So I just returned from my fifth trip to South Africa. As with my first four trips I yet again traveled a new route. This one started in Houston versus out of Phoenix. Why? Well I was traveling with my hunting buddy who moved to Austin, TX last October. And @AZ KJ has in his garage a turkey which was mounted by @gizmo from our hunt there a year ago. Long story shortened, I needed to pick up this turkey anyway and blah blah blah, I drove to Austin. I will be making the road trip home tomorrow with turkey in the bed of my Tundra. As some may know, flying out of Austin is expensive. I don't know why, but it is. As I researched travel, I found that flying out of Houston is much cheaper and it was worth the 3 hour drive and paying for off airport parking. I also found that even with a leg from Tambo to Bloemfontein that our fares would be less than $1200 for economy and this sealed the decision. We could have flown on Emirates also, but it would have been a bit more expensive. Between Emirates and Qatar Airways, I think I've found my favorite options. Both offer: 1) Great customer service, both at the airports and on board. 2) Food was actually quite good for airline food, albeit I thought Emirates was a little better overall. 3) Mostly hassle free in regards to traveling with firearms. An email with copies of your 4457, passport photo page and letter of invitation needs to be sent prior to departure. But once this is done, there should be no issues. 4) Airports in Doha and Dubai are both immaculately clean with plenty of food options. If you're in need of a beer or alcoholic drink, I did not see where that is possible in Doha in general airport areas. @Mort Hill wrote a report on Qatar where drinks were available, but I believe this is only in the airline lounges which we did not have access too as we were flying economy. So in the end, do I prefer one over the other. The answer to that is yes, I prefer Emirates. There were a couple of hiccups with Qatar that bring about that preference. Now to be fair, this is only one data point and should not be used as an establishment of a trend or frequent experience. But this is what happened. On arrival at check in in Houston, where we were literally the first in line and had to wait a few minutes for the counter to actually open, we had our first little glitch. There was someone there who was to handle the firearms, he knew that we, or at least KJ was coming. They had all the information on Kevin, but nothing on me. So the employee was a little surprised. That said, he handled it. It took a little more effort and time than it did for Kevin, but it got done. And that's why we show up early when firearms are involved after all. The next issue was carry on baggage. When traveling economy out of the U.S. you are restricted to one carry on piece, not the customary two. And Qatar will tag your carry on, so no hiding the bags. We each had two checked bags, one for rifles, one for ammo. And we both had two pieces of carry on. This has been my practice to do so since my first trip to Africa. I can in my carryon bring electronics in a small back pack and enough clothes in a small suitcase resulting in two carryon pieces. This became a problem that if I had read the Qatar Air website more carefully I would have known. It is mentioned on it, but there's another spot that says two pieces were okay. My understanding from talking to a lady sitting next to me on the plane is that this is a U.S. thing only regarding one carryon. She said it had to do with business negotiations and the U.S. government. So what happened? Well the lady managing the check in area worked with us. We each ended up checking a third bag to make the single carryon req't. But she did so without charging us for the extra bag. So in the end it worked out okay, but it was a hassle with also shuffling items in the baggage to make weight requirements. Now would it have worked out with no extra charges were the manager a different person? Maybe, maybe not. And then a third issue. After getting checked in and rifles through TSA, we sat down for a beer and to wait out the time prior to departure. It was during this time that we realized we didn't have the seat assignments I had selected when booking the tickets. I had selected two aisle seats, one on the window side and one on the middle section. I hate like everyone else having a middle seat. For Kevin who is about 6' 4", he really needs the leg room. I had an aisle seat assignment though different from what I had selected, but he had the middle seat beside me. We went to the gate and explained this to the gentleman there and that we had not received any notification of the change. He was very apologetic and basically admitted that should not have happened. So once again, what happened? Well the flight had some no shows and after a period of time, Kevin got reassigned to an aisle seat. Had there not been the no shows, I'm not sure what would the result have been. But this was definitely a negative on Qatar. And finally there was a fourth issue. While KJ was working with the gate agent, CBP showed up looking for me. Somewhere in the nether regions of the baggage area, our rifle cases came through and CBP was there looking for them and that paperwork was in order. Remember the experience I had at the check in counter with QA not having information on my firearms? So in the end, KJ comes and gets me and I go talk to the CBP officer. He explained that he didn't have the appropriate information and that was a problem. Something about a box on some document that wasn't checked and he seemed to be blaming me. All I could say was what box? In the end, he was polite and nice about it and all he wanted was to make sure I had my 4457 so there wouldn't be an issue when we came back. I told him I had it and was starting pull it out of my backpack, but he said no need and everything would be fine. I still don't know what document he was talking about and I put this back on QA not handling my firearms email and documentation correctly. With all these issues resolved, we're now on board and ready to go. But then the flight was an hour and half late leaving after we had boarded, adding to the long time we'd already have to spend on the plane. Stuff happens, but this wasn't a good mark either for QA. Eventually we left of course and the late arrival in Doha didn't matter as we had a long layover and nothing to worry about. Guns made it to Joburg no problem. On return, everything went much better. But the check in process was long, once again due to the firearms. In spite of having all the necessary information on their computer system, they were relying on seeing our paperwork, including SAPS permit, and the check in agent had to fill out a bunch of paperwork by hand. I must say she worked as quickly as she could and was very friendly about it. But between KJ and I, I'd bet the process took an hour or more. And this was ended with one of the agents having to make copies of our passport photo pages even though they should have had these already on their system. In the end we got to where we were going and back, with very good customer service and for a great fare. But none of these issues did I experience when I traveled in 2016 on Emirates. Emirates was simply superb in their efficiency in handling the firearms. The Emirates employees handling the rifles were completely versed in their procedures and handled everything better than QA. Why didn't I travel Emirates this time? Well the fare would have been about $300-400 more as I recall. It was enough to make me consider and choose QA. Would I fly QA again? Probably, but it would need to once again be significantly cheaper than Emirates. If the price difference were closer to $200, that could be ate up with an extra checked baggage fee. It wasn't in this case, but that could've been different depending on who was working the counter in Houston on departure. One last thing. The Doha airport does have a hotel on the air side of security that you can get a room in for a sleep and shower. KJ and I got a room for this, but it was more than double what I paid in Dubai airport. But with an 8 hour layover or so, sitting in an airport seat just isn't acceptable to me. So consider this cost too.