Carlos Sanvee, General Secretary Africa YMCA Experience with QATAR AIRWAYS
I had a terrible experience with Qatar Airways. I arrived in Doha at 11:25pm on 14th July, in time to catch a connecting flight to Nairobi. The flight was scheduled for 2:10am that night. I was with two Kenyan friends Jared Musima and Kaptway. We did not have boarding passes for the connecting flight, as we had been told they would be issued in Doha. We were shocked to be told that our flight booking was “standby”. That meant that we would only get seats if someone failed to show up. Never mind that we had booked our tickets 4 months earlier. They also told us that the plane had 3 seats available, but they were business class tickets, and they were still on sale until an hour before take-off, when they will decide to upgrade other people and give us economy seats
We never like uncertainty, and so we made noise the Kenyan way, for two hours. They assured us we would get seats. An hour to take off, they tell us that only two seats were available. They used the word “unfortunately, and sorry”. We became even louder in our noise and demanded to be boarded. 40 minutes to take off, they gave us boarding passes. Seats allocated. On boarding the plane, I went straight to my seat, only to find another passenger, seated. He had been given the same seat as me. One of my two friends also found someone on his seat. The two passengers were “white”. They were of Arabic extraction, as Justice Smokin Wanjala would say. They swore they would not leave their seats.
My friend and I remained on our feet for about 25 minutes as in-flight attendants attempted to resolve the problem. Everyone else seated. But there were two empty seats in Business Class. Ultimately, a decision was made by “ground” staff that the two black men should be given the economy seats and the two whites upgraded. We had no problem with that. My friend was taken to his seat, but the lady occupying the seat said she was not moving. The Kenyan can go seat wherever else a seat was available. So my Kenyan friend is taken to business class and he sits down. That time, I am standing next to the only empty seat in business class. One of the flight attendants goes back to consult. Says this passenger had been on his feet, and the other passenger is seated. Why not give the available seat to the one who doesn’t have a seat? He is told that the black man must go to economy and the Arab must be upgraded. I followed him and observed as we pleaded with the passenger in my seat to accept to move to the business section. He pleaded. The man accepted after a most passionate plea. He moved forward. I took my seat.
But God works in mysterious ways. Just as I was leaving the business section, a lady who was serving water, juice and alcohol wobbled and lost balance, and all that liquid poured out on the only vacant Business Class seat. It was so much water. So much. I pitied the passenger as he moved forward. When he reached the seat, I saw him throw his hands in the air, as he found lots of liquid on the seat. Travelling on wet buttocks isn’t fun, you know! We had started taxiing towards the runway, when I saw my Kenyan friend moving towards the back of the plane. Remember he was already seated in Business Class. Turns out that the “ground staff” had directed that he must be moved back to economy. He took the seat of the lady who had expressly refused to go to Business Class. They had to literally drag her to Business Class.
For the entire fight, my friend and I refused to eat any food or use any cabin services, including the toilets. They pleaded with us but we firmly told them to go serve those the airline considered more human than us. I told them flatly that it was racism. There was no other explanation. Such behavior at this time and age is regrettable and should be stopped. Qatar Airways management and the public needs to hear about this, so help me share this out.