Just moments before heading out to the gym this evening, I received a frantic message from one of my clients, stating–
Lot of problems in Houston, Qatar says there is no reservation for [name removed] both ways. PLEASE HELP!
With the Lufthansa strike and a problem with El-Al one-way tickets (the subject of a future post), it has already been a stressful couple of days in my world of award travel consulting.
I called the client and was told that while United had said everything was great in Cleveland (checking the bags all the way through to their final destination), Qatar had been unable to locate one of the tickets upon check-in in Houston.
The client had been shuttling back and forth between the United Customer Service desk and Qatar lounge for the last two hours (I wish they had called me immediately!) in a game of badminton, with United saying the ticket was just fine, Qatar saying the opposite, and neither side willing to step up and show some leadership.
Qatar had even pressured my client to buy a new economy class ticket and he was about to hand over his credit card when he decided to reach out to me first.
I called the United electronic support desk immediately where a woman took a look at the ticket and said everything looked fine. Everything looked fine on the United side to me too, but the ticket would not longer pull up on Qatar’s website as it had done when I first issued the ticket in July. It was now less than one hour prior to takeoff, so I had a sinking feeling that something bad had happened to his reservation.
I conferenced in the client, who passed over the phone to a representative in the Qatar lounge. While not rude, she was clearly exasperated and not at all competent. She kept insisting there was no reservation, until the United agent read her the ticket number, which she manually inputted.
Suddenly, the reservation popped up: Qatar had found it. And it was booked in business class! Only there was a problem now–there were no seats left in business class. I could hear the lounge matron trying to bully my client into a coach seat and I let the matron know right away that was unacceptable. I asked to speak to the station manager, but was told she was not available. Of course…
By now, my client was getting ancy (unable to postpone his trip a day) and agreed to the resolution proposed by Qatar–an economy class window with a blocked middle seat.
Here’s what I think happened–Qatar somehow missed the ticket and by the time they found it (how sad that United had to help them locate it), the client’s business class seat had been given away. I am angry tonight–extremely angry.
I do not want to make accusations, but could it be that Qatar pulled an Air China-like stunt and failed to find the reservation because it had actually overbooked the cabin and decided that a ticket issued on partner-United would be the easiest one to “lose”? Qatar found his wife’s reservation without issue, also issued on United at the same time as his, so I question that hypothesis, though I cannot rule it out.
If Qatar had cancelled the ticket, would not UA’s system have picked that up? Or could it be that United’s SHARES system is so bad that it doesn’t know when a partner cancels a flight? Even US Airways is not that bad. But I must question that hypothesis as well. Again, upon check-in in Cleveland the clients were told that everything was fine. Their reservations showed up fine on united.com and even Qatar’s website, at least the day after the tickets were issued.
I am bummed tonight because I failed–even if through no fault of my own. I have other clients booked on Qatar and now I am going to have to monitor their itineraries just to make sure they remain in good order. That should not be necessary.
Have any of you had trouble with your Qatar tickets? If you have an upcoming trip, consider yourself warned. And don’t forget the Qatar-United partnership ends next week (14 September). If you want to give Qatar a try, book now–and be careful.