Jan 22, 2008

Never fly Qatar Airways

Because chronological order is for the weak of will, I'll start by blogging about my flights to and from India. On the way there, I flew from Roanoke to Dulles to Doha (Qatar) to my final destination, Trivandrum (located in the state of Kerala, India). I was told in Roanoke that I could only check my baggage as far as Qatar, and that I would have to address this with the Qatari ground crew. If only I knew ahead of time that the Qatar Airways personnel do nothing but lie.

Surprise, surprise - despite the reassurances of the Qatari ground crew in Doha, my baggage did not make it to India. I took this in stride and made do with what I had packed in my carry-on. Eventually, most of my bag was located. I say 'most' because my jewelry bag, hair dryer and (randomly) skein of yarn were permanently misplaced. On the way back home, I tried to file a complaint. I was told that since I had left the airport with my bag that Qatar Airways was no longer liable. In other words, they didn't give a shit.

But in the end it's just stuff, right? Stuff can be replaced. I forced myself into a zen-like state where I no longer felt the need to hit people. My mother and I settled in to wait for our flight, having dutifully arrived three hours ahead of schedule. We passed the time playing twenty questions.

Mom: Human, vegetable, or mineral?
Me: (thinking of a kangaroo) Um ... none.
Mom: How can it be none?!?
Me: Hoo, boy.

Then, our flight got delayed ... for a day and a half. And hour delay in Trivandrum meant we missed our connection from Doha to Dulles, and couldn't leave until the same time the next day. Qatar Airways put us up in a nice hotel, nobody is faulting them there. But when we got back to the airport the next day, we were told that the flight would be delayed until that evening due to engine trouble, and that we (and 200 other passengers) should go back to the hotel. Instead of arriving in Roanoke on Wednesday evening, we had only made it as far as Dulles by Friday morning.

We were then told Qatar Airways would not be arranging a connection for us, and frankly we were glad. Good riddance to bad rubbish. But when we got to the United desk, we were informed that we were booked on a flight to Roanoke that wouldn't leave until the afternoon. So we had to wait around to tell Qatar Airways thanks, but no thanks - we'll rent a car. We asked them if they would refund the money. They told us to call the airline. We asked them if they would pay for our car rental. They laughed.

I had plenty of time while waiting in line for airport shuttles, baggage searches, security and passport checks to consider why this whole situation pissed me off so very much. It wasn't that there were some hiccups - for international travel, you have to expect that. It wasn't even that I found their rules and policies to be completely asinine - regardless, people have jobs to do. It was that everyone I encountered was bound and determined to do their job ... and nothing else.

This is why Americans are hated abroad (besides our resource-hogging and utter disregard for others' sovereignty). We expect service. Here at home, it's "the customer is always right." Overseas, it's "the customer is always some jerk who wants to waste my time." Needless to say, this particular jerk plans to write an angry letter to Qatar Airways. If I'm very very lucky, maybe someone will even read it.


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