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Booking SNAFU with Qatar Airways

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Apr 21st, 2016, 06:13 PM
  #1
kja
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Booking SNAFU with Qatar Airways

I’ve run into a SNAFU with Qatar Airways (QA, for this post) and am hoping for some advice about how to proceed. I’ll try to spare all the gory details...

• I booked a flight from the eastern US to Singapore, back home from Bali with QA during a sale.
• I have a stop in Doha in each direction – I wanted a stop about 1/2 way each way! -- except that I chose poorly when planning my return route, electing for a longer layover than I would, in fact, prefer.
• In an exchange with them some time ago, I established that I don’t qualify for their layover hotel support options because I could have chosen the shorter layover.
• Yesterday, I spoke with them again to determine the cost of changing the flight from Bali to Doha to the one with the shorter layover, and determined that the cost of changing the flight – the difference in the current fare prices plus a fee for making the change -- is higher than I want to pay.

During that conversation – yes, really, during that conversation -- I learned that the 2nd flight of my US to Singapore route has been cancelled and they had put me on a different flight. What??? Without notifying me or offering me a choice??? Seriously? I was nearly speechless.
• So I now have a really long layover on the way there, too, and I arrive in Singapore late enough that I will not be able to do some of the things I want to do while there.
• They offered to comp me a hotel for the new long layover and said they would send an e-mail soon with that information.

• As soon as I got off the phone, I checked my e-mail and found a message from QA that was apparently sent and received while I had been on the phone with them. (Odd timing, isn’t it? It could happen….) It includes my itinerary, and it shows this change in flights – but only if you study the numbers. There is nothing in that message that suggests that there had been a change to my itinerary. I'm frankly stunned that there was nothing that clearly indicated a change.
• I have still not received anything about the transit hotel while en route to Singapore.

After calming down and considerng my options, what I would like would be to
(a) Leave a day earlier, using flights at the same times as my original flights AND
(b) Change my return flight to the one that has a shorter layover.
I have confirmed that all of these flights are still available.

My guess (I could be wrong!) is that I have a good case for having them switch me to flights the day before my original outbound leg – I hope to make the case that I, not they, should have the option of choosing whether to leave the US earlier or arrive in Singapore later. I’m less sanguine of persuading them to change the return flight.

I would appreciate any and all suggestions you have about how to approach this situation in a way that is most likely to help me achieve my objectives. Thank you in advance!
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Apr 22nd, 2016, 08:05 AM
  #2
 
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US airlines generally give one the option of changing flights for no charge if they have changed your itinerary and put you on flights that are unacceptable for some reason. I'd call them with the assumption that they will make the changes for no charge. I'd even state that US airlines will do this. See if they bite.

Good luck!
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Apr 22nd, 2016, 05:19 PM
  #3
kja
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Thanks, Kathie -- that's very helpful information!
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Apr 23rd, 2016, 01:41 AM
  #4
 
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The posters who always criticise those who book on so-called "3rd party websites" and advocate booking direct as the problem free method of booking anything have been absent from this thread. You can encounter issues no matter how you book.

Sorry to hear this issue, the airline should have generated an email notification of the changes at the time it happened. The booking history will show what date/time the resched occurred and can see when the original email was generated - or not as in this case. I think this would be my argument, that you didn't know of the change as you were not informed in the way you should have been (assuming the email address was correctly entered into the booking and the email didn't go to junk etc). I would demand to know why that process failed. The email you received during the phone conversation might have only been a copy of your booking, not the proper sched change email which is why you could not immediately see the changes. Good luck with sorting it out.
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Apr 23rd, 2016, 10:21 AM
  #5
kja
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Thanks, Odin!
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Apr 24th, 2016, 12:13 PM
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I've had a range of experiences with other airlines and schedule changes. Some I received no notification and only found online. Others I have received an email but with no clear statement that the itinerary was changed or how (once it was a flight number change, but no change to times). Recently from Delta I received emails with insistence that I acknowledge and accept the change (I took a while to explore my options and decide). So, it is not be unique to Qatar (whom I have not booked or flown with).

I glanced at their contract of carriage, but didn't see that they state any minimum change at which you can refuse, etc., just that they will get you from point A to B and if delayed enough give you hotel and food. It would be nice to have the exact words for their policy. Lacking that, you can argue that the change in schedule prevents you from attending the meeting or event that is in Singapore, so you want to either book an earlier flight all the way from the US to make your appointment or else cancel, receive a full refund, and book a new flight with a different airline that meets your arrival day/time requirements. The return change would probably depend on whether they want to be generous and not charge you. That was your choice.
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Apr 24th, 2016, 04:01 PM
  #7
kja
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Thanks, Kay2. I remain cautiously optimistic about arranging a more satisfactory option for the flight that they cancelled -- time will tell!
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Apr 25th, 2016, 06:02 PM
  #8
kja
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Some very good news, and some not-so-good news:

First and most importantly, they agreed to change my flights for the trip from DC to Singapore, and were able to book me on the flights that I preferred (given that my original choice was no longer possible). I’m very glad about that! It will cost me an extra night in super-expensive Singapore, but that beats short-changing it in my book.

Not surprisingly, they did NOT agree to change the leg from Bali to Doha. As I said, and all of you noted, that one was my bad.

But I am very confused about the costs they have quoted me for changing that flight on a voluntary basis. I understand that I would pay both a fee for changing the flight and the difference in the cost of the fares. I’ve used several search engines, and keep finding a flight that is $125 more than I paid; they are quoting me a difference in prices of about $500. The customer service agent I spoke with today kept saying that there are different classes of economy service, and that if the class I originally booked is not available, she MUST switch me to the “next highest available” class. But why? I didn’t even know there were different “classes” of economy service, and from what I can tell now that I do know, the fare I identified is for the same class as my other 3 legs. I couldn’t get an answer to that question. She finally said that if I could find a lower fare, I could change my ticket myself using the airline’s web-site, but I can’t see a way to do that. So once again, do any of you have any insights or suggestions that might help me either effect a change at a reasonable price or understand what's going on?

BTW, I confirmed that the e-mail I received last week during the time I was on the phone with a customer service agent was NOT an official notice of the change in itinerary – it was a copy of the new itinerary sent by the agent with whom I have spoken. Today’s agent was also unable to answer my question about the failure to notify me, but did give me an e-mail address to which I could send my comment, and I have done so.

Thanks again for the help and support already offered, and thanks in advance for any further insights you can share.
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Apr 26th, 2016, 09:29 AM
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There are many different economy class service codes. If you book during a sale, you are given one code, which might be, say, the cheapest possible ticket. These are always limited in quantity, and if you want to change your ticket later, the cheapest possible ticket for a particular flight could be sold out, and the next-cheapest may not be cheap at all. This is normal.

Some airlines also have different actual classes of economy service (budget economy, regular economy, premium economy), which may be in separate cabins. I'm not sure which is the case for Qatar, but I suspect the agent is talking about booking classes in the sense of codes (an "X" fare as opposed to a "Y" fare).
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Apr 26th, 2016, 09:41 PM
  #10
kja
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Thanks, Doug -- that helps me understand, and yes -- my original booking was during a sale, so that could easily be it.
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Apr 27th, 2016, 05:52 AM
  #11
 
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Of course that doesn't make the system fair or equitable. It's dizzyingly complex ... so much so that you can't always tell if you are getting ripped off. The difference between $100 more and $500 more is a lot!
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Apr 27th, 2016, 06:08 PM
  #12
kja
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@ Doug -- yes, it's the difference in prices that has me so frustrated right now. At this point, because of the change THEY made, I have to pay for an extra night in Singapore (not cheap even for the rather low-end place I chose) AND I have saved them the cost of putting me up and feeding me for a night AND I'm willing to pay the fee for a change.... And, again, they didn't even tell me about the change!!! I am trying to take deep calming breaths, trying to take them slowly (which turns out to be critical to the effect of said deep breaths), and just remind myself that it's a lesson learned....

Thanks again for your comments.
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Apr 28th, 2016, 07:00 AM
  #13
 
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There seem to be a lot of hotels in Singapore for $150 a night or less, which is not cheap but certainly cheaper than a change fee. Check out the Stamford, which is smack dab in the middle of town and a pretty good (if huge and impersonal) hotel. I've stayed there and liked it a lot. You can eat at the mall food courts, which are wonderful.
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Apr 28th, 2016, 09:15 AM
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Hotel prices depend on when you are traveling. Doug's suggestion of the Swissotel The Stamford is a good one, but checking some random fall dates, the best price I can find on booking.com is over $200 a night plus tax (10%) and service (7%).

The idea of trading off the change fees with hotel price can be a useful way to look at it, since it sounds like you have gotten as much as you are going to get from Qatar Airways.
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Apr 28th, 2016, 04:39 PM
  #15
kja
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Thanks again, Doug and Kathie! Fortunately, the hotel I had already booked in Singapore -- not as nice as the Stamford, but not as expensive, either -- was able to accommodate my request for an extra night. And at least, the airline did change the flights TO Singapore, since that's the change that they forced on me. My rant was about their unwillingness to be even a little flexible about the change that I wanted on the return to the U.S.
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Apr 29th, 2016, 06:38 PM
  #16
kja
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An update: QA has now responded to my complaint that I was not notified of the change in my flights. Although two different customer service agents have stated, categorically, that they have an automated system for notifying passengers and that it MUST be that I, or my email system, sent the message to SPAM, this latest message says that I wasn't notified because I spoke to a customer service agent on the day the flight was cancelled, and he informed me. As I said in my first post to this thread, it is possible that it really was a fluke of timing -- but if the message notification system was automated, why was the fact that I spoke with someone relevant?

I know ... I just need to let this whole SNAFU go. And I will! Someday. ;-)
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