The biggest nightmare when putting together a trip with multiple sectors is having a schedule change. Airlines moving flight times around can put other flights on separate bookings in jeopardy. Last year I booked flights in May in the Qatar Airways flash sale to Auckland. My travel dates were for April 2017 so I booked around 11 months in advance. None of the flights had a schedule change by December so I booked connecting flights.
As luck would have it, as soon as I had my connecting flights in place, I was notified of a schedule change. Eventually all four flights had a change in schedule. Seeing no issue, I pressed the Confirm button in Manage My Booking on the web site.
Qatar Airways offer a free hotel for passengers with connections in Doha over 8 hours. This is referred to as STPC in airline circles which is short for Stopover Paid by Carrier. My hotel was already reserved through the airline however the schedule change meant that particular connection was under 8 hours. This made me ineligible for a hotel paid by the carrier.
There are various options open at this point. I could spend the time in Qatar’s Al Mourjan lounge patiently eating and surfing the Internet through the wee hours of the morning. Alternatively there is an airside transit hotel available at the airport for around €220 which looks very nice.
My fare was very cheap and I wanted to continue the money saving so I decided I would suck it up and wile away the hours in the lounge. A member of FlyerTalk kindly messaged me as he was in the same situation and told me he contacted Qatar Airways and asked for a re-route to a different city with a shorter connection time. I thought this was a good idea.
The UK office is closed outside of business hours so I called the 24 hour office in Qatar. After 12 minutes on hold I was connected to an agent who confirmed I would be ineligible for STPC. A short discussion ensued where I was told that as I had confirmed the time change my only option was to pay €1,400 more to change the routing. He helpfully suggested I get a hotel as it would be cheaper!
Undaunted, I called again the next day and after another 10 minute wait my call was answered. Once again I explained my situation and was advised that I would have to pay. I pointed out that someone I knew had taken advantage of the fact that the airline let you change your destination as long as it is within 500 miles. Of course, I was told as I had clicked confirm in Manage My Booking there was nothing that could be done.
I went on hold for some time while the agent confirmed with a superior and again the answer was no. I firmly and politely explained that I had made no changes to the flights and I would not have clicked confirm had I realised the connection time meant no hotel. The agent went quiet and I could hear him instant messaging another department. After a few minutes he said he had asked the question and was waiting for a response.
Eventually the airline relented and I was permitted to change my final sector at no charge. It means my 7 hour 50 minute layover is now a snappy 1 hour 45 minutes. As I am travelling onwards all I changed was my connecting flights which I managed to do for only €50. A random bonus as an aviation geek is the new flight is on the Airbus A350 – my first. The new connection means a flight is on the Boeing 767-300 – quite possibly my last on this type. Kinda cool!
Changes in flight times are quite common in the airline industry however it pays to take care when accepting the changes. Clearly if you have a point to point booking there is nothing much to consider. On a complicated multiple sector journey please take care to have all the facts to hand before you press confirm in Manage My Booking. Where unsure, telephone the airline and ask your options. Thank you for reading and if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.