Qantas, the Australian airline due to launch its partnership with Emirates on March 31, has been forced to respond to concerns passengers would inadvertently break the law during a stop-over in Dubai.
Under the new alliance, which is expected to receive final approval from the Australian regulator within days, all Qantas flights to Europe and the Middle East, as well as many to Africa, will include a stop-over in Dubai.
But lobby group Detained in Dubai is concerned passengers will be unaware of the vast differences between the countries’ legal systems and inadvertently get themselves into trouble.
It has issued a press release in Australia calling on the flagship carrier to explain how it will protect passengers, including “warning” them that sharing a hotel room with somebody they’re not married to or eating in public during Ramadan could lead to jail.
The organization raised several examples of Australians who had been jailed in controversial circumstances, including Alicia Gall who was imprisoned for eight months when she complained of having her drink spiked and being raped by four co-workers at a luxury Dubai hotel in June 2008.
“In light of what happened to Alicia, how does Qantas maintain that Dubai resorts are safe for Australians?” the organization asked.
Another question raised the experience of 32-year old Australian Sun McKay, who was arrested for swearing in Dubai Airport after being yelled at by a man who later revealed himself as an undercover officer.
“Sun was jailed for months. What guarantees are there that more Australians won’t be caught in a similar situation inside the airport?” the organisation’s press release says.
“Qantas [also] has said that Jewish and Israeli passengers will be safe transiting through Dubai, provided they don’t leave the airport. In the event of a catastrophe or severe weather when airport hotels are full, what does Qantas expect these passengers to do?”
In a surprise move, Qantas has responded to the concerns, noting that 50 million people a year travel through Dubai Airport, including more than two million Australians, and most without incident.
“Different rules apply in many of the countries we fly to, which is the very nature of international travel,” the statement says.
“We encourage all our passengers – whether they are travelling to Asia or the United States or the UAE – to check the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website so that are fully informed of local laws and customs before they board our aircraft.”