By Lubna Hamdan
Boundaries separating the different classes on Dubai’s number one airline appear to be blurred, based on one recent experience.
Emirates airline did not soar from a two-plane operation in the desert to the world’s largest long-haul carrier by relaxing its grip. Since its inception, it has maintained a strict formula for everything, down to its flight attendants’ pre-authorised shade of crimson lipstick.
Much like Dubai, the home-grown brand prides itself on glamour, prestige and above all: first-class customer service across all its classes. But that just might be one space where Emirates has loosened its grip.
On a recent flight from Dubai to Geneva, I was told I had to be downgraded from Business Class to Economy because the cabin had been overbooked.
After arguing that I had a paid-for seat, I was given two options: either be downgraded to Economy and offered a complimentary ticket anywhere in Europe as reimbursement, or be put on Business Class on the next flight.
Because I was on a scheduled business trip, as many Business Class flyers are, I was unable to opt for the second option and had to be in Geneva by a certain time.
Left with no other choice, I opted for the first option and was told to proceed to the plane, where I would be handed the “complimentary European business ticket”.
Having arrived at the plane, however, no one knew of my situation. Despite repeatedly enquiring about the ticket, I was merely told to “contact customer service upon arrival” at Geneva. There was nothing else the in-flight crew could do to help me.
While it was a frustrating situation, a passenger can understand how even the best carriers can become victims to overbooking faults on the system.
But the surprising aspect is the lack of effort made by Emirates to provide any sort of compensation over the past two months, despite several attempts on my part to get through to its customer service. This poses the question: if Emirates does not put in the effort to keep Business Class passengers happy, what does that say for its Economy Class customers?
Considering Emirates revealed it will introduce Premium Economy in about a year, one can’t help but wonder whether that will further blur the lines between Economy and Business services, and what that would mean for those who pay more to receive Business Class treatment.
My experience with what is one of the world’s leading airlines is proof that even the biggest players are not immune to customer service blunders. But for a name that promises customers will “Dream big in Business Class", Emirates’ might just be in need of a reality check.
Hours before Arabian Business’s print deadline, Emirates responded. I fear, however, it was only because I am a member of the press. What challenges would I have faced if I was not a member of the media?
Statement from Emirates:
“Emirates regrets the inconvenience Ms. Hamdan experienced on her flight from Dubai to Geneva. Emirates places a great deal of emphasis on the high standard of service we offer our customers and we were disappointed to learn that Ms. Hamdan’s expectations were not met. It is never our intention to leave our customers unhappy with the services provided. Our Customer Affairs team will be contacting Ms Hamdan to resolve her issue.”
Editor's note: Emirates' Customer Affairs team has been in touch with the writer to resolve the issue.
For all the latest transport news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Recently I booked a leisure trip to Russia on Emirates - flying to Moscow and returning from St Petersburg. Prior to the journey, I was contacted by Emirates and told that the return flight had been extended by a day - thus meaning I needed to book an extra night hotel and other expenses.
When I queried about any compensation for the extra costs - and I was a Gold card holder - I was told I could cancel the trip if I wished.
I was very surprised at the response as Emirates are usually very good.
This was totally different from my experience. Due to overbooking (KUL-DXB) I was offered a business class ticket to anywhere in the world that I can use within a year if I agree to be downgraded to economy for my first leg of flight. I declined. My friend who check in way later than me also declined. She was instead upgraded to first class for her first leg of flight. At no point, we felt harassed or pestered by Emirates ground crew.
Used their Economy Class to Rio during World Cup 2014.. Total disappointment with the food served on both directions.. I had better meals on many many other carriers.. Going on a 14 hour flight with Emirates (the No. 1 carrier) you'd expect not the best quality food but at least a decent quality but unfortunately it was below average.
I commented to their e-forms but haven't heard from them in 3 years now.
Hilarious! Whilst I don't condone the attitude at Emirates, the article says a lot about what is wrong with so called "business" these days. Lucky you at ITP can spare between AED17k and 22k for a 5hr flight. Your experience tells you nothing about economy passengers though and a rather old-fashioned and dare I say elitist attitude to travel implies it never will.
My colleague and I have had four return flights to Geneva over six weeks, paying on average AED2900 return. Each flight has been barely 35 percent full , with premium seats all taken but acres of space in economy, where we have on every occasion stretched out over four seats each. On each trip at various times we struck up conversations with interesting people who all thought as we do, that the insane spread between standard and premium seating is not justified on a bare 5hr flight. One was a Monaco based tax exile and another a US based retiree with a $100m fortune.
Clearly, financial controllers have a great deal to learn about travel.
I am also a gold member and have travelled with emirates for about 12 years, some times in business when I can afford it, mainly in economy and the difference since we first started travelling with them until now is terrible. Up until 6 years ago. I loved travelling with them. but now I am looking at finding another airline. Emirates do not value their loyal passengers. They penalise you if you have the cheap fare, they should not offer it if they penalise you for it. And for disabled passengers they do not help
We do Birmingham to Bangkok two or three times a year
It is amazing the number of business owners (I am one) who fly coach and the number of employees that fly business.
Owning a company I put a value on the money I spend.
An employee has a different approach to spending company money.
At my previous company when we offered 50% of the difference between coach and business as a bonus when taking coach, almost all employees switched to coach.
I usually use my skyward miles to upgrade to business, and rarely pay full fare, its just too unjustifiable. On one of our trips we couldn't upgrade and we flew coach. It was one of the worst experiences We've had. The flight attendants are borderline rude, unhelpful even though We had a child with us & desperately needed help, and they're neglectful. Their food is below average, and their seats and leg areas are shrinking. We hated every minute of it.
Now about their business class, I only enjoy the flat-bed seats and their chauffeur service. It is not what it used to be. I once made a suggestion that business class should come with free WiFi, I mean why call it "Business" class if one cannot conduct business without being charged extra fees ON TOP of the premium the "Business" passengers have already paid. Never heard back from them.
Oh and they never change their food. It's been years since I tried something new on my usual routes. It's ridiculous.
Small things are happening at Emirates and not all of them are positive. The food on a recent A380 trip to the UK & back was truly horrible. The kids meals are much more appetising albeit full of sugary snacks.
Coming back from Phuket a week ago, I had paid for a business class flight as it was overnight, only to have an Emirates crew member who was travelling privately, put in the seat next to me! So i pay full fare and they pay a heavily discounted economy fare for the same - not within Emirates policy I believe - mildly irritating.
Trying to book August 2 week break in UK - Emirates economy flight to Heathrow is 50% more expensive than BA Premium Economy - cue me dusting off my BA loyalty points/programme.
I am a platinum member for several years and all the time, also before, I have been treated very well!
But; Compared to 5-6 years ago, a business class ticket Hamburg-Dubai-Hamburg became 50% more expensive! I hate travelling LH, but their business class ticket today is 50% less expensive, so I am thinking about switching my 10-12 flights a year to LH.
And; I do agree, the menu in Business Class has not changed in the past years, normally, for that amount of money I do expect to at least have a change in the menu once a year.
Adding to this, Emirates is proud of WIFI in the air, but in 90% of all flights Hamburg-Dubai-Hamburg WIFI is not working!
'Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd'. For many years Emirates has been trying to become the number airline in the world. New planes, unique entertainment system, great seats and many routes no other airline can compete with. But that was 6 years ago. When they reached their goal no more aspiration to become better occurred. The food is by far the worst in any top 10 business class airlines when it was number one. The seats are better on Lufthansa, Swiss, Thai, Singapore Airline. The crew are over loaded with work (especially in Biz A380). When before one bad crew was noted now its the opposite when a crew is nice we notice it. And to make it even worse we pay being based in Dubai a tremendous premium. So now I fly Virgin, Air France or BA to Europe. Please Mngt of Emirates wake up and put in place proper process to bring back the airline where it should be