Always fly with Qatar Airways when taking a break from Dubai? Here’s how to navigate the sudden flight ban…
WHAT WE KNOW (more detail below)
– Qatar Airways can no longer fly over UAE airspace and all Qatar Airways offices in the UAE have now shut down.
– Qatar Airways’ call centre numbers in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are overloaded, leading to a busy or disconnected tone when calling
– Qatar Airways is only changing and dealing with flights booked until July 6, for now.
– Those with affected flights booked in the next month can get refunds (however the service fee portion of the ticket will not be refunded)
– Passengers with flights out of the UAE in the next month can change their flight for free, once
– Some Qatar flight times will change due to the disruption in routes
– Qatar will not refund other parts of holidays like hotels, other flights etc unless already in the small print
– You could still fly to Muscat or Kuwait and then on to Doha if you want to catch your onward flight
– Qatar Airways has started to organise charter flights for its customers. The first three will be from Jeddah to Muscat via Oman Air.
No Qatar Airways flights can land in any Dubai airports any more. This sudden change has come as a shock to the many UAE residents who use Qatar Airways for overseas trips – hopping from DXB to Doha and then on to destinations as varied as Sao Paolo, Chengdu, Windhoek and Perth. (Remember, Qatar flies to more than 150 destinations, and the Eid holidays, coming up in a few weeks, are a very busy travel period.)
Qatar Airways is bearing the brunt of this issue – with around 52 of the 76 flights grounded over the ban operated by Qatar according to Bloomberg. There are 14 Qatar Airways flights a day to and from Dubai (and most of these passengers then go onto feeder flights). So yes, the experience of a Qatar customer trying to make changes right now is a frustrating one (filled with dead phone lines), but here’s what we definitely know about refunds so far…
Well, the good immediate news is that Qatar has said that “all customers booked on affected flights will be provided with alternative options, including the option of a full refund on any unused tickets and free rebooking to the nearest alternative Qatar Airways network destination.”
The bad news (for some) is that the call centre has said they are currently only dealing with flights booked from now until Thursday July 6. This is likely just a workload issue (and they will deal with flights further in the future if the situation persists).
Also, all Qatar Airways offices in the UAE are now closed – a decision made by the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority. This means people in the UAE with flights booked with Qatar Airways will have to rely on the airline’s call centres or website.
If you want to change travel dates rather than get a refund they have said that “passengers holding a confirmed Qatar Airways ticket to any of the four countries between 05 June 2017 – 06 July 2017 are permitted to rebook their flights up to 30 days after their current confirmed departure date, one time free of charge.” This suggests that they are hoping for this situation to have changed by next month.
In further clarification for those already half way through a return trip with the airline, Qatar explains on its website that “passengers will also be permitted to refund the unused portion of their tickets booked for the above period once, free of charge.” But they do add that “the service fee remains non-refundable.”
Note: The Qatar Airways call centre numbers in both Abu Dhabi (02 621 0007) and Dubai (04 229 2229) are clearly overloaded and so appear disconnected when calling. We’d advise only those travelling in the next month to call right now and for those with future plans to give it some time. People are – sporadically – able to get through.
Yes, this information is all quite murky and confusing – but it seems like Qatar is just trying to deal with the next month of travel right now and will give us more information when they have it (and we’ll keep you updated).
ONE PICTURE THAT SAYS SO MUCH…
This live tracker map from Flight Radar taken at 9.20am Tuesday shows all of the Qatar Airways flights currently in the air. It shows how the airline has had to completely reroute its flight paths to not cover UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – meaning all flights have to go north over Iran first. Although, as you can see here, they can go over Oman airspace, as the Sultanate has remained neutral in the dispute:
This change could affect flight times for some southbound routes as it will add distance to the journeys.
HOW DO I ARRANGE MY REFUND?
Tickets booked online can be refunded at the refund requests section of the website or on the call centre. Tickets not booked online can only be refunded/changed via the offline options.
Note: Only passengers flying on Qatar Airways through the affected countries – like the UAE or Saudi Arabia – will receive the refunds. So, say you’re flying London-Qatar-Auckland soon, you will only be eligible to the refund or change conditions in your original ticket as you will still be able to fly.
One question on the airline’s FAQ page asks: “I have all my holidays booked to travel on Qatar Airways. Will you reimburse hotel charges and transportation to the airport if the flights are cancelled?” The answer is a firm no by the sounds of it (unless that refund condition already existed): “We will refund Qatar Airways tickets as per the conditions of carriage.”
The airline will continue to add questions and answers and any news to the service and support section of their website. You can find that here.
THERE IS STILL A WAY, BUT IT IS A BIT CONVOLUTED…
Remember, Kuwait and Oman’s air space is still open to Qatar Airways, so if you think you can’t get a better deal on your planned flight you could always plump for a ticket to say Dubai-Muscat-Doha and then Doha-Muscat-Dubai, and then catch your flight.
Although, if you are a UAE national this won’t be an option as UAE nationals are now banned from transiting through Qatar.
Just as a sample (remember prices are changeable) we found a Flydubai flight for mid-July that would take you to Muscat return for Dhs842. Then Qatar Airways can take you from Muscat to Doha and back (when we searched that came up at about Dhs1,500 return). Plus, you can probably arrange for Qatar Airways to give you the Muscat-Doha-Muscat leg in exchange for your Dubai leg so may not have to pay for that.
Yes, we know it’s a mission, but it is an option so is worth mentioning (and Muscat is beautiful so you could always make a stopover of it).
– Photo: Qatar Airways