by Toffler



Qatar and Qatar Airways: An Experience

January 28, 2008, by TofflerN, category Learning through Foreign Cultures, Traveling, Uncategorized

Hotel Voucher
My flight schedule on Qatar Airways had me flying from Amman, Jordan to Doha, Qatar (Qatar Airways’ hub), a layover there for 13hours, and then on to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Having read online other people’s uncertainty as to their long layovers in Qatar, I called the Qatar Airways office in the US and asked them what to do with my layover. They told me with my fare, I’d have to pay $100 for a hotel room. Granted, that’s cheaper than most hotels in Qatar but still more than I wanted to pay for just over 8hours in a hotel.

So we thought we’d check Andrew’s fare. He spent 20-30min on hold with the Qatar Airways office in the US (as did I but I had the patience to wait ‘to speak with a representative’) before giving up and deciding to ask in Cairo. The Cairo office told him he was entitled to a free hotel room but that when he got to Amman he needed to pick up a voucher. From Jordan, he called the Amman office to ask about said voucher and they said, what are you talking about? Their English was a bit limited, but finally they told him, just wait till you get to Doha airport, they will take care of you there.

When we checked-in in Amman, we asked for our bags to be checked to Doha, so that we could pick them up and take them to the hotel with us. Initially the guy forgot to do that, so he checked us all the way to Dar Es Salaam and then had to go back and reverse that to gives us boarding passes and luggage just for Doha. Somehow this created a problem. When we arrived in Doha airport and Andrew asked for his hotel room, the clerk seemed very annoyed. He kept asking us, ‘where is your boarding pass to Dar?’ Well, we don’t have it, we only got checked through to Doha. The clerk did not like this and it seemed to cause him a lot of extra work. Nonetheless, he managed to sort Andrew’s hotel room. But even more amazingly, I, yes that’s right on my ‘youth fare,’ I was entitled to a hotel room for free as well as transfers and meals!! So much for the accuracy of the information provided by the Qatar Airways office in the US.

For people wondering about your own stopovers in Doha with Qatar Airways, normally layovers of more than 7hours are entitled to hotel vouchers provided by the airline. If you’re really nervous about it, call the local office and ask whether your fare is entitled to a free hotel room, but take whatever answer you are given with a grain of salt, as I was provided incorrect information. If for some reason you’re not entitled, or your layover is less than 7 hours, another option is the Qatar Airways Orxy Lounge, which must be booked in advance and carries an associated usage fee.

At the Airport, Amman
It seems Qatar Airways has changed terminals at Amman airport; my confirmation told me Terminal N, the international terminal, however Qatar now goes out of Terminal 1. When we walked in Terminal 1 of Amman airport, we were immediately security screened for the 2nd time already (the first time being on the approach, when they checked our car). Then looking for the check-in desk, all I saw was a mass group of people and no signs indicating where Qatar Airways was, making me wonder if it was back in the other terminal. No, the sign was just too small for me to see and that mass of people were all waiting to check-in for Qatar Airways. There was no semblance of order or indication of lines. About three different lines were all heading toward the same counter. It was wholly inefficient. Eventually we got to the check-in desk, where the guy screwed up our check-in.

Then we had to go through another security check, the 3rd and final one. Both the 2nd and 3rd times, I tried to walk through like normal; however, I was waved off to ‘ladies inspection.’ Discrimination!, I thought. No, just respecting the privacy of women in Islamic countries. Well, the reason for this separation is because they have the walk-through metal detectors which are set to beep regardless of whether you’re carrying metal, therefore everyone has to be patted down. And of course, women pat down women and men men. This seems rather ineffective and inefficient. I believe it’d work much better to just use the metal detectors as they’re intended. Ah well…it makes for a good story, I guess.'Ladies Inspection' at Amman Airport

On the plane from Amman to Doha
On the flight from Amman to Doha, Andrew and I constituted 2-3rds of the white people and I was definitely the only white female. Besides us, the flight was about 20% Indian (and or Pakistani or Sri Lankan) and the rest was roughly evenly split between Arabs and Chinese (which explains the chaos at check-in). There seemed to be a big group of (predominantly) female Chinese tourists traveling together, while the Chinese men on the flight, I guessed to be laborers in Jordan returning home for Chinese New Year. This was an interesting speculation for me as I’d heard of Chinese workers in Africa and also the Gulf States importing a lot of Asian workers but I didn’t know Jordan did.
Prayer Times
As the flight became full, only the row of seats in front of us was left empty. Then a half dozen Arab men, tall, robed, turban-topped, and bearded, came and sat down in front of us. They looked like they could have been the leaders of the Mujahadeen. Andrew and I looked at each other both thinking whaaaat?!? About half way through the flight a couple of the men stand up, figure out which way Mecca is as we’re probably flying directly over it and start chanting their prayers. All of the men take turns standing and kneeling to do their prayers. I’m thinking: does this often happen on these flights? and what are the Chinese people thinking of this?

As if this wasn’t enough for one flight, there was more excitement to come. The time after the captain announces we’re on our initial descent into whereever and after the flight attendants have finished everything and sat down but before we’ve actually landed, is supposed to be quiet time when you remain in your seat. However an impatient Chinese woman doesn’t think so. She jumps up, pulls down the overhead bin and starts pulling her luggage out as if she’s late to catch her flight to Shanghai that doesn’t leave for another 6hours. A flight attendant responds and practically has to drag the woman back down into her seat in time for landing.

The conditions of air travel in foreign and exotic destinations never failed to entertain.

Doha, Qatar
On the 30 or 40minute drive from the airport to the hotel, we passed more American chain eateries than Andrew and I’d seen in the past 3weeks, let alone in any 1country outside of the US. In Egypt we saw KFC, Hardy’s, McDonald’s and we ate at Pizza Hut and Sbarro. In Jordan I didn’t see any. By contrast, in a half hour car ride through Doha we saw everything ranging from Arby’s to Krispy Kreme to Chili’s. What a change.

Speaking of contrasts, after nearly 3weeks of seeing only handfuls of other westerners (tourists) in these Middle Eastern countries, I don’t know what could have shocked us more than for the very white Polish youth soccer team to come walking into the hotel. Meanwhile, Saudis with their red and black head coverings sat around the hotel.

All of the service workers we encountered on the airplane and at the hotel seemed to be imported from other Asian countries. There were Filipinos, Indians, Koreans, Sri Lankans, you name it, that nationality was probably represented. The only place that seemed to have mostly locals employed was at the airport, perhaps for security reasons(?). Andrew and I were aware that countries like Qatar and UAE sought cheap labor from abroad but we had no idea it was on this kind of massive scale. It was like a mini United Nations with all those people working together, using English as the medium of communication. The only other situation I’ve seen like this is mega cruise ships such as Celebrity.

All in all what little I saw of Doha made it seem very liveable and very comfortable, though perhaps that’s just in comparison to Egypt and Jordan.

So, what do you think ?