Ouch: Qatar Airways’ 12 Hour Flight To Nowhere

Filed Under: Qatar

Oh my…

Today’s Qatar Airways flight QR816 was scheduled to fly from Doha to Hong Kong. The flight was supposed to depart at 7:35AM, and the “block time” (gate-to-gate) was scheduled to be eight hours.

Well, the journey time ended up taking 12 hours (or is projected to, at least), with all passengers ending up in… Doha!

As I wrote about earlier, Hong Kong Airport was shut down today due to protests. However, they were still supposed to accept arrivals, but just not allow departures. So most airlines with flights enroute to Hong Kong continued to Hong Kong, since they could land safely.

However, that wasn’t the case for all airlines. QR816 decided to turn around back to Doha while over Bangladesh, well over halfway into the flight.

What could cause them to do this?

  • They could have decided that it’s easiest to look after passengers and rebook them from their hub airport, rather than from an outstation
  • They could have decided that the risk of getting the crew and plane stuck in Hong Kong was too great, since we’re ultimately not sure how long the airport closure will last
  • Diverting to somewhere nearby wouldn’t have made their lives any easier, since everyone would have still had to find a way out

So the airline made the decision for the flight to return to Doha. However, the plane apparently didn’t have quite enough fuel (or at least not enough fuel reserves), so the flight ended up diverting to Muscat first, before continuing back to Doha.

The flight is enroute from Muscat to Doha right now, and should land shortly after 7PM, nearly 12 hours after it departed this morning.

What a long and frustrating day for passengers and crew alike. I can’t blame Qatar Airways for this decision. Ultimately I’m sure some passengers were happy about this decision, given that they may have had connecting flights and would have been stranded. Meanwhile I’m sure this is incredibly frustrating for those who were returning home to Hong Kong.

  1. A very costly couple of days for Qatar. Didn’t they had a flight to Auckland turned around back to Qatar within an hour after departure yesterday? (While taking the next hour or two dumping a LOT of fuel, after all it was the longest flight in the world)

  2. CX FA tells me there’s a “challenge” (near impossibility) getting jetbridge operators and getting doors open. The situation is quite fraught.

  3. @Max
    SZX is probably worse of a choice as going back to DOH. Most people would be stranded, including crew as China’s visa policy requires almost everyone to get visa, and HK folks would also need a permit. You will be looking at hundreds of people stuck in limbo, at a place with no QR agents on the ground! They could have gone for MFM since visa issue would probably work out for most people and just cross the newly built bridge but MFM is way too small to handle the full 77W.

  4. @beyounged
    I have been on CX B773ER that got diverted to MFM due to typhoon. Replacement crew came by on ferry later.

  5. This will continue. A friend in Hong Kong says death is better than what will happen when China gets its full grip on the island nation. They want independence. It’s going to be a fight to the finish, they are not giving up.

    The violence is Chinese people placed there to make the HK’ers look bad.

    If going to HK, have good travel insurance, especially if on different tickets for transfers.

  6. SZX? LOL… we are talking about China here. Do you know how much hassle it is to get a visa to China? (I do, from personal experience.) Remember, or did you read about, the couple on a Holland America cruise ship who did have visas to China and who, as a result, got kicked off the ship, lest the entire ship be refused docking in Shanghai?

  7. Hong Kong stopped allowing arrivals for passenger flights early this morning local US time for any aircraft not already in its airspace.

  8. @Lucky

    From an airline point of view, you don’t want to “risk” a plane getting stuck anywhere ever. A plane not flying is a worth only scrap metal. Too bad financially dumb people like @callum would never understand that.

  9. It is these occasions and with delays when it pays to be waiting around or held up while in the premium cabins.

    Nothing worse than being sat on tarmac while hot, tired and thirsty in steerage class.

  10. Looks to me like in such a situation, the obvious geopolitically sound diversion is TPE, assuming that o/b fuel permits it, which is likely. To me, the return to DOH seems to result from the presence on board of nationalities not comfortable with landing elsewhere in the vicinity. I have witnessed this before, a diversion announced and passengers quietly asking to speak to Captain. Diversion was altered.

  11. It seems to me diverting TPE would have been better than hauling ass all the way back to Doha. TPE is only a short hop away from HKG.

  12. Eskimo got here first and nailed it : does any one know until when HKG is closed for departures ?
    Also worth considering, but just speculation : was there any PAX QR thought better not landing at HKG at this moment ? Not that it’s their problem, but well…

  13. @Kevin

    I agree. Taipei would have been a better choice. It’s so much closer to Hong Kong. What a waste of 12 hours.


  14. Qatar airways has best flight operations analysts. The lesser evil was to return, rather than have a plane stranded without schedule for departure , plus paying parking fees of unknown number of days or weeks.

  15. To all those who think TPE is better, it is not.

    A plane stuck at TPE waiting for HKG to open is, and I quote myself, a plane not flying which is worth only scrap metal.

    Probably no one on that flight wanted to go to TPE. Lose-Lose for everybody.
    But for the sake of argument if QR were crazy enough to continue. CAN would be MUCH MUCH better than TPE or SZX. And to what @AF Kay is concerned about. It is not the airline’s problem if someone can’t get a visa. The departure area is always open. And why CAN over SZX, it is bigger and QR flies there not the other.

    Can you give details on that instance where “I have witnessed this before, a diversion announced and passengers quietly asking to speak to Captain. Diversion was altered.” Hard to believe any crew would be influenced by passengers in a diversion. There is a thing they call ‘flight plan’ which they have to get green light from another thing called ‘dispatch’ to deviate.

    On the upside, I don’t mind a free ride on the QSuites.

  16. Why not MFM then? This would solve the problem with having to fly the passengers to HK, they could have charted a ferry.

  17. Well QRs next step was cancelling all flights until 15th what an overreaction.. a lot of us are stuck

  18. Interestingly I was in the JFK lounge at T8 as the Cathay flight was being called whilst reading via another blog that the airport was “closed”. However that flight took off and has since landed, as did the flight later on Monday afternoon which is still enroute (almost landed) as I type this. Obviously the airport wasn’t totally “closed” , some flights are still feeling in, but Qatar likely made the right decision here rather than having crew and a plane potentially stuck for days

  19. I was on this flight, though luckily in a qsuite. I found out it was diverted back to Doha originally when I checked the flight status screen, just as we were turning around – no update over the PA by the captain was provided to passengers for almost 2 hours. The FA – excellent on Qatar, and clearly the situation was pretty bad for them too – didn’t know what was going on, apart from ‘a dangerous situation in HK’. As we were over India, wifi wasn’t working, but I did have some information from before about the protests from other friends, whose flights had managed to land.

    I agree with Lucky that it was probably a logistical decision by Qatar. HKG reported that flights mid-air would be allowed to land, and indeed many of my friends’ flights (from Auckland and LHR) did, but we turned around. More concerning was when our flight path was then updated to MCT, and we were eventually told this was because we didn’t have enough fuel to get to Doha. As DOH isn’t much further away, I think this concerned some passengers, but then due to UAE/Saudi flight restrictions for Qatar, we obviously had to head down the Strait of Hormuz rather than a more direct route.

    On a slightly more amusing note – the captain’s announcement on our arrival in Muscat was rather comical: he just stuck to the script. “Welcome to Muscat, Oman, the time here is [whatever it was] and the temperature is [can’t remember]. We hope you all have a pleasant evening”. Literally no recognition of the situation – that we would be refuelling and not getting off the plane. To make it better, the flight deck door was open and a fellow passenger going to the toilet took the opportunity to complain about the poor communication. The pilot obviously misunderstood the complaint – assuming it to be about the quality of the speaker? – and so just repeated the same cheery message about our arrival.

  20. Why not divert to Macau? As far as I’m aware they have similar visa policy, there is easy water transportation to Hong Kong (for those who need to get there), there are no tensions… Seems a logical choice to me.

  21. @Tom R (and others): The difference between CX and other airlines is that, for CX, when HKG is closed, their planes are grounded regardless of whether the plane is at HKG or any other airport. If HKG is closed, the plane is going to sit on the ground regardless of whether it is at HKG or JFK (CX doesn’t fly anywhere besides HKG from JFK (or most (any?) other airports). Their parking fees at HKG are probably lower.

  22. @CR, it’s incredible also to think that the Scoot flight had enough fuel on board for such a return!

  23. I was also on this flight, unfortunately, in economy. Like Deus and many other passengers around me, I found out about the diversion from the flight map and just as wifi became unavailable over India.

    Much room for improvement regarding communication (e.g. the fact that we were flying back to Doha, updated departure time), although I appreciate that it was hard to have anything confirmed in such circumstances.

    To QR’s credit, we were put in hotels and given meal vouchers. I was put on QR818 on 14 August and landed in Hong Kong at around 5pm (some 43 hours after my scheduled arrival), although I know that some other passengers were routed to HKG through MNL (although I am not sure whether they were also originally on QR816 or another flight).

  24. I was flying out from Copenhagen to Doha, Doha to Hong Kong (QR 816) at 14 Aug 2019.
    When I checked in at Copenhagen Counter, I was told that QR 816 was cancelled; then, I was rerouted as Doha to Jakarta, Jakarta to Hong Kong. The whole journey extended for 9 hours. The most funny thing is that eventually QR816 was resumed and I was not told / informed at all. Any idea if I can claim Qatar for compensation ? As of now, I receive zero coupon or any monetary benefits from Qatar.

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