My Worst Flight Delay In Years — “Come Back In 10 Hours”

I’m really lucky when it comes to the punctuality of the flights I take. No, my flights aren’t always on-time, but off the top of my head the last overnight flight delay I recall was on an Etihad flight from Incheon to Abu Dhabi in 2014.

Etihad-Flight-Delay

I’ve certainly had some delays since then, like a four hour delay on a Ukraine Airlines flight from Kiev to New York in 2016, but I wouldn’t even consider that to be major in the grand scheme of things.

So I guess I was due for my next major operational issue. Early this morning I was scheduled to fly from Yerevan to Doha to New York on Qatar Airways. The Yerevan to Doha flight was scheduled to depart at the lovely hour of 3:25AM, though fortunately I planned accordingly. I even managed to nap from 7PM until 11PM, which is rare, so I was feeling about as good as humanly possible for a flight at that hour.

I arrived at the airport at around 12:30AM and tried to find the Qatar Airways check-in desk. There was only one desk open, though it didn’t list the airline, or anything. However, the departures board listed this as the desk where check-in was supposed to be.

“Is this Qatar Airways to Doha?”
“No, Aeroflot to Moscow Sheremetyevo.”
“Could you tell me where Qatar Airways is?”
“Yes, you need to go up there.”

She pointed towards the Qatar Airways ticketing office on the second floor. Clearly I was still half asleep, because an alarm should have gone off in my head at this point saying “wait, WTF is going on with my flight?” Instead my thought was just “hah, they use the ticketing office for check-in, that’s funny.” I felt about as perceptive as Sheldon Cooper at that point.

I got up to the Qatar Airways ticketing office, and there was a nice guy there. “Unfortunately your flight is delayed.”

I figured maybe it was delayed by an hour or so. No problem, I have a long connection in Doha.

“Check-in will open later today at 9:30AM. Please come back in 10 hours.”

Of course my first reaction was shock. I was exhausted, I hadn’t received any sort of a message from Qatar Airways about the delay, I’d have to book a hotel for the night, I’d have to rebook my connecting flight from New York (which was on a separate ticket), etc.

The guy was extremely friendly, and explained that they had tried to reach me. He read back my phone number and it was correct, but I had no missed calls. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t try emailing either, since they did have my email on file.

He explained the delay was due to fog in Yerevan, and that the plane hadn’t left Doha.

Instead the plane would be flying in both directions over 10 hours behind schedule.

I had already been rebooked on the next connection, but that would give me about 10 hours in Doha, and I’d also be rebooked on the A350 flying between Doha and New York.

Since I was scheduled to fly Qsuites from Doha to New York, I then began the hour-long process of trying to get rebooked onto the other frequency. After all, the whole reason for this trip was to review Qsuites.

The guy couldn’t understand why I’d want to take a flight later than scheduled, but after some coaxing he agreed, and began the process of rebooking me. This required “calling Doha,” and after about a 30 minute phone call he said he had to “email Doha to finalize the change.” He assured me the change was successful, and encouraged me to go get a hotel.

Clearly I wasn’t the only person who wasn’t informed of the change, as several other people showed up for their flight, only to be told of the delay. Much to my surprise, everyone acted extremely calmly (which is the right thing to do since this was outside of Qatar’s control, but airports do seem to bring out the most irrational in people). Ironically enough, the only person who was slightly not calm was a Japanese lady who wanted a $20 refund to cover the cost of her first night of hotel in Zanzibar, since it was non-refundable.

At first when this all happened I was super annoyed. Not at any party, but rather just at the situation. That was probably mainly because I was exhausted. I called Ford and voiced my frustration, though he reminded  me this couldn’t have happened at a better time. This is the tail end of a trip and I have a few days in the US before my next adventure, so in that sense it worked out well. I imagined if something like that had happened when I was flying continuously from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Zurich to Frankfurt to Delhi to Colombo to Dubai to Brussels to Lisbon to Newark, with no room for error.

Also, I have to take some responsibility here. The most basic advice I dish out is to always be your own advocate. Qatar Airways has a once daily flight from Doha to Yerevan, and it’s my fault for not knowing the plane wasn’t enroute to Yerevan. I always recommend checking the flight status when you know where the plane is coming from… and I did. I pulled it up on FlightAware before leaving the hotel, and it said “24 minutes remaining.” At that point I closed the tab and said “great.” However, that wasn’t accurate, clearly, so it’s on me for not taking a closer look at the map and realizing the plane wasn’t enroute, and for not visiting Qatar Airways’ own website to check the flight status.

I hope everyone else has a more relaxing weekend than I do! 😉

Comments

  1. Indian Friend of mine got stuck in ZRH on his way to Boston for 42 hours. Nothing to eat except cheese, 3 times a day. A nightmare for those used to hot Indian meals…

  2. In the scheme of things, not so bad, but it’s always frustrating. Did you ask (or did Qatar offer) to pay for the hotel that night?

  3. Well, since you’d flown Qsuites on the way in, was it necessary to fly them on the way out again? I know its a great product, but their A350 business isn’t bad either. Just for convenience sake. Also, I think Emirates’ new 777 business class is worth a try, even though it doesn’t seem like a leading product, more just to do a head-to-head comparison with Qatar. I feel that the softness of the seat is one of the most important parts of a business class product, which I feel emirates is leading, but Qatar and Etihad unfortunately are still rolling out hard seats as flagship business class products.

  4. Surprised you don’t pay the pittance for TripIt Pro. Makes life so much easier.

    What do you use to organize travel plans?

  5. no credit card or status to cut the delay? Can you imagine if you were in economy and couldn’t rebook your seat? You don’t realise how priveleged you are.

  6. In the brighter side, Qatar didn’t decide to just cancel the flight (as I think some US-based airlines might have done). I have no idea how full these flights are but I certainly wouldn’t want to deal with being squeezed onto the next day’s flight.

  7. With all due respect, I don’t think that’s in any way your responsibility to check the status of the flight from Doha to Yerevan. Qatar Airways did a really awful job in communicating with the passengers (which is always the case with Qatar Airways, at least in my experience – they just don’t seem to care at all) about the 10 hour delay, which is simply unacceptable and should be called out.
    That being said, I always check my status on flightradar24 and similar websites – just to stay safe.

  8. @Andy: you imply there are no other food options than cheese in ZRH? Kidding me?
    At least the whole airport didn‘t get closed because a cow was sunbathing on a runway. Think about it.

  9. So great story as I begin #RTW18 . Made it DCA-JFK in @AA A321T. So all 5 segments with lay flat seats ✈️

  10. The reason I tend the check the inward flight form non-home based airlines esp when they have only one flight a day.

  11. @ Ivan — I certainly would have preferred if they communicated with me, but my point is that I could have saved myself the trip to the airport if I had checked more carefully.

  12. @ jh — I’ll see if the credit card benefit covered anything, guess I should pursue that. And I think I *do* realize how lucky I am. Hopefully the post doesn’t come off differently.

  13. @ Bruce Seitanides — It certainly wasn’t “necessary,” but I would be arriving in Doha at 2PM, and I could fly the A350 at 1AM or the 777 at 8AM. Frankly flying at 8AM sounded more pleasant to me than flying at 1AM, Qsuites aside.

  14. @ Daniel — They offered to pay the hotel in Doha during my connection, but not to pay the hotel in Yerevan.

  15. @ Stephen — Believe it or not, I use no service to organize my travels. I seem to have pretty good memory with this stuff. Is that crazy?

  16. @FromZRH: I’ve been flying from India for 25 years, and there hasn’t ever been a runway closure due to a cow or buffalo sunbathing.

  17. Lucky so did you then go pay yourself and stay in a hotel (if so what hotel) and what hotel did Qatar pay for in Doha.

  18. Dear Lucky,

    I guess you may consider that even the delay you still got some benefits:
    > you got your flight to NYC re-booked (even on a separate ticket as you say),
    > you had the option of choosing the later flight for the QSuites,
    > they offered to pay you the hotel in DOH which was for a longer layover and most likely more expensive, than for the delay in Yerevan

    So, if I were you, I would still be happy. Of course, tired but not frustrated or so.

    Regarding the Japanese lady claiming for the USD 20, it made me laught but actually it does not surprise me.

    Regarding your note about your responsability for not having checked properly, in certain way I agree with you. And this is very personal opinion, because it is what I always do.
    I always check the flight status for the inbound flight that will be picking me up and I always do it at the own airline’s website.
    In the particular case of QR, which is the airline I always fly (I’m their Platinum), the information is always very accurate and detailed. Also I use their flight notification tool and they always keep me updated thru SMS of the arrival of the inbound/departure of my flight.

    For the ones who blamed QR for no communication, let me tell you that I always have a very good communication with QR, they always reply my emails immediately and in the case of flight status, I always get the notifications on time.

    Cheers from Jakarta!
    Alejandro

  19. Once I was sending a friend for his flight, arrived at check in counter and was told flight had been brought forward by 8 hours, so it had left a few hours ago! They did try contacting him but this was in Malaysia and my friend had a US cellphone number. But could an airline actually bring FORWARD a flight?

  20. Ok, I don’t understand why you keep reviewing those extreme oddball locations and routes. Nobody here is going to fly to Jerevan or Astana or such… Can you just get back on track to the regular cosmopolitan routes?

  21. I probably travel about 1% of what you do Lucky but I had two full 24 hour delays in less than a year. However, not really that surprising since both delayed flights were the only ones that day scheduled for the particular route and airline from those airports so that’s definitely something to avoid.

  22. @Marco. Of course you speak for everyone . No one from Armenia or khazakstan would ever fly such routes.
    The huge Armenian diaspora in Los Angeles and Paris …
    #ignorant

  23. @Andy – My neighborhood in Zurich has at least 4 Indian restaurants within walking distance to the main train station (HB). Cheaper than the melted cheese also. Anyone who mocks Zurich’s international food selection is joking.

  24. @lucky @ alejandro. If your flying ex EU or to the EU in an EU carrier your always covered by article 9 of EC 261 and the airline sd offer care and assistance irrespective of the reason for the delay / xxl or reimburse direct reasonable costs relating to hotel accom meals and transport during the period of disruption. Anywhere else your basically on your own or hope your Insurance covers you

    It’s odd QR offered to pay for accom at DOH if required, however not in Armenia

    If it’s reasonable and given you were a premium customer , I would see whether they will cover costs or offer a contribution

  25. QR often doesn’t report accurate data to flightaware, about plane location or otherwise. Not sure why I’ve found that to be the case so frequently. It appears that the data is always about scheduled timing and location, rather than actual.

  26. I once was flying F from LAX to Kansas City with a connection and my flight out of LA (scheduled to leave at midnight) got delayed so much I knew I had lost my connection & complained to the airline, who rebooked me on an easier and quicker connection leaving the next morning and payed for a hotel for the night (aka for 4 hours, not even). annoying, but not the end of the world.

    Regarding Qatar, anyone know when they will update their fleet out of LAX-DOH????

  27. Hang on for the ride, this is largely therapeutic – for me.
    A year ago, I purchased a ticket on a N.American airline’s website traveling from HKG to Canada. I believed that when booking through the airline’s website, I’d have better protection in the event things went bump in the night with an OTA. I was wrong.
    The flight booked was 3 legs; a regional, a long haul and a short haul. The latter two on the airline with whom I’d booked the flight. Unfortunately, leg one is where the house of cards came tumbling down. First leg was on another airline – no affiliation whatsoever with the ‘selling’ airline. Checking in was in two steps, Customs & Immigration needed to be cleared and there was a change in terminal.
    Leg one was delayed by 2hrs bringing me into my connection station and finally to the check-in desk just in time for the next flight’s pushback. The terminal was vacant, no airline agent, no call number – nothing. The next 3hrs were spent bouncing between the two terminals trying to get someone to take ownership of my predicament but to no avail.
    My objective was to get to N.America as quickly as possible where I then assumed I could get on any alliance flight and find a way home. Neither the operating airline nor the ticket issuing airline would accept my case and it was suggested that the other party either held the ticket rights, or was at fault. I was eventually offered a hotel about 30min from the airport. Knowing that I did not have any local currency nor any idea of the location, I asked to stay closer to the airport and with a hotel brand that I could recognise. This got me no closer to home.
    Beaten, I decided to head to an international brand and paid rack rate for my hotel in an attempt to recapture control over my situation.
    Once installed in the room and calmed down, I called the ticketing airline’s sales office – long distance as the local office was closed. After 90minutes, I finally got through and dealt with an agent with some empathy who simply asked me to use an OTA website, key in my destination and tell him which of those would be my preferred itineraries. If there was a seat, he’d get me on that flight. He was the best part of the entire experience.
    I appreciate that this is a 1st world problem, but I couldn’t help but think what if this was granny and grandpa heading back home after seeing the grandkids for Xmas.
    I had a roaming phone, access to skype and wifi where I could, made my way between terminals and booked a hotel room online using an app with a credit card.
    I felt incredibly let down by the issuing airline and despite voicing my concerns, did not get any recognition for the disruption. The kicker was the airline’s Snr Customer Service agent advising me that in future, the airline had (more) direct flights from HKG to my destination. Yup. tks for that.
    I am largely an experienced flier but in this case felt disappointed to have been trapped in a no-win situation.
    I would have killed – not literally – for that sales agent upstairs…

  28. I had a similarly long delay with Qatar recently flying BNE > MEL > DOH > MAN. My MEL > DOH flight was delayed inbound which meant I would miss my connection to MAN so was rebooked. Ended up leaving 3 hours late from MEL, couldn’t get information about my options until we reached DOH where a team was due to meet everyone connecting onwards, and ended up dealing with some very rude staff at the flight connections desk which saw me waiting 1+hr to get my onward ticket printed because they were understaffed to deal with the huge volume of displaced travellers from my flight who were unhappy with their very long stopovers.

    In the end, my 28hr flight itinerary ended up being 38hrs. To say I was exhausted when I landed is an understatement.

    Luckily I haven’t had previous bad experiences with Qatar so I will chalk this up to an anomaly and the stresses of travelling around Christmas. I wouldn’t wish those miserable flights on anyone.

  29. I was stuck due to a weather delay in Rome while traveling on AI to DEL. The airline provided hotel rooms at the closest Hilton with meals for all aboard (First, biz and y). I guess a similar gesture is too much to ask for from a 5* airline, even if only for its premium customers 😉

  30. @FromZRH

    The separate non-schengen terminal at ZRH is a sham and yes, the food in that terminal is limited, if not vile. The lounge is even worse in that terminal. So unless one has a valid Schengen visa, they cannot access the rest of the airport.

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