Qatar Airwayse-ticket [protected]

S Nov 22, 2017

To Whom it May Concern:

Ref. E-ticket number [protected]
Complaint re. denied boarding on Flight QR 126 Venice - Doha 2 November 2017 at Venice Marco Polo Airport because of Passport Validity

I am an Italian and British citizen, born 4 November 1974 in Venice, Italy and living in London, UK. I am writing to raise a complaint with Qatar Airways regarding the information I was given and level of costumer service received on at Venice Marco Polo Airport check-in for flight QR126 connecting in Doha with flight QR962 with final destination Denpasar, Indonesia on 2 November 2017. I would like to request compensation for a fee of 649.52 € that I was requested to pay by Qatar Airways.

The reason for my travel was to attend a Yoga Teacher Training course at Radiantly Alive, Ubud starting on 6 November with finishing date on 2 December. 4 November was my birthday and had planned to travel arriving in Denpasar the evening of 3 November to celebrate my birthday in Bali.
On 2 November, I arrived at check-in in Venice Marco Polo Airport at 2.30PM to board the flight departing at 4PM. At the Qatar Airways check-in desk I was alerted that my passport did not meet the requirements stated by Qatar Airways for entry to Indonesia.

I held an Italian Passport AA3987268, valid until 04 June 2019. As a frequent traveller, my passport did not contain any entirely empty pages, but had space for further entry stamps. With this passport in the same conditions, I had travelled with Qatar Airways from Milan Malpensa, Italy to Katmandu, Nepal on 26 December 2016 returning on 3 January 2017. On this occasion, the Qatar Airways personal at check-in desk at Milan Malpensa did not raise any issues whatsoever in inspecting my passport. In January [protected] January) I travelled from Luton Airport, London to Tel Aviv, Israel and again did not experience any issues at check-in or immigration. I travelled numerous times within the EU. Most recently, I flew with partner airline British Airways from Heathrow, London to New York, USA on 10 October returning on 15 October 2017. On this occasion, prior to departure I went through a special passport screening and the personal at check-in did not raise any issues with my passport and neither did immigration in the US. My passport was confirmed to be in full validity by the Italian Police when I had to report the problem experienced on departure on 2 November.

I hold a flying club membership [protected] with partner airline British Airways since 23 January 2007. As a frequent traveller, I had done a thorough research checking the site for the immigration authorities of Indonesia as well as the requirements stated by the Italian State on Farnesina website. Pleas see links to webpages here and in attachment:

On all of these official websites the requirements stated are:

- Passport Validity of at least 6 months from the date of departure from Indonesia
- Return ticket

The same requirements are stated in the card I was handed upon arrival at Denpasar Airport, which I include in attachment.

Please note that the same conditions are reported on Qatar Airways under VISA and Passport information. I include this as attachment. No mention is made here for half a page empty on the passport and a sum of 1, 000 USD.

On arrival at Qatar Airways check-in desk at Marco Polo airport, I was advised by Qatar Airways personal that my passport did not meet the necessary requirements for entry to Indonesia. This came as a shock to me.
I was advised later on from your personal that Qatar Airways requires that one should have HALF a page empty on their passport and a sum of 1, 000 USD or a credit card. There is no mention of this on the conditions stated on the official channels and Qatar Airways own website. A member of the personal, named Sebastiano, proceeded to contact via email Qatar Airways personal in Denpasar. He took a picture of the first page of my passport, saying that for time constraints he would not be able to take a photo of every page on the passport and sent it with the communication that my passport was ‘full'.
Unsurprisingly the response from Denpasar was that my passport was not eligible for entry.
I would like to raise my first point to say that:
1- in order to check validity of my passport, the information should have been sent to the immigration authorities, not Qatar Airways personal.
2- complete information should have been provided. A full scan or images of passport pages should have been sent, rather than the message that my passport was ‘full'.

I invite Qatar Airways to verify the correspondence, which to me is biased, and I would like to see a copy of the email correspondence.

I was denied boarding on the plane and, only upon my request, handed by Sebastiano a card with my e-ticket number and itinerary. I had to ask him what I should be doing. Only then, he instructed me to call Qatar Airways contact centre in Italy so that they could put my booking on hold and resume it once I had resolved the issues with my passport. At the time, I was not informed of any fees the might be applied for this procedure. I immediately called the centre and spoke with costumer service operator called Andrea and put my flight on hold. The personal was courteous during this time, but they failed to address the situation thoroughly by

1- communicating all the necessary information to Denpasar and the immigration authority
2- communicating all the necessary information to the costumer

I needed to get to Indonesia as soon as possible to be able to begin my training on 6 November. I therefore proceeded straight from the airport to the Police Authority and made a new passport, which was given to me overnight by the kind intervention of the Questore in person. I returned to the airport immediately the morning of 3 November to make arrangements for my flight. Again on this occasion, Qatar fell short of their reputation as a 5 star airline.
I spoke with Chiara Castelli, Airport Services Duty Officer and again with her colleague Sebastiano. I reported at the time the discrepancy between the information provided by the official Indonesia immigration website, Qatar Airways own website and the requirements I was presented with at check-in.
The personal were courteous and confirmed that there were seats available on the flight leaving that day and that I would have to return again to the airport to the ticket office to make the change. They also said that they would do everything possible to waive any fees.

When I returned to the airport at 12.30 pm, there was a problem with opening the booking system since the person in charge of the ticketing desk could not locate the log-in username and password for the system. This went on for longer than half an hour, by which point I called the costumer service and was put on hold (I had tried unsuccessfully to call this number in the morning but I was put on hold for over 30 mins and could not get through). I finally reached Andrea while the person at the ticketing desk was still trying to locate the username and password. This was an extremely stressful situation for me, since I was meant to simply make a change to the ticket and return to pick up my luggage. Time was passing by and nothing was being resolved in a situation where all systems were dysfunctional. Again, this is extremely poor customer service.

Finally by 2pm I was able to rebook my ticket. When it came to calculate the ticket price for rebooking, I was told that no fees could be waived and was asked to pay a sum of 649.52 €, which is close to the sum I had paid originally for my return ticket. At that moment, I had no choice but to pay in order to be able to take a flight on that day and arrive in Denpasar. The delays occurred in starting the computer and the booking system together with the delays on Qatar costumer service line meant that I had to leave the airport before even picking up my ticket to rush and grab my suitcase and return for boarding by 3pm.

I would like to raise a complaint on 2 grounds:
1 - The requirements made by Qatar Airways at the moment of check-in differ from Qatar Airways own website and the official channels. Qatar Airways personal at check-in desk did not send complete information to their correspondent in Indonesia to check my eligibility for travel.

I brought my annulled passport with me to Indonesia and showed it to the immigration authorities on arrival. I also checked with Immigration experts and Visa services Highway Bali Consulting Services in Ubud, where I am taking the Yoga Teacher Training. I shared my experience with the organisers of Radiantly Alive, who sees trainees from all over the world flying to Bali for the training and they never experienced a situation such as mine.

Italy has an agreement with Indonesia for a visa waiver scheme for tourist visits up to 30 days.
Now, my travel dates were from 2 November 2017, arriving in Denpasar on 3 November 2017 and departing Denpasar shortly after midnight on 5 December 2017, which makes a total of days in Indonesia 33.

As an Italian national with a passport valid for more than 6 months from date of departure from Indonesia I could have had several options that did not require a VISA or space on my passport for this.
- change my return ticket so that my stay would be equivalent to 30 days.
- Enter the country with a VISA exemption for tourist visit for 30 days and pay a fine for 300, 000 IDR for the extra 4 days = 1, 200, 000 IDR equivalent to 75€. This is customary procedure for visitors who are exceeding their stay by a few days.
- book a flight out of Indonesia that would break my stay in the country in 2 periods fewer than 30 days.

As I have seen on other passports, the stamp for entry and exit to Indonesia can be applied on the same page as other stamps. Instead, I was forced to get a new passport overnight, losing nearly 2 years of validity of my passport expiring on 4 June 2019 and spend over 120 € for a new passport.

I am aware that if a traveller is denied entry in the country of arrival, the airline can be fined. In dealing with my situation, not only Qatar personal did not verify information correctly and did not communicate with the immigration authorities, the airline served their own interest without considering the costumer.

2 - Poor customer service.
I chose Qatar Airways over other airlines offering the same route, such as Emirates, because of its excellent customer service and its affiliation with British Airways with whom I fly frequently. In dealing with my situation, I found the service appalling. Although the staff was courteous in dealing with my case, I found their preparation lacking and the way that they dealt with my case extremely poor. From the fact that the grounds on which I was denied boarding were not verified appropriately to the fact that when I left the check-in desk I was not made aware that there would be a fee for placing my booking on hold and boarding the next available flight. To the fact that, when I needed to rebook my flight the personal could not remember their log in and password to access the booking system and lost over 30 minutes in the process. Each time I tried to connect with Qatar Airways costumer service phone number I was always put on hold for close to or longer than half an hour. All of these things do not reflect an airline that praises itself for bring a 5 star airline.

As you realise, the 4 November was my birthday and I had planned to arrive in Bali on 3 November to have the day to celebrate. I also needed to fly into Indonesia for the start of my training for which I had already paid 3, 900 USD in attendance fees. As a consequence of what happened, I missed celebrating my birthday and had to endure a lot of stress in trying to resolve the situation and arrive in Bali at least in time for the beginning of the training.

I am now half way through the training with 32 other students. I have been sharing my experience with my fellow students and Radiantly Alive teacher training staff, who train hundreds of students each year from all over the world. All were unaware of the requirement to have ‘half' an empty page on their passport and holding 1, 000 USD at time of arrival. I have many years of travel experience holding an international position at a reputed company in the UK, this was definitely a great learning opportunity for me and for those who I have and will be sharing with. What I've learnt from sharing my experience is how many people are unaware of this. I will be posting my experience on Facebook and reaching out to new sources in the UK and Italy upon my return to educate others so they don't have to go through the experience I did. Not only was it extremely stressful and time consuming, but I incurred very high costs that were unplanned. I was fortunate enough to have the funds to manage the unexpected costs, other travellers who are in good conscience with a valid passport may not be. The least Qatar Airways can do is to refund the amount I was charged 649.52 €.

I am extremely disappointed in Qatar Airways for hoe they dealt with my situation. As I stated above, Qatar Airways customer service falls short of their slogan ‘5 star airline'. In fact I have never experienced such poor customer service with other reputable airlines I have travelled with in the last 10 years. I will no longer be recommending Qatar Airways to family, professional colleagues and friends after this appalling customer experience.

I am requesting that my case is investigated and that the fee applied by Qatar Airways for the sum of 649.52 € is refunded. I look forward to your timely response and welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter via email.

Yours Sincerely,

Silvia Sgualdini

  • Updated by SS74 · Dec 28, 2017

    Dear Ms. Sgualdini,

    Thank you for having taken the time in writing to us.

    We are sorry to learn that you were not able to travel on QR126/02nd November 2017 from Venice to Doha as originally planned due to your travel document.

    Please allow us to clarify that whatever information provided to customers is according to the Travel Information Manual (TIMATIC) and it is our responsibility to ensure our passengers arrive at their destination without problem and we will not take any chance to put them at risk in being refused to land by the destination authorities.

    For your information, all airlines have access to the TIMATIC system through their check-in systems to double check the requirements of every country in the world. The TIMATIC gets monthly updates from the relevant government departments globally and regrettably, it states that Italian nationals visiting Indonesia can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum of 30 days if their passport contains at least half an unused visa page, which it appears that your passport did not have, on the date of your planned departure.

    Kindly allow us to share that in the conditions of carriage, passengers hold the full responsibility to ensure that they carry the correct documentations for the countries they are intending to visit.

    We are sorry for any inconvenience that you may have experienced but trust you will understand that our staff was just complying with the regulations as stated in the TIMATIC. Report received from the station indicates that assistance was even provided by contacting Denpasar for an exceptional approval, which was unfortunately, declined by the local immigration authority.

    We appreciate your understanding and this opportunity to respond.

    Yours sincerely,

    Edgardo Perez

    Customer Care Officer

  • Updated by SS74 · Dec 28, 2017

    Dear Mr Perez,

    thank you for your reply.
    Although I sent documentation in attachment, your answer does not seem to address my complaint. As outlined in my email, I did carry out the necessary research in regards to holding the correct documentation for entry to Indonesia consulting the immigration authorities websites and the Italian government requirement as well as Qatar Airways visa and passport requirements for my nationality and country I would be visiting. It goes without saying that if such information had been available I would have complied. I’d like to point out that Italian nationals on a 30 day tourist visit to Indonesia are EXEMPT from visa, as per visa exemption agreements between the two countries. Please refer to the attachment I sent.

    Could you kindly explain why the check-in personal has access to information that is not reported on Qatar Airways website in the visa and passport requirement section? I do think this is a failure on the airline part to give their costumers full and correct information.

    Your email does not address my request to see the email correspondence between Qatar Airways Marco Polo personal Sebastiano and Qatar Airways in Denpasar. To my knowledge the immigration authorities were not contacted.

    Further to this, your email response does not address my complaint in regards to the level of costumer service received throughout my experience, which I have detailed at length. A ‘5 star airline’ would certainly place their costumer satisfaction first in their priorities. The incomplete information provided at check-in regarding fees connected with rebooking, the long waiting time at costumer service phone line, the system failure and incompetence of airport personal do not reflect well on your company.

    I would appreciate if you could address my points and if Qatar could make amend to the shortcomings in dealing with my situation.

    Kind Regards,

    Silvia Sgualdini

  • Updated by SS74 · Dec 28, 2017

    Dear Ms. Sgualdini,

    Thank you for coaching us again.

    We regret to learn that you remain disappointed with our response.

    Please allow us to inform you that we base our response from the relevant reports received from concerned departments.

    The reports indicate that the ground staff on duty did his utmost to seek an exceptional approval from the local immigration in Indonesia, however, was declined by the Indonesian immigration chief on duty.

    We are further concerned to learn of your feedback relating to the service level you received and how the situation was handled by our airport team in Venice which you feel did not reflect the kind of service we strive to achieve.

    We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused and if we did not meet your expectations on this occasion. Rest assured that we have shared your report to the relevant departments for their attention and for probable necessary steps to be taken to ensure that these areas of our services will be improved.

    Please allow us to mention the report received from the station which indicates that since your ticket had a discounted fare and not published in the airport reservations system, assistance from Qatar Airways contact center was required to rebook your new itinerary. It was also confirmed that there were some issues with the ticket desk system at the airport which consequently affected the service provided.

    The report also states that the EUR15.00 service fee collected for rebooking at the airport was also waived as a kind gesture.

    We have noted your concern why our check in personal has access to information that is not reported in our website in the visa and passport requirement section. Kindly allow us to reiterate that the TIMATIC gets regular updates from the relevant government departments and the information in our website may include the general information on travel documents required by our customers.

    It is always recommended to our customers to seek assistance from the respective embassies/consulates of the the countries they are visiting.

    In conclusion, we certainly could not underestimate the inconvenience that this unfortunate incident may have caused you. However, as mentioned earlier, the full responsibility to hold the proper documents required for travel lies solely on the passengers.

    We appreciate your understanding and hope that your next travel will have a more pleasant experience.

    Yours sincerely,

    Edgardo Perez
    Customer Care Officer

  • Updated by SS74 · Dec 28, 2017

    Dear Mr Perez,

    Thank you for your detailed response and understanding of my unique situation.

    I was not aware that the ground staff in Venice contacted the immigration authorities in Indonesia. I was told by Mr Sebastiano that he contacted the Qatar Airways staff at Denpasar, not the immigration authorities. As I explained in my previous email, the information that was transmitted regarding my case was not complete. I have asked to see a copy of this correspondence but my request has not been addressed in your response.

    I did appreciate the 15 euro fee being waived. I have been extremely understanding of the poor service I received and I adhered to everything I was asked to do by Qatar Airways personnel. Again, I was not made aware by the check-in representative Mr Sebastiano that I would incur in ANY fees in rebooking my ticket. I had to ask for a copy of my ticket and e-ticket number and was simply told to call the Costumer Service number to rebook. As stated in my previous email I was requested to pay 649.52 €. I would appreciate if you could give me a breakdown of this fee. I understand that tickets in the same category of the one I had purchased were not available but I was told that a further fee had been applied to the ticket change. The response I received does not touch upon my request to reimburse this fee. The cost I had to incur I am sure for an award-winning airline is very little. However, for me, it was a significant amount of money. As a gesture of good will, I am sure you will appreciate that 15 € is approximately 2% of the additional cost I had to incur.

    Had Qatar Airways published on their website the TIMATIC guidelines you cited, I would take full responsibility for what happened, but as demonstrated from the evidence I submitted this additional information is not made publicly available through Qatar Airways VISA and Passport requirements and neither by the Indonesian Immigration authorities. As a responsible traveller, who has travelled around the world, I do always followed the guidelines published by immigration authorities. As I demonstrated in the evidence provided, my passport was in full validity and was used to travel internationally up until this trip. As I stated, it was checked by special passport immigration control only recently at Heathrow airport ahead of my trip to NY and there were no issues whatsoever with it. Furthermore, I was in Denpasar Immigration office on Wednesday 27 November and I spoke with personnel there who confirmed the requirements being a passport with 6 months validity and a return ticket. The personnel was not aware of the requirement to have 1, 000 USD or an empty passport page as long as there was space to allow for an entry and exit stamp, which my passport did have.

    I would like to ask again, given the fact that I have proven to have done all that was in my possibilities to comply with the immigration authorities for travel requirements to Indonesia and that this additional information was not made publicly accessible by Qatar Airways, and in the light of the several shortfalls in costumer service, that my request for a refund of the fee for 649.52 € I had to pay is considered fully or partially.

    Looking forward to your response.

    Kind Regards,

    Silvia Sgualdini

  • Updated by SS74 · Dec 28, 2017

    Dear Ms. Sgualdini,

    Thank you for writing to us again.

    We have reviewed your complaint thoroughly as well as the pertinent report received.

    As we have already mentioned earlier, it remains the sole responsibility of passengers to obtain the proper travel documents they require for the countries they are visiting. To avoid similar incident in the future, we can only recommend to contact the respective embassies or consulates who are in the best position to advise which travel documents are required.

    We are sorry that due to this incident, you have incurred extra costs in rebooking your tickets. Please allow us to mention that on such occasion, the fare rules, terms and conditions would apply for any changes made in a booking, which could not be waived.

    In this regard, we regret that we are unable to accommodate your request for a reimbursement.

    We appreciate your understanding regarding this matter.

    Yours sincerely,

    Edgardo Perez
    Customer Care Officer

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