Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I went to the Riyadh offices of Gulf Air this morning, with three objectives:
  1. Change our exit flight to an earlier time
  2. Book the (included) Chauffeur Drive option at Heathrow
  3. Get a refund for two of our tickets back from Dubai the other week being downgraded.
1 & 2 took about ten minutes. 3 took fifty minutes.

There were two rows of double-parked cars, as usual, outside the Gulf Air office, so I copied everyone else and blocked someone else's car in. After a wait of around ten minutes it was my turn to be seen, but no sooner had I sat down than an Arab asked me to move my car so he could get out. I let him out then parked in the space he'd vacated, then returned to the agent's desk.

When we returned from Dubai a few weeks ago Elliot and I had to come back in Economy, because Gulf Air had oversold Business Class and had only two of our four seats available. I was told at the time to keep the ticket stubs and obtain a refund from my local office. On hearing this the agent's first gambit was to say he needed to email the head office in Bahrain to enquire if a refund is in order, then he would phone me when the answer came back. This was totally out of order and I told him so. It was they who had oversold the flight, I had proof of purchase for four Business Class tickets and two Economy stubs for the same flight in my hand. Of course a refund was in order. I told him I was not prepared to come back again to get my money and that I wanted him to sort it out now, while I waited.

He went off to speak to someone, taking all my paperwork with him, then returned a few minutes later carrying three thick, carbon-papered receipt books. He asked for my Iqama (I.D. card), which he gave to a little man in overalls. The little man disappeared and came back a couple of minutes later with my Iqama and a photocopy of same. The agent then told the little man to collect his computer printouts from the printer on the other side of the office, which he did, then he disappeared again. Two minutes later I saw the same little man walking out from the back office carrying a cup of coffee, which he took into another office and put on the desk. This chap is apparently the Office Gopher, although his dark blue overalls make him look more like a cleaner. Back at the desk there is much tapping of keys and stapling of paper, then the agent starts filling in a (detailed) form, in one of the books, in triplicate. Then he gets me to sign and date it, and leads me to the cashier's office to get my money.

I didn't know it at the time but the refund in question was SR88 per ticket, about £12, so I'd hung around for fifty minutes and witnessed a mess of paperwork, all to get less than £25 back.

I finally got out about an hour later to find my car had been blocked in, so I had to go back in and find the right driver to let me out.

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