I don’t want to jinx myself (maybe I shouldn’t write this down), but I’ve only missed one flight in my entire life. Nearly two years ago now I missed a flight from Chicago to Atlanta which continued on to Miami. That trip was one of my first Mileage Runs and ended up being incredibly stressful. For that Mileage Run I took a simple day trip to Miami. My first flight left Chicago at 8:00AM and returned later that evening after connecting through Atlanta. I left for the airport early in the morning, but not nearly early enough. Due to awful traffic and poor planning I arrived at my gate as my connecting flight pushed back for Atlanta.
That trip was important because it gave me a chance to fly American’s 767 retrofit from Miami to Chicago. Luckily American offered a flight to Atlanta just a few hours later. I miraculously made my connections in Atlanta and Miami. In Miami the gate agent and pilot even decided to re-open the 767 boarding door to get me on board! Have I mentioned that I’ve been really lucky when it comes to traveling?
Beyond that I’ve made it to every flight I’ve ever taken on time. I’ve of course had a few close calls over the years, but only one missed flight. That streak nearly came to an end yesterday when I tried to catch my Qatar Airways flight back to Doha!
Qatar Airways Check-In Policy
As with many international flights, Qatar Airways won’t issue a boarding pass before checking your travel documents. The airline must first verify you’re carrying a valid passport and visa (if necessary) to travel to your destination. Once the airline confirms your valid documents the check-in agent will issue a boarding pass. The airline may give you a seat assignment confirmation when checking in online, but almost certainly won’t give you a boarding pass.
The most recent update to the Qatar Airways mobile app clearly displays Qatar Airways’ check-in policy. Check-in, online or otherwise, closes 60 minutes prior to your scheduled departure time. If you don’t have a valid boarding pass 60 minutes prior to your scheduled departure time Qatar will not issue a boarding pass. This means you can’t clear security or board the aircraft for your scheduled departure.
Even after you receive a boarding pass, Qatar closes the boarding door 20 minutes prior to the schedule departure time. The app and every check-in reminder email from Qatar Airways couldn’t be clearer with regards to these policies. In fact, one email I received prior to my depature mentioned arriving at the airport two hours before my departure.
However, since I’ve had such great luck flying I decided to press my luck with my return flight to Doha.
I Almost Missed My Qatar Airways Flight
Qatar Airways maintains a scheduled departure time of 6:40PM CST for the evening departure from Chicago to Doha. Since I departed for Doha on Thursday evening I’d leave from the airport from work. Yes, I still have a day job, don’t worry mom and dad.
My office is in downtown Chicago and the trip to Chicago O’Hare typically takes at least an hour. I normally take a cab or an Uber, but I’ve been trying to minimize incidental expenses during this mileage run. Instead, I decided to try a new route. I’d take the Metra commuter train to the CTA Blue Line Irving Park stop. In total, according to Google Maps, the trip should take about 50 minutes. When I left my office Google Maps stated that I should arrive at the airport around 5:30PM. That only allowed for 10 minutes for me to make it to the check-in counter in Terminal 5. Looking back, I should have just taking the 4:05PM commuter train, but I decided to take the 4:48PM instead.
Unfortunately what I didn’t account for was the time it takes to get from the O’Hare CTA station to O’Hare’s Terminal 5 (International Terminal). I arrived at O’Hare just after 5:30PM and raced up the escalators to the airport train. From there I rode to the terminal train to Terminal 5 and arrived at the Qatar Airways check-in counter at 5:45PM! LATE!
I Am Incredibly Lucky!
When I got to the Qatar Airways check-in counter there were only two people at the check-in desk. They were working to finalize the checked baggage of a wheelchair passenger. When the agent saw me standing in line she asked her counterpart “Why [she] was still seeing passengers waiting in line, the check-in counter is closed.” I was toast!
I continued to wait patiently and then decided to ask what my options were. After all, this was flight 1 or 4 that would take me from Chicago to Doha to Vietnam to Hong Kong and back home in a weekend. If I missed this flight my entire weekend would be shot.
Luckily, for one reason or another, she decided to at least take a look at my itinerary. At that moment she realized I was a business class passenger and decided to issue a boarding pass. I honestly can’t believe my luck.
I’ve become so accustomed to using mobile boarding passes with domestic airlines that I rarely pay attention to check-in times. Although I noticed the 60 minute check-in policy I didn’t think there was much weight to it. I figured as long as I was at the check-in counter around 60 minutes before departure that I’d be fine. That didn’t hold true at all. Bottom line, if you’re flying with Qatar Airways you better make sure to check-in and get a boarding pass 60 minutes or more before your scheduled departure.
I got incredibly lucky that the check-in agent issued me a boarding pass. I’m still not exactly sure why she did it considering I don’t think the extended business class policy she mentioned is a real thing. Either way, I made it to my gate on time and before I knew it was again on my way to Doha and the fantastic Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge. Now I just have to hope that luck continues as I try to circumnavigate the globe in a weekend!