Emirates refuses to raise payout for 'hotel stranger' mix-up

Airline says offer of 25,000 Skywards miles is 'final position' after passenger forced to share room with stranger

Dubai-based airline Emirates has refused to negotiate compensation for an Australian woman who was asked to share a room with a male stranger when her flight was delayed, potentially causing repercussions under UAE law.

Susan Tickle said she was concerned when Emirates staff told her she would be sharing a room with a “random” man, despite travelling with her brother, after her flight from Glasgow to Sydney was delayed in Dubai on January 21.

It is against UAE law for a male and female to share accommodation unless they are married or related.

“I actually could not believe that the airport staff were showing us such disregard for our own religious, cultural and moral beliefs,” Tickle told Arabian Business from Sydney.

“We all felt very uncomfortable, even the worry of your belongings and privacy.”

Emirates claims the incident was a “mistake” and that it takes the allocation of strangers of the opposite sex in the same hotel room “very seriously”.

In an email response to a complaint by Tickle’s brother Jamie Young, an Emirates customer service employee offered the pair 25,000 miles each towards their Skywards memberships, “purely as a gesture of goodwill and by way of apology”.

“Once again, please accept our sincere apologies for your experience on this occasion,” the email, dated April 4 and seen by Arabian Business, says.

“The triple accommodation would normally only be offered to members of the same group, and upon their consent, and not to complete strangers. Apparently the male passenger who was booked in your sister’s room was listed on the voucher as a female in error.”

The siblings were dissatisfied with the offer of 25,000 miles – which is far less than the 90,000 miles needed to claim a Sydney-Glasgow return trip, or 72,500 miles required for a Sydney-Dubai return ticket. The 25,000 miles would be sufficient to buy only a return ticket within the GCC.

In a reply to the airline, Young said the offer was “of little comfort” and “inadequate given the circumstances”.

“Effectively it means that we have the option of booking another flight with Emirates - given that number of miles actually isn't enough to get anywhere we want to travel. So we are given the choice to pay your company additional funds, and again put faith in your company, in the hope that your airline and its staff perform better next time,” he wrote.

“This is a risk at this stage [that] both myself and my sister are certainly not willing to take.”

In a response on Monday, Emirates said the complaint had been “investigated fully” and it would not discuss the matter further.

“We believe the goodwill gesture offered is appropriate and as no new concerns have been raised we have nothing further to explain, which is our final position in the matter,” an email signed by the Sydney-based customer relations manager says.

Emirates claims the strangers were told to share a room because of a lack of available accommodation due to numerous flights being delayed at the same time. All passengers were given the choice of staying at the airport or sharing accommodation.

“... all passengers were advised that if they had any concerns with the hotel arrangements, they could be taken up and rectified upon their arrival at the hotel,” the initial email response to Young says.

“As you managed to switch with the gentleman in your sister’s room, there are no reports mentioning your complaint at [the] Hotel where you were accommodated.

“Notwithstanding, I sincerely regret the frustration you felt with the overall handling of this disrupt [sic] and I would like to assure you that this was not indicative of our usual level of service.”

The complaint was forwarded to relevant senior managers, who would “address the situation as necessary, and where appropriate counsel staff on their performance”.

“Emirates, in accordance with employment and confidentiality policies, does not share the details of any internal actions taken,” the email says.

Young said he managed to swap rooms with the stranger and did not register a complaint at the hotel, instead sending an email to Emirates days later.

He said the response was “very insulting given it's gravity and the insinuation that we are at fault for not creating a scene when finally [we had] some hope of a place to sleep was in sight is ridiculous”.

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Posted by: P. MADHUSUDAN

EMIRATES clearly has an attitude problem. While some of the ground staff are quite courteous, the rest are downright rude. On board catering is terrible. Most often the food served is cold and tasteless. I too have been a senior executive in the airline industry and I can tell you when things are going bad.Maybe success has gone to their heads. Very poor Supervisory Management.

Posted by: Sabahat Aslam

The most perplexing thing is that after reporting a complaint, its simply impossible to talk to somebody in the management since the agents are only interested in hushing up the matter.

Had problems with Emirates online seat reservations and ticket purchasing as system after accepting the CC info, crashed and seat was no more available. Seems to be a deliberate bug in the Emirates application and talking to 5 different people didnt help.

Its simply pathetic that these problems happen with Emirates only while other airlines seriously pay attention to their customer's issues and make sincere efforts to solve them.

Emirates has a serious attitude problem.

A very dis-satisfied client.

Posted by: Nomoreemirates

Six years of flying with Emirates and things getting steadily worse. The last straw was when I was almost bumped off a New York flight because I did not have the zip code for the Grand Hyatt Hotel in NYC! When I suggested to the boarding clerk that they could cross check their systems, because they had full details already input by me on line, and keyed by the cashier when I paid for the my ticket at their office (because the on line payment system was broken again) he slammed my ticket and boarding pass onto the counter and huffed at me, proceeding to announce that I could not travel without the information....needless to say I screamed for a manager and was swiftly assisted with a smile....unreal experience, I will NOT be travelling with them again.

Posted by: Michael

Spot on Jerome! For some people, the compensation offered is never enough. We all make mistakes and no real harm was done because the passengers found out and simply switched rooms. Sad to see that they now blow this completely out of proportion, and that by going to the press they hope to get even more than 25.000 miles. What do they expect, two free first class tickets? It's pure greed and foolishness. I fly Emirates a lot and - guess what - like every other airline, no-one is perfect.

Well done Emirates for having the guts to stand up to shameless people who jump on every occasion to argue for free gifts, free airmiles, free upgrades, refunds etc.

Posted by: Mark Renton

Michael, if you fly Emirates a lot then you will know that 25,000 miles won't get you anywhere, and even if it could the chances of being able to redeem them for a flight that you actually would want to take are minimal.

Much like the rest of Emirates, the skywards programme used to be excellent but is now a shadow of its former self.

Posted by: Tommy

My wife used to work for Emirates for 6 years and Cuts on benefits, cuts on customers options and cuts of any luxury items.

But what makes things worse is that aircrew now work much longer hours every month as Emirates reduced lay-overs times to save more money.

Posted by: one of the joes

@Tim, they are an airline, hence they have to comply with international regulation. if you actually talk to cabin crew you will hear interesting and relevant things

and in regard to profits - you loose profits if you loose revenues and you loose revenues when you face an increasing number of highly disappointed clients choosing to fly competition

and you loose passengers especially when more and more have dissatisfying experiences due to overworked cabin crew

quite simple actually, if you apply some logic

Posted by: Tim

well what do you expect? They have to be run to make profits. It's not a charity.

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