As we first learned about yesterday, several countries have cut ties with Qatar, including nearby Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The impacts of this are massive across the board, though since this is a travel blog, I’ve been focusing on the impact this has on their airline, Qatar Airways.
As part of relations being cut, Qatar Airways is no longer allowed to fly over or land in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, etc. This has big impacts on their flights. Yesterday I wrote a post sharing my recommendations for what you should do if you’re scheduled to fly Qatar Airways.
It has now been about 36 hours since this crisis started, so how is Qatar Airways doing? Well, I know they have a lot on their plate, but I’m still quite disappointed in how they’re handling it. Here’s why:
Qatar Airways is barely acknowledging this problem
This is a big freaking deal. Yet you have to dig through Qatar Airways’ website to find any information about this. As of now there’s nothing on the front page of Qatar Airways’ website about this situation.
Qatar Airways is acting as if this is a short term problem
While Emirates, Etihad, and Saudia, have canceled flights to Doha for at least several weeks, Qatar Airways is treating this as if it’s a very short term service disruption. They continue to sell tickets for travel to the UAE starting June 10, 2017 (yes, for travel in a few days), when there’s no indication that anything will change.
The first thing they should be doing in this crisis is making sure they’re managing expectations and not booking additional people on these flights, which will only lead to more people needing to be rebooked.
Qatar’s travel waiver is ridiculous
If you’re scheduled to fly Qatar Airways, they’ve only issued a travel waiver for flights to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahrain through July 6, 2017. There’s no indication that service will resume by then. Yet if you’re booked past that, it seems like you’re out of luck, based on their waiver:
Passengers holding a confirmed Qatar Airways ticket to any of the four countries between 05 June 2017 – 06 July 2017 are permitted to rebook their flights up to 30 days after their current confirmed departure date, one time free of charge.
Passengers will also be permitted to refund the unused portion of their tickets booked for the above period once, free of charge. The service fee remains non-refundable.
It’s a distinct possibility that this issue will last more than a few weeks, so it doesn’t seem fair to not give people the option to cancel. If someone is traveling July 10, are they going to be told on July 6 that they need to get themselves new tickets, or…?
What about those just traveling through Doha?
Qatar Airways isn’t letting anyone who isn’t traveling to one of the four countries change or cancel their tickets. Per the FAQs:
Can passengers transiting through Doha cancel their tickets?
Passengers holding confirmed and paid tickets for affected flights will be able to cancel their tickets as explained in Question 1. All other passengers will be able to rebook as per their existing fare conditions.
Now, I don’t necessarily think they’re totally wrong here. On one hand I think it would be reasonable of them to offer to refund these passengers, given concerns over the accusations against Qatar, given the potential political unrest that may happen, given the country’s limited access to supplies right now, given the potential for misconnects due to longer routings, etc. Then again, I’m not surprised they don’t want to acknowledge those potential challenges.
I don’t think they’re being totally unreasonable here, though if they wanted to take a customer focused approach, I think even those passengers should have the option of canceling.
Speaking of their FAQs, I don’t love those either. Here’s the thing about FAQs — if you write your own questions, then answer them directly. Don’t do this:
I have all my holidays booked to travel on Qatar Airways. Will you reimburse hotel charges and transportation to the airport if the flights are cancelled?
We will refund Qatar Airways tickets as per the conditions of carriage.
I can’t even imagine what Qatar Airways is dealing with right now, as this no doubt has catastrophic effects for the airline, and I imagine this whole thing came out of left field for them as well. However, they need to do a better job than this, at least in terms of their policies. There are a lot of people potentially impacted by this, and pretending that this is just a short term problem isn’t doing anyone a service.
What do you make of how Qatar Airways is handling this situation?