How will the Qatar quagmire affect your next trip?

By | June 14th, 2017

Two of Richard Come’s co-workers are affected by a blockade of Qatar, a small country on the Arabian Peninsula that extends into the Persian Gulf and shares its southern land border with Saudi Arabia. Several of Qatar’s neighbors have suspended diplomatic relations and air traffic and accused Qatar of supporting terrorism.

Come is worried about the current political situation, particularly about passengers on its national airline, Qatar Airways.

“How could people expect to get refunds from Qatar Airways?” he asked. “Should they wait to book a flight until Qatar Airways refunds their money? What should people do?”

Travel in the Middle East can be one of the most exciting — and perilous — experiences anyone can have. You can never be entirely sure whether it’s safe — or even possible — to visit certain countries and regions, like Qatar, or how to get to or from them when it’s not.

Several countries have severed diplomatic relations with Qatar as of now. Along with the neighboring United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, and Bahrain, these countries include Mauritania, Comoros and the Maldives. Other countries, including Jordan and the Philippines, have also downgraded diplomatic relations or barred travel to Qatar, but the U.S. State Department has not issued any travel advisories at this time other than general warnings to American citizens to monitor closely their personal travel arrangements to Qatar.

Qatar Airways, a Oneworld Alliance member, has suspended flights between Qatar and Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates indefinitely, and has been forced to close its offices in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. A travel alert on Qatar Airways’ website provides telephone numbers for its customers to call regarding travel between those countries and Qatar.

Related story:   One year later, where's my refund?

“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 airline’s website notes.

Passengers needing refunds have the following options:

    • Contact the nearest Qatar Airways office;
    • Call the Qatar Airways Contact Centre at +974 4022 0072;
    • Passengers who booked using Qatar Airways’ website can use the refund request feature on the site; and
    • Passengers who booked through a travel agent should contact their agent for assistance.

    The airline will issue refunds in accordance with its conditions of carriage, which provide that

    If we cancel or delay a flight, are unable to provide previously confirmed space, fail to stop at a Passenger stopover or destination point, or cause you to miss a connecting flight on which you hold a reservation, we shall either:
    (i) Carry you on another of our scheduled Passenger services on which space is available; or
    (ii) Re-route you to the destination indicated on the Ticket or applicable portion thereof by our own scheduled services or the scheduled services of another carrier, or by means of surface transportation. If the sum of the fare, excess Baggage charge and any applicable service charge for the revised routing is higher than the refund value of the Ticket or applicable portion thereof, we will not require additional fare or charges from you and will refund the difference if the fare and charge for the revised routing are lower; or
    (iii) Make a refund…and shall be under no further liability to you.
    Upon the occurrence of any of the events set out [above], the options outlined [herein] are the sole and exclusive remedies available to you and we shall have no further liability to you….

    If we cancel a flight, fail to operate a flight reasonably according to schedule, fail to stop at a point to which the Passenger is destined or ticketed to stopover, are unable to provide previously confirmed space or cause you to miss a connecting flight on which you hold a reservation, the amount of refund will be:
    If no portion of the Ticket has been used, the amount equal to the fare paid.
    If a portion of the Ticket has been used, the refund will be the higher of: (i) The one way fare (less applicable discounts and charges) from point of interruption to destination or point of next Stopover, or (ii) The difference between the fare paid and the fare for the transportation used.

    The conditions of carriage do not provide for reimbursement of incidental expenses incurred by affected travelers, so if you are one, you won’t be able to recover hotel, meal or other out-of-pocket expenses from Qatar Airways.

    With regard to connecting flights and interlines, Qatar Airways’ website contains the following language: “Other airlines whose flights are disrupted by the situation will rebook affected passengers in accordance with International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations.” It also advises Qatari nationals to contact the Qatar Ministry of Interior for further information. Unfortunately, the site provides no other information as to which other airlines will service affected passengers.

    Because all of the countries that have severed diplomatic relations with Qatar will not permit transit to or from Qatar through their airspace, travel times on affected flights will lengthen to avoid prohibited space. Travelers should expect delays, rescheduling and cancellation of flights on airlines that continue to fly into and out of Qatar. These include flights on Qatar Airways as well as other airlines, such as Emirates, Etihad and Egyptair, which have been forced to suspend their flights into and out of Qatar indefinitely. Affected passengers should check for operational updates with the airlines and with their travel agents. Saudia has announced that it is waiving all ticket restrictions on flights to and from Qatar.

    Qatar is not on the list of countries included in the controversial U.S. “travel ban,” but since March, passengers on 10 airlines bound for the U.S., including Qatar Airways, are prohibited from carrying most electronic devices onboard the aircraft.

    Qatar Airways bans from the cabin any electronic devices larger than a cellular phone, except for medical devices needed during the flight, spare lithium batteries, and chargers. Prohibited devices, which include laptops, tablets, DVD players and electronic games, must be carried in checked luggage only. Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones are prohibited on all Qatar Airways flights, whether in the cabin or in checked luggage, as of October 2016.

    Our website contains executive contact information for several airlines affected by the Qatar situation, including Qatar Airways, Emirates, Etihad, and Royal Jordanian Airlines.

    Finally, air travel is only one aspect of the current Qatar situation. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain have blocked all land, sea and air trade routes with Qatar, which imports most of its foodstuffs. Qatari residents are stocking up on food and other consumer goods. If you are going to be in Qatar, expect extremely high prices and empty store shelves.

  • jim6555

    Great summary. Anyone soon traveling to Qatar or the neighboring countries now has the information that they need.

  • Kerr

    I flew Qatar Airways last year for a trip to India and found their service to be very good. I even stopped in Doha on the way back and spent two nights in that city. An interesting city with lots of history.

    Not considering international travel anytime soon, but this is a concern if I need to travel to (or over) the region.

  • jsn55

    Great information for our readers, Jennifer. What a nightmare for everyone flying to, from or over the country. At least people will have some guidance on their next step.

  • John McDonald

    now that these dodgy arab airlines have been linked to terrorism, no one should fly them !!! (unless you support terrorism).
    Airlines like Qantas, will be overflying Dubai with their new Perth/London nonstop flights.
    Qantas on the one hand supports gay marriage(a really stupid move) but flies to places where gays are jailed/beaten for being gay & even codeshares with m rats.(emirates)

  • BubbaJoe123

    Wow, managed to combine both racism and homophobia in a single post, nicely done.

  • michael anthony

    2nd day in a row where you attack QANTAS, gays and now you toss in a slur against the Middle East.
    Frankly I’m appalled.

  • michael anthony

    Jennifer: Any idea where this all started. For uears

  • Lifetime Expat

    I recently re-patriated from Qatar to the US, and have a LOT of connections in the country. The supermarkets are NOT empty, prices for most products are controlled by the government, and are not escalating (Although it has always been a pricey country) The hotel restaurants and buffets are still extremely well stocked–although don’t expect to find any alcohol for sale until after the Holy month of Ramadan is finished on approximately the 24th of June. You will find more Turkish and Iranian products, and less Saudi products.

    One of my friends recently panic-posted that his supermarket was out of Tonic Water (rendering him G&T-less) and within 1/2 hour other friends had informed him of at least 3 other supermarkets that had it in abundance.

  • KanExplore

    I flew Qatar over the weekend between Johannesburg and Dallas-Forth Worth. It was a completely normal experience. The only change was an adjustment in flight paths to avoid airspace of the countries that are boycotting Qatar. The situation creates chaos for those flying between Qatar and those countries involved in the dispute, but long haul service seems to be functioning normally or close to it. I would not hesitate to purchase a flight through Qatar not involving those countries.

    Compare that with the insane arrival scene at DFW where lines for immigration stretched for blocks and people were facing waits of three to five hours according to an airport employee I talked to. Thank heaven for Global Entry!

  • PsyGuy

    Was going to happen eventually.

  • PsyGuy

    That’s why the neighbors did it, they wanted to distance themselves from the trouble.

  • PsyGuy

    I have to agree with you, Global entry was the best $100 I spent when it comes to air travel.

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