‘We were denied boarding by Qatar Airways on a flight to New York due to our Nepali passport’

– Ram Chandra Bhandari

A few days ago, ground staff of Qatar Airways at Terminal 3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi insulted and abused us for no reason, and did not allow us to fly. As a result, my wife and I had to wander for about two days in New Delhi looking for a way to travel. On March 7, 2023, we were scheduled to fly to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport via Doha on Qatar Airways flight number QR571. We reached Row M of Terminal 3 of the airport just in time for check-in, but we couldn’t get to the check-in counter to get our boarding passes for our departure to New York.

As we were in the check-in line, an airline agent stopped us and asked for our passports and airline tickets. We showed him our passport and ticket details. Knowing that we were Nepalese passport holders going to John F. Kennedy Airport and had a layover in Doha, he did not allow us to proceed in the check-in line. He asked us to submit a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi. We told him that our final destination was New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport with a short layover in Doha, so we didn’t need a No Objection Certificate. Then he pulled us out of line.

Until that point, he had not even opened the first page of our passport. Instead of verifying the validity of our passports and whether we had a valid US visa or residency card, he started harassing us with baseless arguments that we could not travel through Qatar to any destination. He then wrote down our passport details in the register on the desk and called another agent, saying “document problem” and handed him our passports. We did not know where and why he took our passports. We were confused and helpless. We begged him politely that we were legal permanent residents of the US and requested to fly to New York, but he did not listen to us. He did not even bother to ask if we had a valid US Resident Permit card.

When we politely asked for suggestions for a solution, he said, “If you are going to fly, go to your embassy and get the No Objection Certificate (NOC). The NOC is not our policy; it is a requirement of your government. We cannot fly without your government’s No Objection Certificate (NOC) under any circumstances. But look, near that toilet, next to the TV screen is your government’s notice.”

He treated us like criminals, and we feel that this agent badly insulted and harassed us.

This airline agent was irresponsible and in violation of the company’s employee code of conduct and air passenger service performance guidelines. Additionally, airline was not following the circular issued by the embassy. He did not check our passport properly. He didn’t even ask us to show our visa or residency card. He didn’t even try to understand us. He did not even consult his supervisor about the situation. He seemed to lack the necessary knowledge and up-to-date information to work as an airline agent. We can say with certainty that he was not following his airline’s customer service guidelines. His disregard for professional dignity, his arrogance, rude behavior, and unprofessional actions put our trip at risk.

At such a stressful moment, we called Qatar Airways customer service. However, the customer service agent who spoke to us did not help us properly. Although there was no fault of ours, the agent at the terminal said that he could not take this flight or any other flight of Qatar Airways without giving a no objection certificate. He also did not try to understand our situation. We requested that he arrange an alternative trip for us so that we could go home. But he said that he could not do that either. He said it was beyond his authority. He said he couldn’t do anything for us except to cancel this flight and book another flight. New tickets will only be available 2 days later. For that, one person has to pay $2900 and an additional cancellation fee.

We had no choice. We were in a state of extreme stress, anxiety, and despair. On March 10th, my wife had an appointment with her doctor at Elmhurst Hospital in New York. She is suffering from type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. The medicine brought for the duration of the pre-determined journey is also running out. The dosage of the medicine had to be adjusted after consulting the doctor after taking the required blood test. Now there is concern that her health may be at risk. Now the only option left for us was to go to Kathmandu and find a way to return home as soon as possible.

On the evening of March 8th, we landed in Kathmandu on a Nepal Airlines flight from New Delhi. On March 9th, we went to the Qatar Airways office in Kathmandu and told them everything that had happened to us at the New Delhi airport. We requested that they provide us with the cheapest possible flight tickets. But we did not receive the support we should have received from them either. They asked us to contact Qatar Airways head office in Doha.

On March 10th, we submitted a request to the head office of Airways in Doha to provide a free return ticket as soon as possible with a detailed description of the incident in Delhi and to take appropriate action against the concerned staff/agent who harassed us without following professional etiquette. We have also submitted all the documents required to be provided along with the application. Despite having submitted all the necessary information, even as the 12th is about to pass today, we have not received any response.

We are still in Kathmandu. The embassy in Delhi has also made it clear that we do not need a NOC. The Embassy issued a circular on February 27th, informing all airlines and all relevant authorities on February 28th, 2023, that US visa or Permanent Resident Permit holders will no longer require a NOC from March 1st, 2023 for passengers transiting through Gulf countries from Indian airports. We have received this information from the embassy.

Due to the rude behavior of the agents of Qatar Airways, we have faced many problems. It has affected many areas of our lives very badly. We request that the agent working with Qatar Airways at the Indira Gandhi International Airport conduct a necessary inquiry and take action against the agent working at Indira Gandhi International Airport and provide us with appropriate compensation at the earliest.