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October 26, 2007

eTicket and Qatar Airways Online Booking Experience

Update as of October 20, 2008

During our recent trips, I didn't have any problems with Qatar Airways e-ticket. But they sometimes ask for the credit card used in buying tickets. Qatar airways do not issue paper ticket anymore. If you plan to fly with Qatar Airways, you can book tickets directly from their website.

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In my previous entry, I talked about the convenience of booking tickets on-line. The round trip airfare I purchased from Travelocity for someone else, didn't have any problems. The person was able to come and exit Qatar smoothly. If he comes back in December as planned, I will again book and purchase tickets online.

However, my husband had a different experience. When we booked the ticket at Qatar Airways, we knew that he has to present the credit card used for online payment. This requirement is rather unusual. This means you cannot purchase a ticket online for someone else like what I did above. But then I guess, this is to prevent fraudulent credit card transactions.

My husband didn't have problems during check-in at Qatar Airport. However, at NAIA, he was required to produce a valid ID other than his passport. Then, he had to wait because the counter staff had to photocopy his ID somewhere in a remote corner. This extra step delayed the check-in process. Honestly, I find the presentation of second ID really ridiculous. A passport is one of the most widely accepted form of identification. He even had an OEC from POEA. Why do they need to complicate simple things? It's clear in the Qatar Airways website that credit card used to purchase the ticket must be presented. I think, a second ID and photocopying are over-kill. Booking online is supposed to provide convenience but if the check-in process will be complicated, I wouldn't book my ticket online for our next trip. I wasn't even thinking of flying Qatar Airways. I'm just not satisfied with the service ( aside from online booking problem). I don't think they are a five star airline as they claim to be.

October 13, 2007

I-94

If you visit United States (as non-immigrants), you will be issued I-94 card. This I-94 card must be returned upon leaving United States, otherwise your departure will not be recorded and you will be included in the list of over staying persons.

I-94 is a small green or white card given to all non-immigrants
when they enter the United States. The I-94 card serves as evidence that a non-immigrant has entered the country legally. It is stamped with a date indicating how long the non-immigrant may stay for that particular trip. It is this date--and not the expiration date of the visa--that controls how long a non-immigrant can remain in the United States. A new I-94 card with a new date is issued each time the non-immigrant legally enters the United States.
It's a long a story but we failed to return our I-94 card. As soon as I found out about it, I immediately search the net what to do. If you fail to return your I-94, you must send it back along with documents that can prove your departure from United States (e.g. boarding passes and arrival stamp to the passport) at the following address:

ACS-CBP SBU
1084 South Laurel Road,
London, KY 40744
USA
To confirm that departure have been recorded, you may write at this address:
Customs and Boarder Protection
1300 Pennsylvania Ave.
Room 5.4.D
Washington Dc 22209
Attn: Passenger Operations
For more detailed information visit this site.
It's a tedious process. Make sure that you return your I-94 card when leaving United States.

eTickets, Cheap Airfares and On-line Booking of Flights

IATA requires the whole airline industry to switch from the traditional paper tickets into eTickets by May 2008. If you've been travelling a lot lately, you will notice that most airlines are now issuing eTickets - a piece of ordinary paper that contains the booking reference and the flight itinerary.

With the current available technologies and the airlines' switch to eTickets, online booking of flights is now becoming a popular alternative to the traditional booking with travel agents. Many airlines are now promoting online booking of flights. Airlines even give promotional discounts to encourage travellers to book flight online. There are also many web-based companies offering cheap airfares for various destination. These on-line facilities allow flights to be booked and paid online. In-turn, eTicket is issued to the traveller.

Honestly, I haven't explored booking and purchasing tickets online much although I am a fan of Travelocity for checking airfares and possible itineraries. I've always rely on travel agents because with just a phone call, somebody will take care of our needs. But lately, I discovered some benefits of booking on-line.

In his recent trip, I told my husband to try the on-line booking facility of Qatar Airways since there's no difference on the cost of the airfare anyway, whether he will book online or through an agent. Things went well and we didn't encounter any problem at all. We did everything at the convenience of our home.

Then, the other day, I also booked a flight online for someone (from US) who needs to go to Doha. At first, the arrangement is we will wire the money so he can buy his ticket. But I was so shocked that his agent quoted 10,000 USD for a round trip business class ticket. This is way out of my budget and there's no way my boss will approve it. I offered him to buy his tickets. I asked around for info and I found out that my one of colleagues usually scout for cheap tickets online whenever he needs to fly someone to Doha. He also gave me tips on how to get good deals. Upon his advice, I searched at Kayak.com and found a ticket for 7,500 USD. What's good with Kayak.com is that it searches different websites and gives a summary results without the need to visit several different websites.

Here are some thoughts on how to get a good deal on ticket prices and booking online vs. contacting a travel agent.

Cheap Tickets/ Airfares
  • I discovered that you can have a lot of savings if you fly during weekdays as opposed to flying on a weekend.
  • Consider the peak and off-peak seasons. For instance, Summer and Christmas are considered peak season so airfare will be higher no matter what.
  • Watch out for airline promotions. They can give you very good savings.
  • Consider flying with budget airlines.
  • Accumulate airmiles. It is also a good way to get a free ticket.

The following websites are good resources for finding cheap tickets:

If you are planning to go to a single destination and you have a preferred airline, you can also visit the airlines' online booking facility.

Advantages of On-line Booking

  • The main advantage of on-line booking is convenience. You can do it at home and no need to line-up at the travel agency - which can be time consuming.
  • Instant confirmation.
  • Easier to search flights.
  • Can be cheaper.

Some Disadvantages/Limitations of On-line Booking

  • It's usually book and pay. Unlike with a travel agent, you can book first and then pay afterwards. Travel agents can also put you on wait-list if there are no seats available at the time of booking.
  • You need a credit card for payment and you may need a higher credit limit if you are booking for multiple trips or several passengers. Some websites accepts only credit card issued in the US or Europe.
  • Check for restrictions before paying. While tickets are cheap, there can many restrictions.
  • One thing I haven't discovered yet is how to rebook flights although for Qatar Airways and Emirates, I think, you just need to call them or visit their office.

Booking online or through an agent will always have advantages and disadvantages. It's a matter of choosing which will work best for us.

How about you, have you tried online booking? Do you have more tips for finding cheap tickets and online booking?