Travel day has finally arrived! After much preparation and list-checking, we are in the air and en route to South Africa (we will be there by the time you read this).
I dropped off the kittens at the vet yesterday, much to their and my dismay. I actually teared up a bit in the car driving home. Does everyone find leaving their cats this hard?
The service at Qatar Airways was top-notch, as it usually is. Unfortunately, with the bike bags stuffed and a large suitcase each, we had grossly overpacked and had no idea that they charge per kg!! That meant at 27kg over (no judgement, remember that includes bikes, shoes, helmets, food, camelbacks, etc.) we were going to be charged 2700QAR!!! (That's nearly a thousand bucks for our North American readers.)
I was okay with being charged a flat fee, but at that price we would be essentially paying for another seat to South Africa! Ouch! It is getting increasingly difficult to travel for cycling adventures without getting charged astronomical fees. It used to be that the bike counted as one piece of "sporting equipment" and there was no charge for it being heavy...ahhh the good old days of flying with bikes.
Anyhow, we kept calm (this would have been a great Amazing Race moment). John, resourceful as always, headed to the QA ticketing office to see if he could upgrade. Higher class ticket holders have a higher weight allowance. Because we had paid for tickets that were "on sale" (I put that in quotation marks because it's about a $30-60 discount), we were not allowed to use points to upgrade. So, they let him essentially rebook the tickets at regular fare (now an inflated price much higher than the original...insert eye roll here) plus use 65,000 points to bump us both up to Business Class.
The upgrade (at an additional 1700QAR + 65,000 points) was totally worth it; not only could we fly in comfort with seats that go completely flat (the best part in my mind), but we also were left with only 7kg overweight because of the additional allowance.
At the Business Class counter, QA employee Nancy waived the fee for the 7kg, so we got lucky but are now hatching a plan for how to drop some serious weight on the way back. We will have consumed all of the race food we brought, which is quite heavy (gels, bars, etc.), ditched the toiletries, and maybe we can gift some gear or mail it home to ourselves. Since we now have a normal fare ticket, we may have the option to upgrade again, which would be a huge gift to John since he will be rushing to the office as soon as possible after our early morning arrival in Doha.
We also got to check out the Business Lounge at Hamad International Airport, which is actually the old normal lounge for privilege card holders, but which they switched out for a too-small lounge that does not have the capacity for the usual flow of travellers (another first-world rant for another day). Unfortunately, they have ruined the otherwise impressive lounge by allowing smokers EVERYwhere! It reeks like a scuzzy pub - a distinct ashtray smell wherever you go. They have also scrapped the a la carte menu, and the buffet was frankly meh. Ironically for Doha, as well, is the fact that the lounges are understaffed. This is strange given that almost anywhere else in Doha is over staffed, and as a consumer you become used to being, well, over served (anyone who's been to Sharaf in Ezdan Mall give me a hell yeah). That said, the seats are comfortable, the wine was nice, and it gave us a chance to chill for an hour before we had to board.
So, lesson learned about packing. It's not Qatar Airways that actually charges per kilo overweight, by the way. It's the country of destination, so it varies from one country to the next. Something to bear in mind when packing for your next cycling holiday. In our case, it would have been cheaper to buy some things in South Africa.
Oh, I forgot to mention, we ran into Davy and Nat at the check-in. They won the packing contest, but were also charged for some excess baggage. Will see them when we land for the shuttle to the hotel! We just want to be on the bikes at this point. Let's see how we feel in a few days!!