Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 29 May 2020

Qatar Airways passengers left frustrated in Abu Dhabi

Dozens of people crowded around the office entrance attempting to refund or rebook their tickets, with staff only allowing the most urgent of cases inside.
Passangers with flights book on Qatar Airways queue at the airline's Dubai office. Duncan Chard / National
Passangers with flights book on Qatar Airways queue at the airline's Dubai office. Duncan Chard / National

ABU DHABI // Frustrated Qatar Airways customers vented their anger outside the airline’s Abu Dhabi office on Tuesday after flights between the countries were suspended.

Dozens crowded around the door to get refunds or rebook tickets, but staff allowed only the most urgent of cases inside.

There were similar scenes at the airline’s Dubai office, with dozens of customers queuing in the midday heat.

But in the capital, even those who had bookings for that day said they were made to wait outside the branch, which had its window blinds closed.

Sinziana Tubac showed up with her luggage after being turned away from her flight at the airport.

“The way they are dealing with customers now is despicable,” said Ms Tubac, who had planned to fly home to Romania through Doha yesterday evening.

“Not one email or phone call to let me know. I had to be told my flight was cancelled and to come down here by an Etihad Airways employee at the airport because there was no one working for Qatar there.”

Ms Tubac, 32, said she would not book with the airline again.

“It used to be one of my favourites and I have had good experiences with them,” she said. “But I am very annoyed about the situation. They have to deal with it better than this.”

Another customer who was told to come back tomorrow said this was the first and last time he would book with the airlines.

“I usually book on Etihad but this time of year the tickets are expensive so I decided to give it a go,” said Schalk Wessels, 50, who made his booking home to South Africa the day before the UAE cut diplomatic ties with Qatar.

“I was surprised it happened so quickly but next time I will just pay more,” said the Abu Dhabi resident who had planned to return home for a short visit later in June.

Mr Wessels said he was surprised to see people arguing outside the office and cars double parked in front of the building.

“You don’t expect this, not here,” he said.

Hundreds of Qataris and other passengers in transit at Muscat airport in Oman were also stranded on Tuesday.

Oman Air has been flying Qataris — who were stuck for hours at the transit lounges — back to Qatar since Monday evening and will continue to do so on Tuesday, officials at Muscat International Airport said. Qatar Airways on Tuesday also helped take some of the load.

“We have served about 350 iftars to Qataris whose flights have been affected by the flying embargo in the last two days,” Nasser Al Ghaithy, a duty official at Muscat airport told The National.

“Those we could not find alternative flights for we put up in hotels. But apart from the Qataris other passengers from different countries are stranded as well.”

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt suspended all flights to and from Qatar as of Tuesday morning.

Hours later, Qatar Airways announced it had halted all flights to the four countries in the wake of the diplomatic boycott.

The airline, which flies to nine cities in Saudi Arabia, stopped all flights to Saudi Arabia from noon on Monday. A spokeswoman said it was unclear if the suspension would be extended.

Qatari national Khalid Al Fulaiti had flown in from India and was in transit in Muscat awaiting his onward flight to Saudi Arabia only to learn it was cancelled.

“I was going to Saudi Arabia for Umrah but now need to turn back. It is frustrating and stressful especially if you consider it is Ramadan,” Mr Fulaiti said.

Syed Rahman, a Pakistani national, was unable to take his connecting Qatar Airways flight from Muscat to Jeddah via Doha.

“I have to wait for an available Oman Air flight or any other airline to get to Saudi Arabia. I have run out of cash but Muscat airport has provided free meals,” Mr Rahman said, visibly upset. “Hopefully I will get out of Oman in the next six hours or so.”

At Hamad airport in Doha, terminals and drop-off areas were deserted.

“This is the emptiest airport I’ve ever been in,” said Katie, who was travelling to Thailand. “It’s exceptionally quiet, almost eerie.”

With more than 30 Qatar Airways flights cancelled to and from Doha, there were neither traffic jams at departures where travellers are dropped off nor queues for taxis to pick up arriving passengers.

Inside, a calm air of weary resignation took hold. Passengers gazed at information screens inside the terminals with amusement and pointed at cancelled flights to and from destinations across the Gulf, including Jeddah, Dammam and Dubai.

For most passengers, the experience was one of bemusement. “I have never seen it like this,” said a civil engineer from India who was travelling home to New Delhi.

“It’s crazy. I hope the crisis will finish soon.”

Downstairs in the arrivals hall, Jaffa, a taxi driver from the Philippines who picks up passengers every day, said: “I’ve never seen so few people here.”

tsubaihi@thenational.ae

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

Updated: June 6, 2017 04:00 AM

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