A few months ago, I booked a very good value Qatar Airways fare from Amsterdam to Tokyo (via Doha) in business class.
This morning, I got a notification from the excellent MyFlights tool that there had been a significant schedule change with the flights from Amsterdam to Doha.
My original schedule was this:
QR276 AMS DOH depart 22.35 arrive 05.50 + 1 day QR812 DOH HND depart 07.00 arrive 22.40 QR813 HND DOH depart 00.01 arrive 05.50 QR275 DOH AMS depart 15.10 arrive 21.00
This then changed to the following:
QR274 AMS DOH depart 16.40 arrive 00.05 + 1 day QR812 DOH HND depart 07.00 arrive 22.40 QR813 HND DOH depart 00.01 arrive 05.50 QR273 DOH AMS depart 07.45 arrive 13.40
As you can see, the return journey is much better. We previously had a ten hour layover in Doha and that’s now reduced to under two hours. Additionally, the Qatar Airways flight arrived into Amsterdam too late to connect to a service back to London (or Gothenburg where my travelling companion lives). This part of the change is a net positive as we now don’t need the expense of a hotel overnight in Amsterdam and can connect back home.
However the outbound is a pain. That’s seven hours hanging around in Doha just when your body clock says go to sleep.
In addition, I had already booked positioning flights to and from Amsterdam. However for precisely this reason, I had used Avios, rather than booking a revenue fare. The key thing about Avios tickets is that they are flexible until 24 hours to departure meaning you can change free of charge on BA.com as long as there is availability in the right booking class.
Thankfully I’m not travelling until the end of September and flights are wide open between London and Amsterdam. One of my friends wasn’t so lucky. He’d booked non-changeable, non-refundable Club Europe tickets with British Airways only last week.
Which brings me to my first piece of advice – schedule changes happen. If you’re positioning from another country, make sure your plans are flexible. Using frequent flier miles is a great way to do this.
So my friend that had booked the Club Europe positioning flights called Qatar Airways and asked to be moved from the Haneda flight, to the Narita flight. This would have reduced his connection in Doha from seven to two hours, however on the first call Qatar refused to make the change. My advice to him was HUACA (Hang up and call again).
I myself tried to call the UK number. The call dropped after 40 minutes on hold, then only my second attempt dropped after 30 minutes on hold. Not great. So I decided to call the US freephone number when they opened at 13.00 UK time using Skype, getting straight through.
My next tip with situations like this is do your research. Know what you want before you call, and give them the exact itinerary you’re after.
In my case, the ideal would be to depart from and end in London, which in geographical terms is actually very close to Amsterdam. So that’s what I asked for, including asking for the QR007/008 flights, which have their new Q-Suite product.
After a few taps and consulting with their helpdesk, “no problem, sir, let me just re-issue that ticket for you”.
Schedule changes happen. Especially if you book a long way in the future. If you’re positioning from another country, it’s really important to be flexible.
However they can work to your advantage. With changes like this it actually gives you a lot of options. Had I wanted to, I could have cancelled for a full refund.
However in the end, I got flights from my home airport, no positioning required and removed the need for an extra overnight stay. That’s about as good as you can get.