My brother, his wife, and their young son were denied boarding when they flew to Botswana for our mother’s funeral in December. Now Qatar airlines refuses to refund the flight they missed or the new one they booked to access the service. My brother’s wife is a citizen of the Philippines and was eligible for a two-week visa issued upon arrival in Botswana. They were traveling with all the documentation that Botswana immigration officials had advised would be necessary.
Qatar Airways, however, was unaware of its port of entry visa issuance system, introduced in 2019. When the check-in staff refused to accept the documents, my brother called the destination airport authorities on Maun and they emailed a sealed letter confirming the arrangements. They even offered to speak to Qatari staff, but this was declined. Only after receiving e-mailed letters from the Botswana Deputy Director of Immigration and the Consul General did the airline agree to let the family travel.
At this point, their original flight had departed and they were directed to buy new tickets. To their horror, they discovered that they had been marked “no-shows” for the outbound flight, so they were not entitled to a refund, and their return tickets had been canceled. They had to ask their relatives to help fund the £ 3,037 for new tickets Garborone airport, a day’s bus ride from Maun, and they were assured they could claim on their return. However, Qatar Airways has flatly refused.
In recent years, airlines have been forced by legislation to become de facto border control agents and can face punitive sanctions if they transport passengers who lack the required documentation. Given this, I would expect that they would have easy access to the visa requirements of the countries they are flying to. The check-in staff appear to have been remarkably nonchalant, letting his brother test the Botswana visa process and then rejecting the official confirmation.
Since your sister-in-law was traveling on a Philippine passport, it is possible to excuse the airline for insisting on additional checks; what is unacceptable is their refusal to refund the original fare or substitute tickets once they were found to have the correct documentation. Qatar’s response loses its meaning. “We always ask customers to make sure their documents are in order before flying, as required by the authorities,” he says. “Unfortunately, in this case, we did not receive a formal confirmation on visa status from immigration officials until after the flight was closed for boarding.”
In fact, the documentation was in order and confirmation was provided before the flight departed. Qatar still refuses to refund the replacement tickets, but will refund the £ 2,226 his brother paid for the original flight.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism