I nearly missed a wedding because of the ‘computer says no’ attitude … – The Telegraph

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Gill Charlton has been fighting for Telegraph readers and solving their travel problems for more than 30 years, winning refunds, righting wrongs and suggesting solutions. 

Here is this week’s question:

Dear Gill,

In July I bought tickets directly from Qatar Airways to fly ­London-Doha-Jakarta-Labuan Bajo (in Indonesia) to attend a wedding in March with my family. Both Qatar and Garuda, which is operating the final leg, have since made schedule changes. 

Qatar sent me new flight timings departing a day later, which don’t work for us as we will miss part of the ­celebrations. I asked to go a day earlier, but the call centre seems unable to ­process my request. I can see that seats are available on Qatar’s website, but its call centre staff – and I have phoned numerous times – claim they aren’t showing on their booking system. It is driving me crazy. Can you help?

– Tom Bunbury

Our reader was heading to a wedding in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia

Credit: Getty

Dear Tom,

Tom sent me his “live chat” ­messages with Qatar sales agents and I could see he was getting nowhere. They were adamant that he could only travel a day later. One suggested that he cancel the tickets and rebook the ­itinerary he wanted himself, but this would cost another £1,000.

As Tom lives in London, I suggested he visit Qatar’s office at Heathrow and speak to someone face-to-face who surely could fix the problem. 

At first it looked promising: a very helpful agent agreed it seemed crazy that his flights couldn’t be moved back a day. She telephoned Doha and also found herself battling against a ­reservations team that didn’t appear to know what needed to be done. 

After 30 minutes of increasing ­frustration, she too gave up and ­dictated an email for Tom to send to head office. The response was yet another can’t-help-you standard letter. 

At this point, I took Tom’s case up with Qatar’s management. Nothing happened for a couple of weeks. Then an email arrived suggesting that if the option he wanted wasn’t available he could request a full refund. 

I sent a chasing email saying it was Qatar’s fault that his original itinerary needed reworking. A few hours later, a Qatar reservations agent called Tom to apologise for failing to resolve what was a simple matter. It took him three ­minutes to reissue the tickets and send Tom a confirmation email.

A spokesman for Qatar said that for issues prior to and during travel, ­customers should call the Contact ­Centre (00974 4144 5555); post-flight they should write to Customer Care at [email protected] for assistance.

Tom’s saga – and those of other ­Telegraph readers who have had ­problems – makes it clear to me that Qatar’s Customer Care is not living up to its name. This is compounded by phone lines full of static and agents whose command of English is poor. Qatar may offer attractive fares to a wide range of destinations, but if it fails to invest sufficiently in its call centres and train its staff, it won’t capture business from its competitors.

Your travel problems solved

Gill takes on a different case each week – so please send your problems to her for consideration at [email protected]. Please give your full name and, if your dispute is with a travel company, your address, telephone number and any booking reference. Gill can’t answer every question, but she will help where she can and all emails are acknowledged. 

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