Flying Qatar Airways During Ramadan

Jun 14, 2017

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I traveled in and out of Doha, Qatar, (DOH) last week, getting a chance to see exactly how the political situation has been affecting daily life and how people travel given the new airspace restrictions. I had a particularly interesting experience on a recent hop from Doha to Larnaca, Cyprus, (LCA) since it was a daytime flight during Ramadan.

In terms of policy, Qatar Airways doesn’t serve any alcohol in its lounges at Doha until the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer that’s celebrated by Muslims all over the world. However, alcoholic beverages are still available in the air — except on flights to Saudi Arabia, which, as of this writing, are suspended anyway due to the airspace ban — but it’s not displayed, nor are any alcohol options listed on the business-class menu. If you do want to order something bubbly, all you have to do is ask the cabin crew, but don’t expect drinks to be actively offered by flight attendants or to even see them on a beverage cart.

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This is where things got interesting. As I was being served my food, I opted for an alcohol-free mocktail since it sounded really refreshing. It was purely a coincidence that it was alcohol free — I just wasn’t too keen on the fruit options that had been mixed into the alcoholic version.

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When the only other passenger in business class seated in row three saw the crew serve me my drink, he began to complain loudly, saying how this was “not allowed during daytime” and asking if the crew even realized it was Ramadan?

The purser handled the situation calmly and discreetly, explaining to the gentleman that alcohol is indeed available onboard to those passengers who were not observing Ramadan or otherwise wished to consume it. She also clarified (although it didn’t really matter) that the drink I had been served was not even alcoholic.

Unfortunately, this passenger was not having any of it. He told the crew that they shouldn’t even be serving food on this daytime flight, let alone alcohol, and demanded “papers to complain.”

Before the passenger could get any angrier, a cabin crew instructor who happened to be onboard the aircraft training a new member of crew calmly informed him of Qatar Airways’ policy, which prohibits alcohol on the ground and in the lounges during Ramadan, but not in the air. The man wasn’t impressed, but at least he listened a little better this time around.

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I really felt for the crew in this situation, but it did surprise me that simply ordering my main course and a fruity pineapple drink was enough to cause a small onboard situation. In fact, I specifically made sure I was eating out of eyesight of the other passenger in order to respect the fact that he was likely fasting during the daytime hours, and to make sure I wasn’t advertising my entire dining experience to him, especially during what can be long days without food or water for those observing Ramadan. Who knows how this passenger would have reacted had someone else been in the cabin consuming lots of alcohol and feasting openly on everything the menu!

Have you ever experienced any difficulty eating/drinking onboard Gulf carriers during Ramadan? Tell us about it, below.

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