I’ve thought long and hard about how to address my recent flight with Qatar Airways from Bangkok to Edinburgh. I’m one to call out businesses for bad customer service or practice within reason, but my experience I had with Qatar Airways was of a different animal entirely. One that I hope to never encounter again.
I was ecstatic for my trip to Scotland: to roam hills (I never really did that…just kind of, jumped around ledges), taste the whisky, feel the highland winds rush through my hair. I had so many expectations and so much excitement built up for this trip that I wanted to make sure that we had our tickets booked in advance. Our trip was at the end of August, but of course I wanted to get flights set and arranged in advance so I booked two round trip tickets through the Qatar Airways website at the end of May. Only three months to go before our adventure back to Ritchie’s homeland! I felt blessed, with something new to look forward to and that we were able to make this trip was icing on the cake of a very good year.
Our journey started out perfectly. We spent the morning in Phnom Penh packing, getting the house tidied and ready for Casandra to come cat sit for the following two weeks (a huge thanks to her for that!), and getting everything just-so before we headed out of the country. Without a bump, we flew with Air Asia to Bangkok and made our way from Don Mueang to Suvarnabhumi, where Qatar Airways flies out of. I’m not quite sure why everyone raves about that airport so much; it’s really not much to look at, the shopping and eating is mediocre at best but it didn’t matter so much because I had a decent book (Dark Places, Gillian Flynn) in hand and the thoughts of things to come during a vacation in mind.
After waiting three hours in the entry area, we were finally able to check in and get ready to board our flight. Or so we thought. We were the first two in the baggage check area when we showed our passports and booking receipts. The woman behind the desk looked befuddled and asked if we had booked through them. Obviously we had, as I showed her the receipt of purchase and the several follow up emails in regards to our flight. Still, she couldn’t find our booking and asked for us to sit on an uncomfortable bench 20 meters away and to wait. And wait we did. For an hour and forty five minutes. The only times anyone really gave us a semblance of an answer being when Ritchie himself went up to the desk and asked what was going on, reminding them that boarding was currently in session and that according to their policies- if we didn’t show up at the gate xx minutes before we would not be allowed onto the aircraft.
When it came down to 20 minutes before our gates closed, I got up from our severely uncomfortable seating arrangement and restless waiting and went to the bleak desk for some answers. No one had informed us during the entire time we worried and sat of anything that would set our minds at ease, help us understand what they were trying to do to amend the situation, and as each other passenger went through and checked their baggage and made their way through the gate- I got more and more uneasy.
When I stepped up to the desk, a man intercepted me and told me that we had not booked our tickets. Startled by this (and why was this just coming about now after waiting that long?) I asked why we had received a confirmation of booking and the follow up emails regarding our flight and joining their elite service (would that be simple customer service because they can’t seem to give that to their customers in basic terms?) and upgrading our flight. When I asked politely but sternly “what is the actual problem?” while looking down at his sad exterior, he snapped back “if you would let me speak I will tell you the problem!”. I responded, “well please. Go on. Because our flight that we booked through your website seems to be going on without us and I’d like to know what the issue is.” He again, rudely so, snapped back, “let me speak and I will tell you!” and again I responded with a simple, “go on” with a gesture of the hand to give an explanation and looked him dead in the eye.
I am not one to fear a man, especially one who works for an airline that can’t seem to keep their bookings in order, and was definitely not going to let his snappiness and orders make me shrink away. At this, he looked as if he was about to have steam coming out of his ears and with eyes bulging, “I WILL SPEAK TO HIM!” in the manner of a toddler on the verge of a tantrum, as he turned his back directly towards me and spoke to Ritchie, fully removing me from the conversation.
There were several interesting aspects within this series of interactions: firstly, the tickets were booked on my debit card. A debit card with my name on it, linked to my accounts, with my money. Meaning I should have been the one given answers, not my flight partner. Qatar Airways messed up our flight, yet had the audacity to be offensive towards their customers who they state that they value. Was Mr. Anas (I later found out his name from one of his colleagues…the name being so close, just one letter away, from being another word that describes his attitude perfectly) put off by me, being a woman (maybe even of Asian descent) questioning his service and addressing their mistakes?
I felt absolutely helpless at this point, and have never in my life been treated so primitively and impolitely by a customer service representative- especially a manager. I’m always amazed at customer service reps: they can be absolutely wonderful, helping with your needs and questions and ensuring your confidence in their product or service or they can be horrifically unprofessional and rude, just as Mr. Anas was.
When he shut me out of the conversation, one that determined whether I was going on my holiday or not, whether over $2k was missing from my account due to their negligence, and why Qatar Airways had failed in their service left me speechless. There was literally nothing I could do other than wait for his misogynistic explanation to the “sir” of the household to end before we were told we would have to book the tickets again because their e-commerce had failed to book them the first time for us.
When Ritchie mentioned that because of the delays, waste of our time, and error in Qatar Airway’s service that we should receive some sort of compensation or upgrade, Mr. Anas smugly laughed and told him that this was not their fault. I can’t even compute how he has a job and came to the position he is in with his pompous attitude, complete disregard for his own faults and that of the company he works for, and the complete lack of knowledge when it comes to “customer service”.
We were told that we should have received a follow up email within the following five days upon booking and if we did not receive that email, the tickets had not been booked. Upon looking back, we realized that no- we had not received that specific email, we however had gotten a barrage of messages about “our flight” and that we could make said upgrades, et al. Generally when you begin to receive emails about a flight you thought you had booked, you would believe it had been booked- no?
As we were ushered into the ticketing office, it took another half hour to book two tickets. Me, looking at my watch hoping we would board on time and also my mind on my bank account. Did the money ever get taken out? Had it been refunded? What was going on with my finances after this disaster of a non-transaction? When we asked when and how much was taken out of my account initially for the tickets, they could not answer but said that we could get a response within one day. They also gave me two email addresses of people at that location who we could contact if we didn’t hear from them within the 24 hours. They did assure me that the money had been taken out of my account, but had been refunded to there should be no worries there. * Please note that they clearly addressed that funds had been removed and returned to my account.
We didn’t hear from them within 24 hours. In fact, we didn’t hear from them for the next six days. I sent a number of emails directly to the Qatar Airways website and to the two email addresses given to me at the airport and still the lull in response was deafening. I finally called my bank to find out what transactions from Qatar had taken place. My bank assured me that the only time that Qatar Airways had any dealings with my account was the previous day, when we booked our actual tickets that allowed us on the plane. This completely contradicted what we were told at the offices at the airport and then later on, in emails I received a week and a half later from the Qatar Airways e-commerce account.
I could go on about the contradictions, flat out lies, and strange/rude/unprofessional service we received from Qatar Airways from that point on. I really could for several more pages along with screen shots of the ridiculous conversations I had with their staff, the roundabout ways in which they handle their service, and about the delays we experienced with them on our way back to Phnom Penh from Edinburgh but honestly from the way they handled themselves and continue to handle their business, it’s clear that we won’t be flying with them again. I’ve told my story to people in the office, business-people who travel often who have heard some good things about Qatar Airways- but were shocked at the treatment we received and showed strong disgust towards the airline. There’s at least a dozen business class passengers Qatar Airways won’t be getting.
All in all, it wasn’t the fact that the company were at fault in booking our tickets, that our e-mails weren’t responded to in a timely manner, that there were flight delays or that I had to pay amounts of money that I luckily had, but didn’t think I would be having to pay out especially right before a holiday. It is the complete helplessness that I felt in the moment I realized that I had zero control over the situation and that I not only was confused by what was going on, I was being metaphorically slapped in the face by the people and company I was giving money to.
I understand that people make mistakes, the internet is a wild, wild world where inaccuracies do occur, and that things don’t always run smoothly- especially when traveling. But because of the way Ser Anas treated the situation, treated my problem, and treated me- I can say that I feel a gram of what so many women walk through life with. Being tossed aside, their problems and opinions not mattering, and instead- their male counterparts being addressed instead even if it makes zero sense.
I’m still upset about this incident and while I received a lukewarm apology from the airline but with no real explanation of what happened, why I was told funds were taken and returned to my account when they clearly weren’t, and knowing that this incident will simply slip through the cracks- I won’t be having any dealing with Qatar Airlines again. What a shame to have seen the ugly face that represents that company, the way they devalue their customers, and how this will happen again and again to people flying with Qatar (and other airlines, I’m sure) and how they too will feel absolutely worthless for a few moments in time.