough (though I only had one meal after takeoff).

  6. Sounds like they’re investing a lot more on LHR as the flagship route. Will you be putting up a full review of the EY flight?

  7. @ @mrsoaroundtheworld — They do codeshare, but beyond that they have near full reciprocity on award redemptions as well, so it’s one of my favorite uses of American miles.

  8. So if yo placed just a little ‘fight’ just to get upgraded to 1st. as compensation (as a reader commented/suggested).. Well, maybe you could have really chatted with him about.. How great Etihad apartments are LOL!

  9. That’s a rather benevolent attitude that you’ve taken towards EU comp. An attitude that I could understand if airlines shared that view. Unfortunately, they do absolutely everything in their power to avoid paying it. They (particularly QR) don’t deserve any favours. You had a confirmed ticket on a flight that operated and were denied boarding. Clear cut.

    If Sean M’s sources is correct, I’d be expecting some serious generosity from Ali Baker on the inaugural. Actually, it’s Ali Baker….so probably best to expect nothing!

  10. As SeanM comments.. Cool double dip!, they’ve learned the lesson (they have to clear ALL inventory in those cases), and you can have a cool chat with HE, surely you have constructive suggestions for the company as he takes his job so seriously (as it should be).

  11. @Lucky Thanks! That’s the impression I got too. Europe shorthaul with a flat fee with Avios is a great way to burn their miles but the 40k EU-MiddleEast in F with AA just sounds too good to pass up! I think I will go buy some AA miles, especially with their 35% bonus miles offer on at the moment! Thanks Lucky.

  12. And now you have to spend an hour on hold with BA and pay their cancellation fee to get your miles back? That would have weighed in on the side of taking the A380 for me 🙂

  13. Great conclusion Ben. Question: what’s the process for re-instating the miles after you decide not to fly on points so close to departure? Does it happen automatically, do you have to call and beg…? I’ve noticed that you make a lot of fairly last minute changes to points bookings and I’m interesting how painful that is to do, in general, and what happened here, specifically, given that you even had a boarding pass.

    I do hope the poor soul who made the points inventory seats available doesn’t suffer too badly, though based on what I’ve read it will likely not end well for him/her.

  14. Hi Ben, somehow glad now that I didn’t jump on the bus and book this as well. After all I’m flying the QR A380 to BKK in June anyways.

    Since you booked the QR flight with avios, how where you able to get a refund? Since it is my understanding that avios bookings are not refundable less than 24h before the flight, or am I wrong here?

  15. For those asking about refunding BA redemptions on QR cancelled flights, you have to call BA. They investigate and contact QR. QR inform BA that you did travel on the cancelled flight. Then it’s fun and games trying to get QR to accept that you didn’t travel on a cancelled flight. Eventually, they realise that you didn’t travel and allow BA to refund the ticket. No apology for delay and incompetence given.

    Well, that’s my experience anyway!

  16. Hi Lucky. Am an avid reader of your blog for several years.
    Quick question – where do you book/find availability for the flight you mention here (40KAAmiles from London-Doha-Cairo).
    I can’t seem to get the BA or AA websites to show this.
    Thanks

  17. @Lucky: Thank you for acknowledging some others’ perception of your previous post. Respect++

    Maybe some CS contact may be coming to Lucky on this error? Especially is reprimands are being handed out internally.

  18. Lucky, since it’s possible you’ll be meeting HE soon, perhaps you should compile a list of questions for an impromptu interview? You could poll your readers for avenues of inquiry . . .

  19. Interesting, a Jan 13 BBC article says this:

    But on Monday it was put through its final paces with a flight from Heathrow over Broughton and Airbus’s other plant at Filton near Bristol, with passengers on board.

    BBC Wales business correspondent Brian Meechan was one of the first on board the plane and also talked to Elliott Donnelly, a Flintshire worker who was picked to be among those joining the first in the cabin.

    So this thing departed Heathrow with passengers aboard? Media plus and Airbus employees? Did Qatar benefit in some way by listing this flight as bookable by the public?

  20. Add me to the list of those who want more details about the cancellation process and getting your BA avios back.

  21. I’d be interested how easy it is to cancel AA bookings. I tried once (a booking on QF) and basically got nowhere. I gave up and took the flight. They said they could only refund the money in person so I had to go to an AA ticket desk.

  22. @tara – No expert here, but I would assume that this is the noise testing that was mentioned. I would guess that because flying over Bristol would allow Airbus employees and others to hear the plane, which would give it a more human perspective, and not just one from a computer. Also quite possible they let a few media on board.

  23. @tara – The noise testing was around the Great Britain area, and then the plane was moved back to Doha for the inaugural flight in two days

  24. Parker, the article says that the aircraft departed Heathrow on Monday. With passengers. The noise test was on a prior day, wasn’t it ?

  25. dmodemd says “@Lucky: Thank you for acknowledging some others’ perception of your previous post.”

    Agreed.

    I’m not sure where the reference to a six year old comes from but I did appreciate the acknowledgement.

  26. @ UnLuCkY — Heh, it’s noise testing. So it’s not aircraft testing, but rather they’re trying to convince Heathrow to lift the curfew long term due to how quiet the A350 is.

  27. @ M — Turning out to be a bit more pain than I had hoped. Will write a post about it once it’s done.

  28. Is there any way of upgrading Ethiad flights without their points. I have a paid (cheap) ticket from Chicago to Abu Dhabi in economy, but hear that is not too comfortable.

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