A planeload of Qatar Airways passengers spent three days in hotels after their flight was mysteriously cancelled on Sunday – once they’d arrived at the gate to board.
Passengers had checked in smoothly for flight QR915 at Auckland Airport, which was due to leave for Doha, via Adelaide at 6.25pm on 15 May.
However, once at the gate they were told their flight had been cancelled and to make their way back through security to the Qatar check-in desk.
Jeff Howell, who was headed to Europe via Doha for a bike ride through France, told Stuff New Zealand that no information was given as to why the flight had been cancelled.
The group of passengers had to go through New Zealand immigration as if arriving in the country.
“It was a very unusual experience,” said Mr Howell.
Once through, airline staff directed them out of the terminal for a bus to overnight hotel accommodation. Mr Howell ended up at Auckland’s Airedale Boutique Suites.
“No one had any idea what was going on,” he told reporters.
“I guess the other passengers were doing what I was doing most of the night, which was trying to get hold of Qatar Airways to see what was going on.”
Several passengers took to social media saying they could not get hold of Qatar Airways representatives during the first 24 hours, with some saying they had not received any compensation or assistance with food and drink.
“Sister was given NZ$50 (£26) of food vouchers for two days at the Cordis (so can’t afford a sandwich),” tweeted James Brock, whose sister was one of the passengers stranded in Auckland, referring to the city’s five-star Cordis Hotel.
On Monday, Mr Howell says his hotel told passengers they must check out and await another bus, which he assumed would be taking them to the airport.
However they were moved to the President Hotel nearby, where they spent Monday night with no further information on when they might be re-booked onto a new flight.
On Tuesday he was told the passengers would be spending a third night in hotel accommodation, at the President Hotel.
“We’re just kind of holed up here,” he told Stuff.
“No one’s given us any money to buy any food or anything like that. The hotel was generous enough to put breakfast on for us this morning.”
“Now at President Hotel on Victoria Street (substandard),” tweeted fellow passenger Marina Wright, who had bought her ticket through British Airways.
“No comms at all from #QatarAirways @qatarairways. @British_Airways who sold us the ticket as a codeshare informed us that they can’t help. Appalling. No food vouchers. We’re livid,” she added.
“I just assumed from what used to happen in the old days, we would get a food voucher,” said passenger Sharon Chelmis.
Another passenger who did not want to be named told Stuff that, as the hotel they were staying in did not have a restaurant, they were given a $25 (£13) Subway voucher each day.
Meanwhile, communication remained limited. Passenger Adele Fletcher tweeted: “No direct communication from #Qatar. Hotel have told us we have another two nights booked so we assume no flight planned tomorrow either. Please can somebody tell us when we are flying!”
On Tuesday afternoon – nearly 48 hours after their flight was initially cancelled – Mr Howell received an email with a new flight time and an e-ticket, for a service departing at 6.20pm on Wednesday 18 May.
On Twitter, he said that the group of passengers had swapped story on the bus, with one woman collecting names and contact details for a grievance letter to the airline.
At 5.48pm Auckland time, Mr Howell confirmed that the group was boarding their plane to Doha.
The reason for the three-day delay and the poor communication from Qatar Airways staff is as yet unclear.
The Independent has approached Qatar Airways for comment.
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