From Maurice Okafor, Enugu
The Leadership Entrepreneurship and Advocacy Network, a Nongovernmental Organization (NGO), has accused Qatar Airlines of extorting Nigerian passengers unnecessarily through it’s ‘Stop over’ programme and called on the National Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to investigate the dirty deals which are to the detriment Nigerian air travellers.
The Executive Director of the group, Mr Chukwuma Okenwa, made the call in Enugu while briefing newsmen on the undiplomatic practice of the airline that extort at least N100,000 under the guise of stop over and transit Visa programme from every Nigerian on air transit through Qatar.
He alleged that he recently suffered such an ordeal, which many other Nigerian passengers who travelled with Qatar Airlines have been defrauded.
He stated: “Last month I booked a flight ticket on Qatar Airways to Singapore and added the stop-over program which was an option on their booking template and at the same time attracted an additional fare of over N100, 000 to include on my flight itinerary.
“Also as part of the stop-over program one is required to book a 4-star/5-star hotel, which is designated by the airline as the hotels selected for the Stop-over program.
“Interestingly, after paying for the hotel, I saw from the receipt that it was non-refundable, but then I did not bother on the ground that if I was fulfilling all of the required condition, it should translate to taking part in the stop-over offer.
“I reached out to the booked hotel in Doha who were willing to assist, but when they reach out to Qatar transit visa, they were informed that the Qatari immigration are not accepting tourist visas application from certain nationals and unfortunately, Nigeria nationals are involved”, he said.
According to him, “at this point it was obvious that all the odds were against me the passenger; losing the initial difference of over N100,000 on the stop-over option while re-booking my ticket”.
But in response to the NGO’s petition to National Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Qatar Airlines management sympathized with Mr Okenwa over his ugly experience, but absolved the Airline from the ugly deal, stating that Qatar Airlines is not responsible for decisions taken by Qatar immigration authorities.
A statement signed by the Qatar Airways Senior Customer Relations officer, Mr Wasana Gomes read: “Whilst we do not underestimate the inconvenience and difficulties experienced, however we seek your understanding that Qatar Airways is not responsible for decisions taken by immigration authorities. Entry into Qatar will be at the discretion of the immigration authorities.
“Qatar Airways offices only act as a processing agent for Visa application and therefore will not be liable for any expenses incurred should there be a delay in Visa issuance or rejection from the ministry of interior, state of Qatar”.