Qatar Airways is cycle tourist friendly, or so I was assured when booking my flights for Turkey next April. Below are the details of their baggage rules and what I had to go through to confirm them.
My Qatar Airways Experience
Flight: Seoul, South Korea -> Istanbul, Turky
Date: April 2011
Weight Limit: 1 piece, 23kg 7kg carry on an additional 10kg FREE
Packing: Bicycles may be carried as checked baggage or cargo. They must be properly packed in a strong purpose-made cardboard box. Tires should be deflated, pedals removed, and handlebars turned and fixed length ways.
You may not read the whole post, so I just want to say. Make sure that you TAKE A COPY of their SPORTING EQUIPMENT RULES with you to the airport just in case, but you are definitely entitled to 10kg EXTRA FREE – read why below
The Saga to Confirm Free Allowance
If you have flown with a bike before you know what a pain in the ass it can be, especially as most airlines are now charging by the extra kilogram, so you can imagine how happy I was when I came across a link on the Qatar Airways Baggage Rules that said “What if I want to check-in sports equipment?”
Curious, I clicked through and there is was. 10KG FREE. “Surely not,” I thought to myself. “There must be a catch.”
Being the thorough planner that I am, I decided to give the airline a call. I really didn”t feel like a conversation in Konglish (English Korean) so I decided to try the Australian office first.
It should be noted that under normal circumstances that extra 10kg would cost $130 USD ($260 return trip) according to their excess baggage rates. Quite the savings considering the next option was Emirates (see bikes on planes, Emirates) at more than $300 above the Qatar ticket.
Call #1 – Australian Qatar Customer Service
A very polite woman informed me that there would be a $13 USD charge per kilogram over the limit as the sporting equipment limit applied to teams only. Hmmm. That”s not how it read on the website but oh well, I must have read the site wrong. I mulled on this for a day. Why did their website say one thing, but their customer support say another.
I decided to call once more.
Call #2 – Australian Qatar Customer Service
Got a not so nice Australian woman who told me I was wrong and that I shouldn”t be ringing Australia anyway as the flight will originate from Seoul so I should take it up with the South Korea office. I politely asked her if she could please read the website and confirm that what I am reading is wrong. I could hear her grumbling then putting me on hold. Finally she come back and said apparently that is what it says on the website but if you were to fly from Australia Qatar would not let you do this according to her baggage rules that she had in the system. She said that I needed to call head office in Doha, Qatar.
Call #3 – Doha, Qatar Main Office
This was a short call. The lady said she would redirect me to cargo and hang up disconnecting me.
Call #4 & 5 – Doha, Qatar Main Office
Rang back and got the number to the Cargo department, who promptly told me that it was nothing to do with them and I need to ring the main office again as they shouldn”t have sent me there.
Call #6 redirects – Doha, Qatar Main Office
OK, by now I was getting annoyed at being given the run around, and my skype account just charged me another $20 bucks. At one point I began arguing with the lady. I told here that the Qatar website said I could have the free limit and therefore Qatar was false advertising. I asked her to please connect me with someone who I can lay a complaint with. I believe this went on for about 20 minutes, me telling them to read their own website, and them telling me that I was wrong.
Finally I was put on hold. 5 minutes later a very nice gentleman came on the line and said “Sir, I have just taken a look at our site and it looks like you are correct.”
NO SHOCKER THERE, I learned to read English at an early age.
He continued to inform me that if it is on their website then it must be true and therefore legally binding. I asked for a written assurance before I spend $2500 USD (2 tickets) so that I would not have this very same problem at Incheon Airport here in Korea. He then replied that to be honest he didn”t know that this information was on the website until just know. He said that the Qatar website had literally been updated a week or two prior to my phone call and that I should take a copy of the page just in case.
Now I don”t run a multi-million dollar airline, but I”m pretty sure that if there were to be changes in baggage rules, (one of the top reasons customer services are called) you”d think that it would be a good idea to inform your customer service – just sayin.
Long story short, tickets are booked, The girlfriend and I are off to cycle Turkey in a few months and fingers crossed I will be able to write a glowing report of how well we were treated by Qatar Airways.
UPDATE: After the calls I also used there help ticket system for confirmation. Here is a copy of the reply stating that I was reading their website correctly.