Five-year-old girl WILL get to go with her family to see Wales play in Qatar thanks to MailOnline
A family whose dream of flying to Qatar was shattered over their five year-old daughter’s visa foul up are today celebrating a famous World Cup victory – thanks to MailOnline.
Rhian and Andy Hayes are finally heading to the Gulf State with daughter Orla and son Harrison, eight, after they were contacted by Qatar Airways who offered to take them on the ‘next available flight’ to Doha.
The family had saved up for three years for the £7,000 once-in-a-lifetime trip and had tickets for four matches.
But their World Cup dreams appeared to be in tatters when they were turned away at the Qatar Airways check-in desk at Heathrow Airport on Wednesday morning.
A failure in Qatar’s fan ID system called Hayya meant Orla’s visa application was not officially approved until 12 hours after their flight took off and the family was forced to return home to Newport, South Wales.
After MailOnline revealed the family had been left ‘absolutely gutted’ by the failure of the system, high-ranking officials from the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, which is organizing the tournament, intervened on their behalf.
Delighted Rhian, 39, said: ‘You’ve sorted us out. Thank you so much. We really appreciate everything. We’re just so grateful.
The Hayes family are finally heading to the World Cup in Qatar after being sent home from the airport
Orla (left) and Harrison (right) are now ‘so excited’ to see four matches in Qatar
Mother Rhian said they ‘can’t wait’ to get to Doha for the tournament after high-ranking Qatari officials intervened to help them
‘We’re going to the World Cup and we can’t wait. The kids are so excited.
‘We really wanted to go to the World Cup. We wanted to experience it. It’s such a big event and we can’t wait to watch the football.
Rhian – who supports her native Wales along with Harrison and Orla – told how she and English husband Andy, 43, planned their World Cup trip after visiting friends who live in the Gulf state in 2018.
They booked their flights for their two week holiday in January and were overjoyed when Wales qualified for their first World Cup finals in 64 years.
With the help of their friends, who they are staying with in Qatar, they were able to buy 11 tickets to four group stage matches at a cost of £1,500.
They included Wales’ games against the USA and Iran.
Civil servant Rhian said: ‘Let’s just hope Wales gets through.’
Describing how the family learned that the trip was back on she said: ‘My husband had a phone call this morning from the chief executive of Qatar Airways saying the top guy in the Supreme Committee had been in touch with him and they just sorted it out. .
The Hayes family’s hopes of watching Wales in their first World Cup since 1958 seemed to be dashed when five year-old daughter Orla (left) arrived at Heathrow Airport with her visa application unapproved
The Welsh family have saved up £7,000 in three years to book their dream trip to the World Cup
‘We packed and got into the car and headed to the airport.
‘We’ve had update after update and lots of phone calls. They’ve been brilliant.
‘We were given a contact number for someone to meet us at the airport so we could go straight through. They sent us all the details in writing so we could go ahead and book our parking and everything.
A spokesperson for the Supreme Committee said: ‘Qatar Airways is happy to say it has spoken with the Hayes family and accommodated them on the next available flight to Doha on Saturday evening.
‘They can now look forward to enjoying the trip of a lifetime to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and supporting the Wales team in person.’
Rhian thanked officials in Qatar for intervening on their behalf adding: ‘There was a problem in the Hayya system and hopefully now nobody is going to be left in the same situation.’
MailOnline told how the family had been victims of a breakdown in the system set up to fast track fans’ entry into Qatar.
This meant the application for Orla, which was supposed to take less than five days to approve, was held up for 10 weeks.
The family was told that the application had been approved on paper but there was no confirmation on the official Qatar 2022 app.
They told how they were advised by officials in Qatar to sort out the issue when they arrived at Doha airport on Wednesday evening.
The family traveled through the night, arriving at Heathrow at 5.30am on Wednesday before queuing up for their Qatar Airways flight for an hour and a half.
But when they finally reached the check in desk they were told their daughter would not be able to board the flight without her digital ‘QR code’.
Rhian said: ‘They wouldn’t let us get on the flight. There was no support there at all.
‘We spoke to a manager at the airport and he said “No. You cannot get on this flight”. There was no kind of “What an awful situation you are in, let’s just see if we can phone anybody for you”. It was just so unfair.
Describing the impact of the failure, Rhian said: ‘We feel absolutely gutted for the kids. We had been saving up for this for years and it comes at a time when you’ve just been hit by a financial crisis. It’s just devastating.
‘I hope it doesn’t scar the children. Everything was linked to my five year old.
‘She’s apologizing saying “I’m so sorry”. We’re trying to say to her “It’s not your fault. It’s the system’s fault”. All she is hearing is Oral Hayes, Orla Hayes. We can’t fly because of Orla Hayes. Poor thing.
‘My son was desperate to get to the World Cup. He is a massive football fan – he’s obsessed.
‘It’s devastating for him. Having the whole thing ripped from you for no reason, it’s just horrendous.’
The Hayya system was set up to fast track visa applications for World Cup fans and make the process of traveling simpler.
Supporters with tickets and accommodation need to apply for a digital Hayya card which allows entry into Qatar as well as stadium access and free transport during their stay in the country.
After being ‘heartbroken’ by the news, the family were delighted to be able to fly out on their long-awaited holiday
The family made their online application in mid-September and quickly received approval for everyone except Orla.
Rhian told how they spent weeks trying to resolve the issue with emails and phone calls as their five-year-old’s application was left stuck in ‘pending’.
She said: ‘My daughter’s application was submitted at the same time as ours. Myself, my husband and my son were all approved.
‘Both the children were put through on my husband’s hay as that’s the way the system works for dependents. It just didn’t make sense that my five-year-old’s didn’t go through.
‘We started to worry. We called Hayya who at the time sounded very helpful.
‘There were email exchanges and phone call after phone call.
‘All they kept saying was ‘We’ll raise this and we’ll let them know’ but nothing was happening.
‘Then it got to two weeks before we were traveling. It was getting ridiculous.
‘We had two families at both ends trying to sort this out. Our friends in Qatar were going to immigration at their end. They were told the visa was there but there was an error with the link on the app.
‘The immigration department in Qatar said it had been approved on the exact same date as the three of you but something has happened in the system where it’s just got stuck.
‘We never had the approved status. It was like she was stuck in the system and nobody there could escalate or do anything about it.
‘We called them and called them. They kept saying we promise this will be sorted within 24 hours but it never was.
‘On Monday we were panicking. We called them again. We were given advice to continue to travel and sort it out in Doha.
‘He said “Don’t worry. We will not be leaving people in the lurch. You will get on your flight and we will get you your physical copy when you get to Doha.”
`We took them at their word. We traveled to Heathrow on Wednesday but they wouldn’t let us get on the flight. It was an absolute shambles.
The family spent hours at the airport trying to resolve the matter and were told they would have to fork out nearly £5,000 to book new flights.
But they couldn’t afford the extra cost and decided to return home as they still didn’t have approval for their daughter on the Qatar 2022 app.
Rhian said: ‘We got home with two exhausted kids. To rub salt into the wounds my daughter got approved at 8pm that night. It just came through on the app.
‘We thought this was ridiculous. We have been chasing for weeks. We were absolutely heartbroken.
‘It was a slap in the face for us that we had got home and it was finally approved.
‘They waited till we had missed our flight before putting it on the system. It just made us feel even worse.
She added: ‘It has been emotionally draining. You’re kind of angry.
‘It’s all happened because the system is not working in the way it should be. Presumably it was designed to make the whole thing easier for fans.
‘The whole trip was ruined because nobody would escalate it and there was nobody we could speak to to find out why it hadn’t been sorted out.’
Wales kick off their World Cup campaign against the USA at 7pm UK time on Monday.
They face Iran at 10am on Friday November 25 before taking on England on Tuesday November 29 in their final group stage match.