Tens of thousands of airline passengers are caught up in travel chaos at Doha airport after a severe thunderstorm stopped operations from 10.25pm to midnight on Thursday night.
At least 18 inbound flights were diverted overnight to seven different airports including the Saudi capital, Riyadh – over 300 miles away.
Dozens of outbound departures were severely delayed. From 9.45pm local time on Thursday evening to 5.15am on Friday morning, not a single plane departed punctually: around 120 outbound flights were held up.
Doha is second only to Dubai among Gulf airports in terms of passenger numbers. More than 100,000 travellers pass through every day. Most passengers are in transit, with connections as short as 45 minutes.
It appears that Qatar Airways may have prioritised earlier delayed passengers, denying boarding to later travellers even if they had a valid boarding pass.
Hugh Davison, a passenger travelling inbound from Tokyo via Doha to London Heathrow told The Independent: “When we arrived there was chaos at the airport. The backlog is immense.
“We had boarding passes for the onward flight, but nobody on the incoming flight warned us that we would have to rebook for it.
“We went to board our flight back to the UK but were turned away at the gate.”
He then began queuing at the Qatar Airways desk for a later flight, and reported: “We have stood in a queue for three hours, and so far four people have received tickets.”
Mr Davison was initially re-routed via Bahrain to London Heathrow, but it now appears he may be able to get a direct flight. He said: “I have lost flights at other airports but never seen anything as bad as this.”
The Independent has asked Qatar Airways for a response.
But the Boeing 777 then circled over Qatar for half-an-hour before diverting to Bahrain. Flight BA2033 later flew on to Qatar, where it touched down over three hours late.
By this time many of the passengers had missed connections, adding to the crowds waiting to be reassigned on later flights.