Mathaf: Doha layover suggestion

With the rise of Qatar Airways as a long-haul airline, Doha has become an increasingly easy short-term layover destination. The Qatari flag carrier boasts especially good links between Europe and Asia via Doha. Its route map include a whopping 12 cities in India, three in China, and four in Pakistan; notably, the airline also shuttles European tourists to the Indian Ocean holiday playgrounds of the Maldives and Seychelles. In 2012, Qatar Airways will introduce an additional slate of fascinating destinations, including Kiev, Kigali, Perth, and Zanzibar.

Doha’s got plenty of tourism draws, including the renovated Souq Waqif, the Museum of Islamic Art, and its Corniche. Qatar is terribly rich, with the world’s highest or second-highest GDP, depending on the evaluation matrix. As you might expect, Doha’s infrastructure for visitors is undeniably impressive. The city is also in the midst of a major construction boom. The stadiums under construction for the 2022 World Cup alone will keep construction humming through the end of the decade.

Since the tail-end of 2010, Doha has been home to Mathaf, Qatar’s Arab Museum of Modern Art. Mathaf’s current show, Cai Guo-Qiang’s Saraab, features 16 impressive commissioned pieces and scores of past works. Guo-Qiang is a major artist, famous for his large-scale projects involving gunpowder and fireworks. He is particularly well known for orchestrating the extraordinary fireworks displays at the 2008 Beijing Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies.

In Arabic, “saraab” means mirage. The exhibition endeavors to explore connections between Quanzhou, Guo-Qiang’s hometown, and Doha, as well as between China and the Arab world more generally. Trade links between Quanzhou and the Arabian Peninsula are not difficult to trace–the former was once the starting point of the Maritime Silk Road–and Guo-Qiang makes the most of this connection. One particularly appealing piece, titled Endless, consists of three boats, one Chinese and two Qatari, sitting side-by-side in a shallow pool, shrouded in mist.

The museum, located in a former school building, was revamped smartly by the French architect Jean-François Bodin. Other notable features of the museum include a library with a great magazine selection and a cute café.

Mathaf is a good 14 kilometers (about eight miles) from central Doha. The going rate for a taxi from a hotel is 60 riyal ($16.50). Admission to exhibitions costs 25 riyal (just shy of $7) per person. The museum is closed on Monday. Saraab runs through May 26.

Qatar Airways offers 25% off flights in limited-time sale

Book fast – Qatar Airways currently 20 to 25% off their normal business and economy class fares with a limited-time fare sale from the US to over 100 destinations worldwide.

Book by November 17 at 11:59 PM and enjoy a six-month travel window between November 21, 2011 and May 31, 2012. Customers can book online, via a travel agent, or in a reservations center.

The airline, named Airline of the Year 2011, is ideal for long-haul flights and includes one of the world’s most acclaimed business class cabins.

Choose from the airline’s entire array of destinations, including Doha, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Phuket, Dubai, Seychelles, Maldives, Delhi, Goa, Melbourne, and more.

[Flickr via idf-fotos]

Qatar Airways celebrates launch of 100th destination with BOGO promotion

In anticipation of the launch of Qatar Airways‘ 100th destination, the airline is offering a special buy-one-get-one promotion for those purchasing tickets on April 6th or 7th, as well as a 100 pair ticket giveaway from now through April 16.

To score the BOGO promotion, book through the link above for travel between May 1 and June 10. The offer is only valid for Economy class travel and is not valid for customers traveling between Sao Paulo and Bueno Aires, and from Houston, New York or Washington to Doha. Children must book as adults, and the promotion is not available for code shares.

Already a frequent flyer? The luxury airline’s frequent flyer rewards program, Privilege Club, is offering members bonus Qmiles and a special discount on award tickets.

Qatar Airways expands into Montreal; reaches 100th destination milestone

Qatar Airways will become the first Gulf area airline to serve Canada when it expands into Montreal with service on June 29. The non-stop journey from the airline’s hub in Doha to Montreal‘s Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport will be a total flying time of 13 hrs 20 minutes and will be offered three times weekly, on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Montreal will become the airline’s fourth North American destination, currently operates daily flights to New York, Washington and Houston.

Qatar is home to more than 3,000 Canadian citizens and two Canadian university satellite campuses, The College of the North Atlantic and the University of Calgary.

Canadian nationals arriving in Qatar may enter the country without prior visa arrangements. Passengers with Qatar as their end destination may enter by obtaining a visa on arrival.

The Boeing 777 on the Montreal route has a two-class operation, offering 42 seats in Business in a spacious 2–2–2 cabin layout, with a seat pitch of 78 inches that is already the envy of competitor airlines as the seats stretch into lie-flat beds, a key demand of the corporate traveller.

In Economy, the Boeing 777 offers 217 seats in a 3–3–3 configuration with a pitch of up to 34-inch, which is among the most generous of any international airline flying wide-body aircraft on long-haul routes.

On March 6, Qatar Airways adds Stuttgart to its global network, followed on April 6 with new flights to the historic Syrian city of Aleppo – the airline’s milestone 100th destination. Flights to Shiraz, Qatar Airways’ third gateway in Iran begin on June 5, followed 10 days later on June 15 by scheduled services to Venice, the carrier’s third destination in Italy.

[Flickr via Deanster1983]

Do airlines change non-refundable tickets? Sometimes, yes

It’s happened to most of us at some point. You purchased a non-refundable plane ticket, but for unforseen reasons, you need to change it. “Sorry” the airline tells you, “you bought a non-refundable ticket”. Unless you part with a pint of blood and the full price of a new ticket, there’s nothing they can do. Or is there? According this story from frequent traveler Paul Karl Lukacs, airlines do occasionally make exceptions to this rule. You just need to know how to ask.

Lukacs recently purchased a one-way non-refundable ticket from Paris to Hong Kong and needed to change his date of travel. He was willing to pay a change fee and any difference in ticket price. Predictably, the customer service team at Qatar Airways denied his request. Sorry, said the ticket agent, “I can’t change the date of the ticket. You’ll have to buy an entirely new ticket if you want to leave earlier.” Familiar story. But Lukacs wasn’t giving up easily. Using an executive email technique he discovered at consumer advocate site, he contacted seven of Qatar Airways’ senior executives pleading his case and mentioned the other recent flights he’d taken with the airline. It worked. Two executives emailed him back, and within 24 hours, Lukacs only had to pay the fare difference – goodbye change fee.

Sweet! Does this mean we’ve discovered a hidden loophole in the dreaded non-refundable ticket policy? Not quite. Lukacs’ strategy is clever, no doubt, but it won’t work in all cases. Don’t expect that simply by writing a complaint letter to an airline’s executive team you’re going to get your way. That said, Lukacs does outline some smart tips for those looking for options:

  1. Find the right executive – Lukacs suggests only certain executive level employees are able (or willing) to make exceptions. Do your research on which executive to contact.
  2. Be polite – if you start your note or phone call with anger, you’re not getting anywhere
  3. Mention your status – if you’re a frequent flier or small business owner, mention it in support of your case.

Have you ever been granted an exception on a non-refundable plane ticket? What happened? Tell us about it in the comments.