Emirates Airlines – do they give a crap?
Let me first explain that I am a frequent flier – I typically average between 75k and 100k miles a year stuck in a glorified soda can half way between the earth and space. Over the past few years I have been struggling with which airline to be loyal to. I have been top tier elite or the one just below that with countless airlines. I thought that I had found the right partner in Alaska Airlines when the last of the major US carriers changed from miles flown to money spent models.
I spent a few years with Alaska and was, on the whole, very happy with them, but recent cuts to that program as they integrate Virgin America fully into the one airline meant that my loyalty was fading, and then when Delta and KLM/ Air France retaliated by cancelling their partner agreement with MileagePlan it was no longer the program for me.
Do not get me wrong, I still think that MileagePlan is a great program, for the right person. That person flies domestically in the USA out of LAX, SFO transcon, or out of Washington state. I fly internationally a lot and when I am flying in the USA I am not flying to LAX or SFO regularly, so the program was not working for me.
I decided (a decision I now bitterly regret) to transfer over to Emirates on a Status Match. That process was not easy and initially I was matched MVP Gold to Skyward Silver, which is a massive reduction in status and unacceptable. Eventually, after quite a bit of back and forwards, EK agreed to transfer me to Gold and I thought we were in good shape.
Reasons that I chose Emirates were because their on-board product is excellent, they have good partners, a nice selection of lounges (both their own and partners) and large and expanding network of destinations.
The one thing I did not factor in, is their COMPLETE LACK OF CUSTOMER SERVICE. I am not joking, it might as well not exist. The only way to contact them is via a web form on their website, which is hard to find and asks for a ridiculous amount of information. There is a phone number for the Dubai call center, but no one answers their phones. Once you send the form, you can exepct a response within 2-4 weeks typically and that response will be vague and not address any issues you have raised. They even ignore their own staff, including VIP services when they email them.
A case in point is a flight I took on October 26th of this year. I was flying BOS – DXB – EBB. I decided that I would arrive at BOS just under 4 hours prior to departure so that I could check-in early and spend some time doing some work in their lounge. I knew that check-in only opened 3 hours before the departure, but this was perfect as I had some stuff to do before I checked in.
I arrived at the checkin counter 3 hours and 10 minutes before our scheduled departure. The desks were staffed and I felt pretty good about myself for being so smart with my time management. And then I waited, then I waited and then I waited some more. The checkin desks finally started calling passengers forward for checking 2h30 minutes prior to departure. When I asked why the delay I was told that the Emirates supervisor turned up late and they were the only person with the authorization to unlock the flight for checkin!!!
I handed my bag over and received my boarding pass. For a little backgound, I was travelling with the same bag with the same contents that I had been travelling from DCA – BOS on AA. The same bag and contents BOS – NRT – CTS on JL. The same bag and contents CTS – NRT on GK. The same bag and contents NRT – NAN – AKL on FJ. The same bag and contents AKL – CHC on NZ. The same bag and contents CHC – BNE – SYD – LAX – JFK on QF. The same bag on contents also went in multiple trains planes and automobiles throughout these wonderings. As you can see, I travel a lot and I pick my bags carefully to be tough and durable.
When I arrived in EBB, this is what was presented to me:
Those of you with keen eyes will ignore the dirty laundry and the keys falling out and notice three key things.
- The zip has been destroyed
- There is a TSA approved lock which is still locked
- There is a lovely note from TSA
So we know this damage occurred in USA and Emirates flew the bag all the way from BOS via DXB to EBB in this state without even thinking about putting it in a plastic container or contacting the customer to deal with it.
The note from TSA was as follows:
This clearly states that the bag arrived to them in this state. I contacted TSA and they have confirmed this. This means that the suitcase – which was not overpacked and had travelled across the world without issues prior to checkin in BOS - was damaged between dropping it off at the checkin counter and TSA receiving it.
I went to Emirates baggage handling agent’s office in EBB to register a damage report with them as soon as it came off the belt in EBB on October 27th . The handling service for Emirates in EBB is a company called NAS. They looked at the bag and said I could not open a claim against EK because this damage was done by TSA. I showed them the TSA leaflet and explained that it clearly states that this was NOT done by TSA and that they received the bag in this state. I further pointed out that I handed the bag to EK in good order and so the bag was in the care of EK before it reached TSA, that this was where the damage occurred and that they were responsible. The agent refused, so I asked to speak to a managed at NAS. I was told there was no manager on duty – which I did not believe, but told them to call the Emirates Station Manager for EBB and have him meet me in the baggage hall. This was now well over two hours since landing in EBB. The agent called the Duty Manager and came back and told me that the Duty Manger – Geoffrey Kubinga had refused to come meet me as the issue was not Emirates responsibility. I asked for the Duty Managers contact details so I could call him myself and I was told that they would not release that information. They suggested that I go to the emirates office in the airport and try and talk to them. I did this and was told that the Duty Manager was on his was to talk to me.
This was now over 3 hours since the flight landed. Eventually I met the Duty Manager, who agreed to take the matter up and gave me his email details and asked me to email him and copy customer affairs in on the email. I emailed Emirates Customer Affairs on October 29th and copied the Mr. Kubinga. I received a response from Caroline Tukahirwa who asked for the Bag Tag Number, Boarding Passes, Ticket Number and the Date and Cost of the Purchase Cost ( I assume they meant the bag) to enable them to open a Damage Report. This would be the same damage report that their agent (Juliet) at the airport said they could not open, so I was happy with the progress and sent the information to them on October 31st.
Ms Tukahirwa then responded the following day asking me to drop the bag off at the Emirates office in Kampala. I responded and explained that I could not comply with that request – if I dropped my bag off with them, what did they expect me to do with the contents of my bag. Ms. Tukahirwa responded that if I dropped the bag at their office that they would compensate me for the cost of the bag purchase. I explained that this was not an acceptable solution. The bag was purchased off Amazon in the UK and Amazon does not deliver to Uganda within the timeframe of my stay in Uganda so I would not be able to get the bag replaced and that I needed a bag to travel with. I further explained that you can not buy suitcases of similar style and quality in Uganda. I proposed a few alternatives that might work before I left Uganda again on November 17th. These were:
- EK could source the same bag and order it at one of their other international offices and have it sent to the Uganda office. I could them pick up the new bag and surrender the damaged bag.
- I could try and get the bag repaired in Kampala, Uganda.
- I could perhaps pack the damaged bag in another bag and carry it with me to Portugal on November 17th and then order a replacement bag to be delivered to Portugal.
Ms. Tukahirwa, from Emirates, opted for option 2 and asked for receipts to be sent. I spent the next several days trying to find somewhere in Kampala that could repair the damage and eventually attempted to repair it myself. On November 7th I responded to Ms. Tukahirwa and explained I had attempted to repair it myself and asked what Emirates proposed to do about the terrible customer service I had experienced. I was told that I needed to email Customer Affairs (who had, as of yet, not even responded to the email they were sent) if I wished to receive “further compensation”. At this stage I had not received ANY compensation and as of the time I am writing this, I am still waiting to receive any compensation. I raised this point with Ms. Tukahirwa and asked her to confirm her position with Emirates. In her response she told me to contact Customer Affairs and still did not give me her title. I requested the information again and explained I needed it in order to identify her when I wrote to Customer Affairs. She did not reply. I emailed her again on November 10th (3 days later) and received no response.
On November 12th I wrote to Customer Affairs:
It took until November 22nd for Customer Affairs to respond (my initial email to Customer Affairs was October 29th). In that email they confirmed they would process a refund of GBP 57. It did very little to address any other issues:
I responded on November 24th and told them their response did not address any of my concerns or questions. They have not responded and I have not received any compensation for the issues, the damaged suitcase and its replacement costs.
Then, things got worse. I did not think that was possible, but it was. I was booked to fly LIS – DXB – EBB on December 11th. On December 9th, I received an email that I had been selected to purchase an upgrade on LIS – DXB. On December 10th I got another one for DXB – EBB. And then I got an email to check in for my flight online. I went to checkin on the Emirates App on my phone and I was told there was an error and my outbound flight LIS – DXB was not reconfirmed. I then went to my computer and tried to check in and received the same error.
I called the Lisbon office about midday on December 10th and was told that the LIS-DXB evening flight had been cancelled for “operational reasons” and that they had booked me to depart on the flight the following day. This is the first I heard about this flight cancellation and if I had not called to find out what was going on I would have turned up at Lisbon airport with no flight available. They were able to get me through to someone from the Dubai Contact Center who identified as a supervisor called Christopher.
He was able to get me on the earlier flight on the December 11th. This meant a lot of extra money for changing my car rental to drop off at LIS rather than FAO as planned. This was necessary because I would miss my train up to LIS and could not refund that money. It also meant extra fuel and toll road charges and lost work time driving to LIS. I was told to keep those extra receipts and hand them to supervisor on board the flight LIS to DXB to process these extra costs.
Christopher told me that Emirates emailed and sent me an SMS. I explained I did not receive any of those and asked them to provide proof that those items were sent and delivered. I have yet to receive any proof – because there is none – because they were not delivered.
I also wrote to Customer Affairs and requested that they put me up in the Transit Hotel in DXB as my layover had gone from 1h30 to over 8 hours. I requested that a Customer Affairs person met me off the plane in DXB so we could discuss the issues with this flight and my previous suitcase issues. I received no response.
I then called the Customer Affairs department in Dubai on the day of departure. I called 8 times. There was no answer. I emailed them again and asked them to call me. No response.
When I got to Lisbon to checkin I explained my experience and asked why the evening flight was cancelled. Initially the agent claimed that she did not even know the flight was cancelled and so she called someone and then explained to me that the evening flight was cancelled because they had not sold enough seats on it!!!
I did not have time to contact the duty officer in Lisbon for further clarifications, so when I was greeted by the purser on board my LIS – DXB flight (which is done for all elite passengers) I explained the situation. Half way through that flight the purser returned and explained that he had “radioed ahead to Dubai and that someone would meet me off the plane once we land”. There was no one there when I landed.
I emailed Customer Affairs about this – no reply.
I insisted on speaking to someone in charge in DXB and was eventually introduced to Mr. Shadi Issa Al Masalmeh, who explained he was a Duty Officer for Concourse C, where my flight arrived. After I had explained everything I have written above and showed him the emails he was very concerned and said that he would email Customer Affairs himself and copy me in. He did this. No reply from Customer Affairs.
Mr. Shadi also suggested I called Customer Affairs in the morning when they opened. I did this. No Answer.
I emailed Customer Affairs again, and guess what? Yup, NO REPLY.
All of the above correspondence to Customer Affairs was done quoting the original file number so that all the issues would be in one place.
In my last email to Customer Affairs I explained that I wanted to speak to someone in charge at Customer Affairs, as I am concerned that their department does not respond to Emirates employee’s, loyal Gold customers or answer their phones. NO REPLY.
The last email I sent them was December 12th. On December 20th I received the below email:
I have responded and reiterated that I want to speak to someone in charge of this department, not an officer. I must be insane (as it is defined), but I am waiting for a reply!!!