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I am pretty good at flying. Not flying planes, but booking airline tickets with cash or miles, figuring out the complicated logistics of traveling, never missing a flight, rebooking with ease in the case of irregular operations, etc.

I get things right when it comes to this stuff and then there is what happened to us at the Velana International Airport in theMaldives. I'm kind of embarrassed, but I'll share it anyway.

I didn’t do my homework

It was time to slowly return home after an amazing 11 nights in the Maldives. We spent a couple of nights in Doha after we flew from Male in first class. I was looking forward to this flight, as it was operated by a leased plane.

We arrived at the check-in counter at 4:30PM after taking the seaplane from the Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru. We thought we had plenty of time to spare.

Qatar Airways check-in Male Airport

We were asked for our final destination after I handed over our passports and our tests. The conversation went like this when I said "Doha".

Agent: “Can I see your Ehteraz form?”Me: “Sorry, what’s that?”Agent: “The authorization needed to travel to Qatar.”Me: “I thought I read that the pre-travel authorization form was optional and was just intended to speed up the arrivals process? We have our PCR tests and proof of vaccination, including booster.”Agent: “No, we can’t let you board unless you have been approved.”Me: “Oh… do you know how long that takes?”

Agent: “Sometimes it’s fast, and sometimes it’s not.”

You're probably wondering how I messed this up. I've traveled internationally quite a bit during the Pandemic, and haven't had a single issue keeping track of travel restrictions or entry requirements for myself or my family.

I looked at the Ministry of Public Health website before I left, but somehow I didn't understand it correctly.

  • On some level I probably have unnecessary paperwork fatigue, given the number of forms that I’ve filled out over the past two years; on top of that, with restrictions easing, there aren’t as many travel forms as there used to be, so maybe I was just assuming that a global travel hub was now making it easy to visit
  • I don’t think Qatar’s website about travel requirements is particularly clear; I scrolled down to the section for “visitors,” and nowhere there does it mention needing to complete the pre-travel authorization, but rather it just talks about the testing requirement
  • I saw other sections that referenced how “your pre-travel online registration will help accelerate your passage and clearance at the port of arrival for a better arrival experience in Qatar,” which makes it sound like it’s optional rather than required

I have taken some trips recently with optional pre- travel forms, and found them to be a huge waste of time, and that is how I interpreted it. I should have filled out the form on the side of caution.

I accept full responsibility. There are sections that state these forms are required, but I don't think they are spelled out clearly.

Issues with Qatar’s pre-travel form

Initially, I was not really worried. Most countries that require you to fill out a pre- travel form have an approval process that can be completed in minutes. Male Airport isn't a great place to go to get anything done on your laptop, between the spotty wi-fi and the lack of seating in the departures area.

I sat on the floor near the check-in desk. I filled out the forms within 15 minutes. I received an email 10 minutes later that said our applications had been processed. I went to the application and the status was listed as return for action.

“Dear passengers, Kindly provide your V-safe screen shot for verification. Thankyou.”

Sorry, say what? I asked the check-in agent if she knew what V-Safe was, and she said she had never heard of it. There was no reference to this on the website I looked at. I did some research, and it seems that it is a CDC vaccine health checker program.

I haven't needed that for travel since the start of the Pandemic, and I had never heard of this before.

I went to the official CDC website to sign up for V-Safe, but got an error message on the registration page, saying that they couldn't find what I was looking for. I tried on my phone, laptop, and browsers, and I didn't get any results. The site was down for maintenance no matter what method I tried. It was a weekend, so it makes sense.


There is no way to communicate with anyone in Qatar. It isn't possible to put a note in your profile explaining this.

I thought my best bet was to try and submit the form again. The immigration version of "hang up and call again" is how it should be. There was a different problem this time, but there was no request for V-Safe.

“Dear Passengers, Kindly attach your full dose CDC vaccine certificate for verification. Thank you”

We submitted our full vaccine certificates with the application. The US vaccine cards look like an elementary school arts and crafts project.

I went back into the application and uploaded the pictures again in hopes that someone hadn't seen them correctly. There was a response 10 minutes later.

The check-in agent was lovely but explained that she had no control over, which I can't blame her for.

Now what?!

The station manager was involved in the situation and tried to help. We were coming to the realization that we probably weren't going to make our flight.

  • We realized we might be spending the night in Male, which frankly I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time, so there was a silver lining
  • Our PCR test would be expired if we traveled the next day, so realistically we would have just rebooked something for the next day connecting in Qatar, rather than staying there (since connections don’t require testing)

The check-in screens switched from the logo of the airline to the generic airport messages as we neared our flight.

Check-in counter at Male Airport

I knew it was bad news when the carpet was being rolled up.

Bye bye carpet!

The good news is that there are three flights from Male to Doha on the same plane. One is at 9:05PM, one is at 8:45PM, and one is at 7:45PM. If the situation could be worked out, the station manager would rebook us on one of these.

All we could do was wait. We were promised someone would be working on the situation in the background, so we waited and waited. The check-in was closing before we knew it.

We knew it was only 20 minutes until check-in closed. We were told that one of us had been authorized to take the flight, but they were still waiting for the other person.

We were waiting. The check-in was closed for the 9:05PM flight. We were told that we had to go to a specific desk after we were cleared, but we waited a few minutes.

We arrived at our gate after running toward immigration and security. We were excited to see this plane.

The Qatar Airways 777 taking us to Doha

Bottom line

I had issues with travel restrictions for the first time since the start of the Pandemic. Most countries are starting to eliminate barriers to travel and even eliminate travel forms.

It was on me to not fill out this form in advance because I think the entry requirements are confusing. I assumed that I would have no issues filling it out at the airport. This was the only situation where that didn't work.

We were lucky that there were three flights that were open in first class. We barely made it to the airport.

I wonder if this situation would have played out differently if I had completed the form in advance. I am not sure if the V-Safe website would have worked, and I was also told to submit my full dose card when I was already doing that. It might have been difficult to get this fixed with no email or number to call.

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