Tuesday, January 05, 2010

My Experience with Qatar Airways

I couldn't get on my usual United flight because I was late in booking the seat during prime time at Christmas. United did indeed have a seat available in economy - at the rate of 790 KD. Unless the seat came with its own butler and pillow menu, it wasn't gonna happen. So, I found several options on Qatar Airways. I chose to book direct with their office here in Kuwait. Expedia had the seat available at 20 KD less, but I knew someone at the office, so they made my booking.

First thing that happened was my contact went on vacation, leaving my booking in the hands of someone else - who subsequently cancelled my original travel date. I had to leave a day early. Not a real problem. However, contacting them was.

The business card my contact gave me had the Qatar Airways phone number in Kuwait printed on it. 2 weeks after she gave it to me, the number no longer was valid: they had changed it and didn't bother letting anyone know. They might have just connected the old phone number to an answering machine giving out the new number, but instead, it just rang and rang and rang. I didn't know. I sent e-mails and then someone called me back to tell me. RRRRR. This was not the only problem I had contacting Qatar Airways. The number listed for them in DC is actually the DC office's Chairman's Secretary - who had a message on her voice mail stating she was on vacation. WTF?! So, I checked their website and got a number at the airport (IAD) which was picked up on the 2nd ring (thank GOD) by someone who knew the answer to my question. Cool. Long-story-short: When you are spending thousands (if not millions) for global advertising, Qatar Airways, you should at least be able to call directory assistance (in the US) and get a working number for contacts. In Kuwait, you should have your new numbers available to all your customers. Bada BING.

I left Kuwait at 5:00 am. No problems at the ticket counter - very nice staff, courteous, helpful. No lines.

We landed. Qatar's airport transports flyers old-school: you walk down a ramp, get onto a bus, and go to the terminal ... and then.... holy SNAP! It was a goat rodeo at the transfers desk. I thought that at an early hour, there wouldn't be so many people. We were all herded (literally) into a very small receiving area where signs for H1N1 were posted everywhere, yet you were so close to the people surrounding you, that it was sure to increase your risk by bodily contact alone. YUK. There were no roped off areas. Hundreds of travellers and their babies and their luggage were forced together into a mob to pass through. It was AWFUL. For that reason alone, I will never travel through Qatar again (unless they build a new airport). With all the money Qatar has - they can't afford a proper staging area with ropes/barriers?

Their airport is like Kuwait's old airport used to be - only smaller. You are bombarded by a multitude of mostly high-decible female voices shreiking orders in Arabic. The departures/arrivals boards are not updated with information until they read "Final call". In other words, you can't determine above the mayhem when your flight is boarding.

Once on the plane, the attendants were very nice. The seating configuration on their 777's is different from United. United has 2 seats from windows on either side of the aisles, and 5 seats in the middle. QA has sets of 3 seats - which I didn't really like because I like a window seat and I had to ask 2 people to get up. Their economy section actually felt more cramped than United's also. I was very uncomfortable.

What I did like was their food and their offerings of TV and movies. The entertainment was quite extensive and it was "on-demand" so you don't have to go by set schedules. Very good. They also still offer the little travel bags with ear plugs, tooth brush, etc - which United no longer has except for in Business and 1st class.

The flights were easy - not a lot of turbulance or anything. What disturbed me were the landings. On all 4 flights, the landings were either heavy or had a lot of sway. Good pilots would have compensated, but I didn't feel confident on any landing with them. They may have a newer fleet, but at that rate, they are going to wear down the planes with metal fatigue in a short period of time.

That was my experience with them. I tried - now I'm going back to United.

8 comments:

Salomon said...

United has been pretty good to me, the last time they were overbooked by 55 people, but they were pretty good about routing people through Dubai and getting them to Kuwait in a pretty timely fashion.

psytrance said...

Perhaps u need to try KLM,but has a stopover at Amsterdam.but that airport is any day better than the mayhem at Qatar or Dubai

Gary Cairns said...

Thanks for posting the Experience with Qatar Airways. I read all that was interesting.. :-)

Anonymous said...

I always travel through Amsterdam (KLM) to go to Kuwait and overall I've had a great on-time experience with about 15 flights (groan).

Is Dubai much better organized? I have to either change planes in Dubai or Qatar next month. Any thoughts?

Schlumberger Boy

Faraz said...

Nice. But why dint try emirates? i know they were busy during the season , however emirates is the best, in any case, it might turn out to be may be 20-40 KD more, but a long flight like yours should be with emirates, use skywards and u can get a free ticket or upgrade in future...

PS: i dont work for emirates...

Varma said...

Qatar is building their new airport. Should be ready in a year

intlxpatr said...

LOL, you are most likely to get service on Qatar Air if you are Qatari. Otherwise, you are dogmeat.

The Doha Airport is a hoot, unless you have to go somewhere. One time, there was a load of Japanese tourists making a transfer. One had gone to duty free, bought booze, and was drinking it in the airport. (Forbidden!) Right out of the bottle, and he clearly had been drinking for a while. The airport is always full of transfers, and no place to sit.

There is a Delta flight out of Dubai that leaves around 11 every night. You can work, go home, fly to Dubai and fly out, arriving in Atlanta like 14 hours later. If you use Orbitz or Mossimo, or Cheapo (something like that) you can find amazing deals, even business class at way less than anything you find through an agent.

I also like the KLM flights through Amsterdam when I am heading for west coast, as they fly polar route - fewer take off and landings. There are showers in the Amsterdam airport!

Anonymous said...

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