A Travellerspoint blog

London - Doha


View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Heathrow Special Assistance

After a good night’s sleep at Premier Inn near the terminal, we are up and about early this morning, allowing extra time for me to get a wheelchair at the airport. Walking (short distances) is not the problem, it is standing around for more than a few minutes that causes me problems – such as queuing for check-in. Hence I request the chair from the car park rather than the Special Assistance Desk after check-in. We know from past experience that you are not supposed to be disabled before 5 am, as that is the time the Special Assistance service starts, so we use the dedicated telephone near the lifts to call them at 05:01, explaining exactly where we are (including the location number posted by the phone). We are told someone will be with us in “five to ten minutes”. Fifteen minutes go by, and we phone again. “I’ll find out” is the answer.

Getting nowhere fast, we decide to walk to the terminal, but thankfully we meet the young girl with my wheelchair along the way. Check-in is painless, but the poor porter is reprimanded when she uses the Special Assistance lane at immigration. Huh? Who else is yje special assistance lane for if it is not for those travellers who have requested special assistance and are being pushed in a wheelchair supplied by the Special Assistance service by a Special Assistance porter? I give up! Heathrow has a lot to learn from other countries on how to treat their less able passengers.

Once through to the airside, we request to be dropped at the Commission Restaurant, where David will later take over pushing the chair (he relishes the idea of being able to legitimately push me around).

Commission Restaurant

Food service does not start until 06:00, but they reluctantly let us occupy a table while we wait.

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Poster on the wall

I am delighted to find that they have Eggs Royale on the menu – that’s me sorted! David chooses smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.

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David's scrambled eggs

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My dish looks rather naked without any garnish to dress it up – I am a huge fan of nicely plated food, as I think how a dish looks can greatly affect your perception of its taste.

Thankfully, the table decoration is a pot of parsley, so I add my own.

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That’s much better.

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Every breakfast is improved by a glass of good-quality orange juice

From here David pushes me straight to the gate, which coincidentally is right next to the Special Assistance holding area.

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Qatar Airways Flight QR 10 from Heathrow to Doha

There are two other lesser-abled passengers in wheelchairs on this flight, including a very frail elderly woman, who struggled to swap over from the terminal chair to the aisle chair, which is narrower to enable her companion (daughter?) to push her down to her seat. Again, once at her allocated row, she takes several minutes to transfer from the chair into her seat. She appears to be non-verbal, possibly suffering from dementia, and her extremely swollen legs are swathed in bandages.

Throughout the flight, she seems to be experiencing some serious problems, with several crew members crowding around her, administering first aid and oxygen, and at one stage laying her out flat on the floor in the aisle. Poor lady, and her poor companion, it must be so distressing for them both.

I deliberately miss the first meal on the flight, as I am still full from the salmon earlier, but I enjoy the second offering, which is a choice of tomato-based pizza or a chicken puff. The latter is similar to a sausage roll filled with slightly spicy pulled chicken. While the initial impression is that it is rather too small to be a complete meal, it is in fact very dense, and subsequently rather filling.

Doha Airport

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If I thought Heathrow offered inadequate service, they have nothing on Doha. As soon as we exit the plane, we are met with absolute chaos. I am initially asked to wait in my seat for assistance, which I happily do to avoid the usual crush while de-planing.

There is a bicycle ambulance waiting for the troubled old lady, but I am now told I need to walk to the end of the ramp where there will be a cart waiting for me. I pass two wheelchairs along the way.

The cart driver asks to see my boarding card. I hand it over. “No, the next one”. For a couple of seconds, I am a little confused, but then I realise that they just assume we are on a connecting flight. “No, no, we are staying in Doha” I protest. “You need to go upstairs,” he says with a dismissive wave in the general direction we have come from.

Using specially sharpened elbows, we fight our way through the doors, against the oncoming passengers leaving the aircraft. Groan. I ask the lady directing passengers where the lift is. She sends us back out through the doors again. “No, we are staying in Doha” I utter with thinly disguised frustration. “Oh”. She looks like she has seen a ghost. Is it rally that unusual for passengers to actually want to have a stopover in Doha?

She then takes us right back to the plane, where there is a wheelchair and porter; we find the lift and once upstairs I am left in the wheelchair in the corridor while the porter goes off. A buggy arrives for a drive through the huge terminal to a holding area nearer the exit, where I am placed in another wheelchair to join the long, slow queue for immigration.

The line for passports snakes all around a huge hall - thank goodness I have a chair. Despite the fact that we are taken to the special assistance counter which only has four people in front of us, it still takes 27 minutes to get through. This is in part due to a few immigrant workers – who should probably not have been in this lane in the first place - who need to have their sponsorship verified. Somehow the ill passenger from the flight manages to be in front of us – no idea how that has happened, as she was still being tended to by the paramedics when we left the gate. Once we reach the counter, it is a reasonably smooth process - David is photographed and has his fingerprints taken, whereas I just sail through.

On the way out, our hand luggage is x rayed, before we are able to collect the checked-in bags and make our way to the taxi rank. The driver speaks a little English, so I ask him to take us to Warwick Hotel. He looks at me blankly. I repeat: Warwick Hotel”. He calls a colleague over. I say it slowly: “Warrrrick Hotel”. Still no sign of recognition on their faces. More people gather, and David tries. Nothing. I dig the confirmation out from my huge paperwork folder, grateful that I printed everything before leaving home. “The driver looks at the paper and a lightbulb goes off. “Ah, Wah-wick” he says with a smile.

Warwick Hotel (or is that Wah-Wick?)

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All arriving guests are requested to enter through a metal detector, while the luggage is X-rayed.

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To our delight, upon checking in, we find that we have been upgraded.

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I have no idea what the ‘standard’ rooms look like, but ours is very smart-looking with a large double bed, a comfortable chair, lots of gold adornments, and a bathroom containing a bidet and shower.

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We drop the bags in the room and head for the rooftop pool to see what the view is like.

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I was planning to get my tripod from the suitcase, but at 36 °C and 75% humidity, it is not at all pleasurable up there. It normally takes me a couple of days to get used to such heat, so I just snap a few photos with my phone before we head to the air-conditioned restaurant.

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L’Auberge Restaurant

Having checked out the facilities of the hotel before leaving home, we had initially intended to grab a snack at the Moon Deck, but the heat put paid to that, so we head for the main restaurant, which incidentally is the only one open anyway.

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The menu “offers an extensive range of Continental, Arabic, Asian and Western dishes served buffet or a la carte style” – except they have no Arabic dishes available. Not being a fan of buffets, nor wanting a large meal, we both settle on pizzas.

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I am sad to report that mine was barely adequate, with little taste and overcooked prawns.

Exhausted from a long day travelling, and no bar to while away our time (Qatar is a dry country), we retire to bed early.

End of day one, and all is well. Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this amazing Grand Tour of South East Asia for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 17:53 Archived in Qatar Tagged pizza heathrow wheelchair qatar_airways special_assistance _doha -warwick_hotel commission_restaurant lauberge_restaurant

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Comments

As I said previously, I'm looking forward to following this adventure! A shame about all the airport hassle (and the bad pizza!) but at least you're now on your way!

by ToonSarah

Thank you, Sarah, you soon forget all the hassle once you start exploring. It is only because I write it down in my notes at the time that I remember it.

by Grete Howard

Hi Greta, I really enjoyed reading your blog on Doga. You say Qatar is a dry country and that's largely true, but we stayed there for two nights and had a restaurant in our hotel that did alcohol. Of course, things may have changed but I think there are probably some places where alcohol is available.

by irenevt

We went in 2017 and stayed in the Grand Mercure Hotel. This is the link to my blog about it https://triptoqatar.travellerspoint.com/

by irenevt

Thank you, Irene, our guide did suggest there might be places where alcohol is available, and I seem to remember there being something on the news about that during the World Cup. I shall check out your blog :)

by Grete Howard

what a hassle at the airport, luckily you guys made it!

by Ils1976

Thanks Ils, I have waves in my universe. ;)

by Grete Howard

by Ils1976

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