8

OK, I will try and stick to the facts to explain this whole situation. I would really appreciate everyone's comments:

  1. Me (Irish passport) my wife (Filipino passport) and 2 year old twins (Irish passports) all live in the UK. My wife has residence here.

  2. We are flying from Manchester to Doha. We're Planning to stay 3 weeks.

  3. As my wife had a UK residence stamp & EEA Family permit visa, we called the UK home office to just verify if she could travel to Qatar without a Visa. They informed us (recorded conversation) that my wife had the same entitlement to me as long as she was traveling with me. I understand now, that our calls should have been straight to the Qatar embassy in London to Verify. We just took it from the UK Home Office as being correct.

  4. We arrive at Manchester Airport. We asked the Qatar Airways check in staff to verify my wife's passport to confirm she is entitled to entry in the state of Qatar.

  5. Check-in staff confirmed everyone is OK with my wife's passport as we board our 8 hour flight to Doha with our 2 year old twins.

  6. We get to Doha and my wife is refused entry at immigration as they say she requires a visa.

  7. Calls are made by Qatar airways to Manchester Airport - Qatar airways admit full responsibility for allowing us to travel when we should not have been allowed to travel.

  8. We have to re-book flights at Doha - Qatar Airways just changed our return flight to get us back on the next available flight.

  9. We had to pay to enter a lounge in Doha airport with our own money, just so we can give our children some rest and food.

  10. We return to Manchester 8 hours later.

  11. The twins' double buggy is missing (still missing to date).

  12. I understand my wife didn't have the correct Visa, as we were given false information by the UK home office. But, they should not have allowed us to board a plane with those checks being done.

  13. If I had known at Manchester airport, I could have made the journey myself with 1 of my children, and I could have processed the Visa for my wife at our hotel in Doha. But, because were not noticed and all allowed to board, I was never given this option.

  14. Are Qatar Airways at fault?

  15. Should all our flights be re-instated?

  16. Are we entitled to compensation?

  17. Should they reimburse our expenses?

This is currently being reviewed by the airline. It would be good to get comments and peoples thoughts.

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    Although the airline should not have allowed you to board, and may have been fined by Qatar for having trasporting you, the responsibility for ensuring you have the right to enter a country is yours, not the airlines. You could try contacting your travel insurer (you do have that?) to see if you can get money back for missed accomodation etc. – CMaster Mar 14 '16 at 13:41
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    I'm sure you're aware, but it deserves mention: The missing buggy is a separate matter, and the question of compensation for the buggy is independent of the question of compensation for the trip. – phoog Mar 14 '16 at 13:59
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    @gavin If you could have traveled alone, then you also presumably could have remained in Doha while your wife returned, reducing your losses. – phoog Mar 14 '16 at 19:43
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    The linked question is NOT a duplicate. This question is regarding BOARDING a flight without a visa. The other question is about BUYING a ticket without a visa. The two are COMPETENTLY different, and have very different (correct) answers. meta.travel.stackexchange.com/questions/3638/… – Doc May 28 '16 at 6:36
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    As you mentioned , your first mistake was asking UK home office for Visa entry information. VISA stipulations, exceptional cases (like yours) & visa exemptions are all defined & understood best by the Nation of Concern; Entry or Passage (Transit Visas); hence must be clarified and guided by their Foreign Ministry/ Office and their consulates/ embassies. It's the equivalent of asking Amazon UK about items to be bought & shipped from Walmart.com. – Alex S Jun 4 '16 at 2:10
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+100

Are Qatar Airways at fault?

Legally, no, other than perhaps for the loss of your buggy though that depends on circumstances you have not detailed.

Should all our flights be re-instated ??

No.

Are we entitled to compensation?

No.

Should they reimburse our expenses?

No.

Airlines hate it when their passengers are refused entry. It can cause significant disruption for them and may even lead to them being fined or losing their licence to fly to a country. However airlines are not responsible for the decisions of Immigration officers. The contract you had with Qatar was for carriage - and carriage is what they provided.

I do not know what the T&C's were at the time you made the contract but at present Qatar's website clearly warns:

Remember that visa requirements can change with little or no notice. It is your sole responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa and meet the local medical requirements. Qatar Airways accepts no liability for your failure to do so.

Get nasty with them and you can expect no quarter. Be nice, polite and respectful and there is a reasonable chance that you might get some concession from them (such as a discounted price for further ticket purchases from them) but this would be a gesture of goodwill on their part as they are under no obligation.

If a visa really was required Qatar will have slipped up in their procedures, so you would have a little 'leverage' but it seems what happened was that whether or not required you were refused admission (no visa perhaps just being an 'excuse').

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    "Qatar airways admit full responsibility for allowing us to travel when we should not have been allowed to travel": while one might think that such an admission implies that Qatar Airways will reimburse the traveler's expenses, the more likely implication is that Qatar Airways will refrain from billing the traveler for the fine that they incurred when traveler was refused entry. – phoog Sep 2 '16 at 4:46
  • Of course I am not sure there was a fine in this case, but it is certainly customary. The US fine seems to start at $3000 per person. I am also sure that there's no legal accountability here, but companies sometimes decide to offer compensation for reasons other than legal liability. – phoog Sep 2 '16 at 5:16
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Just to be clear:

  1. You asked the wrong people for visa requirements. You should have asked the Qatar Embassy; or even queried Timatic (available at most airlines).

  2. The airline check-in staff are not obligated to check your visa status. It is upto you; however as they are fined for carrying inadmissible passengers, they assumed this fine.

  3. The airline was probably fined for their documentary oversight.

Now, you are not entitled to any compensation (except maybe for the buggy, but that would depend on the exact circumstances).

More importantly ... Qatar Airways did not guarantee you entry in Qatar. You are paying Qatar Airways to fly you to Qatar and that they did without issues (again, ignoring the lost buggy here).

So not sure what would be your claim?

Here is a similar situation:

  1. You walk up to a taxi service counter and request a taxi to go from your home to your office.
  2. The taxi service prints a voucher with your destination address, collects your funds, and then redirects you to an available car.
  3. The driver asks to check your ticket stub, once confirmed the destination, drives you to your office.
  4. Once you arrive at the office, you realize you forgot your employee access pass; and are thus refused entry.
  5. You have to hire another taxi to take you home, to collect your employee pass.

Now, does the taxi company owe you a refund for the journey to your office? Should they reimburse you for your trip from the office back?

The situation here is exactly the same.

2

The OP (and wife) are the sole responsible party in the matter of not having the correct travel documents. Their mistake was calling the Home Office instead of the Embassy or Consulate nearest them. The Home Office, like my own State Department do not always have the most current or correct info on foreign countries immigration rules, especially for non-citizens like the wife.

It is not stated what the tickets were. If they were non-refundable then the OP is out the airfare, as they would have lost it anyway if refused boarding. If the tickets were refundable or date changeable, then the OP might be able to argue for compensation since if they had been denied boarding, he could have perhaps changed or cancelled them.

Qatar's responsibility is to the government for allowing the wife to travel to Doha without the proper visa. And the burden of that responsibility is to return the traveler on the next available flight at the airline's expense and potentially to pay a fine.

The OP could perhaps argue for reimbursement of the lounge fee, though it would be more of a courtesy as lounge visits aren't mandatory.

And of course the lost luggage is still covered under baggage rules, since it was checked and they did fly.

One point the OP did not touch on, but which may be guessed. Was the entire party prohibited from entering or just the wife? If the later, can we assume the rest of the family "voluntarily" decided to return with the wife. This "voluntary" choice will likely come into play in any compensation requests, since Qatar could claim the three Irish passport holders could have stayed and done the trip.

  • I don't know about this - they weren't denied boarding, the ticket has already been used (not sure what would be the refund for). If it was a return ticket, then the OP is liable for any change of itinerary fees. Qatar Airlines has no responsibility to the government of Qatar; because Qatar Airlines doesn't guarantee entry into Qatar. They can do a check, but they do that only because they are subject to penalties by the government. – Burhan Khalid Sep 4 '16 at 16:47
  • @pnuts - Had the airline denied boarding as it should have AND the tickets were changeable, then perhaps the OP could have rescheduled to allow his wife time to get a visa. Hence my statement. – user13044 Sep 5 '16 at 1:01
  • @BurhanKhalid - Qatar Airlines has the same responsibility as any other airline flying, to make sure the traveler has the proper documents to apply for entry into the destination. It doesn't matter who owns the airline. Perhaps the money comes out of one pocket and into the other, but it is still a "fine" if imposed. And perhaps the government applies double standards allowing Qatar to get off the hook, but it is still responsible. – user13044 Sep 5 '16 at 1:06
  • @pnuts - The OP is asking about compensation. The OP bears the burden of responsibility for the foul up, but Qatar shares a small portion for their mistakes in checking documents. Thus his only angle for possible compensation IS the aspect that had Qatar staff done their job correctly, that he could perhaps have rescheduled. – user13044 Sep 5 '16 at 1:16
  • @pnuts - regarding the "one pocket to the other" - this is not how government (or any other conglomerate for example P&G operates). – Burhan Khalid Sep 5 '16 at 5:50
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Although the airline should not have allowed you to board, and may have been fined by Qatar for having trasporting you, the responsibility for ensuring you have the right to enter a country is yours,

I agree with CMaster , anyway I suggest you :

  1. Write a strong complain to Qatar airways
  2. If you do not have any response , send it again thought a lawyer

I'm sure that is possible to have a full refund of the flight tickets including the expenses. If it's true what wrote CMaster it's true also that you had all the long list of issues due to a negligence of Qatar airways in Manchester . Then do not hesitate to start a legal action against the company , because I think that anyway you could have a strong chance to get back the money spent to buy your ticket .

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    How do they have a right to a refund if they bear the responsibility for having visas? – phoog Mar 14 '16 at 14:00
  • A refund is not due, unless their tickets were refundable. If the tickets are non-refundable they would have been forfeit if they been prohibited from flying due to the visa issue. So they would lose either way there. If by chance they were refundable, then perhaps they argue for some form of refund. – user13044 Mar 14 '16 at 14:08
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    Tom , Yes it's true , but not completely in this case. The customer was subjected to more expenses and a strong stress because there was a mistake at the check in , and that it clear because the customer got the flight . Qatar airways have a skilled customer support and they usually try to solve a complain in a positive way . That 's my point of view , in 20 years of experience as an Iata agent. – Patrizio La Rosa Mar 14 '16 at 14:26
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    @PatrizioLaRosa Qatar Airways can decide to issue a refund as a business decision for the purpose of maintaining good will, and the customer is certainly to be advised to pursue that, but that's not the same as having a legal right to a refund. If the customer demands a refund based on a perceived right there's a far smaller chance of success than if the customer requests a refund based on the argument that the ground staff did not follow airline policy. – phoog Mar 14 '16 at 14:53

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