Perhaps you haven’t been following the situation in Qatar. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have accused Qatar of sponsoring terrorism, calling to mind the proverbial pot and kettle analogy. More likely, they are frustrated at the Emir of Qatar being a big supporter of the Arab Spring movement. As a king on a faction-divided and dangerous peninsula in the Middle East, a grass roots uprising is not something you are likely to endorse. So, the situation has boiled over into a blockade of the little country of Qatar. I’m told they are having to get used to Turkish goods instead of Saudi goods. But all in all, neither side is particularly good for Americans and we are only vaguely interested because instability in the Middle East has a way of finding its way to our shores. I suppose we should be grateful for the Kuwatis who seem to play peacemaker when the various Emirs and Kings get a little upset.
If you haven’t been paying attention, I don’t blame you. I’ve had a bit of a vested interest. Back in November when there was no news of saber-rattling on the Arab Peninsula, I booked a round-trip ticket on Qatar Air and am flying through Doha on route to Singapore.
It had occurred to me that the situation in Qatar could disrupt my travel plans, but I settled into the “no news is good news” way of thinking. Now that I think about it, I wonder why I didn’t at least go to QatarAir.com to check in for my flight. In any case, I looked at the ticket I booked over 6 months ago. 740 it says. Yikes. That is early. At 330 this morning, I got up, shaved, showered, and found something to wear. I loaded my bags into the car and knocked on Basilio’s door. He is a great friend, but never more valued than when I need a ride to the airport at 4 a.m. Not much traffic at that time, even in Southern California. We arrived at the airport in about 45 minutes, more than enough time to check in for my morning flight.
My ticket said I was flying out of Terminal 2, but I was pretty sure Qatar Air had moved to the Tom Bradley International Terminal (or in LAX-speak, Terminal B). I checked the signs outside and, sure enough, found Qatar at the bottom of the list of airlines flying out of Terminal B. I commented to Basilio, “Man, there is no one here.” “I know; weird,” he said. I thanked him again and rolled my bags into the airport. I checked the monitor. No 740 flight. In fact, no flights from Qatar Air listed. No flights to Doha. Strange, I thought, but started walking down the terminal. No one was open. I finally found a lady standing at a counter. Based solely on the uniform she was wearing under her jacket, I thought she worked with Philippine Air.
“Excuse me. I’m looking for Qatar Air.”
“Guitar Air?” she said, waiting for the punch line or wondering just what kind of wacko I was.
“No, Kah-tar Air,” I replied wondering what kind of wacko she was.
“Oh, no, they are not here. They fly out of Terminal 2.” I hesitated. “Do you have a boarding pass?” I got out my itinerary. “Yes, see: Terminal 2.” She gave me directions to walk down the sidewalk past Terminal 3 to Terminal 2. I was thinking, it’s not like I’m trying to find my way to the big HOLLYWOOD sign. I think I can figure out that Terminal 2 is on the other side of Terminal 3. I tried to seem grateful for her help. I began dragging my bags to Terminal 2.
Now, LAX had a bit of a fruit basket turnover recently. Delta used to be in 4 or 5. Now they basically own Terminal 2. I kept walking across the terminal looking for the other airlines. I found Virgin Australia. I stopped and asked someone: “I’m looking for Qatar Air. Can you tell me where they board?”
“Guitar Air?” Seriously, almost everyone I stopped asked the same question. If you want a new business opportunity, maybe you should open an Airline and call it Guitar Air. Apparently, everyone at LAX already thinks it’s a thing. Cater to musicians. Play “Classical Gas” as walking music. I think it could go.
Most people were not interested in being helpful. The ones that tried to be helpful were also not helpful. But everyone kept pointing me back to Terminal B. So, I dragged my bags past Terminal 3 again and back to Terminal B. Surprise, surprise: my flight was still not listed and there was still no evidence that Qatar Air even existed. Maybe I did book on Guitar Air by mistake. Maybe I should be asking, “Yes, where IS Guitar Air?”
I was beginning to wonder how extensive the Saudi blockade was. Maybe they are not allowing any airplanes in or out of Qatar. Maybe they shut down all communication out of Qatar so the airline couldn’t notify me that I would not be flying with them. Maybe the Saudi’s simply eradicated Qatar Air and the airline simply does not exist anymore. That was certainly the feeling I was getting.
OK, Terminal 4 is American Airlines. I am a Gold frequent traveler with American and they are partners with Qatar Air. I’ve been to Terminal 2 and Terminal B and I’ve walked past Terminal 3 twice. Why not head to Terminal 4? I found someone’s discarded luggage cart and decided pushing a cart all over LAX would be simpler than dragging my bags. I asked a girl in an American uniform about Guitar…no, Qatar Air. “Terminal B,” she told me with such confidence that I went back once again. Following her suggestion, I took the elevator downstairs where she assured me someone was always working and could help me. If by “always working” she meant “always after 8 a.m. and before 10 p.m.” she was probably correct.
Time was ticking away. It was 5:30, just two hours until flight time and I had lost my airline.
I decided American Airlines was still my best hope of getting help. I got back to Terminal 4, saw an agent with no one in line. I by-passed the bouncer that kept sending people down the terminal away from this agent. (I wonder why.) She asked, “Did you already see that girl over there?” I looked at the girl, but only said, “I have a big problem. I have lost my airline.”
I’m starting to get used to people looking at me like I’m a wacko. She took a deep breath and asked, “What is your airline?” Qatar Air (not Guitar Air, Qatar, I almost added). “Terminal B” she said immediately. “Not there,” I told her. That started a barrage of questions that almost sounded like she was taking me seriously. “What time is your flight? Is it a code share flight? Where are you going? Where are you connecting? Flying directly to Doha? I don’t think there is a direct. Are you sure it was this morning and not tonight?” Finally, she got on her computer and started looking for my flight. She saw it. “The flight doesn’t leave until 13:45.” I assured her my itinerary said 740. She kept looking. “Flight number is 740. Flight leaves at 13:45.” I looked again.
I am the biggest idiot in the world.
OK, at LAX there is no place to get breakfast on the outside of security when you arrive before 5 a.m. for a flight leaving at 1:45 p.m. You would think I was the only person who does this. I went to the Hotel Shuttle pick-up. Marriott showed up first. So, I just finished my $25 breakfast. In another hour or so, I think I’ll catch the shuttle back to the airport. Tom Bradley Terminal. Guitar Air…I think.
I have learned one thing: You can pretty much hang out in a hotel lobby all day and no one bothers you. They don’t even look at me like they think I’m a wacko.
Boarded my flight after a few more delays. Sat next to a woman who was a wiggler. Other than that, fine flight to Doha. Waiting to board to Singapore.