Photo review of Qatar Airways flight from Johannesburg to Doha in Business
This is the ninth report in a series covering my trip to Europe and Africa around New Year's. The trip involved three nested itineraries (which turned into four). A OneWorld roundtrip itinerary from the US to Milan, a Tunisair roundtrip itinerary from Milan to Tunis, Tunisia, and a Star Alliance roundtrip itinerary from Tunis to Windhoek, Namibia. The return portion of the Star Alliance itinerary would turn into a one-way itinerary on Qatar Airways due to South African Airways delays (hot weather), horrible customer service by South African Airways and United Airlines, and a cancellation of the remainder of the Star Alliance itinerary. I submitted a claim to World Nomads travel insurance for the Qatar Airways ticket I had to buy because I had faced a 24 hour delay by Star Alliance. World Nomads rejected the claim (as well as my appeal). According to them, they're off the hook unless the "common carrier" is completely shut down for 24 hours due to weather or a labor strike. The verbiage in the policy doesn't include "common carrier" though. It's ridiculous to think that if your airline operated any flight anywhere in the world during your 24 hour delay, World Nomads wouldn't have to honor the contract. I submitted a complaint to the California Department of Insurance, but they don't actually do anything besides forward the information to the insurance company, who had already ruled on it anyway. I filed a small claims lawsuit against Trip Mate, which administered the plan, and the trial date is set for October 24th; so stay tuned for that. I can't recommend using World Nomads travel insurance. I've bought five travel insurance policies through them. This is the first time I made a claim and it has not been a smooth process.
The OneWorld itinerary was an open jaw from Chicago to Milan in Economy, and Milan to San Diego in Business. The total cost was 63,000 AAdvantage miles and $84.10. Normal cost would be 70,000 miles (20,000 for the outbound in Economy and 50,000 for the inbound in Business). However, I was able to get 10% back thanks to my Citi AAdvantage MasterCard.
The roundtrip cost for the Tunisair ticket was $182.48, bought through Vayama.
The roundtrip cost for the business class Star Alliance ticket was 70,000 United MileagePlus miles and $135.00. On the surface, this is an incredible value. However, as I'll explain later, my faith in Star Alliance has been completely shattered and I don't think I'll ever take advantage of this intra-Africa MileagePlus fare again.
———- Tunis to Milan Malpensa (Tunisair Economy): No Show
——————– Johannesburg to Doha (Qatar Airways Business): You Are Here ——————– Doha to Milan Malpensa (Qatar Airways Business)
—– Milan Malpensa to Miami (American Airlines Business) —– Miami to Chicago O'Hare (American Airlines First) —– Chicago O'Hare to San Diego (American Airlines First)
I had typed up this trip report about a week ago, but the next time I logged in, everything was gone. After discussing with Kévin, my theory is that the report never got saved in the first place and there was some browser problem that was erroneously showing me the green bar that indicated the report was saved. In any event, I suggest saving your reports in a text editor every so often while you're writing. I don't have the patience to rewrite the whole thing with a narrated storyline within all the pictures, so I'll give you the abbreviated version of what happened in Jo'burg (edited from my complaint to United) and then present the pictures all together. . .
My flight leg from Johannesburg to Lagos on 07 January 2016 was delayed 2 hours, 15 minutes, late enough to cause a misconnect in Lagos. There is only one flight per day from Lagos to Istanbul. The first agent I spoke with actually suggested that I go to Lagos even though I explained I would misconnect. Upon pressing further, South African Airways told me that they could not edit my itinerary to resolve the issue because it was a United Airlines award ticket. Upon calling United Airlines, multiple customer service representatives from the United States and Philippines told me that they would not rectify the situation and modify my itinerary because it was South African Airways' fault for the flight delay and their responsibility to solve the problem. However, they didn't have the ability edit my itinerary. A South African Airways agent spoke on the phone with two United Airlines agents in the United States to explain the situation and neither would help. The second became extremely rude with the South African agent, causing her to remark afterwards, "I love America, but some Americans are just so arrogant!" The entire episode was extremely embarrassing for me (in addition to the frustration I was already experiencing). With no solution available, I called United Airlines customer service again and requested the rest of the itinerary be cancelled and the award miles refunded. The United Airlines agent (Philippines) informed me that I would receive a redeposit of 35,000 miles within "42" hours, kind of a random length of time. I then bought a one way ticket out of Johannesburg on Qatar Airways. Of course, the miles didn't show up in my account as promised. I submitted a refund request online on 14 January 2016 then called on 15 January 2016 and finally on 16 January 2016 the miles were redeposited into my account. On 20 January 2016 I received an email from United saying that the redeposit occurred on 08 January 2016. I had the miles in my account at this point, but it was inaccurate to say the redeposit occurred on 08 January 2016. As sloppy as the refund process was, it was far worse being hung out to dry by United while I was overseas and facing the prospect of being stranded in Nigeria. The disorganization and lack of connectivity between Star Alliance carriers has significantly damaged the value I assign to MileagePlus miles.
Cabin crew 9.5
Bidvest Premier Lounge
Johannesburg - JNB
Doha - DOH
Overall, this was a very strange experience for me. It started under horrible circumstances facilitated by United and South African Airways and ended with probably the greatest flight of my life. Qatar's hard product on the 787-8 is incredible, but they're soft product is what really sets them apart. The crew makes you feel like royalty. The final chapter of this experience hasn't been written yet though as we wait to see how my lawsuit against Trip Mate turns out.
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