Epic Failure: Denied Boarding for the World Cup

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Qatar Visa Failure is part of the Coupe du Monde Trip Report.


It is an understatement to say that I am bad at setting up visas for travel. After my Vietnam experience (see Vietnam E-Visa Not Processed: Another TPOL Duck Up? ), I swore I would do better. And I thought I was until I was denied boarding to Qatar.

To enter Doha for the World Cup, fans needed to download the Hayya app and upload proof of stay. The Hayya app also stores the tickets to the matches. Well in advance of my flight, I downloaded the app and uploaded the required photo of me taken on the toilet (Where else would I have the patience and focus to go through the process?) along with my passport photo. I also linked the tickets I had bought in May (see Is TPOL Going to The World Cup?). The app first said ‘in process’. A day later it showed ‘approval pending hotel accommodations’. I went to the FAQ section to see how I could upload proof of my stay. It said that the app would automatically update and no action was required of me.

Given my past experiences, I was uneasy but also thought that I would be prompted if the accommodation could not be located.

On the day of my flight, I was at the airport in Miami (see MDE-MIA: My First Business Class Flight on AA, Worth It*?) and the app still said ‘pending’. I called the Hayya help number in Doha and hoped that someone would answer. The call dropped as I ran out of Skype credits.

I thought, worst case, I would have to show my Hilton reservation to immigration when I arrived in Doha (Hilton World Cup Booked! Your Results Will Vary). It was only as I walked to the check-in counter that it occurred to me that they may not let me on the plane without my approved Hayya card.

My fear was instantly confirmed when the agent asked for it, and I was only able to show her the pending app. She informed me that I would not be able to fly to Qatar.

I hope no one filmed me throwing my carry-on to the ground while walking away with anger and anxiety. At that moment, I felt nauseous. I had spent thousands on match tickets, had hotel reservations that I could not cancel, and a RTW ticket that I would not be able to complete (see Finalizing the ANA RTW Trip, World Cup & Luck Included).

Desperate, I reloaded my Skype with $25 worth of credits and waited for my guardian angel to answer the helpline. Miraculously, someone actually picked up. Panicked and somewhat hysterical, I explained the situation to the agent. I told him I had four hours to make my flight and that the app showed pending hotel accommodation. He asked for my reservation number and told me that he would submit it to the back office. He assured me that everything would be fine  I asked how long it would take. He said not to worry and bid me a pleasant journey.

My anxiety did not subside. Instead, I started searching for a flight to Kuwait or Dubai, thinking that I could still board the plane to Doha and then explain my situation in person. Worst worst case, I would fly in from a neighboring country once the app was approved. This wouldn’t be the first time I would have to find a last-second flight to comply with visa rules (see China 144-hour Visa-Free Transit: It Worked the 1st Time).

No sooner than I could sit down and prepare myself for the award search did I receive an email stating that my Hayya card had been approved.

I walked back to the counter and announced that everything was in order. The agent didn’t share my sense of relief that it had worked out, nor did she comment on my tantrum. She gave me my boarding pass and sent me on my way.

Writing this post gives me stress. What would I have done if the nice man did not answer the phone and show me grace? Perhaps I would have flown back to Puerto Rico and would have had to photoshop pics of me at the World Cup. Somehow, I was able to avoid this epic collapse.

Overall

I thought I did everything right this time.  I uploaded the documents way in advance and trusted the directions I read. It didn’t make sense to me that the app could magically link the name on my Hayya app to my hotel reservation. However, I thought that given the tight security measures that it was possible that all reservations were cross-referenced.

TPOL’s Tip: I have no tips, inshallah, this does not happen again.

My Doha dreams were almost in the shitter where my Hayya visa picture was taken. I had to show this picture each time I went on the metro or into a stadium.

6 COMMENTS

  1. a tip: stop being so cheap . If you bought the credit on skype and called them right after hilton booking, things would have been different

    • Yeah that’s the takeaway, my cheapness. Dumb comment. Thousands on tickets but you’re right, it’s the Skype credit that I refused to pay for.

  2. I’m glad things worked out but it’s hard to comprehend for me how you could spend all that time and money on the trip and not make sure ALL visa requirements were filled right away and not waiting until the 11th hour. Hopefully you learn from this lesson and be more careful in the future.

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