Travelers Beware of Qatar Airways!
I wish to issue a warning to all international travelers considering purchasing tickets with Qatar Airways. If you need to urgently change your flight you may be stuck in another country and unable to return home. What is worse is that you may also be subject to commercial extortion to get a flight home. This is my story.
When I purchased my return economy class tickets to Egypt I was assured that my flight times could be changed, subject to the availability of seats, for $75. It now seems that this ambiguous term "subject to availability" is also subject to interpretation at the airline's convenience.
When I attempted to change my return flight to Melbourne from January 28 to January 18 to coincide with my wife's return flights to Australia, I was informed both my the local agent and Qatar Airways office in Egypt that no seats were available. And yet I have obtained irrefutable proof that Qatar Airlines has still been offering economy class seats for sale on the flights that I have been seeking. In other words, Qatar Airways has lied to me. Repeatedly. Shamelessly.
After getting no satisfactory response from the offices in Egypt or their feedback email address, I took public transport from where I am staying across town to visit their office in Alexandria to try and resolve the problem face to face. My efforts only resulted in stone-walling, blackmail and extortion.
This is what I discovered:
Airline policy reserves some seats for last minute travelers (which can be sold at a premium price), so those seats (the same economy class seats!) then become 'unavailable'. This, according to Mrs Rasha, Commercial Manager for Qatar Airways in Alexandria, Egypt, is company policy and a 'commercial consideration'. Apparently customer convenience and urgent travel requirements do not come under any consideration at all.
I was told that I purchased my ticket at the cheapest price, therefore I do not qualify to change this seat for a seat of a more expensive price - something that was very conveniently NOT disclosed at the time of purchase and appears to contradict that assurance that I received that flights could be changed. When I pointed out that my vacant seat on Jan 28 could also be sold for a premium price because it was still peak season, they admitted that this was true, but this failed to persuade them to change my flight.
After much discussion back and forth about what constitutes a binding contract under common law, I was told that for Qatar Airways, company policy was always a higher authority than the laws of the land. In other words, according to what I was told, Qatar Airways does not consider itself bound by the laws of fair trade in any of the countries that they are servicing. This is disturbing indeed.
I waited for a considerable time while Mrs Rasha looked into my case and she was finally able to establish that there were still seats available on the flights that I wanted. But these (economy class) seats would only be made available at the hyper-inflated price of $970! This is clearly extortion. Remember, I have already paid for return tickets to Australia... I merely want to change the date of my travel. Apparently the promise to change flights for a $75 fee means nothing at all! I consider it a breech of contract.
No traveler, Australian or otherwise, should be subject to commercial exploitation and extortion at a time of need. In this matter Qatar Airways has acted without integrity, principle or honor - and contrary to the best interests of the traveling public. I am unwilling to submit to this extortion and will be escalating my complaint as broadly as I can through social media and lodging complaints with the airline regulators back home in Australia. I invite you to join me in this effort.
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