It’s sad when a business that you are just starting to build a relationship with lets you down, for the first time! It’s sort of a shattering of confidence that they may be different but no, they turn out the same as all the others, indifferent and uncaring. So it was last night with Qatar Airways.
We were substantially delayed departing London, first we were told the inbound aircraft was late, and it was, not much but it was late. But then we were also told that we had a further delay because a VIP passenger was running late and we were waiting a little longer for him. So instead of taking off at 1505, it was around 1700 when our wheels finally left the ground.
Questions to the crew about onward flights were met with a standard response, they will be OK the ground crew will sort that for you. So, somewhat reassured we settled into our 6 hour hop to Doha. We landed there at 0100 and my Melbourne flight was due out at 0045, so 15 minutes before we landed. Tight I thought but as there had to be others with onward connections I was pretty confident that I would still make that flight, my bags would probably not but I would.
Straight to the transfer desk, where I was handed a “new” boarding pass, I asked why I needed a new pass and was simply told that is for tomorrow. Your flight has left! No apology for the problem, just the comment that boarding pass is for tomorrow, your flight has already left. So they could not wait 15/20 minutes for us, but they waited 40+ minutes for some VIP in London which created the problem in the first place.
I then had explained to me that is was not Qatar policy to wait, “really says I” with a raised eyebrow, “strange policy if it only works one way, to suit you and not your clients”. So what’s next? We have you a hotel, please go to arrivals and the service desk there will look after you. Baggage is our question and here the circus starts because we all seem to get different instructions. I get told we will send it to you. Someone else gets told to collect it from arrivals and a third gets told you can’t have it. The answer is; they will send it, by morning, and they give me a phone number.
We transfer to arrivals, we get a hotel voucher, for one night, three meals and one (wait for it) three minute international phone call; generous that! Then we get transferred to our hotel the Movenpick Tower and Suites. We arrive there around 0230 I think it was, so it’s getting a tad late and we are all more than a bit weary and fed-up. The hotel people are quick, efficient and friendly and I am in my room within ten minutes.
I sleep for four hours, fitfully, then start the baggage hunt, at first it is fruitless no-one seems to know where my bags are, they will take time sir, I am told; when I point out that we were originally told three hours and they have now had five, I just get a “yes well”. Anyway, to cut a long story short, around 1000, just when I am at last dropping off again, baggage services call me, they have my bags but one has been denied entry (alcohol in it you very naughty person), but I can have the other. No problems that suits because the other has the gear I want anyway. It duly arrives around 1130 and is delivered speedily by the hotel porter; who jokes with me about the other one being banned.
It seems the whole of Qatar may know about my indiscretion, not too sure that I am happy about that, but there you go, not much I can do about it anyway, after all I had not planned to stop here.
The saddest part about the process is the complete lack of taking ownership of the problem by any single Qatar Airways staff member. Each one we encountered seemed keen to do their little bit, get us out of the way quickly and then make us someone else’s problem. We were marooned in a strange place, in the wee small hours, with no idea where to go or how to get there, and no-one was available to walk us through and “look after us”. Until we finally reached the Movenpick desk outside of immigration and customs we wandered like “browns cows” from point to point asking questions of anyone in uniform, who told us what they knew and then left us.
So, Qatar Airways, you have at the first real test of your customer service skills failed miserably in my view; you have proved no better than an (almost) unending host of others airlines in handling the simplest of problems of looking after your passengers, who have paid substantial sums to travel with you and who deserve better.
You had better lift your game if you want to take market share off Emirates out of Melbourne; the jury is now well and truly out in my view!
Written by : Peter Watson