Monthly Archives: April 2016

Flying Qatar Airways on (Shipping) Business

One of the real benefits of working in the shipping industry is the pleasure of frequent traveling, as far as we are concerned. Flying around the world to visit with clients, business associates and friends, on a frequent basis, is the trademark of a successful shipping person. After all, shipping is an industry that requires social interaction and educated faith in the counter-party, as one of premises of our business has been “Our Word Is Our Bond”. It takes many years of experience and traveling, personal interaction and due diligence for a shipping professional to know when a words equals unequivocally to a bond.

When it comes to traveling, we considered ourselves experienced ‘road warriors’ having achieved gold and diamond memberships with several airlines, hotel chains, rental car companies, etc over our years in shipping. After 9/11, traveling is not as painless as one may have wished, but again, we have been about the seven seas and five ocean and the seven continents; well, almost… As such, we have been accustomed to certain inconveniences of modern travel and have built a list of preferred ‘vendors’.

But again, being open minded, pleased trying new venues and routes and localities.

We were really excited when our travel agent offered a booking on Qatar Airways for a trip to Southeast Asia and Far East / Japan, and we were looking forward to be through a new transport hub, Doha’s Hamad International Airport. Having now experienced some of the trip, we are typing this posting to express that we are just a tad disappointed with the overall experience, so much so that we post this ‘evaluation’ analysis on our blog, typically dealing with maritime matters.

The flight QR704 was planned to depart JFK Airport from New York on Saturday April 2nd at 11:14 EDT, arriving at Doha Hamad Intenrational Airport at 06:45 local time next day, and at 7:30 am to depart for Singapore on Flight QR944; a bit tight connection, but based on our travel experience, we have caught tighter scheduled in busier airports. Soon, however, things started going wrong. The airplane didn’t connect to the departing gate until about an hour before scheduled departure – indicating that the delay was an airline issue and not an airport issue; the crew were waiting along with the passengers at Gate 4 well passed the scheduled departure time, too. All in all, NO public announcement update was offered until 45 minutes passed the scheduled time; eventually, the flight took of at 12:30 pm, appr. 75 minutes delayed. Still, we thought, we were OK on time. The flight landed at 7:10 am local time in Doha, that is 20 minutes before our scheduled connect flight. In short, we missed the connect flight, and we were referred to the ground crew to ‘feel our pain’.

To make a long story short, the next flight for Qatar Airways from Doha to Singapore was not until 20:15 pm, QR942, THIRTEEN long hours later. An alternative option was offered through Dubai, but it was only shaving a couple of hours; that’s all.

The irony of the thing is that our Flight QR942 was delayed AGAIN, with the board showing departure at 21:15 hours, local time Doha, as the new departure time; to make a long story ever shorter, eventually Flight QR942 departed at 22:20 hours from Doha, a whole FIFTEEN hour delay form original schedule, arriving to Singapore late in Monday morning (instead of Sunday night) as planned – and having to cancel three business meetings in Singapore on Monday morning. And, having left New York on Saturday morning, we arrived in Singapore on Monday morning, two days later and FIFTEEN hours behind schedule.

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Traditional Dhow sailing boats in Doha. Image Credit: Karatzas Maritime Images.

Again, flights are known to be getting delayed, but here, two flights we ever got to fly in our whole life with Qatar Airways were delayed by way of more than one hour, each. Two for two!

To further exaggerate the pain, no proper announcements or explanations were offered to keep passengers updated for the delays with BOTH occasions. Probably, passengers like to stay in the dark, some may presume?

There were FIVE people in the NY flight heading eventually to Singapore, and ALL FIVE missed their flight; so, misery does love company – in this case, Qatar Airways’ company, we presume? There were people in the New York flight who were heading to Johannesburg and Sydney, and as far as we can tell, they also missed their connect flights.  Thus, we were not the only ones to be highly inconvenienced.

We have been in similar situations in the past, but, as in the case with a Lufthansa fight in Frankfurt in January from Athens to new York, ground crew were at the gate to pick up late arriving passengers and lead them through airport shortcuts and past long lines to their connect flights; on several cases, connect flights were delayed just to accommodate the tardy arrivals, just this Lufthansa case. But, this was not the case with Qatar Airways. No people on the ground to help, no effort to delay the connect flight by fifteen minutes in order for FIVE people to make the connect flight to Singapore. NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER!

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Dhow sailing boats against the Doha skyline. Image Credit: Karatzas Maritime Images.

The strange thing is that Qatar Airways and Doha wish to advertise themselves as major contenders in the travel industry, BUT if there is a FOURTEEN-hour gap to connect the hub (Doha) with a major airport (Singapore), it seems there is a major connectivity problem; other hubs and airlines have much more frequent flights to major cities like Singapore. Qatar Airways and Hamad International Airport cannot possibly compete in a connected world if there are such blatant gaps in their network (two miserably delayed flights, no announcements, fifteen hours for connect flight to a major city like Singapore).

We were offered a free stay at an airport hotel in Doha, but we would rather first get herpes before we stay at another airport hotel… We would rather had been on time to Singapore on Sunday evening, to relax and prepare for Monday’s morning. And, without trying to be pompous, our stay in Singapore was scheduled at the Shangri-la Hotel… what a trade! Does Qatar Airways gets to pay for the lost night we paid for the Shangri-La?

And, for everyone wondering whether the 2014-delivery Hamad International Airport is a pleasure to pass through, we can spare them the agony. Mundane architecture and outlay, only a handful of restaurants, extremely limited shopping, too few restrooms that are too hard to spot, and power plugs for laptops and smart phones that had no power, at least at Gate C2 for the QR942; a sorry experience really, having no way to re-charge a phone after being delayed for FIFTEEN hours, in-between to long-haul flights.

And, despite the fact that in both cases the airplanes were modern Airbuses A350, we found the overall experience flying Qatar Airways rather un-inspiring, to be polite. The overall experience has left much to be desired, and likely not to be repeated.

As much as we enjoyed Doha (Souq Waqif and Corniche and watching Dhow sailing boats – while doing some sight-seeing, making the best of a bad situation,) again, we’d rather had gone as planned with our lives. Taking TWO days to fly from New York to Singapore is an un-acceptable experience in our modern world that moves fast.

Hopefully Qatar Airways will get to do the right thing next time…

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Doha skyline. Image Credit: Karatzas Maritime Images.

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