Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Qatar Experience

Short of a positive accident, nothing could have been much worse than this trip. First of all, the first leg from KIX to Doha, Quatar, began at 11:45 pm, QR 821. The flight lasted 11 hours and forty-five minutes. Nothing surprising bout that and everyone knows how hard a long flight is. The other strange thing is it arrived at 4 am. This is bad because I had to wait about seven hours till the connecting flight to Milan. I thought the Doha airport would be a ghost town but no, everything was quite busy and open, Tax Free shops, souvenir shops and four restaurants. One below and there in a row upstairs at a food courts. Nothing gourmet, but adequate.

Then strange things happened. I went to the Connections desk and he authorized the connecting boarding card for the 12:45 flight to Milan. He also gave me a voucher for breakfast. I said thanks and the voucher said Quatar Airlines was pleased to give it to us and it would supply us with breakfast. Unfortunately, it did not say which restaurant. So I check the Starbucks like place downstairs and they sent me upstairs. I went two the middle restaurant upstairs in the row of places, and then sent me to the one on the right and I finally saw the small sign they had. She said the service would start in 15 minutes at six. So I sat and waited and at six a line of about fifty people suddenly formed and she started serving them a large microwave chicken sandwich with their choice of drink. I was not going to wait is such a line, so went a side and watch to see if the line would diminished, and it did in about forty-five minutes. So I got in line of about five people and breakfast had become two triangles of crusted white bread with a slice of cheeks and a square of fried eggs all scrambled together. I had the eggs with salt and paper and a few bites of sandwich. The problem I saw was a good number of people did not understand the system, especially the Japanese girls, and many probably never got it. Suppose Qatar give that voucher because people will be waiting for hours and not have the local currency, the rial.

Well, I read and killed time looking at the stuff for sale and sometime in the morning I noticed the coming flight was listed as delayed, but he departure time remained the same followed with “est 20:30." I assumed "est" meant estimated as in ETA. And kept that way till noon, boarding time. The sign and gate 11 read the next flight would be to Doha. No one was there till around 12:10 and I asked they guy, and he said the flight would not leave till eight-thirty in the evening. I was shocked telling him we already have been waiting about seven hours. He said go to the Transfers desk and get a voucher for a hotel. Why had this not been posted? There was no announcement on the airport paging system? I say many people coming to Gate 11 to look at the board and wonder what happened to the Milan flight, and there was no one there to ask. Well, I went to the Transfer desk and he introduced me to a guy I had to wait for, and a woman came by a bit after with the vouchers and took me to immigration and outside I met the guy to take me to the Mercure Hotel in downtown Doha. In waiting for more people to show, I met Renata, a lovely Melbourne clothes designer in her late twenties who was going to Milan, too and a Minalese man who was good company. In total, only five of us went to the hotel. Were told of a large group of Italians who did now know what was going on and would staying in the airport till the evening site.
The voucher included a single room, lunch (fantastic smorgasbord with every think you could imagine, fit for a gormet) with refreshments, and transportation. Again, the lack of information left 95 percent of the passengers wandering around the small airport. Well we enjoyed our lunch, Renata took in the pool, I took a shower and washed up and we were all brought back to the airport at 6:00 and had to go through the whole process of checking in, check, checking bags, passport control etc. When we checked in, the woman said there was a further delay of an extra hour, no explanations did we ever get for the delays.

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