I have watched with interest the recent media coverage over BA and the baggage fiasco in T5, Heathrow. In comparison to the recent experience of my family having our bags fail to turn up was merely the smallest
inconvenience. When my Australian partner travelled to Australia with our two young children (dtr age 3 and son aged 16 months) to see her terminally ill grandmother in February from Newcastle Upon Tyne, England little did we expect what drama, stress and shocking incidents that Emirates Airlines would subject our family to. This included a Fathers worst nightmare.
On the return journey from Australia on the 6th March Nicole and the children were disembarked when the plane was diverted to Mumbai in India after another passenger became ill and my son started to develop a rash (which was later diagnosed as chicken pox) on the flight. The passenger, Michael Edgeley, who was taken ill unfortunately died and this has received media attention in Australia and the uk, eg: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/03/11/waus111.xml
but there was another story that unfolded that night which until now has not been made public.
We had no argument about our son receiving medical inspection at the time but the actions of the airline were truly shocking and unacceptable. They;
• Called me up from India to tell me that one of my family was dead, in error. I was in total shock but instead of explaining that there had been a mistake they just put the phone down on me.
• Put the safety of my partner and two young children at risk by driving them around Mumbai in a dangerous, old taxi without seat belts or doors that closed properly in the full sweltering heat of the day with no air conditioning. After hours of suffering with these unacceptable conditions my Daughter also became ill (later diagnosed as a viral infection). •
• If your child contracts chicken pox you might get a local GP to confirm it but instead of calling a doctor to look at him in the airport they took my partner and two young children, none of whom had any inoculations, across Mumbai to two third world hospitals, exposing them to all kinds of potential diseases.
• Attempted to get our children admitted into a filthy third world hospital. As a consequence caused both my young children to get additional severe respiratory infections which meant they were not well enough to return home, and requiring both to have antibiotic treatments before they could fly.
• Expected my three year old daughter to sit by herself on the flight from Dubai to Newcastle, putting us through the stress of refusing to board the flight until the staff reluctantly sorted the problem out
• Provided no food for our children for the whole day when they flew back to the UK. The incompetent airline staff failed to re-book the original food requested for our children on the flights back from Mumbai. It was little surprise that both children arrived back in the UK totally stressed and in my daughter’s case physically ill.
• After all that had happened the airline left our luggage behind in Dubai, so we had to wait and hour and a half in Newcastle Airport to find out our bags were not on the plane.
• Staff subjected my partner to abuse. Cabin stuff vindictively harassed my partner and called her a bad mother as they mistakenly believed she had requested an upgrade to First Class for herself while flying to Australia!
• Staff blatantly lied, were uncooperative, were unhelpful, failed to call me back when they said they would, provided no method of actually getting to speak to a senior member of staff to deal with the case and
unbelievably told me that in what was an immediate emergency situation they hoped to get back to me with a response possibly within eight days – providing I put everything in writing by email to them.
The airline has suggested that the medical treatment provided when they were disembarked was more than adequate for the circumstances and in the context of cultural differences between India and the UK. How can
dangerous transport and exposure to third world conditions be in any way adequate or acceptable? We had full medical cover via insurance but the airline insisted on taking them - against their will and on the basis of lies from the local staff – and ended up having to sign waivers when we refused any further medical treatment in a filthy municipal hospital and requested a doctor attend once they had been housed in a quality safe local hotel.
The airline have apologised to me in writing for the stress, discomfort and serious errors which have been made in this case. However, they are refusing to pay any compensation to us for all the things they have done. I understand that there is no legislation which would oblige the airline to compensate us for anything which they have done so any payment is discretionary. You therefore have to wonder exactly how much worse circumstances would have to be before Emirates would be willing to compensate any of their paying customers. This contrasts with our last flight to Australia three years ago when BA immediately gave all
passengers £30 vouchers due to the TV system not working between Melbourne and Singapore. Contrast the minor inconvenience of having no TV with what we had to endure with Emirates and judge if their response is entirely appropriate!
Emirates claim that there is nothing to compensate as they acted more than adequately. That as they provided cover from a Special Assistance Unit for our trip home (and how wonderful was our journey back with this special assistance!), bought our son a bag of nappies (when they had to wait for their bags to return to Mumbai from Dubai) and paid for the fantastic Indian taxi across Mumbai we should expect nothing else.
Emirates website boasts how wonderful the experience of flying with young children will be from “booking to disembarking”. I certainly would not trust the care of my family in the hands of this airline ever again. I would also warn any other family to be extremely wary about booking a flight through Emirates based on what happened to us and how we saw other families were treated on their flights. As experienced travellers we were shocked by the utterly unbelievable series of events and the staggering incompetence. We put our family’s lives in these people’s hands when you fly and I would just not trust Emirates again.
As well as all the trauma and ill heath my family endured we had to spend a lot of money and I had to take time off work to help fix the problems which Emirates had caused. This cost is of course insignificant in terms of getting my family safely home – especially as at one point, thanks to the airline, I believed one of them was not going to be coming home alive. However there is a principle here which concerns me. Emirates refusal to offer even a penny of compensation is an insult as it shows that they clearly don’t value customers and I hope any potential customer thinks twice about flying with these people.