Qatar Airways still charging Iran customers cancellation fees amid coronavirus

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Qatar Airways, one of the few global airlines still flying directly to Iran, is being criticized online by one of its customers from Iran over its cancellation fees as more countries and airlines impose a travel ban on the Islamic Republic due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Saranaz Barforoush tweeted that her father in Tehran was being charged a $160 cancellation on his ticket should he choose to change his travel plans. Sanctions on Iran and resulting limited flight options, compounded with a plummeting currency mean that $160 is an especially hefty fee for average Iranians, Barforoush told Al Arabiya English.

Because of sanctions on Iran, and limited flight options because of sanctions, compounded with a plummeting currency, $160 is particularly

“Infuriating that Qatar Airways is penalizing Iranians deciding to stay in Iran and wait out their travel plans until things calm down ([something] we all should be doing). How is this fair? How does this help the crisis?? Journalists & politicians need to look into this,” Barforoush, a journalism instructor at the UBC School of Journalism in Vancouver, Canada, said in a tweet directed at Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways’ support team on Twitter then responded saying that their current policy covers tickets for travel between February 3 and April 15 and that any new travel must be booked before May 15. "Affected passengers can re-book their tickets to alternative dates or destinations, or request a full refund without charge," the airline's website read.

“For tickets outside of those dates or to countries not covered by this policy, normal fare rules apply for re-bookings or cancellations will apply,” Qatar Airways said in its tweet.

Barforoush said her father attempted to call the Qatar Airways’ office in Tehran but could not reach them on throughout Monday. She later shared a screenshot of a direct message from a Qatar Airways support staff saying nothing could be done for her father.

“Allow us to share with you that our flights to/from Tehran continue to operate as per normalcy. Hence, the cancellation penalty fee was correctly applicable at the time of canceling the booking,” the direct message read.

READ MORE: Discover which major airlines, countries are canceling flights amid coronavirus

According to Qatar Airways’ cancellation policy as of last December, a passenger can cancel their reservation within 24 hours without any penalty before the departure of your flight.

Iran travel ban infographic 02/03/2020_Saudi Arabia
Iran travel ban infographic 02/03/2020_Saudi Arabia

Barforush initially could not contact Qatar Airways to raise the issue, but one of the airline's support members confirmed to her later in the day that her father’s ticket would be refunded but that a $160 cancellation fee would still be charged.

Qatar Airways has so far canceled flights to all Iranian cities with the exception to the capital Tehran and has lowered its frequency from 20 flights to seven per week.

The Qatari airliner also said its scheduled frequencies to other Iranian cities would be on “temporary hold,” until March 14. It said it would then evaluate the situation before deciding on whether the hold would be extended.

Al Arabiya English has attempted to contact Qatar Airways both on social media and by email several times on Monday but has not yet received a response at the time of publication.

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