Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Qatar Airways Fail - A friend's unfortunate quest to change her flights

UPDATE (8th September 2011): The E-marketing manager for Qatar Airways just contacted me directly by email and is going to take care of contacting my friend in order to resolve her complaint. I'm very happy about that and will update again once it's all done with news.

I haven't blogged in a while and never have I gone to such lengths to publicize a company's customer service failings but this is what has been happening to a friend I have just been helping out and I find it so ridiculously outrageous that my friend and I feel the need to spread the news.

If you happen to read this and feel the same way, please spread and share these news far and wide, I'm sure this kind of experiences happen to a lot of people and I'm also pretty sure not everyone complains about it or receives satisfaction from their complaint(s). As a spoiler for anyone looking for real excitement, go watch a movie or something, this isn't anything to do with horror, thriller or action genres. That said, I do believe it's interesting and valuable.

Below is a copy of the email sent by my friend to Qatar Airways feedback and customer service email address, I just wish to add that the intention is not to accuse any one individual employee of Qatar Airways, nor to have anything bad happen to them, rather it is an official complaint to be lodged with the airline company as a whole. My friend had to run to the airport to catch their flight so I'm helping spread the news.

Qatar Airways claims to be 'the World's Best Airline'. My friend and I certainly don't feel this claim to be true right now. I am interested in corporations and organisations providing excellent customer service and what I've experienced today is probably the furthest from excellence I've ever seen.

The way I see it, they have messed up with one of their customers and now have the chance to make it up to them. If they're fast they have several hours to meet them for their layover in Doha in a few hours, or perhaps more realistically they hopefully contact my friend as soon as possible. We'll see.

Dear Sir / Madam,

I am writing this email today in order to register an official complaint to Qatar Airways as I am extremely disappointed so far with the level of service you have provided me as a paying customer with a problem to solve. As a global airline company wishing to promote world class service I would expect much better, particularly as I see that you are advertising yourself as ‘the world’s best airline’ on this site ( and have won several prizes I can see listed here:

Unfortunately I haven’t found anyone who could help me directly and I find myself feeling forced to not only write you this email, but also to copy and send it to all the relevant people and organisations whom I feel may either be able to help me or would be interested in hearing about my current situation.

I will start at the beginning and explain to you the series of circumstances I have been faced with and the troubles I have had to deal with as a result of them, both on financial and emotional Ievels.

I booked a flight from Paris to Kuala Lumpur for my summer holidays, departing the 31st July 2011.

My return was planned for the 21st of August, and I decided to postpone my flight and extend my holidays which is where you presented a first barrier to me: the cost to change my booking was 433 RM which could only be paid via a Malaysian bank account or an international bank transfer, no major credit cards accepted whatsoever. I did not have time to process an International bank transfer and being a French tourist on holidays, I obviously do not have a Malaysian bank account. Fortunately, I managed to ask a Malaysian friend to help me with the transfer; my friend was forced to take time out of their working day to visit the Kuala Lumpur Qatar Airways office in order to pay for my flight change fees and of this I am extremely grateful to them, a new friend in Malaysia had already been ten times more helpful than Qatar Airways to whom I had already paid 1,100 Euros for my original flight, plus the flight change fees.

At this point, I am not even mentioning the 25 phone calls and time on the phone and emails looking to reach the Kuala Lumpur Qatar Airways office in order to organise this flight change, which is already unbelievable for an international company of the size of Qatar Airways.

Unfortunately for me, the National holiday celebrations in Malaysia on the weekend of the 3rd of September meant that I have had to change my flight again because I found myself unable to get to Kuala Lumpur in time for my flight. Again, I had to call the Qatar Airways Kuala Lumpur office over 20 times and send three emails to change my flight as well as find another Malaysian friend who would be able to help me transfer the new 435RM flight change fee. My understanding was that my flight had been changed for the 7th September and I arrived here in Kuala Lumpur yesterday morning on the 6th September.

I checked my emails upon arriving in order to make sure the new booking was confirmed, though having no news I managed to reach the Kuala Lumpur office by phone and found out that my booking had been cancelled and that the only flight now available to me would be on Sunday 11th September. At that point, I really want to you to understand that I literally broke down in tears on the telephone.

The stress I’ve been under over the weekend knowing I wouldn’t be able to make my flight on the 5th was already taxing enough, meaning 2 days of unpaid leave from work. The fact that my booking had been cancelled even though the flight change fee had been paid 3 days before for the 7th September meant that because of Qatar Airways’ poor service and/or mistakes, I would have to call back my employer and explain to them that I would have to take an additional 4 days of unpaid leave.

I spent Tuesday afternoon calling the Kuala Lumpur office pleading them to find the bank transfer that had been made and confirm my flight for Sunday 11th September given that still hadn’t been done yet, again more tears and fear of not being able to return to Paris even as late as the 11th. I had to give my Malaysian friend’s number to the Qatar office so they could ask my friend to send the bank transfer confirmation, even though I had already provided all the required banking transfer information several days ago. I don’t even know what words to write now for you to really understand the pain I’ve been through to do something as seemingly simple as changing a flight booking. For me to say it’s completely outrageous is an understatement.

This morning, still having had no confirmation that my flight was booked for Sunday 11th I called again and went to the Kuala Lumpur office in person and after having waited 2 hours, found out it still hadn’t been done. I confirmed the ticket in person, asked again if there was any way to be on an earlier flight with no success and asked to speak to the manager in order to lodge an official complaint.

The first thing that upset me even more if that’s even possible is that the manager told me almost immediately that he could contact headquarters and find an earlier flight for me, and after a few minutes confirmed I could in fact be on a flight to Paris tonight, with an 8 hours layover in Doha. Why this wasn’t possible for the past two days I spent calling and emailing the office I have no idea.

I then asked the manager to register an official complaint with Qatar Airways for all the trouble I had to go through to get the flight changed, to which he told me there is nothing they could do and that my sole recourse was to send an email to

I am extremely upset about this whole situation; I am relieved to finally leave for Paris in a few hours even though I will not be looking forward to spending 8 hours in Doha airport. I will finish this email by saying that I unfortunately do not feel I have the luxury of waiting for a reply from the customer service department so I have decided to try and make this as widely known as possible, sending copies of this complaint to the people and organisations listed below.

I am landing in Doha for my layover at __:__ local time with the flight from Kuala Lumpur and will be hoping that a Qatar Airways representative will be waiting for me so my complaint can be solved to my satisfaction.

My name is G. M. and my flight booking reference is ______.

Kind regards,
G. M.

This complaint is copied and sent to:

Regional Marketing Manager Europe Qatar Airways
via Linkedin Inmail

VP Commercial Europe Qatar Airways
via Linkedin Inmail

Manager - Brand Communications Qatar Airways
via Linkedin Inmail

Head of Corporate Communications Qatar Airways
via Linkedin Inmail

Brand Republic
Marketing Magazine
Business Week

Several blogs 
Consumer organisations in France:
·      ASSECO-CFDT (Association études et consommation)
·      FNAUT (Fédération nationale des associations d’usagers des transports)
·      ORGECO (Organisation générale des consommateurs)
·      UFC-Que Choisir (Union fédérale des consommateurs-Que Choisir)


Azucena van der Horst said...

I really like this and I will expect more of it, taking on "customer service Really"
Well done Willem

Anonymous said...

Perhaps if the traveller had made their original booking via a travel agent then all this fun and games would have been avoided, the agent could have changed the booking via their GDS and collected the change fee, confirming the flights at the time. Despite Obama's apparent ignorance of the matter, agents do bring something to the party

Willem said...

I'm really not sure how Obama - if you're talking about the US president- would have anything to do with the situation or the content of the post..? Thanks for the comment anyways.

Unknown said...

Hi Willem , i was just on my way to the KL office to change dates ,couldnt decide between there and phuket office , then saw your blog , i feel for you , and understand what its like to be frustrated like that . I will be giving them around 4 months notice though , i wonder if that will make any difference . Im flying from India so really can not afford (psycologically) to be messed up there ,that would be a nightmare ,with the Indian visa situation . I am going to the office on thursday ,so will tell you how i got on . PS just wondering why you havnt updated your blog ?did everything work out alright in the end then ,did Qatar Airways make amends that is? Peace ,Daleo

Anonymous said...

i Willem,

I have seen your blog post (updated 8th Sept 2011) on Qatar Airways. I have recently had massive service issues with the same airline and the complaints office is being extremely unhelpful and unapologetic.

I saw in your post that you and your friend contacted several senior people at Qatar Airways to get their attention. I was hoping to do the same so was wondering if you could send me their contact names and e-mail addresses as I cannot find it on the internet. I also note that you copied the e-mail to several publications. Would you be willing to share this with me as well?

Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated?
Kind Regards

Willem said...

Hi there,

Thanks for the comment and sorry to hear you've been having issues with the airline as well. By the way, a couple of people asked - I never updated the post because there was nothing to really update. The staff at Qatar Airways got it touch with my friends but nothing happened after that; they barely properly apologized (or not at all) and just explained and why they what had happened was justified. So I did get their attention but it didn't really do anything.

I don't know if the people I'd managed to get the contact of are still around by now and frankly it turned out to be more of a waste of time than anything unfortunately. That said, I can forward the details I have.