I dislike Qatar. I dislike how they fund Hamas to shoot rockets at Israel with the hopes of killing innocent civilians. I dislike how they treat millions of migrants as slaves, and allowed thousands of workers to die under inhumane conditions. I dislike how they made a mockery of FIFA — actually no, I’m okay with that one.
Many people have asked me why I went to Qatar, and I think it’s time to come clean; I went out of spite so the country could lose a few hundred dollars.
I always believed that I would never go to Qatar, nor fly on its state-funded airline, Qatar Airways. I’m no activist, but when I learnt that I could cause the country to lose a few hundred dollars, spite got the best of me and I decided to make a quick trip to Doha.
Being a state-created enterprise with the aim of promoting the country, any loss for Qatar Airways is ultimately a loss for the state of Qatar. Qatar Airways runs a promotion where depending on the length of your layover in the country, they will potentially provide up to: a free tour of Doha including admissions to its top attractions, a free hotel, free transportation and food during your stay, and a waived visa fee. The catch – almost all of the flights Qatar Airways sells don’t allow for a layover long enough to be eligible for any of these benefits.
Wanting to take advantage of these offers, I decided that I would fly through Qatar Airways if three conditions were met: I could go to the country without spending any money, I could receive all of their possible benefits and the flight I would be booking would sell out, so the airline would not gain by my purchase.
While booking a flight from Toronto to Myanmar, I discovered that Qatar Airways’ inventory could be manipulated to display hidden itineraries through Google Flights with layovers from 12-36 hours if booked on two separate tickets, long enough to be eligible for any Qatar Airways benefit. Additionally, these flights were being sold for cheaper prices than the normal Toronto — Doha, Doha — Yangon, and Toronto — Yangon routes. Being that my proposed flight date was the day after Christmas, all of my potential flight options were on their way to being sold out.
I decided it was worth it and tried booking my flight through Doha. Being that my flight was unadvertised, it could not be located on Qatar Airways website. I subsequently called the Qatar Airways office and was told that the flight I wanted to book did not exist. After enough complaining, they said that although they were confident that such a flight did not exist, if I entered each flight’s details manually on their website under a multi-destination ticket, maybe I could “create” it. While I was now able to find my proposed flight on their website, when I tried booking it, it told me that it was not a valid flight and could not be processed. Still hoping to make Qatar lose a few hundred dollars, I tried entering the itinerary details through every possibly travel booking site until finally, Expedia let me book my proposed itinerary as two tickets (Toronto to Doha, Doha to Yangon), but under the original cost.
Fast forward to the day before my departure, I try online check-in only to find out that there is an error. Still optimistic, I arrive at the airport to print my boarding pass at the kiosk. This time, the computer tells me that to go forward, I need to enter my Qatari tourist visa, which I don’t have. Still undeterred, I speak to airport staff about my issue, and without hesitation, receive a manually printed boarding pass without a visa number. Off I go!
Many hours later, I arrive in Doha for my 20 hour layover. Everything goes off without a hitch. I get a free visa stamp without a second glance. I am driven directly to my free hotel room, I receive my free tour of the city, and I get vouchers for all of my meals and snacks. 20 hours later, I am taking off for my next flight, without having spent a dollar of my own money in Qatar, but having made sure that the Qatari government lost out on a few hundred dollars.
So please don’t hate me for going to Qatar, I really went with the best of intentions.